Full Text for Jurgen Moltmann and His Theology of Hope (Text)

Jurgen Moltmann and His Theology of Hope x.1~ I:I)II,~I~ I N 'THE "IIHI his ideas of the future and hopc. Thc appro;tc!l was absolutely refreshing in contrast of the "here and no\.vl' hurnclrunl of the cxisten tial theo- logiaris who \\!ere virtually the uncontestetl masters of theology in the first half of this centurv. The existential theologians al~vays gavc the irrlprkssioll that they hat1 little interest.in the past 01: ftltnrc. If Jesus Christ is rise11 from the grave, Hc is riscn for mc here and no\ii as 1 listen to preaching. Even if Jesus Christ js to return for judg- ment, the more impol-tant thincr is that Jes~~s Christ is making a P judgment 110\\l 011 In! actions. For this al>l>roac.h, \vitll its ~111p11;isis on "this is thc clay of repc~ltr.~ncc and salvation," overconcern with the historical veracity or falsity destroys the moment of eternal truth, when Jesus Christ is grasped by faith. For the existential oriented theologians, all llistory seemed to dissolvc into thc ~nomc~~t of faith.'" To his credit, R'lolttnann's "Th.eolog~~ of Hope" docs take ii rcal- istic \lie[\; of history an0 it does oEer 21 real future. Past and future do not dissol~/l: in an eternal prescnt. In developing this futuristic theology, Aloltmann docs have considcrablc wcight of Biblical his- tory on 11is side. Luther scad the Riblc from the l~~inciple of justifi- cation by grace through faith ant1 hc saw it shining out on evcry page. Rloltmann has done son~ething similar, but with thc principle of future hopc. In doing this, he has tlc\/eloped a Icgitimittc Biblical thought which laid deeply buried and hidden during tl~c existential ~~eriocl in tiventieth century European theology. \Vithout getting into tllc debate of whetl~er he read his philos- ophy into thc Eiblc or the Bible into liis 1-rhilosol-rhy, he saw rightly that the 01~1 Testament God is a Gotl who pron~ises. Herc is how he applies some of thc Biblical tlata. The promise does not tie a person to the present but to the future. The 11ame of God, YHWH, is the God of the nomadic tribes in Sinai's peninsula, alivavs going before His people, always lending them into the fil ture. l1 ~hc'~>rornise '7 j~rojects the believers into the future. k,ven ~vhen the promise is fuIfilled, the promise is not destroyed because in fulfillment, the original promisc bccomes greater. Even the appearances of Gncl are rjgnificant not becatise of present reality but Lec;iuse of future ex- pectation. The exodus tradition of the Jews, along with the office of the prophet, are all used to show the future is the reality. 111 planning for the future of Israel, YHWH reserves the right for Him- self to annul His own covenants and agreements." Nothing is fixed in the mind of YHWH, He exists under the condition of perfect freedom. There are no divine absolute^.^:^ The terminology of the later prophets, especially Jeremiah and others who speak of a "new David," a "new covenant," a "new Israel" and a "new Zion"' all are used to demonstrate the "theology of hope." The New Testament is read in the same light. God is not the Absolute, but God is the God of faithfulness who maltes His promises. The Gospels are not legends, but they are recollections of per- sons who have been caught up by the eschatological hope. The future of Abraham is applied by Paul to a universal eschatology. The Old 'Testament Scriptures, that which was written aforctime, open up new possibilities for the church.'' Thc resurrection of Jesus Christ is important because it makes history, in laying the ground work for a future resurrection of all flesh. This resurrection of Jesus is not to be interpreted historically but eschatologically. The ques- tion of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not valid for Rfoltmann, since this question would require a static answer. For him the resurrection is to be understood from the future."' "\Yhat happened between the cross and the Easter appearances is then an eschatological event which has its goal in future revelation and universal fulfillment."" Traditionally, it is stated that Christ's resurrection is the historical basis of the final resurrection. Moltrnann would say that the final resurrection is the basis of Jesus' resurrec- tion.'"ather than standing at the Open Tomb and looking for- ward, we arc to project ourselves into the final resurrection. From there