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.

Moltmann Book Alert! “Hoffen und Denken” (Hoping and Thinking)


The great theologian of hope enjoying an “Eschaton” beer at the Homebrewed Christianity AAR event. image source: Tony Jones on Twitter

 Jürgen Moltmann may be turning 90 next April, but that hasn’t stopped our beloved theologian of hope from publishing a new book in 2014 and taking two trips to America in 2015. By all accounts he is doing  very well (I hope the above recent picture – of him celebrating the publication of the 40th Anniversary Edition of the Crucified God in Atlanta last month – attests to this!). Just recently I made a rather pessimistic comment that The Living God and the Fullness of Life may be Moltmann’s last book (in my defense, many of us thought that about Ethics of Hope!). I’m very happy to have been wrong! 

I’ve just caught wind that a new book by Jürgen Moltmann will be released in German in 2016 just in time for his 90th birthday. It’s title: “Hoffen und Denken: Beiträge zum ökologischen Umbau der christlichen Theologie,” which  translates roughly to Hoping and Thinking: Contributions for the Greening of Christian Theology (via Google Translate).  

Below I’m including the publisher’s description roughly translated to English. Again, I don’t (yet) read German so I’m trusting Google Translate for the basic meaning for now (I’ve only slightly cleaned it up for flow). If you are fluent in German and English and see any obvious errors please let me know (original can be found on the publisher’s website here). 

I gather from this that the new book is a combination of new and old content from Moltmann along the lines of ecological theology, a subjext very near to his heart. I’ll be on the lookout for details of an English release of this title and will keep you advised! 

Publisher’s description:

In this book, important contributions of the great theologian Jürgen Moltmann (90 years old on 8 April 2016th) are combined.The title “Hope and thinking” draws attention to the transforming power of the prophetic and apostolic hopes.
The first part is about the ecological “revolution” of theology: What can they contribute to a good future for the Earth and the survival of humanity? What needs to be formulated a doctrine of creation, which is based on the Bible and the global challenges withstand?
The second part contains essays on fundamental themes of theology, such as “hope and thinking” or “The Triune God”.
In the third part Jürgen Moltmann portrays a selection of contemporaries (including Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ernst Bloch, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Helmut Gollwitzer and Dorothee Sölle). He makes it clear that no one is a theologian alone, but each is in a community of theologians through the ages in a simultaneity with all other thinking.

The book offers an exciting range of Jürgen Moltmann’s partly still unpublished texts which are committed to the program of ecological restructuring of theology towards a more comprehensive understanding of creation and redemption.

Christ is not against the Muslims. He died for them.

Christ is not against the Muslims. He died for them.” This was perhaps the most profound and timely statement from Moltmann during the live Homebrewed Christianity podcast interview at AAR in Atlanta on November 20th (the audio is now available to listen to online here).  With all of the recent heated headlines about terrorism and Muslims (and the various responses from political and religious leaders), I thought now would be a good time to share this quote along with its extended context. 

In the interview, Tony Jones had just remarked that The Crucified God seems to bring together the best of the two basic types of atonement theories, i.e., the objective (something happens with God) and subjective  (something happens with us). 

Moltmann added that something also happens “with the others,” and explained: 

I remember it was a special hour in the German Parliament during the Cold War when a famous Protestant Minister, Gustav Heinemann, stood up and made a speech, and he was saying “Christ is not against the communists!” And the Christians protested against him. And he continued, “He died for them.” And there was silence in the parliament.
And so today we should say, ‘Christ is not against the Muslims. He died for them.” And we should accept Muslims as persons for whom Christ died. This is not to accept the Islam and the Koran etc… But meet the person with respect as a potential sister and brother of Christ.

You can listen to the audio of this exchange starting around the 37 minute mark over at Homebrewed Christianity. One of Moltmann’s most famous students, Miroslav Volf (who has written an excellent book on Islam), tweeted a similar sentiment about loving Muslims this morning, seemingly in response to the recent news that a Wheaton professor has been suspended for claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Not long ago I read Volf’s book, Allah: A Christian Response (which in part makes a case for this claim), and I plan to share some helpful insights from it here in the near future. 

