Jürgen Moltmann

Jürgen Moltmann (born April 8, 1926) is a German Protestant theologian.

Moltmann's Youth

Moltmann was born in Hamburg, Germany. He described his German upbringing as thoroughly secular. His grandfather was a grand master of the Freemasons. At sixteen, Moltmann idolized Albert Einstein, and anticipated studying mathematics at university. The physics of relativity were "fascinating secrets open to knowledge"; theology as yet played no role in his life.

World War II

He took his entrance exam to proceed with his education, but went to war instead as an Air Force auxiliary in the German army. "The 'iron rations' in the way of reading matter which I took with me into the miseries of war were Goethe's poems and the works of Nietzsche." [The items were a gift from his sister. In other places, Moltmann mentions that "Faust" was included in the collection of Goethe's poetry.] He was actually drafted into military service in 1944, when he became a soldier in the German army. Ordered to the Reichswald, a German forest at the front lines, he surrendered in 1945 in the dark to the first British soldier he met. For the next few years (1945-48), he was confined as a prisoner of war and moved from camp to camp.

He was first confined in Belgium. In the camp at Belgium, the prisoners were given little to do. Moltmann and his fellow prisoners were tormented by "memories and gnawing thoughts"—Moltmann claimed to have lost all hope and confidence in German culture because of Auschwitz and Buchenwald (concentration camps where Jews and others the Nazis opposed had been imprisoned and killed). They also glimpsed photographs nailed up confrontationally in their huts, bare photographs of Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. [The initial reaction of the prisoners to these photos was that they were British propaganda.] Moltmann claimed his remorse was so great, he often felt he would have rather died along with many of his comrades than live to face what their nation had done.

Moltmann met a group of Christians in the camp, and was given a small copy of the New Testament and Psalms by an American chaplain. He gradually felt more and more identification with and reliance on the Christian faith. Moltmann later claimed, "I didn't find Christ, he found me."

After Belgium, he was transferred to a POW camp in Kilmarnock, Scotland, where he worked with other Germans to rebuild areas damaged in the bombing. The hospitality of the Scottish residents toward the prisoners left a great impression upon him. In July 1946, he was transferred for the last time to Norton Camp, a British prison located in the village of Cuckney near Nottingham, UK. The camp was operated by the YMCA and here Moltmann met many students of theology. At Norton Camp, he discovered Reinhold Niebuhr's "Nature and Destiny of Man"—it was the first book of theology he had ever read, and Moltmann claimed it had a huge impact on his life. His experience as a POW gave him a great understanding of how suffering and hope reinforce each other, leaving a lasting impression on his theology.

After the War

Moltmann returned home at 22 years of age to find his hometown of Hamburg (in fact, his entire country) in ruins from Allied bombing in World War II. Moltmann immediately went to work in an attempt to express a theology that would reach what he called "the survivors of [his] generation". Moltmann had hope that the example of the "Confessing Church" during the war would be repeated in new ecclesiastical structures. He and many others were disappointed to see, instead, a rebuilding on pre-war models in a cultural attempt to forget entirely the recent period of deadly hardship.

In 1947, he and four others were invited to attend the first postwar Student Christian Movement in Swanwick, a conference center near Derby, UK. What happened there affected him very deeply. Moltmann returned to Germany to study at the University of Göttingen, an institution whose professors were followers of Karl Barth and theologians who were engaged with the confessing [non-state] church in Germany.

He received his doctorate from the University of Göttingen, under the direction of Otto Weber in 1952. From 1952 to 1957 Moltmann was the pastor of the Evangelical Church of Bremen-Wasserhorst. In 1958 Moltmann became a theology teacher at an academy in Wuppertal that was operated by the Confessing Church and in 1963 he joined the theological faculty of Bonn University. He was appointed Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen in 1967 and remained there until his retirement in 1994. From 1963 to 1983, Moltmann was a member of the Faith and Order Committee of the World Council of Churches. From 1983 to 1993, Moltmann was the Robert W. Woodruff Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic Theology at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He delivered the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1984–1985. Moltmann won the 2000 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology. [ [http://www.giffordlectures.org/Author.asp?AuthorID=217 Gifford Lecture Series - Biography - Jurgen Moltmann ] ]

Influences

Upon his return to Germany in 1948, Moltmann began his course of study at Göttingen University, where he was strongly influenced by Karl Barth's dialectical theology. Moltmann grew critical of Barth's neglect of the historical nature of reality, and began to study Bonhoeffer. He developed a greater concern for social ethics, and the relationship between church and society. Moltmann also developed an interest in Luther and Hegel, whose doctrine of justification and theology of the cross interested him greatly. His doctoral supervisor, Otto Weber helped him to develop his eschatological perspective of the church's universal mission.

Moltmann's fixation on eschatology suggests that he has also been influenced by Pentacostalism, or at least shares some basic ideas with the movement.

