As I’ve shared here before, Jürgen Moltmann will be a featured speaker at this year’s Karl Barth Conference, which begins one month from today. The theme of the conference is “Karl Barth and the Gospels: Interpreting the Gospel Texts”, and it will kick off with a banquet dinner at 6PM on June 21, followed by the opening lecture by Jürgen Moltmann at 7:30PM. I’m told that Professor Moltmann’s lecture that night will be on Karl Barth’s doctrine of election. This will be my first experience at a Barth Conference (or at Princeton at all); not to mention my first time hearing Professor Moltmann speak in person… so I am really looking forward to it. I hope to see you there! (Not signed up yet? Looks like registration is still open…)
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.
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.
I’ve been sharing a seriesofposts on Theology of the World by Johann Baptist Metz, which I read over the weekend. Again, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is just 150 pages and very approachable.
Below is one last selection from this book, on what the political role of the church is in a pluralistic society. Metz’s answer to this question is that the church’s goal should never be to set up and enforce societal norms or endorse a political ideology or to establish itself as a political force; but rather the church should be about the liberating business of social critique. With the American culture war so dominated by Left-vs-Right ideology (and far too many Christians getting caught up in it), this is a timely – and radical – message for us today. He also calls for cooperation between Christians and people of other faiths (or no faith) based on our common experience in this world of the felt “lack of freedom, justice, and peace.” Continue reading Metz: Political theology in the church must take the form of social criticism, not political ideology.
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.
Over the last couple days I read Metz’s Theology of the World. This is a collection of essays that Metz wrote between 1961 and 1968 on themes of political theology. I shared some selections from the first essay in the book on secularism. From start to finish this book is fantastic. Like Moltmann, Metz gets his bearings for political theology from an eschatological orientation. Future hope is not the appendix to Christianity, but its fundamental driving force: Continue reading Johann Baptist Metz on Eschatology and Flight from the World
The Secularity of the world, as it has emerged in the modern process of secularization and as we see it today in a globally heightened form, has fundamentally, though not in its individual historical forms, arisen not against Christianity but through it. It is originally a Christian event and hence testifies in our world situation to the power of the “hour of Christ” at work within history.
In her autobiography, Dorothee Soelle listed Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz’s Theology of the World alongside Theology of Hope (Moltmann) and her own book as something of an early trilogy in modern political theology. I’m currently reading Metz (it is excellent so far) and hope to move on to Soelle’s contribution next.
The first essay in Theology of the World is called “How Faith Sees the World: The Christian Orientation in the Secularity of the Contemporary World.” Many Christians bemoan the secularization that has long been taking over the Western world – worrying that it is an indication that Christianity has failed and is receding. But Metz sees in the incarnation of Jesus the full acceptance of the world – in all its worldliness – by God. Below are some selections from this chapter that get to the heart of his argument. Continue reading Johann Baptist Metz on why Christian theology should embrace secularization