Fury in Orlando (Guest Post by Mark Buchanan)

Guest post by Mark Buchanan. Mark is a Presbyterian Pastor specializing in multicultural ministry in the Los Angeles area. He has been an enthusiastic student of Jürgen Moltmann’s theology since encountering Dr. Moltmann while a seminarian at Princeton Seminary. He writes using engaging real life stories to illustrate and bring to life the central tenets of Dr. Moltmann’s theology. He currently resides in Pasadena, California with his wife and children. I reviewed Mark’s book, Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny here (it is a great primer on Moltmann in the form of story… Check it out!).

Fury in Orlando

Almost 20 years ago Jürgen Moltmann wrote, “Nothing is more dangerous in this world than disappointed love and love that has miscarried. Disappointed love for God which has missed its mark is the power that destroys, the fury of annihilation”(SoL, pg. 78). In Orlando such fury savagely cut life short, imprinted terror upon those who witnessed the unspeakable carnage and confounded all who search for a link between faith in God and hatred that slaughters the innocent. Yet in this time of sorrow and bewilderment, Moltmann’s insights ring true. In his book, The Source of Life, Moltmann identifies this incongruity in the decision made by those drawn to God’s power and goodness to secure their own dignity and to create a destiny for their own good, rather than the good of the whole human community.

Writing about that which is traditionally called sin, Moltmann recognizes the aggravation of those who are attracted to God but mistakenly turn to things which fail to provide them the happiness and security they sought. Such disappointment awakens fear and “this fear evokes hate of things and hate of the self: and this hate generates aggression and acts of violence (SoL, pg. 78). Moltmann first uses the term “miscarried life”(SoL, pg. 72) to describe a life that has failed to deliver its initial promise. When applying it to a “miscarried love for God”, he is referring to a love for God that has failed to birth new and fulfilling life. This stillbirth then leads to profound disappointment, disorientation, disillusionment, anger and isolation. It is this scenario that then leaves those engaged in sectarian activism to battle the “death-drive of evil” alone (Sol, pg. 73), and to be ultimately drawn to committing egregious acts of violence.

This same vulnerability applies not only to individuals and those engaging in sectarian activism but to institutions and nations who out of fear seek to dominate and in the name of God forcefully seize that which is in their own interest. While in The Source of Life, Moltmann does not specifically address sectarian violence, he does identify its root cause in the separation of spirit and body and this worldly life and heavenly life. “True spirituality” Moltmann writes, “is the rebirth of the full and undivided love of life”(SoL, pg. 85) in which God makes his home on earth and the human community its home in God.

Moltmann proposes that people of faith do not respond to the fury we have witnessed in Orlando by escaping into an inward search for spiritual union with God free from the world’s suffering. Instead Moltmann points us to the truth about our isolation and alienation from one another and from God as members of the whole human family. He urges us to acknowledge that the chains that keep us separated have begun “to hurt”. He writes, “We can no longer come to terms with them. We begin to rub ourselves raw on them until they break…If redemption is close at hand, we stop being accustomed to evil; the habit of mind that accepts it is broken. Then we get up out of our apathy and change things. I have always thought that the worst sins of all are to get accustomed to injustice and misery”(SoL, pg. 74-5).

Boldly Moltmann proclaims, “What we need is not a new religion, or a new peace between religions. What we need is life – whole, full and undivided life.”(SoL, pg. 21). Hope is the expectation that out of death, Christ was raised to new life and through the love of the triune God this life will be shared. Yet hope is not something we produce for ourselves, rather it is an effect of the resurrection. It is a living hope that dawns upon the living and the dead. It is as Moltmann concludes, “a resurrection with the dead and with this blood-soaked earth. In the light of Christ’s resurrection we can already trace the contours of the ‘new earth’ (Rev. 21:1), where ‘death will be no more neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more’ (Rev. 21:4).

Enlarging our vision of the future that the God of the resurrection will share with his people is worthy of both our deepest devotion and the full employment of our imaginations. The new life that springs out of death through the resurrection releases all of God’s creation from the destiny of death and decay. In Moltmann words, “we remember Christ’s resurrection in the splendor of the divine, eternal life that is embracing our human and mortal life already here and now.” (Christianity: A Religion of Joy, pg.15) It is this embrace that beckons every person into the hope of an everlasting future with God.

What Moltmann encourages us to do as we face the fury of hatred and blood thirsty revenge is to recognize the offense that has been committed against God’s future and to resist it with actions that uphold the whole human family. What Moltmann inspires us to do is to poetically image our future in Christ with the triune God, a future our minds can only introduce, but our deepest longings for the whole human community already taste. We are to allow our deepest longings to anticipate the fulfillment of new life, traces of which are alive in us. Here we are to dwell in a “living hope” full of a “living love” that gives birth to life that seek to include everyone.

Four Outgrowths of Hope That Change the Way Faith Is Practiced (Guest Post)

Image Credit: Mark Buchanan

What follows is a guest post from fellow Moltmanniac Mark French Buchanan, and originally appeared on his Facebook page (by the way, if you aren’t following his page yet, you should be!).  Mark is the author of Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny, which I enthusiastically endorsed here. He gave me permission to republish this here in full. Enjoy!