Moltmann cites the English theologian Studdert Kennedy as being highly regarded and relies on Ernst Bloch in his important "Theology of Hope". In the Spring 2004 "Pneuma", Moltmann cites the Johann and Christoph Blumhardt as being major contributors to his thought.

Theology

The early Moltmann can be seen in his trilogy, "Theology of Hope" (1964), "The Crucified God" (1972), and "The Church in the Power of the Spirit" (1975):
*"Theology of Hope" was strongly influenced by the eschatological orientation of the Marxist philosopher, Ernst Bloch's "The Principle of Hope".
*"The Crucified God" posited that God died on the Cross, raising the question of the impassibility of God.
*"The Church in the Power of the Spirit" explores the implications of these explorations for the church in its own life and in the world.

The later Moltmann took a less systematic approach to theology, leading to what he called his "contributions to systematic theology" that sought to provoke and engage more than develop some kind of set Moltmannian theology.

Moltmann corroborates his ideas with those of Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Jews in an attempt to reach a greater understanding of Christian theology; which he believes should be developed inter-ecumenically.

Moltmann has a passion for the Kingdom of God as it exists both in the future, and in the God of the present. His theology is often referred to as "Kingdom of God" Theology. His theology is built on eschatology, and the hope we find in the resurrected Christ. This theology is most clearly explained in his book: Theology of Hope.

Moltmann's theology is also seen as a theology of liberation, though not in the sense that the term is most understood. Moltmann not only views salvation as Christ's "preferential option for the poor," but also as offering the hope of reconciliation to the oppressors of the poor. If it were not as such, divine reconciliation would be insufficient.

"According to Moltmann his future final volume in the ‘systematic contributions to theology’ will be published probably under the title Kingdom of God Theology focused on the foundations and methods of theology. Thus the sixth volume will be helpful for concern for his theological method. However, in fact Moltmann is interested in "the content of theology, in its revision in the light of its biblical origin, and in its innovation given the challenges of the present" rather than in the questions of theological method (Meeks 1996,103). In addition, his development as a theologian has been marked by a restless imagination." [ [http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/mwt/dictionary/mwt_themes_855_moltmann.htm Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology: Jurgen Moltmann ] ]

Eschatology / Theology of Hope

Jurgen Moltmann's Theology of Hope is eschatologically-centered and focuses on the hope that the resurrection brings. Through faith we are bound to Christ, and as such have the hope of the resurrected Christ, and knowledge of his return. For Moltmann, the hope of the Christian faith is hope in the resurrection of Christ crucified. Hope and faith depend on each other to remain true and substantial; and only with both may one find "not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering" [Moltmann, Theology of Hope, pg.21 ]

However, because of this hope we hold, we may never exist harmoniously in a society such as ours which is based on sin. Sin bases itself in hopelessness, which can take on two forms: presumption and despair. "Presumption is a premature, selfwilled anticipation of the fulfillment of what we hope for from God. Despair is the premature, arbitrary anticipation of the non-fulfillment of what we hope for from God." [Moltmann, Theology of Hope, pg. 23]

In Moltmann's opinion, all should be seen from an eschatological perspective, looking toward the days when Christ will make all things new. "A proper theology would therefore have to be constructed in the light of its future goal. Eschatology should not be its end, but its beginning." [Moltmann, Theology of Hope] This does not, as many fear, 'remove happiness from the present' by focusing all ones attention toward the hope for Christ's return. Moltmann addresses this concern as such: "Does this hope cheat man of the happiness of the present? How could it do so! For it is itself the happiness of the present." [Moltmann, Theology of Hope, pg. 32]

Hope strengthens faith and aids a believer into living a life of love, and directing them toward a new creation of all things. It creates in a believer a "passion for the possible" Moltmann, Theology of Hope, pg. 35] "For our knowledge and comprehension of reality, and our reflections on it, that means at least this: that in the medium of hope our theological concepts become not judgments which nail reality down to what it is, but anticipations which show reality its prospects and its future possibilities."

For Moltmann, creation and eschatology depend on one another. There exists an ongoing process of creation, continuing creation, alongside creation ex nihilo and the consummation of creation. The consummation of creation will consist of the eschatological transformation of this creation into the new creation. [Moltmann, God in Creation, 88] The apocalypse will include the purging of sin from our finite world so that a transformed humanity can participate in the new creation.

Liberation Theology

Moltmann's liberation theology includes an understanding of both the oppressed and the oppressor as needing reconciliation. "Oppression has two sides: on one side there is the master, on the other side the slave... Oppression destroys humanity on both sides." [Moltmann, Erfahrungen, 168] The goal is one of mutual liberation. God's 'preferential option for the poor' should not be exclusive, but rather include the rich; insofar as God holds judgment over them also. The sufferings of the poor should not be seen as equal to or a representation of the sufferings of Jesus. Our suffering is not an offering to God, it is not required of us to suffer. The point of the crucified Christ was to present an alternative to human suffering. Human suffering is not a quality of salvation, as should not be viewed as such. This is not to say that the sufferings of humans is of no importance to God.

