Jürgen Moltmann on Theological Method

How I Have Changed: Reflections on 30 Years of Theology, edited by Jürgen Moltmann

The other day I started casually reading How I have Changed: Reflections on 30 Years of Theology, edited by Jürgen Moltmann, which is basically a collection of lectures and conversations that took place in June 1996 (to celebrate Jürgen Moltmann’s 70th birthday). It included many of the theological greats of that generation: Jürgen Moltmann, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendell, Dorothee Sölle, Hans Küng, Eberhard Jüngel, and others.

For each speaker there is a bit of theological biography and reflections on what has changed for them since they began their careers as theologians. Moltmann closed his talk with some very helpful bullet points on theological method:

An American remarked that reflections on method are like clearing one’s throat before a lecture. That can only go on as long as one can hold one’s audience. I have always been interested only in the theological content. So I shall only ‘clear my throat’ briefly, as a postscript:
1. It should be possible to verify theological statements by one’s own experiences or by empathy with the experiences of others, whether individual or collective. Experiences include praxis.
2. A person with different theological views should also be able to say to God what he or she says about God. It should also be possible to use theology for praying, lamenting or praising.
For me, from the start theology has been an adventure with an uncertain outcome, a voyage of discovery into an inviting mystery. My theological virtue has not been humility, but only curiosity and imagination for the kingdom of God.
4. In Europe we have a rich confessional background. But together ‘with all Christianity on earth’ – as Luther remarked – we have a much richer ecumenical future. Concern with our own tradition must not hinder incorporation into the worldwide ecumenical community.

For a more extended discussion on theological method with Jürgen Moltmann, be sure to check out episode 2 of the Emergent Village conversation with Moltmann from 2009 (mirror here).

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