The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann comes out today!

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¨I know of no theologian from the second half of the twentieth century who has had as powerful a global resonance as Moltmann has.¨(From the new forward to The Crucified God by Miroslav Volf).

The next few weeks are exciting for those with special interest in Moltmann. The new edition of The Crucified God (which Moltmann himself calls his best book!) comes out today; Moltmann’s newest book (and quite possibly his last), The Living God and the Fullness of Life will be available in English on November 13 (though I understand that some have already received their preorders early); and Moltmann himself will be participating in several sessions at AAR in Atlanta (beginning with his live interview with Homebrewed Christianity on November 20).  Continue reading The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann comes out today!

Peace with Nature and the Liberation of Man

Earth Day Flag ,created by John McConnell
Earth Day Flag, created by John McConnell
In the final chapter of The Crucified God (“Ways towards the Political Liberation of Man”), Jürgen Moltmann explores liberation from what he calls “vicious circles of death” in five interrelated dimensions: 1) the vicious circle of poverty, 2) the vicious circle of force, 3) the vicious circle of racial and political alienation, 4) the vicious circle of the industrial pollution of nature, and 5) the vicious circle of senselessness and godforsakenness. 

Concern for the rights of the humiliated peoples in our world is not made complete without concern for the rights of the earth We must stop seeing nature as something which we should either control (which we tend to do economically) or be liberated from (which we tend to do in our largely escapist spirituality). Instead, we must see ourselves as part of creation and enter into a peaceful cooperation with it. Moltmann describes the path toward our liberation together with nature this way:

In the relationship of society to nature, liberation from the vicious circle of the industrial pollution of nature means peace with nature. No liberation of men from economic distress, political oppression and human alienation will succeed which does not free nature from inhuman exploitation and which does not satisfy nature. As far as we can see today, only a radical change of the relationship of man to nature will get us out of the ecological crisis. The models of self-liberation from nature and domination of it by exploitation lead to the ecological death of nature and humanity. They must therefore be replaced by new models of co-operation with nature. The relationship of working man to nature is not a master-servant relationship but a relationship of intercomminication which pays respect to the circumstances. Nature is not an object of man’s environment, and in this has its own rights and equilibria. Therefore men must exchange their apathetic and often hostile domination over nature for a sympathetic relationship of partnership with the natural world. The hominization of nature in the sphere of human control only leads to the humanization of man when the latter are also ‘naturalized’. Therefore the long phase of the liberation of man from nature in his ‘struggle for existence’ must be replaced by a phase of the liberation of nature from inhumanity for the sake of ‘peace in existence’. To the degree that the transition from an orientation on economic and ecological values and from an increase in the quantity of life to an appreciation of the quality of life, and thus from the possession of nature to the joy of existing in it can overcome the ecological crisis, peace with nature is the symbol of the liberation of man from this vicious circle.
(The Crucified God, 334)

 

Moltmann’s Trinitarian Theology of the Cross

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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.

“The place of the doctrine of the Trinity is not the ‘thinking of thought’, but the cross of Jesus.” (Moltmann, CG, 240)

(As a sidebar: I recently posted a review of the new collection of Moltmann’s works  [Jürgen Moltmann: Collected Readings]that was released released last year by Fortress Press. It is worth noting that this pivotal section of The Crucified God is included in the reader. So to dive a bit more into Moltmann’s “Trinitarian Theology of the Cross”, you don’t need to wade through all of CG…. Check out the reader!)

The Trinity is best seen at the cross of Jesus, not in doctrinal formulations

The doctrine of the Trinity, as I learned it, goes something like this: God is one, the Father is God, Jesus is God, the Spirit is God. The three are distinct, but there is only one God. This seems to leave the Trinity in the category of abstract doctrine, but (practically speaking – at least for me!) it doesn’t seem to affect the way we think about God, and many of us continue to relate to God in an undifferentiated way (almost as though we were talking to one person who goes by three different names).

But does the Doctrine of the Trinity belong in the category of pure doctrine? Just a logical stringing together of paradoxical biblical descriptions of God?