The Trinity

Moltmann stresses the perichoresis of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is to say that he believes the three dwell in one another. The three persons are differentiated in their characteristics, but related in their original exchange. [Moltmann, Trinitat, 169] Moltmann seeks to defeat a monotheistic Christianity that is being used as a tool for political and clerical absolute monarchism. He believes the doctrine of the Trinity should be developed as the "true theological doctrine of freedom." [Trinitat, 107] He suggests that we "cease to understand God monotheistically as the one, absolute subject, but instead see him in a trinitarian sense as the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit." Trinitat]

Moltmann relates his views on the trinity to three modes of human freedom. The first mode is the political meaning of freedom as supremacy. This mode is rejected by Moltmann, who sees it as corresponding to a God who rules over his creation, which exists merely to serve Him. It is a relation of a subject with an object, where the goal is to enhance the supremacy of the subject. The second mode of human freedom is the socio-historical and Hegelian meaning of freedom as communion, which implies the relation between two subjects. This relationship aims at love and solidarity, and corresponds to the perichoresis of the Father and Son, and through the Son the children of God, or humanity. This relationship is both liberating and loving, and is one Moltmann favors. The third mode of human freedom is the implicitly religious concept of freedom as the passion of the creature for his or her potential. This deals with the relationship between subjects and their common future project. This is the mode favored most by Moltmann, who correlates this relationship with the one humans share with God in the realm of the Holy Spirit. Here, an indwelling of the Spirit allows humans to be friends with God. As you can see, the first mode of freedom is political, and focuses on God; the second is communal, focusing on the Son; and the third is religious, focusing on the Spirit.

Bibliography in English

Some of Moltmann's works that are available in English include:
*"Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology", SCM Press, London, 1967
*"The Gospel of Liberation", Word, Waco, Texas, 1973
*"The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ As the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology", SCM Press, London, 1973
*"Man: Christian Anthropology in the Conflicts of the Present", SPCK, London, 1974
*"The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution to Messianic Ecclesiology", SCM Press, London, 1975
*"The Experiment Hope", SCM Press, London, 1975
*"The Open Church", SCM Press, London, 1978
*"The Future of Creation", SCM Press, London, 1979
*"The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God", Harper and Row, New York, 1981
*"History and the Triune God: Contributions to Trinitarian Theology"
*"God in Creation", SCM Press, London, 1985
*"The Way of Jesus Christ", SCM Press, London, 1990
*"The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation", SCM Press, London, 1992
*"The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology", Fortress, Minneapolis, 1996.
*"The Source of Life", SCM Press, London, 1997
*"Experiences in Theology: ways and forms of Christian Theology", SCM Press, London, 2000
*"Science and Wisdom", SCM Press, London, 2003
*"In the End the Beginning", SCM Press, London, 2004
*"Is “Pluralistic Theology” Useful for the Dialogue of World Religions?" in D’Costa, Gavin, Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1990

econdary Bibliography

*"Moltmann: Messianic Theology in the Making", by Richard Bauckham, Basingstoke, Marshall Pickering, 1987
*"God, Hope, and History: Jurgen Moltmann and the Christian Concept of History", by A. J. Conyers, 1988
*"The Creative Suffering of God", by Paul S. Fiddes, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988
*"The Theology of Jurgen Moltmann", by Richard Bauckham, Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1995
*"The Future of Theology: Essays in Honour of Jurgen Moltmann", ed. M. Volf, 1996
*"God Will Be All in All: The Eschatology of Jurgen Moltmann", ed. Richard Bauckham, Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1999
*"Disavowing Constantine: Mission, Church and the Social Order in the Theologies of John H. Yoder and Jurgen Moltmann", by Nigel Wright, Carlisle, Paternoster, 2000
*"The Kingdom and the Power: The Theology of Jurgen Moltmann", by Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz, 2001

Footnotes

References

* Jürgen Moltmann, "Why am I a Christian?" in "Experiences of God" (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980).
*Jürgen Moltmann, "An Autobiographical Note" in A. J. Conyers, "God, Hope and History: Jürgen Moltmann and the Christian Concept of History" (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1988).
*Jürgen Moltmann, Foreword to M. Douglas Meeks, "Origins of the Theology of Hope" (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974).
*Jürgen Moltmann, address given at Nazarene Theological Seminary, Dec. 10, 2001.
*Jürgen Moltmann, "Stubborn Hope", interviewer Christopher A. Hall, "Christianity Today", vol. 37, no. 1 (Jan. 11, 1993).

External links

* [http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/courses/mwt/dictionary/mwt_themes_855_moltmann.htm Article on Moltmann at The Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Modern Western Theology]
* [http://www.jurgenmoltmann.com Discussion Group devoted to Moltmann and the Theology of Hope]
* [http://www.theopedia.com/J%C3%BCrgen_Moltmann Jürgen Moltmann at Theopedia] (conservative Calvinist perspective)


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