Moltmann, Open Theism, and the Kenosis of God

Roger Olson has recently shared some fascinating reflections about the personalities of various theologians he has known over the years (here and here). Among others, this has included references to some familiar names, including Olson’s teacher, Wolfhart Pannenberg, and his dear friend, the late great Stanley Grenz. But of particular interest to this blogger were Olson’s interactions with Jürgen Moltmann. Here is a unique window into a theological interaction with Molty after a few glasses of wine:

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Moltmann on the Historicity of the Virgin Birth

Over at the postbarthian, my friend Wyatt has shared the famous section from Jesus- God and Man where Pannenberg (like Emil Brunner before him) denied the historicity of the virgin birth, while at the same time affirming the substance of the apostles creed (if you don’t think that is possible, please check out his post!). When I was reflecting on this, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a clue where Moltmann stood on this controversial subject. That Pannenberg denies the virgin birth was one of the first things I remember learning about him (probably because it was a feature in his first, and possibly most well-known, book!). But I’ve read many Moltmann books to date and couldn’t remember this issue coming up at all. I knew where to turn:  Jürgen Moltmann’s full christology, The Way of Jesus Christ, which I have not yet read.

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Jürgen Moltmann on Resurrection

Resurrection is not a consoling opium, soothing us with the promise of a better world in the hereafter. It is the energy for a rebirth of this life. The hope doesn’t point to another world. It is focused on the redemption of this one. In the Spirit, resurrection is not merely expected. It is already experienced. Resurrection happens every day. In love we experience many deaths and many resurrections. We experience resurrection through the rebirth to living hope. We experience resurrection through the love which already brings us to life here and now; and we experience resurrection through liberation: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’ (II Cor. 3:17)
Jürgen Moltmann, Jesus Christ for Today’s World, p. 81

The Cross and Universal (Cosmic) Salvation


Today is Holy Saturday, which is when the church reflects on the day that the body of Jesus lay dead in the tomb. I know many of us fast forward the story from Friday to Sunday (spoiler: Jesus is raised from the dead!), but I find it helpful to dwell a bit more on the death of Christ first. He suffered and died on Good Friday and was actually dead on Holy Saturday. Easter is not a magic trick where it is revealed that “you can’t really kill the Son of God.” Today, the Messiah was really dead and his followers cowered in defeat.  On the cross we see a picture of how God is victorious not by conquering but by being conquered. Easter is good news only because just as God raised the defeated and the godforsaken Christ… so he will also one day raise us (see my previous post, How does the suffering God give us hope?).   In that vein, today is also when many Christian traditions reflect on Christ’s descent into Hell (the ultimate place of godforsakenness). Below is a clip with transcript from the 2009 Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Moltmann, where he is asked about the concept of universal redemption as it relates to the themes of The Crucified God (it’s in Episode 3, if you want to listen to the whole conversation in context).  Here he makes powerful use of Martin Luther’s comments about Hell and the suffering of Christ:  “Don’t look at Hell in the destiny of others; don’t look at Hell in your own destiny. Look at Hell in the wounds of Christ; there Hell is overcome.”

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