Yesterday the great theologian of hope celebrated his 90th birthday. Last year I marked his 89th birthday on this blog with a top 10 list of my favorite Moltmann quotes. This year (and only a day late!) I’ve put together a list of my favorite Moltmann books. I’ve read almost all of the Moltmannian corpus over the course of the last few years, and have a pretty good idea of which of them are most important to me. Below is a countdown of my top ten favorite books written by Moltmann, saving my favorite for last. I’ve also attempted to provide a brief explanation of why each of these is important enough to be included. What are your favorite Moltmann books? Please share in the comment section below!
10. The Gospel of Liberation (1974). It is noteworthy that before Moltmann was a world renowned theologian he was pastor of a church in Bremen, Germany. There he learned to communicate with his rural congregants, a skill that has left its imprint throughout his writing – but especially in printed collections of sermons such as this one. This is great for devotional reading, or for anyone who may wonder how “hope theology” might be preached. Another excellent collection of Moltmann sermons is The Power of the Powerless.
9. Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology (1967). “Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.” This is the book that started it all! Moltmann’s entire corpus follows the trajectory set forth in this seminal work, making it one of the most important books in any Moltmanniac’s library. I shared a bit about how to connect the dots between Theology of Hope and the Crucified God here.
8. A Broad Place: An Autobiography (2009). As Moltmann shared in his letter to me, “For me personally theology is an adventure of ideas and insights into the divine mystery.” This book details that adventure, telling the story of how Moltmann’s life experiences helped shape his theology. I also resonate strongly with something Danielle Shroyer said a while back: “Jurgen Moltmann is my favorite theologian of all time, not only because of the beautiful things he says about God, but because of the beautiful things he LIVES about God.” You can learn a lot about how the theologian of hope has lived out his theology by reading this book!
7. Ethics of Hope (2011). Many expected an ethics of hope to follow on the heels of Theology of Hope, but it remained unwritten until over 40 years later. The reason for the delay (from my reading of Moltmann’s autobiography) seems to be simply that he found himself occupied with other projects (i.e. his systematic contributions to theology). But it was worth the wait! Here Moltmann brings the implications of his work into conversation with the issues that our world faces today. For selections from this book on this blog see Moltmann on the Gnostic Escapism of Left Behind, and Working Towards a Better Future in Community.
6. The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution to Messianic Ecclesiology (1975). This is Moltmann’s third and final early programmatic work, and sadly neglected compared to his other major books! Here we find Moltmann’s ecclesiology “from below,” his argument for an “open table” at communion, and much more! Possibly Moltmann’s most practical book. For a shorter book covering similar themes, check out The Passion for Life: A Messianic Lifestyle.
5. The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions (1990). Moltmann’s full-blown christology! “Every human christology is a ‘christology of the way’, not yet a ‘christology of the home country’, a christology of faith, not yet a christology of sight. So christology is no more than the beginning of eschatology; and eschatology, as the Christian faith understands it, is always the consummation of christology.” There is so much to love in this work. Here are a few blog posts highlighting some of its themes: The Jewish ‘No’ to Jesus is a ‘Yes’ to the Messianic Future; Christ’s Birth by the Spirit; and Martyrdom as Participation in the Sufferings of an Oppressed People. For a little lighter reading covering much of the same ground, check out Jesus Christ for Today’s World.
4. The Trinity and the Kingdom (1981). This was the first book by Moltmann that I read, and I was hooked from the first pages. Here in the first of his “systematic contributions to theology” Moltmann departs from the approach of his earlier programmatic works and begins tackling one major Christian doctrine at a time. This book is notable for its introduction (which tells us a thing or two about his method!), his critique of traditional monarchical monotheism, and his probing exploration of theodicy. Required reading for any serious student of Moltmann!
3. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (1992). “The personhood of God the Holy Spirit is the loving, self-communicating, out-fanning and out-pouring presence of the eternal divine life of the triune God.” For me Moltmann’s pneumetology here helped tie together all that came before in his systematic contributions to theology. Also check out this shorter / more accessible work with similar themes: The Source of Life. I blogged about one powerful passage from these books here: The “Charisma” of Disability. Be sure to also read this post by my friend the PostBarthian about what Moltmann says in The Spirit of Life about “Speaking in Tongues!”
2. The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology (1996). Moltmann’s work is everywhere eschatological, but here in Moltmann’s last major contribution to theology, this aspect of his thought takes its fullest form. The section on “The Restoration of All Things” is perhaps the clearest concise case for Christian Universalism out there, and is one of my favorite passages in all of Moltmann’s writings. Also check out this shorter / more accessible work with similar themes: In the End – The Beginning.
1. The Crucified God (1973). Moltmann’s second programmatic work, exploring the cross as the “foundation and criticism” of Christian theology. While it certainly wasn’t the first book I read by Moltmann, it was the one that made a Moltmanniac out of me, helping me to rethink everything in light of the cross of Christ. I blogged extensively about CG in 2014 – check out a list of posts here.
For a comprehensive list of books by Moltmann in English visit here.