Jürgen Moltmann on Gay Marriage

Sexuality has been a hot topic in the Church for some time. Not only has it been at the epicenter of the culture war; it has divided congregations and denominations, leaving many of us hesitant to even bring up the issue in Christian company for fear of unhelpful heated debate (meanwhile the LGBT people in our midst often feel misunderstood, targeted, and marginalized). There now exists among Christians a spectrum of approaches on this matter. That does not mean that all positions are equally right. But it does mean that we should be open to having conversations where we speak the truth with grace, and steer clear of using loaded words like “apostate” or “bigot” to describe those who take the view opposite our own.

In all the Moltmann books I have read, the topic of homosexuality does not come up, not even in his writings that were explicitly ethical (I’m thinking specifically of Ethics of Hope and On Human Dignity). The first mention I have heard of it was in the audio for the Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Moltmann in 2009. Below I have posted the audio with transcript for this short segment. Here, Tony Jones asks Moltmann about the gay debates in the church and the schism they have been causing here in America. I suspect that Molty’s answer will displease some progressives and most conservatives, because: 1) he does not quite affirm gay marriage; and 2) he does not believe that homosexuality is a sin.

A thought-provoking conversation… No matter where you stand on this debate. Enjoy!

Note: I’ve added a “Moltmann at Emergent Village” tag to all posts that include a clip and/or transcript from that conversation. The full audio from that event is available here.

T.J. Paul seemed to think a lot about sex. Augustine certainly thought a lot about sex. And in the American church in a lot of the denominations represented around here, sexuality is a schismatic topic currently, and its the reason some of us have withdrawn from those denominational fights because of the schismatic nature of these debates. It might’ve been Filioque 1000 years ago, but now its the questions of who can be ordained and who can be in a sacramental marriage, and who can be in a legal marriage, and those kinds of questions.

J.M. Let me first say, this is no problem in Germany. We never have a struggle about sex and homosexuality in the churches and between the churches.

T.J. Why?

J.M. Because the church is about the Gospel and not about sex.  And we believe in the justification of human beings by faith alone, and not by faith and heterosexuality or whatever. You can’t add to it. This is for us, in the Protestant tradition in Germany, heresy. And homosexual or heterosexual, whatsoever believes by faith alone is saved and is certainly able to be ordained in a Christian community. I will not say that a lesbian or a homosexual partnership is equal to a marriage, because a marriage is intended to father children, while these partnerships are not intentionally directed to adopt children. But I have no problems in blessing such a partnership. Why should I not bless a partnership between human beings? And homosexuality is neither a sin nor a crime. To be short-sighted, as I am, is neither a sin nor a crime. So I don’t see the schism or the heat of the debate on it. I know how much this is destroying churches in this country, but I don’t know why this is more important than the question of war and peace, for example.

12 thoughts on “Jürgen Moltmann on Gay Marriage”

  1. I just found about your blog a couple of weeks ago. I am a big fan of the work of Karl Barth and T.F.Torrance. Jurgen Moltmann’s work I am familiar with but indirectly through folks like you. I look forward to reading him soon. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks for your feedback! I discovered Moltmann a couple years ago not long after I started reading Barth. Haven’t had a chance to read any TFT yet, but hope to before too long. Maybe after I finish reading all the volumes of Church Dogmatics! Or sooner. 😉

  2. Saludos. Motmann es uno de mis teólogos favoritos, desde hace 20 años lo leo y es genial. Saludos desde México.

  3. I really like this, honest I do. However, I think we need to talk about his comment. (His words are obviously in an interview and we cannot hold them to the same analytic rigor as his written work, but it is still useful as a point of query) He claims that the quality of a marriage is different between those of the same sex and those of opposite sex. But, is the quality of marriage is lessened when children aren’t an intended (necessary) consequence? I don’t believe that is even the case with heterosexual marriages. What about the infertile couple, those who marry after menopause, or any marriage where a women had perviously undergone a hysterectomy? The quality of a marriage is the consequence of the character and effort of the individuals. Those who think same-sex couples necessarily have a lower quality of relationship will need to get more creative with their arguments so as to not accidentally throw shade at many of their heterosexual friends.

      1. Thanks Juan, its difficult to even wrap my head around everything that is implied by justification through faith alone, I think its a process of uncovering that in our lives. I think JM directly shines the light on a place that we continue to justify ourselves and make ourselves righteous before God (even by those whose foundation of their spiritual life is grace by faith alone). The fact is, we are not the coherent spiritual/cognitive/embodied beings that we like to think we are. As individuals and societies we need to listen to those God sends to shine light on our tendencies to self-justify, among our other sins.

  4. Rhe issue is not just about the gospel, Moltmann is right in saying the Gospel itself is not about sex, but if is about the “if…then”
    Clause. “If we are driven by the Spirit, let us be led by the Spirit” The argument is about whether or not being gay is ‘ fundamentally disordered’ a la Benedict, or whether it is like greed and other things, a case of being Christian, but not Led by the Spirit’ So there is an issue, but I still think that the Evangelicals are wrong. When they reduce the issue to the authority of the Bible, they pick the wrong way of defending the way God is working me with us.

  5. Would have to agree with him that the word ‘homosexuality’ at the time didn’t exist, and there is much debate over the actual greek word which apparently doesn’t not fit within any apparatus compared to today’s understandings . I wish I could tell you the word now but do not have it at my finger tips. gay Christian websites have better research on it but even some of their discussions are a bit weak. There is even disagreement within the ‘gay’ circles on marriage and even abstinence. Paul himself wrote that it would be better if one couldn’t control their sexual impulses to get married. Sounds all rather one sided . Paul’s letters do not address those who had come to Know Christ as it is, but those relevant to what appears either god haters or idol worshipers. I have an aramaic bible that translates the word to child molestors – in Leviticus there is an entire sexual ‘dont’s and it all false immediately after the discussion of Molek worshipers. Additionally, ‘no one can come to the Son unless the Father enables them”…I don’t see a single clause in the bible that states ..except those who are not attracted to the opposite sex in a lustful way anywhere. References in the OT are all foreshadowing to the coming of Christ..Paul seems to imply that sexual need is actually fulfilled in Christ..and that is what it’s all about to begin with…true Love and Life is Christ Himself.

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