The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann comes out today!


¨I know of no theologian from the second half of the twentieth century who has had as powerful a global resonance as Moltmann has.¨(From the new forward to The Crucified God by Miroslav Volf).

The next few weeks are exciting for those with special interest in Moltmann. The new edition of The Crucified God (which Moltmann himself calls his best book!) comes out today; Moltmann’s newest book (and quite possibly his last), The Living God and the Fullness of Life will be available in English on November 13 (though I understand that some have already received their preorders early); and Moltmann himself will be participating in several sessions at AAR in Atlanta (beginning with his live interview with Homebrewed Christianity on November 20).  Continue reading

The “Charisma” of Disability: A church without the disabled is a disabled church

Pope Francis meets a disabled man during a meeting with the UNITALSI, the Italian Union responsible for the transportation of sick people to Lourdes and the International Shrines in PaulVI hall, at the Vatican, on November 9, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis meets a disabled man during a meeting with the UNITALSI, at the Vatican, on November 9, 2013. (Photo credit FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

“Congregations without any disabled members are disabled and disabling congregations.” (The Spirit of Life, 193)

A touching moment in the Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Moltmann occurs at the beginning of episode 6, when a participant at the event named Jean, who was born with a disability, thanked Jürgen Moltmann for his impact on her life (audio embedded below the transcript):

Jean: I read in 1975 The Crucified God. You gave me language to describe my reality as a person born with disability, and I claimed myself created in the image of God from your book. How do persons with disabilities, who are both gifts and burdens to the church, have access to full expression of church in the power of the Holy Spirit?

Jürgen Moltmann: A disability concerned me my lifelong, because my older brother was a severely disabled person and he died when euthanasia began in Germany, so I think the church must consist of the disabled and not-disabled persons. A congregations without disabled persons accepted is a disabled church. So, let’s bring our members of our families who have disabilities into our congregations as a part of our community because they all are images of Jesus Christ.

For Moltmann, the issue of disability is very personal: his older brother, Hartwig, was severely disabled and was among the 10,000 disabled people who fell victim to the Nazi euthanasia program. This makes him particularly sensitive to ways in which those in our world and in the church tend not to appropriately value the physically and mentally handicapped. 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

Who is God for you? Jürgen Moltmann responds: “Jesus Christ is the human face of God”

 A while back I posted a video with transcript of Miroslav Volf’s conversation with Jürgen Moltmann on Joy. This clip is a 4 minute segment from that conversation where Moltmann answers the question, “Who is God for you?” I love his answer. 

As last time, the transcript for this portion is below the video.

Miroslav Volf: Who is God for you?

Jürgen Moltmann: Jesus Christ is the human face of God. And without Jesus Christ I would not believe in God. Looking at the catastrophes of nature, and the human catastrophes of history, I would not come out with the idea that a God exists and that this God is love. This was unthinkable for me. But with Jesus Christ and his message and his suffering on the cross and his resurrection from the cross, my feeling that God is present in the midst of suffering is a firm trust of my heart.

Miroslav Volf: So you are not speaking right now simply as a theologian. You are speaking from personal experience, of discovery. Or being discovered by God. When you were… can you say more about this experience? Which was experience of anxiety, or aftermath of terror, a place where joy would not normally find an entrance?

Jürgen Moltmann: Well, when I was 16 I was drafted in the German army in 1943, and experienced the destruction of my hometown of Hamburg. In the midst of Hamburg there was an anti-aircraft battery, and we schoolboys had to serve in this battery. Well, the operation, called by the British was “Operation Gomorrah”, the destruction of the sinful city of Hamburg. And I was in the midst of it, and at that time I cried out to God for the first time. And later I was in prison in a prison camp in Scotland. There I read with consciousness for the first time the Gospel of Mark and then I came to the cry with which Jesus died: My God why hast thou forsaken me I felt, there is my brother who feels the same as I was feeling at that time. And this saved me from self-destruction and desperation. And so I came up with hope on a place where there was no expectation to come home soon. The imprisonment lasted for three years.

