I’ve not yet read the final volume in Jürgen Moltmann’s “Systematic Contributions to Theology” series (Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology), but I recognized a reference to one of its themes in Moltmann’s letter to me, where he said that “For me personally theology is an adventure of ideas and insights into the divine mystery”. (I think I originally heard this via John Franke’s preamble to the Emergent conversation with Moltmann, but couldn’t say for sure). Here is an extended quote from the Preface to this book that unpacks that statement a bit:
For me, theology was, and still is, an adventure of ideas. It is an open, inviting path. Right down to the present day, it has continued to fascinate my mental and spiritual curiosity. My theological methods therefore grew up as I came to have a perception of the objects of theological thought. The road emerged only as I walked it. And my attempts to walk it are of course determined by my personal biography, and by the political context and historical kairos in which I live. I have searched for the right word for the right time. I have not written any theological textbooks. The articles I have contributed to various theological dictionaries and encyclopedias have seldom been particularly successful. I was not concerned to collect up correct theological notions, because I was much too preoccupied with the perception of new perspectives and unfamiliar aspects. I had no wish to be a disciple of the great theological masters of past generations. Nor have I any desire to found a new theological school. My whole concern has been, and still is, to stimulate other people to discover theology for themselves – to have their own theological ideas, and to set out along their own paths.
(Experiences in Theology, p. xv)
I have to admit a small amount of disappointment when Moltmann says that he has no desire to found a new theological school (because if that’s what he was doing, I would have a hard time resisting the temptation to sign up!). But on the other hand, this is something that I have really appreciated about Moltmann, that has made his work have such a profound impact on my personal spiritual and theological journey. Moltmann has not given me a new theological system to replace my old one. He has given me space to recalibrate my faith. I find myself less and less worried about maybe getting this or that doctrinal tidbit wrong (though at the same time I think my interest in being grounded in tradition has increased). I am more concerned with (as he says here) walking the path before me and learning to perceive and say “what must be said” to the questions of our time. This is, after all, the prophetic theological task of the church, and is also what drives this amateur theologian to keep reading and thinking.
Thanks, Molty, for making room for new theological thoughts and voices!