the rcsiirrcction of Jesus can be 1egitimatiz.ed. Therc is much that is appealing jn the "theology of hope.'' It deals with a reaI history ratlicr than the misty spiritual categories of the existential theologians. But this should not prevent asking some serious questions. Why shoul.cl the principle of future hope be the overarching principle of the church or of reality? NOW this should not be understood as denying the importance of the "future" in either the Old or New Testaments. The Gospel is after all pronlises of God. However, isn't it SO that the promiscs of God regarding the future are based 011 God's definitive acts in history? Hasn't Moltmann perhaps put the cart before the horse? God's deliverance of Israel, which looks for its hope in the future, is based upon the deliverance out of Egypt. The .tvorcl of promise can be accepted sincerely because God has acted in historv and has shown ~imself to be reliable. The God who laid a foundation in thc deliverance out of Egypt is also the God of the New Testament who establishes faith and the church upon the resurrection of Jesus. Thc promise of the Son of man to return in judgnlent receives substance because He is the one who has come forth from the grave. God is not only ahead of time in the future, but God is also prior to time. h4oItlnann understands thc former but not the latter. 'Time is ~lot the plnce.for Goct to eserclise unlirnitcd free- dom, but ti1.n~ is tilo place. xvllere Cod carries through that plan forn-ted in ctcrnity. Moltmann's concept of the futuristic God allows for the cle- struction of categories which have becn built into crcation by God. He allows for the clestruction of categories of the past in orde~ to realize thc. futurc. Thcrc is really no concept of :I fixed natural and ~noral Law. It is here wl~ero the theology of revolution has a theo- logical foothold. Since thc future is the overarching category, noth- ing in thc present or past is final.]!' There is nothtng .tvhich is not open to correction, But is this good Ne~v Testament theology? 111 the New Testament there is a certain finality in the acts of God. If they are open to cxl~ansion, they arc certainly not open to correction."' It is Jesus Christ who givcs rncnning to the future and not the future that gives nlcaning to Jesus Christ. Here I n7oulcl like to make a criticism that is not tot:,lly theoloeical. If the 'theology of hope' re- moves finality fro111 cvcrytlii~ig whlcll is prcsent or past, is the con- cept of hope also open to possible changc and even ciestruction in the futurc? 111 other words is the principle self-destructing?" If the 'theology of hoyc' is it final ivord in explaining reaIity, thcn on what is that final wort1 based? If that final nlord is a word of God spoken sometirne in the past, thcn the future gets its meaning from the past and not tho past from thc future, ;is Moltinann contends. Where the 'theology of hope' is bound to get thc most attention is in its ethics rather than its theological or philosophical premises. There is a certain reIationshiy to Marxism in that both haw strains of Hcgelinnisnl in thcm." This might be a gross overcsaggeration, but the results of Marxism and 'thcolopy of hope' seen~ \;cry sii~~ilar. R:loltnlnnn in his essay "God in Revolut~on" lays down an ethic which finds its fociis in changing society."' The older theology put the emphasis on indivicli~al conversion and repentance. Hcre God's il~strument was the preaching of the \Vord causing an inncr, internal change in the individual. Thc 'tl~eology of hope' ~nakcs society its object. One of RiIoltmann's 111;ljor tenets is that there are no fixed forms and structures in the ~vorld. Kcplacing structures are func- tional fornls. God has not lait1 clown authoritarian forms in the past which must be followtltf." Rather man sets down forms which arc to by used in realizing the futurc. Future means freedom and free- (lorn means relativiity. The death of Christ opens for mankind messianic possibilities. These possibilities enter the stream of history. 'This frecdom towards thc future is exercised bv criticisnl and protest, creative imagination and action. The question'lnust be asked in what direction is the church to exercise these critical and creative activities? The Christian or the church is to put itself on the side of the op- pressed or the humiliatcd, This initiates the dialectic for the for- ~.vard progress of history.'" By undermining and dcr~lolishing all barriers-whether of religion, ace, education, or class-the community of Christians proves that it is the community of Christ. 