Moltmann’s Biblical Hermeneutic and the Gay Debates

Rainbow flag breeze.jpg

I’ve shared here previously some of Moltmann’s comments about homosexuality and gay marriage from the Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Moltmann from 2009. I thought his comments were helpful just to illustrate where Moltmann stands on that subject (which calls into question the divisive nature of it in the American church). However, one thing you don’t get from that brief exchange is “how he got there” (i.e. coming to the conclusion that “homosexuality is neither a sin nor a crime”) in terms of his biblical hermeneutic and theological method. Below is another short clip with transcript* where Moltmann reflects on why simply quoting the Bible against LGBT people doesn’t cut it. It’s not exactly an extensive exegesis of the relevant passages (far from it!), but it does seem to give us a clue. For other excerpts that I’ve shared from the Moltmann-Emergent conversation, visit here

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Jürgen Moltmann on where the Spirit is moving in today’s church

I would be remiss as a Moltmanniac if I didn’t pass this on… Peter Heltzel met with Jürgen Moltmann today and shared some wonderful tidbits today on a Twitter (I think you can see the whole thread between here and here). I was pleased to hear from from this exchange that at 88 years old Moltmann is in “stout health” and still offering insightful answers to probing questions! On Facebook Heltzel shared in more detail Moltmann’s powerful response to a question about where the Spirit is moving:

Here is Jürgen Moltmann’s response to my question “Where do you see the Spirit moving in the contemporary German church?” in Tübingen today. Moltmann said, “The rising Spirit is expressed through active engagement in the tasks of the congregation, service, table, feeding the hungry, & working for justice. The church of the people needs the freedom to make up one’s own mind. We need to move away from the Pastor-centered Church to a Gemeindekirche, a People’s Church. The one is the pastor-centric church with top-down directives, while the other is a “congregation from below” in the name of the Spirit. The Charisma of the Spirit is being rediscovered in the community life of the Gemeindekirche. Normally, the state church is a church without community. Now we have the community up-building “from below,” a trace of the Spirit and sign of hope today!”

Emil Brunner on Expiation and Capital Punishment

Emil Brunner and Karl Barth. Source:

It is hard to turn on the news lately without hearing cases involving killing in the name of the state, whether by means of war or capital punishment. When these matters weigh on my mind, I sometimes find myself digging through the pages of some of my favorite theologians for insight. Below are a couple paragraphs I found today from Emil Brunner.  As part of a brief section on “The Christian and the Penal Law” in The Divine Imperative, Brunner offers some helpful thoughts on expiation and capital punishment.  When a crime is committed, there must be expiation by the guilty, which is a generally thought to be a primary justification for capital punishment. This need for expiation must be affirmed and not denied.  But for Brunner, society must share the burden of expiation with the criminal…. because society too is guilty. Only in Pharisaical judgment do we see the ugliness of crime in the criminal but not also in ourselves. Brunner therefore proposes a two part expiation, 1) On the part of society, by seeking to undo its failures that contributed to the crime; 2) On the part of the criminal, by being subject to a process of “educative punishment”. In this process of expiation, there is no place for the death penalty. Continue reading

Eberhard Jüngel on Heidegger, Barth, and Other Teachers Who Shaped Him

Eberhard Jüngel. Image source:

Eberhard Jüngel is another one of those theologians whose works have long been on my “to read” list, but I haven’t gotten around to just yet (that list does not seem to be getting any smaller, because I keep adding new names to it!). I was pleased to be introduced to him via his contribution to How I Have Changed (edited by Jürgen Moltmann). Below are a couple paragraphs where Jüngel reflects on the teachers who shaped him, including Bultmann, Heidegger, and Barth. Heiddeger once told Jüngel that God is much worth thinking about but that language fails us. In contrast, Barth’s Church Dogmatics (CD) manages to use human language to talk about God for some 8000+ pages, about which Jüngel is elsewhere famously quoted as saying “the truth can’t be as long as that”. Here Jüngel speaks with deep appreciation of what he learned from CD when he returned to it years after his early encounters with Barth. By engaging with CD, “one could learn that a concentration on the truth attested in the Bible is the best presupposition for giving the present world its spiritual and worldly due and keeping faith with the earth for the sake of heaven.”