For Moltmann, hope is the first taste of God’s life coming into the world and making itself known in every person’s suffering. Where violence, injustice and greed deprive people of life and deny them restoration, hope dawns. In the midst of pain, powerlessness and isolation the hope of God’s life is experienced first as empathy and then as expectation. Hope’s empathy draws people into God’s love and hope’s expectancy witnesses to a future free from the finality of death. Hope dawned as the Spirit raised the Son to ever new and everlasting life.
Moltmann’s theology of hope sees beyond the boundaries many pastors and theologians impose upon the Christian life. Many assume that the fulfillment of hope resides only at the close of the age, yet the hope that the life of God is bringing into the world produces outgrowths that are experienced in the present and have power to draw us into the future. These outgrowths of hope free us from old assumptions and introduce us to new ways that faith is practiced.

Four Outgrowths of Hope

  1. Through hope God comes to us. God both rises in us and draws us into himself (The Spirit of Life, 21, 127). The simple truth that in hope we do not find God, God finds us, is one of Moltmann’s great contributions. Without this guarantee, the hopeless could never look forward to the future, the suffering could never expect to be set free and the dead simply would not rise. It is by God’s initiative alone that “in the end, a new beginning lies hidden.” Hope initiates trust not in what is, but what will be. It is the eschatological edge of God’s “lifefulness” coming into our lives with others.
  2. In hope God experiences us, and nothing in our lives is lost, everything will find fulfillment (The Coming of God, 70). Moltmann recognizes that God himself ‘experiences’ all things in his own way. In this unique experience, God willingly holds every form of injustice and violence as well as every person’s suffering, sin, loss of vitality and in the end loss of life in the hope of Christ’s resurrection. In this experience hope holds open our relationship with God and “suspends’ our life in and with God until “death is swallowed up” and the work of the new creation is completed. Moltmann is confident that as God’s life overcame death in the raising of Christ to new life so it will fulfill the purposes of creation by bringing eternal life to the living and to the dead. Such assurance draws the willing into a “living hope” and introduces foretastes of eternal life into their lives in this world.
  3. In hope God “has made room” for us in himself (The Coming of God, 310). God welcomes all that we are, even our sinful selves into this new living space in him. The assurance that we are invited to abide in God and to make our home in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit grants freedom from fear and companionship in suffering. Through yielding himself in love for the people of his creation, God created space in himself, hopeful space for the hopeless. In this space God gathers the suffering so they don’t drown in pain, the forsaken so they are companioned, the lost so they might have a way to walk, the sinful so they might be transfigured and the dead so that they might be ever new. Just as we are, God welcomes us into himself. God beckons both victims and perpetrators into a community of justice and love which in time will set victims free from the hurts they suffered and perpetrators free from the guilt of their wrongdoing. All who are drawn into the new living space of God will discover an unexpected freedom to love others in the same way they have been loved.
  4. In hope we become both a “Me” and a “We” (The Coming of God, 301). At once we have two identities. We are both a “Me”, a distinct child of God, and a “We”, a member of the one community of God. This way of being introduces hope-filled people to a consciousness of living in, with and for other people as well as God. This “‘at once’ a ‘We’ and a ‘Me’” is the way of life that we can begin to experience in the present as foretastes of our future. Stated simply as we are drawn into the triune God, we taste the mutual love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we extend that love on to others. Through this love we provisionally experience ourselves dwelling in a mutuality with others which is reflective of the way that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit mutually dwell with each other. Through our new shared consciousness we are given strength to suffer with others and at times to glimpse the liberation God is bringing to them.

This provides “We Partners” a new ability to indwell each other with prayer and to dwell in a fellowship with one another in which their weaknesses and limitations are surrounded by God’s life- giving love. Incrementally “We Partners” become viaducts of divine love that draw each other into the “living hope” and “living love” of God. In their fellowship of love, traces of divine life are experienced as well as foretastes of the new creation. The empathy, solidarity and vision for what God will do motivate “We Partners” to engage socially and politically in actions that protect and empower one another.

Moltmann’s Personal Forward to Embraced by Mark Buchanan

Mark Buchanan with Jürgen Moltmann at the 2015 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary

Mark Buchanan with Jürgen Moltmann at the 2015 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary

I recently posted my enthusiastic review of Mark Buchanan’s new book, Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny.  I can’t emphasize enough how much I appreciate what Mark has done in this book in connecting Moltmann’s theology to real life by telling stories.

One thing I didn’t mention in my review is that Embraced includes a rather tender personal forward from Professor Moltmann himself, who expressed that this book touched a hidden side of his personality (referring to his earlier vocation as a pastor before he was a renowned theologian in the academy). Mark gave me permission to share this forward in its entirety, and I have done so below. It can also be found in the free preview of the book found on the publisher’s website. Enjoy! Continue reading

Jürgen Moltmann and the Future of Theology

From left: Douglas Meeks, Jürgen Moltmann, Catherine Keller, Christopher Morse, Amos Yong, Willie Jennings, Miroslav Volf. Photo credit Matthew Davis via Twitter.