'I'liis coulct indeed become the new identifying mark of the church in our xvorld, that it is composed, not of equal and like-mintled mclt. but of tlissin~ilar ~ncn, indeed of forlner enemies. . . 'The way toward this goal of a new humane community invol\~ing all nations and languages js, however, a revolutionary way. Then what is the difference hetiveen Allartin Luther King and Karl hlarx? Both sided with the oppressed and here they are hot11 right. But Marx, in depriving the employer of his due right, cleprivccl him- self of his own true hurnanity."There are several points ~vorth noting here. Ikconciliation takes place across religious boundaries and this ]nay indeed suggest universalism." 'The encl goal of the church is the univcrsal reign of God. His critique of Karl Jlarx is based not on the Seventh Commandment, but on the principle of humanity whereby the individual hurts himself niorc than he hurts somebody else. The offcncled and the offenders are thc saint person."" V17hat, in the Theology of Hope, first secnied to he a Christian eschatological thrust, perhaps overstated, but ncverthcless welconled, turns out tc; be n plan of universalistic redemption in the sphere of this world .'!' In this sense, Christianity's taking sidcs with the "clnmnecl of-' the earth" 2s a way to the redemption and reconciliation of the darnned and the damners. Only through the dialect of taking sides can the universalism of salvation ixake its entrance into the ivorld. Any ecclesiastical triumphalisn~ is, therefore, an immature anticipation of the Ieology is cschatolo-gy. 'Thjs means that t11c study of God is thc study of the future. The future is God's m~le of being with us.:'3 God is Lord in carrying out His reign. In the actual demonstra- tion of His divinity Ile is 'God with us' and with the world. The divinity of God wilt i)econlc manifest and real only in the coining of His unlin~itcd reign. Hather than taking the options of the Goc1 who is iu us, rrho.17e us, betlt~ee~z zts, Moltlnann prefers the God who is d~z fro~~t of US.:"' Thc "in zts" God refers to the God of sanctification. The "clhooe 7,~s'' God refers to the Sovereign God. The "liet117eel~ 71s" God refers to the God of the encounter which finds its iilost obvioits caricature in neo- orthodoxy. "God is present in the way in which His future takes control over the present in real anticipations and prefigurations, Kz~t is ?lot yet present in the form of His eternal presence. The dialectic between His being ;~nd His being-not-yet is the pain and the pow-cr of history. Caught between the expericnccs of His presence and of I-Iis absence, we are seeking His future, which will solve this ambi- guity that the present cannot soIvc." Hegel's dialectic between 'yes' ;111d 'no' is evident here. God is called the "creator of new possibil- ities.":;' In speaking of the God who was, is and is to come, the future has "a donlina~ice over the other tenses. Futurc is the 'coming of God.' """he promises of God in the Old Testament are historica1 because they open up the future. History is a category of the future. The past has value because it announced the future. The menlory of the past is the memory of past hopes whereby we still long for the future. The dignity or deity of Jesus is also circumscribed by thc cate- gory of future. When Gocl is all in all in the future, the dignity of Jesus will come to an end. Jesus is the means of bringing about thc future of God. "At the consummation of that purpose Jes~~s will return His dignity so that God will be 'all in all.' ":;" The I-ordship of Christ is provisional. Jesus is the preparatory Messiah and in Christ there is ":I real incarnation of Gocl's future.".'"Rllessiahship, like history, is a category of the future. " The churcl~ on earth is the varlguard of the new humanity ~vhich is freed fro111 inhumanity. On that account thc cllurcli participates in the groaning of the world, as the world moves forrvard toward thc goal. On that account the Christian comn~unity rnay be called "the sacranlent of God's hope for the ~vorld."