As we saw in a previous post, Moltmann argues earlier in the book that “Anyone who really talks of the Trinity talks of the cross of Jesus, and does not speculate in heavenly riddles.” Theology must always resist the tendency to live in the realm of abstraction. And so, for Moltmann, the Trinity is most vividly seen in the event of the cross:

If the cross of Jesus is understood as a divine event, i.e., as an event between Jesus and his God and Father, it is necessary to speak in trinitarian terms of the Son and the Father and the Spirit. In that case the doctrine of the Trinity is no longer an exorbitant and impractical speculation about God, but is nothing other than a shorter version of the passion narrative of Christ in its significance for the eschatological freedom of faith and the life of oppressed nature. It protects faith from both monotheism and atheism because it keeps believers at the cross. The content of the doctrine of the Trinity is the real cross of Christ himself. The form of the crucified Christ is the Trinity. In that case, what is salvation? Only if all disaster, forsakenness by God, absolute death, the infinite curse of damnation, and sinking into nothingness is in God himself, is community with this God eternal salvation, infinite joy, indestructible election, and divine life.

[…]

All human history, however much it may be determined by guilt and death, is taken up into this ‘history of God’, i.e. into the Trinity, and integrated into the future of the ‘history of God’. There is no suffering which in this history of God is not God’s suffering; no death which has not been God’s death in the history of Golgotha. Therefore there is no life, no fortune and no joy which have not been integrated by his history into eternal life, the eternal joy of God.

CG, 246

Trinitarian theology of the cross opens up hope for the future and a new way of prayer

Moltmann is fond of saying that we should never speak “of” God in a way that we cannot speak “to” God. Far from being speculative, the doctrine of the Trinity gets to the core of how what happened on the cross revolutionizes the way that we relate to God. God is not one person with three components; there are three persons in God. We’ve seen before how Moltmann’s understanding of the Trinity affects how we pray: we don’t pray to a distant God “up there” somewhere; we pray from “inside the Trinity.” If Christian theology cannot speak of God in an undifferentiated way, neither should Christian prayer.

Anyone who speaks of God in Christian terms must tell of the history of Jesus as a history between the Son and the Father. In that case, “God” is not another nature or a heavenly person or a moral authority, but in fact an “event.” However, it is not the event of co-humanity, but the event of Golgotha, the event of the love of the Son and the grief of the Father from which the Spirit who opens up the future and creates life in fact derives. In that case, is there no “personal God”? If “God” is an event, can one pray to him? One cannot pray to an “event.”

In that case there is in fact no “personal God” as a person projected in heaven. But there are persons in God: the Son, the Father, and the Spirit. In that case one does not simply pray to God as a heavenly Thou, but prays in God. One does not pray to an event but in this event. One prays through the Son to the Father in the Spirit. In the brotherhood of Jesus, the person who prays has access to the Fatherhood of the Father and to the Spirit of hope. Only in this way does the character of Christian prayer become clear. The New Testament made a very neat distinction in Christian prayer between the Son and the Father. We ought to take that up, and ought not to speak of “God” in such an undifferentiated way, thus opening up the way to atheism.

CG, 247

As an event in the Trinity, the cross means liberation for all who are outside of God and far from God

We’ve seen already how the cross removes all distinctions among people. Here Moltmann amplifies this: God allows himself to be rejected and cast out in Jesus. Jesus, The Crucified God, goes “outside the gate” in solidarity with all who have been cast out; he experiences our rejection, our suffering, our alienation, and is executed. His rejection is our liberation! Because God himself is cast out, he is present with everyone “on the outside” – without any distinction! Through the suffering of Jesus, all are brought in to the very life of the Trinity:

God allows himself to be forced out. God suffers, God allows himself to be crucified and is crucified, and in this consummates his unconditional love that is so full of hope. But that means that in the cross he becomes himself the condition of this love. The loving Father has a parallel in the loving Son and in the Spirit creates similar patterns of love in man in revolt. The fact of this love can be contradicted. It can be crucified, but in crucifixion it finds its fulfillment and becomes love of the enemy. Thus its suffering proves to be stronger than hate. Its might is powerful in weakness and gains power over its enemies in grief, because it gives life even to its enemies and opens up the future to change. If in the freedom given through experience of it the believer understands the crucifixion as an event of the love of the Son and the grief of the Father, that is, as an event between God and God, as an event within the Trinity, he perceives the liberating word of love which creates new life. By the death of the Son he is taken up into the grief of the Father and experiences a liberation which is a new element in this de-divinized and legalistic world, which is itself even a new element over against the original creation of the word. He is in fact taken up into the inner life of God, if in the cross of Christ he experiences the love of God for the godless, the enemies, insofar as the history of Christ is the inner life of God himself. In that case, if he lives in this love, he lives in God and God in him. If he lives in this freedom, he lives in God and God in him. If one conceives of the Trinity as an event of love in the suffering and the death of Jesus—and that is something which faith must do—then the Trinity is no self-contained group in heaven, but an eschatological process open for men on earth, which stems from the cross of Christ. By the secular cross on Golgotha, understood as open vulnerability and as the love of God for loveless and unloved, dehumanized men, God’s being and God’s life is open to true man. There is no “outside the gate” with God (Borchert), if God himself is the one who died outside the gate on Golgotha for those who are outside