From left: Douglas Meeks, Jürgen Moltmann, Catherine Keller, Christopher Morse, Amos Yong, Willie Jennings, Miroslav Volf. Photo credit Matthew Davis via Twitter.

Update 12/8/2015 – Tripp Fuller brought a recording device into the room and has posted the audio over at Homebrewed Christianity. The quality is quite good despite a bit of background noise. Check it out!

On Sunday Jürgen Moltmann was honored at AAR with a session titled “Moltmann and the Future of Theology”, with Douglas Meeks presiding. This was the final publicly scheduled event during Moltmann’s recent visit to Atlanta. Unfortunately I was not able to make it to AAR, so I had to rely on the ears of others to find out what transpired during this, and some of the other Moltmann-related sessions. Mark French Buchanan, author of the recently published book Embraced (which I reviewed here), was present for the event and sent me this summary:

What a terrific tribute was given to Dr. Moltmann today at the AAR seminar “Moltmann and the Future of Theology”. Some of the best theologians in the country presented short reflections on Moltmann’s contributions over the last 45 years. Miroslav Volf, Kathleen Keller, Chris Morse, Willie Jennings and Amos Yong all lifted up different aspects of Moltmann’s theology. The significance of the event grew as a combination of thoughtful reflections and personal memories were shared. Keller and Volf spoke with great insight, while sharing the formative influence of Jurgen the man had on their own theological development. In response Moltmann vigorously pointed all who were in attendance to “listen to earth”, “find a new covenant with it”, “keep a new Sabbath and a new Jubilee” as all people unite together. Confirming a theme that Keller proposed, Moltmann called those presented to receive the contributions of all “the religions of earth”. Moltmann stressed that it was in the earth that the crucified Christ lives and his way into the future can be found, Douglass Meeks closed the event by reminding us that Dr. Moltmann’s 90th Birthday celebration is coming up in just a couple months. In response a capacity crowd spontaneously rose to its feet and broke out in applause.

I’m intending to find out whether this session was recorded via audio / video and will advise my readers with any such info if/when it comes available. For now, here are some of my favorite quotables from the session that were shared by others via Twitter:












If you were at the event and remember something significant that I did not share, please post it in the comments below!

For more about what Moltmann has to say about the future of theology, check out this previous post: Jürgen Moltmann on Theology’s Undiscovered Territories.

Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny, by Mark French Buchanan (Review)

One of the amazing things about being at Princeton for the Karl Barth Conference this year was meeting and befriending others whose lives and thinking have been profoundly shaped by Moltmann’s work. One such individual was Mark French Buchanan. I previously shared a guest post from Mark here and plan to share more from him in the near future!

Mark’s new book, Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny, has been released by Wipf and Stock, and I was delighted to have been given an opportunity to read an early digital copy.  Mark first met professor Moltmann as a seminary student in 1980, and has spent his time since seeking to live out the hopeful theology that Moltmann espouses, in his life and in his pastoral ministry. This book is largely an outgrowth of this journey, which, for me at least, is part of what made it so engaging.  Continue reading

On the Edge of Eternity (Guest Post by Mark Buchanan)

11227927_110713385930426_3207531351850305373_oGuest post by Mark Buchanan. Mark is a Presbyterian Pastor specializing in multicultural ministry in the Los Angeles area. He has been an enthusiastic student of Jürgen Moltmann’s theology since encountering Dr. Moltmann while a seminarian at Princeton Seminary. He writes using engaging real life stories to illustrate and bring to life the central tenets of Dr. Moltmann’s theology. He currently resides in Pasadena, California with his wife and children.

Note from Ben: I had the pleasure of meeting Mark at the Karl Barth Conference and am looking forward to his book – Embraced: Many Stories, One Destiny – which comes out this Fall from Wipf and Stock. Stay tuned here for more info about his book… but for now, enjoy this guest post!

In his lecture at the Barth Conference in Princeton, Jürgen Moltmann contrasted Barth’s doctrine of the election of grace to the contemporary teachings and practices of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. He noted that one perspective led to an opportunity for eternal life while the other led to death. This drew to mind an encounter I had in 1979 while traveling from Mashhad, Iran to Tehran by train.

As the train departed a man dressed in the traditional white garb of a Moslem cleric along with his assistant entered the compartment where a companion and I were seated. Taking his seat next to me the man gruffly addressed his assistant in Arabic. While I did not understand what was being said, their tone expressed displeasure. When abrupt hand gestures accentuated their words, I began to feel uneasy. When I turned to look at the man seated next to me the hood of his garment drawn tightly over his head shrouded his face. Obviously our presence in the overnight compartment was more than an inconvenience, apparently it was an offense. As fear began to rise in me I leaned forward intent upon making eye contact. As I did I saw that the socket of his left eye was exposed covered only by darkened flesh. Yet what truly startled me was not the blindness of his left eye, but the hatefulness that was emanating from his right. Piercing through my gaze a paralyzing power penetrated me. Instinctually I glanced away. It was as if an evil intent had entered me, taken me under its command and made me an observer of what was about to take place. In that moment, I could feel myself battling a spirit of resignation. Continue reading