Now a few remarks on the teachers who shaped me. There was a philosopher who instructed me in logis and logistics, Gerhard Stammler. There was my New Testament teacher and doctoral supervisor, Ernst Fuchs, who brought me and Rudolf Bultmann together and stimulated me to study Heidegger. In a semester spend ‘illegally’ outside East Germany, commuting between Zurich, Basel and Freiburg, I then heard Heidegger himself lecturing in Freiburg. At that time he was ‘on the way to language’. Towards the end of his life I visited him once again and at the end of a long conversation asked him quite openly whether the condition of thought was not that of being ‘on the way to God’. Heidegger replied, ‘God – that is what is most worth thinking about. But here language fails….’ Now I certainly didn’t have this impression myself. At that time Gerhard Ebeling had introduced me to the thought of Luther, while at Basel Karl Barth made me familiar with his own thought. And Luther’s concern for a new mode of theological language, and also Barth’s theology, which flowed broadly from there and suffered more from an excess of argumentation, did not exactly give the impression of a language which was failing. At first Barth regarded me as a kind of spy from the Bultmann school and for weeks viewed me with undisguised scepticism. But when in an unforgettable session of his small seminar I not only dared passionately to refute his criticism of Bultmann with the audacity of youth but at the same time interpreted a section from Barth’s anthroplogy to his satisfaction, I was invited to another dispute in the late evening over a bottle of wine. And a few days later the whole of the Church Dogmatics appeared on the doorstep of my student lodging – with the dedication ‘For Eberhard Jüngel on the way in God’s beloved East Zone’.
There, in the German Democratic Republic, some years later, when I now had to give lectures on dogmatics myself and was looking round for helpful stimulation, I once again steeped myself in this magum opus of my great teacher. And lo and behold, here within a theological discussion which was becoming increasingly short of breath, I discovered the long breath of a thought which expected something. Barth’s theology was autochthonous. From it one could learn that a concentration on the truth attested in the Bible is the best presupposition for giving the present world its spiritual and worldly due and keeping faith with the earth for the sake of heaven. A new involvement in the tradition opened up for me, which was one neither of disrespectful criticism nor of uncritical respect. And as a result of this I also developed an ecumenical breadth without which I cannot imagine any future theology. Above all, however, I was stimulated to think of God in terms of the event of his revelation, i.e. the event of his coming into the world, and thus of a God who leads us ever more deeply into the world – a God to whom nothing human is alien and who has come closer to humankind in the person of Jesus than humankind can get to itself.
How I Have Changed, p. 9-10

Moltmann on Praying the Abba Prayer with Jesus

Atheism and theism are outside of the Trinity. And I only believe in the God of Christ, whom he called Abba Dear Father. So looking at Christ I see his God and in community with Christ his God becomes also my God.
-Jürgen Moltmann

The above quote comes from the Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Moltmann from 2009, and is part of a clip I shared previously. It gives a little window in how Moltmann’s social Trinitarian theology translates into how we relate to God. Below is another clip with transcript* from that event where Moltmann brings this basic insight on the Trinity directly into the realm of prayer. In community with Jesus, the God he called “Abba, Dear Father” becomes our God. And so, when we pray, we don’t pray to God “up there” in heaven. We pray to God who is here and present; we pray from inside of the Trinity. Continue reading

Moltmann on Working Towards a Better Future in Community

Petare Slums in Caracas. Source: Wikipedia.

This post is part of an ongoing series on Moltmann’s political theology. I have previously posted about turning swords into plowshares and the American Dream. Stay tuned for more to come!

Below are two sources where Jürgen Moltmann expounds on the importance of community when it comes to political engagement. Here Moltmann offers reflections on how the early Jerusalem church in the book of Acts gives us an example of how a another (better) world is possible when we live not as individuals but in community with one another. The first is an extended quotation from Ethics of Hope that includes this powerful statement: “The opposite of poverty is not wealth, but community. In community individuals become rich, rich in friends who can be trusted, rich in mutual help, rich in ideas and powers, rich in the energies of solidarity.”  Below it I’m including another clip with transcript from the Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Moltmann from 2009, where Moltmann is asked about this same topic. You can view other clips I’ve shared from that event here.

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Getting Started with Moltmann

Jürgen Moltmann

When I discovered Jürgen Moltmann a few years ago, the first book I read was The Trinity and the Kingdom, followed by The Crucified God and Theology of Hope. Those are still three of my favorite Moltmann books to date (I’ve read about fifteen of his books total now), but they aren’t easy reading, especially for anyone who is not used to reading thick theological books (i.e. most normal people!).

So here are a few of my personal recommendations for people interested in checking out Moltmann.

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A Silent Cry – Johann Baptist Metz’s WWII Story

Johann Baptist Metz

“Metz is always good for a surprise”
-Jürgen Moltmann

Until now, my (very limited) exposure to Johann Baptist Metz has been pretty much entirely second hand. I have known that, along with Jürgen Moltmann and Dorothee Sölle, Metz is considered to be something of a founder of what is called “political theology”. John Cobb interacts with these three theologians almost exclusively in his book, Process Theology as Political Theology, which is available to read online in its entirety via Religion Online. For these three theologians (all of whom come from Germany and are members of the generation that was coming of age under the Nazi regime), the events of WWII had a framing effect on their theological development.

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Jürgen Moltmann on Theological Method

How I Have Changed: Reflections on 30 Years of Theology, edited by Jürgen Moltmann

The other day I started casually reading How I have Changed: Reflections on 30 Years of Theology, edited by Jürgen Moltmann, which is basically a collection of lectures and conversations that took place in June 1996 (to celebrate Jürgen Moltmann’s 70th birthday). It included many of the theological greats of that generation: Jürgen Moltmann, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendell, Dorothee Sölle, Hans Küng, Eberhard Jüngel, and others.

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Pannenberg Responds to Moltmann’s Critique of Christology “from Below”

Wolfhart Pannenberg

I previously shared Moltmann’s observation regarding the divide between christology “from above” vs “from below”, where he observed that “The difference between a ‘christology from below’ and a ‘christology from above’ is only apparent.” (CG, p. 91) This is in stark contrast to Pannenberg’s strong rejection of christology from above. In an afterward to the second edition of Jesus – God and Man, Pannenberg briefly responds to many criticisms to his approach,  including this one. Here is the relevant paragraph:

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