." R~Ioltnlann's idcas become clearly visible as urlivcrsalistic when he. applies hjs concept of niessianic eschatology to the process of history itself.":' If v~e cornbinc thc idea of God with thc idea of the fuiurc., the future ilssunlcs a creative character for time and far the whole of the historical beino. Out of the future spring new possibilities h. and of these possibilities a newr reality is created. 'I'his reinforces a previous thought inlportant to pxocess theology, that God is subject to the processes of tinlc. Events in history do not have value in and of themselves, but receive value from the eschatological reality:" But no historical rcality is already that prevailing escilatological reality; tllercforc, the prevailing rcality transcends all historical realities and renders them once again historical realities. Herc we might bc back to the philosophy of l'lato where the true reality exists in a transcendent sphere. Events and objects in our sphere of existence only receivc their reality because they are copies of the transcendent. In Molt~nann's theology this tr;tnsccndent co13- cept is not a preselzt but a futzfrc. Now several obvious criticisms can be leveled at the approach of Moltmann. I have also indicated that his theology has been a contribution in that it has uncovered once again the fol-ward action of God in history. Just to level dognlatic criticisms at his approach would be an injustice. \,Ye simply db not want to line up agreenlents and disagreeinents in a point by point approach. His theology is at fault primarily because hc does not nlakc a distinction in what he calls the "kingdom of God." In Lutheran theology this has been divided into two categories, the kingdom of power and the kingdom of grace. This is, of course, Luther's distinction, but it is also the distinction of the Lutlleran Confessions whereby the Christian in one sphere relates to the civil order and in another sphere to This is not to establish a false dualisnl and neither is it denying the reality of ~od'in both spheres, as if one were divine and- the other not. But the Augsburg Confession in its anthropology does predicate man with a free will in secular or natural matters and wit11 an en- slaved wilI over against the things pertaining to salvation:"' In the theology of Moltmann, church and world are wrapped up in one concept called the "kingdom of God." Even in the Gospels the king- dom of Cod refers to the kingdom thgt comes through preaching, individual I-cpental~ce ancl faith ~ltltl not to political orders. Since R$olt~nrtnn docs not use this distinction ant1 pcrilaps tloes ~1o.t: recog- nize it as cven valid, hc clailns that the ch&rch as ch~itch should directly effect and changc social orders. Pleasc remember this is not to questior~ the valid participation of Christians lls Christians ~iiorlting in the world for improilernent. Thc Augsburg C:onfession ~i~akes this an obligation of a11 Christiitns and cvcn rlon-Christians. Hoivevcr, Moltmann states that politics and revolution can bi: used in bringin6 about the rea1iz;ltiorl of thc kingdom of God. Since thtt kirlgdonl of God is brought tio\tin to ii tangiblc carthly reality, it is therefore quite natural, as he suggests that reconci1iation is an occurrence between persons, forces, groups, etc., ar:ci can hc brought about by politics ~IIIC~ soinetimcs rvvolution.'' Rcconciliatior~, in the older thcology was between Gocl and in the sphere not governed by the order of this ivorld. Moltmann's "theology of hopc" was a rt:action against the "~vord" theology of the neo-orthoclox thcoiogians. llut it is on this verv point that his own theology necds the corrective of the theology he &anted to correct. Granted he has taken historv morc seriously than Bult- lnann could cvcr take it, but hc has not taken seriously that God's loul~le- day, 1966). As with thc cmergencc of variot~s theological schools, therc is always thc tendency to associate the movement with church history, so Bcnz traces his concept of hope from the early church to the present. In Alncrica, Carl E. Braatcn of the 1,uthcran School of Thcology in Chicago has definitely aligned himself with thc "thcology of hope" with his book The Fz~tztrc of God (Nctir York: Harpcr & Row, 1969). nraatcn js obviously and admitteclly dependent on the writings of Moltmann. Thc "theology of hope" seems to bc replacing existentialist oriented nco- orthodoxy. It made its debut in America with Moltmann's The Theology of Hopc, in 1967. At that timc I gave thc movement a favoral~le review in Christiunity Today (February 18, 1968)' p. 32. The review entitled "One to 1:)isrupt thc Status Quo" extolled the strong Biblical orientation of the movement. 