Turning Swords Into Plowshares – Moltmann on War and Peace

Beating Swords into Plowshares, cf Isa. 2:4

Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares statue at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City

Responsible participation in the just order of things in industry, society, culture and politics – or consistent undivided discipleship of Christ in economic, social, cultural and political decisions: that is the basic ethic question. There are three options. To put it pictorially: to turn swords into Christian swords, or to use only ploughshares without swords, or to make ploughshares out of swords. The time of ‘Christian swords’ in the Holy Roman Empire is past, so only the other two options are left. Must we see these as alternatives or can they also act together in a complementary way?
Jürgen Moltmann, Ethics of Hope, p. 204

I’m going to try to do a series of posts on Moltmann’s political / ethical theology over the next few months. This aspect of Moltmann’s thought has had a profound impact on me since I discovered his writing a few years ago.

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Enmity Between God and God: Jesus, the godforsaken

Crucifixion in Yellow
“Crucifixion in Yellow” by Marc Chagall, which hung before Jürgen Moltmann when he wrote The Crucified God. I shared a bit about the significance of this painting for CG here

This post is a part of my ongoing (slow and steady) blog series on The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann (CG). You can view the other posts in this series here.

As a ‘blasphemer’, Jesus was rejected by the guardians of his people’s law. As a ‘rebel’ he was crucified by the Romans. But finally, and most profoundly, he died as one rejected by his God and his Father.
CG, p. 153

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God Doesn’t Will to Know Everything in Advance

In a previous post, I shared the story that Roger Olson related about Moltmann and Open Theism. When Olson explained Open Theism to him, Moltmannn related it to his understanding of the self-limitation (kenosis) of God, which he regards to be exemplified not only in the incarnation of Jesus, but in the very act of creation itself. Below is a selection from Science and Wisdom where he articulates the relationship between the self-limitation of God and all those “omni” attributes that Christians frequently talk about. This is the closest resonance I’ve seen to Open Theism in Moltmann’s written works:

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Jürgen Moltmann on Why We Need Both Natural Theology and Revelation Theology

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In my view, natural theology is an essential task for Christian theology. It is an anticipation of the eschatological theology of glory in and for nature.
Jürgen Moltmann, Science and Wisdom, p 53

In 2012, Jürgen Moltmann gave a lecture entitled “From Physics to Theology: A Personal Story” for the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion (it’s well worth a listen!). Following his lecture was an extended discussion about science and theology which included the likes of John Polkinghorne and Richard Baukham. Below is a short exchange on the topic of natural theology. You can read the entire transcript for this discussion here. Enjoy!

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The “Historical Jesus” Is a Crucified and Dead Jesus

Albert Schweitzer, still the most famous “historical Jesus” quester

This post is a part of my ongoing (slow and steady) blog series on The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann (CG). You can view the other posts in this series here.

In Chapter 4 of CG, “The Historical Trial of Jesus”, Moltmann dives deeper into the historical questions surrounding Jesus’ death. I’ve shared before a bit about Moltmann’s take on “Christology from Above to Below” vs “Christology from Below to Above” (i.e. when we develop a christology, do we start with a doctrine of the incarnation? or with the historical person of Jesus?). As we saw, Moltmann thinks the divide between these two methods is only apparent, compared to Pannenberg’s strong adoption of Christology from Below. In this chapter Moltmann speaks of a decision many of us are forced into between “Jesusology and Christology”:

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Moltmann: The Doctrine of the Trinity is not “Speculation”

The necessary resistance against Arianism on the one hand, and the laborious surmounting of Sabellianism on the other, led to the development of an explicit doctrine of the Trinity. Both heresies are christological in nature. Consequently the dogma of the Trinity was evolved out of christology. It is designed to preserve faith in Christ, the Son of God, and to direct the Christian hope towards full salvation in the divine fellowship. The doctrine of the Trinity cannot therefore be termed `a speculation’. On the contrary, it is the theological premise for christology and soteriology.
Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom, p 129

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Openness Towards the Future

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This post is a part of my ongoing (slow and steady) blog series on The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann (CG). You can view the other posts in this series here.

As Moltmann understands it, Jesus answers John the Baptist’s question about his Messianic identity by pointing to the way that the future of the kingdom is inaugurated in and around him. The next issue Moltmann wrestles with (here in chapter 3 of CG) has to do with the disciple’s response to the question of Jesus’ identity: “Who do you say that I am?” To this Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt 16:16). This confession of faith (which all Christians share in common) puts us, with Jesus, in a position of openness towards the future that is coming from God and brings hope wherever it is welcome:

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