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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.