1 hat1 a completely different reaction to Religion, Revolution nnd the Ftitt~rc, h/Iy review entitled thc "Revival of 13egelian- ism" (Christianity Today, December 19, 1969) scores Moltmann heavily for turning the church into an instrument of revolutionary activity. It cannot be overlooked in this regard that both ~Moltmann and Benz havc hecn associated in dialogue with the Marxists. Braaten also suggests using revolutionary methods if the present laws stand in the way of the goal. Most of the references used in this article are taken from Moltmann's two Imoks, 'rhc Thcology of Hope (New York ant1 Evanston: 'Harper & Row, 1967) and R~ligio~z, Rcv0Zz~tion ~2nd thc Futz~re (Ncw York: Charles Scrihner's Sons, 1969). The first will hc ahhreviatcd TI1 ailti thc: second I\fiF. Religion, Rcvolzltion arrd thc E'zttl~re is R collecti~n of essi~ys. 2. A hint of this type of thinking can be found in Moltmann's articlc "The Hcalisril of Hope" jn the Co~zcordin 'l'hcological hZo~ii/zly XI,, (March, 1969) pp, 149-1 55. Hcrc he favors the Christ who participates in the processes of tinlc instcad of the Christ who is part of eternity. The limita- tions of Got1 to tinlc arc most evident in Ncls F. S. Ferre, Thc Univcrsnl Word (Phil;tdclphia: Westminstcr Prcss, 1969). See his chaptcrs on "Creation", "Continuation", and "Consummation" (pp. 188-27 1 ). 3. RRF, "Ilopc ant1 History", p. 207f. Thc Thomistic question concerning thc csistcncc of Gocl is replaced hy thc qucstion of when Got1 will hccomc full!. Gotl. 4. RRF, "lleligion, Ilevolution, and the Future", p. 39. MoIt~nann's sentence, "Pcoplcs have the right to determine their own futnrc," might be sound politically hut not theologically. It should bc noted that Moltmann has no placc in his theology for what has been commonly called original sin. If one criticism could he levc!ed against Moltmann jt w01.1lc1 he an anthro- pologic;11 onr:. In thc "theology of hope" there js no mention of the crippling effccts of sin. Is man rc;illy as capable of guiding the future as Moltmann suggests? Luthcran theologians should feel particularly scnsi- tive hcre, sincc the first major controversy of the Reformatior, was on the cluestion of the natural capabilities of man I~eforc God. Article IT of the Az~gshacrg Confession, "Original Sin", gives a negative verdict on man's ahilitics. Cf. Luther's Bondage of the Will. 5. Man is obligated to look for "revolutionary social change," RHF, "What is 'New' in Christianity", p. 5. 6. The tcrlninoiogy is Moltmann's. "The all-embracing vision of God and of a new creation is to be realized in concrete utopias which summon and make scnsc out of present initiatives for overcoming thc present negatives of lift,." RRF, "Religion, Revolution, and the Future", p. 40. 7. IXl?F, "Hope and History", p. 207. 8. In Bultrnann's theology, time is subsumeti and lost in the category of cternity. in R4oltrnann's theology, eternity is lost in time. Cf. RRF, "Religion, Ilcvolution, and thc Future", p. 23. 9. His first book translated in English, "Theology of Hope, may be considered at first glance a biblical theology. He relies very heavily on the future of hopc and promise connected with the Old Testament prophets. His exegesis of certain Pauline passages, 1 Thess. 4: 14 and 1 Cor. 15, is done along traditional lines (pp. 162f.). 10. For thc cxistential oriented theologians, a11 history seemed to bc clissolvcd into tllc present moment of faith. Cf. Walter Schrnithals, An Introduc- tion to the Theology of Rudolf Bultrnann. Translated by John Bowden (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1968), p. 17 Iff. Dultmann takes Christianity out of history as he calIs this "the objectivizing of God, making him into an idol" and places it in the word as receivcd by faith. If Christianity dissolves for Moltmann, it is not in the present as for Bultmann, but in the futurc. But hcre the readcr will have to be the uItimatc judge for himself. 11. Moltmann uses the theory that Yahweh was thc God of the nomadic tribes to good advantage since he is pictured as "the Lcadcr who goes before his peopIc, . . ." TH, p. 216, The "exodus" theme is also a strong motify in this theology. 12. 