Jürgen Moltmann on Protest Atheism

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This post is a part of my ongoing (slow and steady) blog series on The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann (CG). You can view the other posts in this series here.

For anyone used to the typical debates that go on between “atheists” and “theists” in the world today, Moltmann’s take on this topic can seem a bit out of place. He frequently says something to the effect that “without Jesus I would not believe in God” (for example: here). While he has his own brand of natural theology (exemplified especially in God in Creation), he does not attempt to “prove” God’s existence through the cosmological arguments. After all, the “God of the cosmological proofs of God could not suffice for the new horizons of an open, explorable and changeable world.” (Science and Wisdom) So, when Moltmann talks about “protest atheism”, he is not talking about the same type of atheism that is typically set up in debate with Christian apologists:

Crude atheism for which this world is everything is as superficial as the theism which claims to prove the existence of God from the reality of this world. Protest atheism points beyond both God and suffering, suffering and God, sets them one against the other and becomes an atheistic protest against injustice ‘for God’s sake’.
The Crucified God, 227

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Moltmann, Left Behind, and the Need for a Hopeful (Not Dystopian) Eschatology

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The new Left Behind movie comes out next week: A reminder that now more than ever this world needs to hear a hopeful Christian alternative to dystopian pop-eschatology. #AreYouReady to offer some Moltmannian hope?

About 15 years ago a megachurch in a nearby city had some sort of “Rapture Ready” event (I can’t remember what they called it exactly). It’s goal was to make sure that we all knew that we were “ready” when the pretribulational Rapture came; that we would be “taken” and not “left behind” to endure the terrible events that would follow. Since the Rapture could come at any time, participants were encouraged to buy tape recordings of the event, so that their loved ones who didn’t make the cut would find the tape, listen to it, and have that post-Rapture “aha” moment where they could realize what was going on (after all, while they would have to endure the tribulation regardless, if they repented they could still escape the flames of eternal torment!).

I was a teenager at the time, and invited some friends to come over to my parents’ house to watch this event on TV (don’t worry – I made sure to get a tape recording too!).  Afterwards, one girl remarked to me that it seemed that the preacher was trying to “scare the hell out of people.” At the time I shrugged this off. Don’t some of us need this in order to turn to Christ? Besides, while I thought that maybe the “timing” of the Rapture was debatable, it didn’t occur to me to call into question the truth of the general narrative…

Most of us who were raised in American Evangelicalism have had some exposure to this brand of end-times doctrine. Even when I didn’t feel particularly strongly about it, I remember sensing that this approach was helpful because it motivated Christians to do evangelism and resulted in some unbelievers converting. It was explicitly taught at the Christian high school I attended, and seemed to be the assumed belief among many of the Pentecostals and other conservative Evangelicals I knew.

It’s been a widespread approach for a number of years, but the Left Behind franchise – with its books, movies (and now, of course, the movie reboot starring Nicolas Cage) – has further brought this dystopian story of the end into the forefront of popular apocayptic imagination. All based on a speculative, relatively recent, and hotly contested, interpretation of the Bible.

There are plenty of biblical, historical, and theological reasons to reject Left Behind’s Rapture theology (maybe I’ll dive into that in a future post).  What I want to focus on here is the general thrust of its message: The misguided theology informing Left Behind spreads fear and is about escaping this world; the Gospel of Jesus brings hope and is about redeeming this world.

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Do Executioners Triumph Over Their Victims?

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This post is a part of my ongoing (slow and steady) blog series on The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann (CG). You can view the other posts in this series here.

My last few posts on CG have been in order of appearance with the book. I’m in chapter six and have been looking at how the cross of Jesus understood in a Trinitarian way points to an experience of “death in God,” and that the cross critiques and dismantles theism. In the near future, I plan to post about Moltmann’s treatment of “protest atheism” as it relates to our theology of the cross (we have touched on briefly this topic here) .

For this post I want to go back to a question that Moltmann raised in chapter five: Do executioners triumph over their victims?

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Jürgen Moltmann on Wolfhart Pannenberg, his “dear friend and opponent”

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Jürgen Moltmann with Professor and Mrs Pannenberg at Hans Küng’s 60th birthday party

When asked for a one sentence comment about Wolfhart Pannenberg at the Emergent Village Theological Conversation in 2009, Moltmann replied that “he is a dear friend and opponent.” The two of them were at the center of the new “hope theology” movement of the 1960’s, and throughout their theological careers were in dialog and conflict with each other. In A Broad Place: An Autobiography, Moltmann spends about a page and a half reflecting on his relationship to Pannenberg, the similarities of their two versions of “hope theology” and how he learned that the two of them got along much better when they avoided discussions of politics. In the wake of Pannenberg’s recent passing, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this section:

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Remembering Wolfhart Pannenberg (A Roundup of Reflections and Articles)

Wolfhart Pannenberg, 1928-2014

Wolfhart Pannenberg has died.  He truly was one of the greatest theological minds of his generation, and has been fast becoming one of my favorite theologians.

A number of people who know a thing or two about him (or even knew him personally!) have shared some excellent reflections in the days since his passing. Here is a roundup of articles and media on Pannenberg in remembrance. I’ll try to add more to this post as I become aware of them:

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The Cross of Jesus as Critique of Theism

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This post is a part of my ongoing (slow and steady) blog series on The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann (CG). You can view the other posts in this series here.

“So it is not enough and no use for anyone to know God in his glory and his majesty if at the same time he does not know him in the lowliness and shame of his cross… Thus true theology and true knowledge of God lie in Christ the crucified one.” (Martin Luther, as quoted by Moltmann on p. 211 of CG)

For Luther, “every Christian is a theologian, i.e. one who knows God.” And we know God through the cross of Jesus. To be a believer means to be a theologian of the cross. While on some level it may seem like we are wading into deep theological waters when we consider a book like The Crucified God (it’s not for the faint of heart!), at the same time, the theology of the cross must be fundamentally simple and not merely an exercise in philosophical abstraction. Whatever else we have to say about God, he is concretely revealed in the incarnation of Jesus, and “as soon as you say incarnation, you say cross” (von Balthasar, as quoted by Moltmann on p. 205).

In my previous post, we explored how suffering and death are not outside of God, but are taken up in God (i.e. into the Trinity) on the cross: “The Cross, Death in God and the Trinity” (c.f. “Atheism and Theism Are Outside of the Trinity“). We’ve observed that modern Christianity has in many ways inherited a picture of God that comes not from Jesus, but from the classical theism of the philosophers. This God does not look like Jesus, and is not identical with the God Jesus called Abba Dear Father. Continue reading The Cross of Jesus as Critique of Theism