Read Moltmann’s Christology (The Way of Jesus Christ) with a great group of fellow Moltmanniacs

Several of us over at the Jürgen Moltmann Discussion Group on Facebook will soon begin reading and discussing the third volume in Jürgen Moltmann’s series of Systematic Contributions to Theology – The Way of Jesus Christ. We’ll start on Monday, May 18 and will aim for a pace of about 20 pages a week. This book is readily available in print and on Kindle

Below is a quote to give you a taste of what we are getting into (via Juan C. Torres, who is also a member of our group and blogs over at PostMoltmannian):

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.

(Jürgen Moltmann, The Way of Jesus Christ, Loc. 94 in Kindle Version)

I’ve not yet read this book in full, but I’ve read several of the chapters for topical research and have already shared a few selections from it here on Moltmanniac:

It’s going to be a good time. Order you copy today and join us!  

Moltmann on Johann Baptist Metz and the New Political Theology

I first heard of Johann Baptist Metz via Moltmann’s engagement with him, as they have been frequent conversation partners and have written on similar themes. There are many paralel’s between Metz and Moltmann, both in their theology and their life stories. Metz made a contribution to How I Have Changed where he shares his chilling experience as a young Germwn soldier in World War II (one not unlike Moltmann’s own story). Out of their experiences, they both became “theologians after Auchwitz” which led Moltmann to develop The Crucified God and Metz to craft his own “new political theology”, exemplified in Theology of the World and elsewhere.

Below is a selection from Moltmann’s autobiography, A Broad Place, where he described his “ecumenical friendship” with Metz (who is Catholic) and their partnership together in developing political theology, often in conversation with various liberation theologians. Continue reading

Peace with Nature and the Liberation of Man

Earth Day Flag ,created by John McConnell

Earth Day Flag, created by John McConnell

In the final chapter of The Crucified God (“Ways towards the Political Liberation of Man”), Jürgen Moltmann explores liberation from what he calls “vicious circles of death” in five interrelated dimensions: 1) the vicious circle of poverty, 2) the vicious circle of force, 3) the vicious circle of racial and political alienation, 4) the vicious circle of the industrial pollution of nature, and 5) the vicious circle of senselessness and godforsakenness. 

Concern for the rights of the humiliated peoples in our world is not made complete without concern for the rights of the earth We must stop seeing nature as something which we should either control (which we tend to do economically) or be liberated from (which we tend to do in our largely escapist spirituality). Instead, we must see ourselves as part of creation and enter into a peaceful cooperation with it. Moltmann describes the path toward our liberation together with nature this way:

In the relationship of society to nature, liberation from the vicious circle of the industrial pollution of nature means peace with nature. No liberation of men from economic distress, political oppression and human alienation will succeed which does not free nature from inhuman exploitation and which does not satisfy nature. As far as we can see today, only a radical change of the relationship of man to nature will get us out of the ecological crisis. The models of self-liberation from nature and domination of it by exploitation lead to the ecological death of nature and humanity. They must therefore be replaced by new models of co-operation with nature. The relationship of working man to nature is not a master-servant relationship but a relationship of intercomminication which pays respect to the circumstances. Nature is not an object of man’s environment, and in this has its own rights and equilibria. Therefore men must exchange their apathetic and often hostile domination over nature for a sympathetic relationship of partnership with the natural world. The hominization of nature in the sphere of human control only leads to the humanization of man when the latter are also ‘naturalized’. Therefore the long phase of the liberation of man from nature in his ‘struggle for existence’ must be replaced by a phase of the liberation of nature from inhumanity for the sake of ‘peace in existence’. To the degree that the transition from an orientation on economic and ecological values and from an increase in the quantity of life to an appreciation of the quality of life, and thus from the possession of nature to the joy of existing in it can overcome the ecological crisis, peace with nature is the symbol of the liberation of man from this vicious circle.
(The Crucified God, 334)