'Z'H, p. 127. The revolutionary ethic of thc "theology of hope" is easily seen in its ethic that action against what is considered unjust law is not only proper but suggested. However, the matter goes a littlc deeper when Gotl can annul His own institutions. In note 4 above we discussed briefly the abscnce of originaI sin in this theology. Since there is no fixed law, thcrc is really no ground for original sin. i\s law is the reflection of the essence of God, so it is subject as much as Got1 is to the changes of tinlc or to the future. "Sin", if the word clarr 1.x uscd, not the 11rc:aking of fixcd law, but thc refusal to act in accorclance with thc timrs. ?'he question of the validity of thc iaw is not one of the la131 per sc hut of: God. In discussing this thcology of revol:~tion, attention shouid be given to thc clucstions of' God and the standards of action rather than to the overt cspressions of this movement in rcvolrition. Sin for Moltmann is not the brcalting of a law l~ut tfcspondcncy anti despair. These arc called the origin of sin. TH, 1). 12 1. Of coursc the onc absolutc is that everything is subject to change. Cf. TH, p. 121, "To this cxtcnt thc promise of the covenant and the injunc- tions of the covenant have an abiding and guiding significance until thc Fulfillment." 'TH, 1). 129. TH, 13. 153. Thcrt. have generally l~ccn tcvo lvays in which thc rcsurrcction of Jesus Christ hiis becn verified. These two ways arc by history and faith. Paul in 1 C;orinthians 15 leans heavily on offcring eyewitncsscs as historical proof that Jesus did risc from thc dead. Whilc one can qucstion l'aill's method, it seems 11eyond qucstion that with his careful listing of witncsses that this was his intent. The neo-orthotfox theologians Ieave behind thc historical question and suggest that faith is thc cvidcnce for thc restlrrcc- tlon of: Jcsus. Cf. Walter Schmitl~als, An Introduction to the Theology of Rudolf Bultmunn, op, cit., p. 138. An actual rcsurrection of Jesus is called incredible. Christian faith is only interested in thc rcsurrection as an existential experience. Moltmann offers now a third solution. For him the resurrection is verifiable eschatoiogicaily but not historically. Future proofs are substituted for past and present ones. Cf. RRF, "Resurrection ns Hope", p. 50 f. "We can verify historically who is involved in the allegcd rcsurrection event but we cannot verify the event itself." The event can only be verified in a uiorId not dominated by dcath and sin. By pushing the question into the futurc, Moltmanxl can avoid answering the question and his staterncnts concerning the resurrection of Jcsus are definitely ambivalent. He will say that the resurrection of Jesus "is sub- ject to cschntologicul verification." The emphasis is Moltmann's. How- ever, this is anything but a certain hopc. Cf. Moltmann's essay, "The Realism of Hopc", CTM, op. cit., p. 151. "But now, of course, we naturally have thc feeling that all conceptions of the future and above all of a future aftor death arc dreams, fantasics, speculations. Wc know nothing precise at~out the future. We would rather not believe anyone who says he knows anything about it." 'TH, p. 20 1. Cf. notc 16. RIZF, "Resurrection as Hope", p. 52. "Thc Christian hope is not founclccl on the isolated cvent of Jesus' resurrection, but in his total person and erltirc history-which through the resurrection became eschatologically qualified. . . . In confessing Jesus' resurrection, faith does not imply that Jesus has been removed to hcaven or has been etcrnalizcd in God, but that He has been receivcd into the future of the 'kingdom of heaven' and the coming glory of God." The incarnation is not a past event, but is spoken of the symbol of the future of God. The eschatological reality is described as superceding all historical realities. Cf. RRF, "Hope and History", pp. 2 12-21 6. RRF, "Ileligion, Revolution, and thi;' Future", p. 32. The world is spoken of as "the history of an experiment of salvation . . ." Cf. also Nels Ferrc, Thc Universal Word, op. cit. This thought was suggested in an editorial in Christianity Today (Vol 12, 14, pp. 696ff.), "Sew Hopc for Theology?" "If theological concepts indeed givc no 'fixed form to rcality, but . . . are expanded by hope . . .' (TH, p. 36), why should MoItmann exempt even his concept of hopc from this same Iack of finality?" There is no satisfactory tpistomological answer to the "theo!ogy of hope." Existential theology claimed the cn- touter itself was the answer. But for Moltmann's theory, no answer is available now. 22. Strains of Hcgcl may be detccte