CG, 248-249

The Crucified One and the Removal of All Distinctions Between People

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

We live in a world that is in many ways fractured and divided, by such things as geography, politics, nationalism, race, and culture.  But the division of all divisions is religion, whether we are talking about the divide between religions, the divides within a particular religion (such as the many denominations within Christianity), or (especially in our increasingly secular society) the divide between the religious and the irreligious. Christianity, like other religions in our world, creates and sustains distinctions between people; it does not remove them. 

But with the cross of Christ as a our “foundation and criticism”, these distinctions – especially religious ones – are profoundly called into question:

Continue reading The Crucified One and the Removal of All Distinctions Between People

The Forsaken Christ and the Doctrine of Two Natures

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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. In case you missed it: The Crucified God is currently available as a free ebook via Logos (October 2014 only!)

According to Moltmann, “a central difficulty for early christology was the undisguised recognition of the forsakenness of Jesus.” (227) There was a tension between the theistic notion of God, who cannot change, suffer and die; and Jesus (whom Christians claimed to be the incarnation of God), who suffered and died on the cross.

The church worked through this problem in its development of the doctrine of two natures: Jesus had a divine nature, and a human nature. Unfortunately, “traditional christology came very near to docetism, according to which Jesus only appeared to suffer and only appeared to die abandoned by God: this did not happen in reality.” (227) If God is above suffering and immortal, salvation means humans getting to experience God’s immortality: “The theistic concept of God according to which God cannot die, and the hope for salvation, according to which man is to be immortal, made it impossible to regard Jesus as really being God and at the same time as being forsaken by God.” (228) And so, Athanasius famously said, “God became man that we men might participate in God.” Continue reading The Forsaken Christ and the Doctrine of Two Natures

The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann – Free Ebook via Logos

Every once in a while, you read a book that changes everything. The Crucified God was one such book for me. I’ve been slowly blogging through this book over the last several months, and you can find a list of those posts here.

It is definitely not the easiest of his books (I’ve recommended some better starting places here), but according to to Moltmann himself, it is his most important work.

Download your free copy from Logos here. You will also find at that link an offer to purchase an ebook of Theology of Hope for just 99 cents. This is an offer too good for any Moltmanniac to pass up on!

While you are there, you can sign up for a chance to win the entire Jürgen Moltmann Collection!

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This blood-stained copy of El Dios Crucificado (The Crucified God) is on display at a museum in San Salvador, not far from where six Jesuit priests were brutally murdered. For more about this event, see this post: The Blood of the Martyrs.

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

Continue reading Jürgen Moltmann on Protest Atheism

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?

Continue reading Do Executioners Triumph Over Their Victims?

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

The Cross, Death in God, and the Trinity

April 8, 1966 Time Magazine Cover (Image Source: Wikipedia)

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.

Long familiar religious notions have been shattered, and many people feel disoriented when faced with the slogans ‘God is dead’ and ‘God cannot die’…. Behind the political and social crisis of the church, behind the growing crisis over the credibility of its public declarations and its institutional form, there lurks the christological question: Who really is Christ for us today? With this christological crisis we have already entered into the political crisis of the church. And rooted in the christological question about Jesus is ultimately the question about God. Which God motivates Christian faith: the crucified God or the gods of religion, race and class?
The Crucified God, p. 200-201

Whenever I heard talk about the recent Christian film “God’s Not Dead” (which I still haven’t seen – and probably won’t!), I couldn’t help but think of The Crucified God (CG). Isn’t it odd for a group of people whose definition of God is bound to the crucified Jesus, to respond to the statement “God is dead”, with a flippant retort that “God’s not dead”? God may not be “dead”, but (if we are going to maintain an orthodox Christology) God did die; and the affirmation of this is the starting point of Christian theology. As we find in Chapter 6 of CG, Moltmann’s answer to the “death of God” is to articulate “death in God”, that is, to explore what the death of Jesus Christ means in the life of the Trinity.

Continue reading The Cross, Death in God, and the Trinity