Some of you may be aware that Jürgen Moltmann participated in a Trinity Institute Conference at Trinity Church in 2007 (which, by the way, can be found online and is one of the best bits of free Moltmann video around!). I recently discovered that about twenty years prior to that, in 1986, Jürgen Moltmann and his wife Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel were honored guests at a previous Trinity Institute Conference, titled “Love: The Foundation of Hope.” And like the more recent one, it too was recorded! Highlights were nicely edited into four fifteen minute sections and published as a VHS tape designed for individual or group study at local churches as a companion to a book published under the same name. The opening paragraphs from the book provide helpful background information about this conference:
This volume focuses on the life and work of two distinguished theologians, Jürgen Moltmann and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel. The chapters were presented in April 1986 at a transcontinental festival in their honor in New York, St. Louis, and San Francisco sponsored by Trinity Institute. The occasion for the celebration was the Moltmann’s sixtieth birthdays, which occurred in 1986.
Trinity Institute is a national program of theological renewal supported by the parish of Trinity Church in New York City. Its primary purpose is the stimulation of theological inquiry for the practice of Christian ministry. Each year since 1968, Trinity Institute has brought together renowned theologians and church leaders with clergy and laity from the Episcopal church to explore issues of critical importance to church and society.
In 1986, the Institute’s national conference featured the Moltmanns and ten other Christian scholars from across the continent and around the globe: Jose Miguez Bonino (Buenos Aires, Argentina); Frederic Burnham (New York City); Hans Frei (New Haven, Connecticut); James Kaluma (Namibia, Africa); Charles McCoy (Berkeley, California); Douglas Meeks (St. Louis, Missouri); Christopher Morse (New York City); Letty Russell (New Haven, Connecticut); Stephen Sykes (Cambridge, England); and Susan Thistethwaite (Chicago, Illinois). The conference was a gathering of theological colleagues who shared an appreciation of the profound contribution that the Moltmanns have made in the past three decades to the worldwide Christian community’s understanding of itself and its mission but who also sough to extend those insights into new theological territory.
I’ve obtained permission from the parish to digitize and publish the content in this VHS tape. My plan is to publish one segment a day this week until they are all online, complete with the notes for group discussion.
Each video is narrated by Frederic Burnham and includes conversations between Rev Leonard Freeman various theologians regarding the life and work of the Moltmanns. The sessions are as follows: 1) Jürgen Moltmann: A Theology of Hope (this post); 2) Theology of Hope: Critiques and Questions; 3) Theology of Hope: The Feminist Response; and 4) Theology of Hope: The Church in the World. Plus, a short bonus video.
This first session includes contributions from Jürgen Moltmann, Christopher Morse, Stephen Sykes, and Hans Frei! Below the embedded video you’ll find the group discussion content (introductory and for session 1) from the pamphlet.
Part 1 – Jürgen Moltmann: A Theology of Hope
Introduction to the Series:
The Theology of Hope is viewed by many as foundational for understanding the direction of contemporary theology. Working from the key Christian doctrine of the kingdom of God, it focuses on how God’s promise for the future empowers the Christian community for action in the present. Deeply rooted in Scripture and the Christian tradition, it has had far-reaching impact on social and political applications of the gospel, including liberation and feminist theologies.
These four fifteen-minute tape segments present an in-depth consideration of the Theology of Hope through an exploration of the lives and work of its most noted exponents, the husband-and-wife team of Jürgen Moltmann and Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel.
Part 1 Conversation Guide:
Suggestion: Ask the group which themes or ideas were most engaging to them and make a list of their responses for purpose of discussion
For biblical reflection: Psalm 27:17
The Turn Toward Hope
About Moltmann’s experience during World War II:
…the fire bomb went through Hamburg, and I was in the midst of it and survived while many of my friends died around me…I wanted to find out whether there was any significance for me to survive, and the mass death of people at that time.
About the sixties:
The situation in the sixties in many countries of the world was like a powder keg and needed a little fire to explode it… At that time we turned around to see hope in the kingdom of God that influences our behavior here and now.
- What interested you in Moltmann’s autobiographical statements?
- His experience of evil and suffering turned him toward God. Is this the way people normally respond to evil and suffering?
- Have you had a similar experience?
Is There a Basis for Hope?
I think I am an optimist because, otherwise, I would be a pessimist! … Is there any ground to be an optimist? Not in what I see but in what I trust in if I listen to the gospel – there is the triumph of grace over against sin and there is there is triumph of love over hatred.
- Moltmann says he is an optimist because otherwise he would be a pessimist. A pessimist about what?
- Then why an optimist?
- What in your experience gives you a basis for hope?
What Is Hope According to Moltmann?
With the Theology of Hope I tried to present Christian hope no longer as an opium of the beyond but rather as a life-giving power of this world. How does the hope for our eternal life after death help us if we see other people starve and suffer physically?
Moltmann challenges us to see that Christian hope in God’s promise affects our present life and is concerned with the renewal of the earth as well as our social and personal life.
- What is the biblical basis for hope?
- What impact does it have on your own life?