Jürgen Moltmann on Theology’s Undiscovered Territories

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In the process of researching for his doctoral dissertation (later developed into his new book, which I highly recommend), Patrick Oden conducted three interviews with Jürgen Moltmann (One, Two, Three). At the beginning of the third interview he broke from his topic and asked Moltmann a great question about the future of theology: I’m curious what your thoughts are on the direction of theology in the future. What are the open fields and undiscovered territories that theology has to pursue still? What should we look in to that you feel theology has not explored?

Below is Moltmann’s response!

A one field in systematic theology would be ecotheology. Because we have a real understanding of the earth as God’s creation and the living space of many of earth creatures – and we are only one of them. But in our science and technology we still start with the human being as a subject and the rest of the nature as our object, while we are a part of nature with it. So we must change our perspectives, not only to look from us to the world, but also from the world as creation to us.

Western theology should develop further an understanding of the Trinity, I believe. But that’s an old idea of course! Especially the concept of perichoresis, the indwelling: You are in me, I am in you. This is what the community of love is all about. And to have this as an open community, an inviting community would be important.

I think the relationship to the synagogue and to Israel, to the Jews, is still problematic, not only in Germany (because of the Holocaust in our past) but also in other countries. […] We use their text, the Tanakh, as our Old Testament; this is a special relationship! In my younger years, the Reformed church in the Netherlands said: We have a dialog with Israel because we speak to each other with an open book; we have a mission to other religious communities because we tell them something new (but at the end of the day, everything is a dialog and there is no special dialog anymore with Israel or the Jews).

Perhaps we should for Christian ethics, look deeper into the Sabbath legislation of the Old Testament, because this is how nature or creation is regenerating it’s power of life: on the Sabbath day, and the Sabbath year, the Sabbath of the earth, and the Jubilee. Perhaps we should translate the old legislation of the Jubilee into the financial world,  to acquit with all the debts and to start anew.

And to bring all those together who belong to the Lord is still an ecumenical task. That we are splitting into so many sects or churches, and then to try to come together again (then split again) is very unsatisfactory. [..] The key of the ecumenical movement is John 17:21. “That they may all may be one, as you Father are in me and I am in you.” So it is trinitarian. And this prayer of Jesus was heard by the Father, so in Christ in the perspective of God, we are already one. The body of Christ from Christ’s perspective is undivided. [..] Therefore, my saying is, the Reformed church is my past, the ecumenical church is my future. I am at home everywhere I am accepted. [..] And this is a question of the Christian community: how to tolerate diversity. One is more fundamental, one is more liberal, and still we belong together as one family. We have to learn this. To have a community with uniformity – that’s simple. But to suffer disagreements is perhaps more severe but better for the community.

In my transcript I skipped some small portions of this exchange above for flow and where I couldn’t quite make out what Moltmann was saying. Be sure to listen to the interview to catch the rest!

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