Predestination: Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Election (Audio, Video & Notes from Moltmann’s #KBC2015 Lecture)

Professor Moltmann gave a powerful lecture on Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Election at the 2015 Karl Barth Conference. Photo credit: Me.

 
The 2015 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary was a one of a kind experience for me. I got to immerse myself in theological lectures and conversations with people who know a lot more about theology than me. I made new friends and got to meet in real life several people who I had previously only connected with online. And I had an unexpected opportunity to talk one on one with Jürgen Moltmann when I came downstairs for a cup of coffee that Sunday morning (the day of his lecture). I reminded him about my letter to him last year concerning universalism and thanked him for his reply. He said that his lecture that night would be on the same sections of Church Dogmatics that he had told me to read. “Karl Barth didn’t know whether he was a universalist or not,” Moltmann said.

And universalism was certainly in the foreground of the lecture that night, even if Moltmann’s position on the topic was only made explicit during the Q&A. He began by exploring the problems created by the traditional Calvinist doctrine of election (Introduction), followed by how Barth’s christocentric reformulation of election overcomes the damaging dualism of Double Predestination (points one and two).  But his most profound contribution was his “added chapter” to Barth’s doctrine of election, bringing it into conversation with liberation and political theologies (point three).

Since the Barth Conference I’ve had a chance to rewatch the lecture and put together some fairly detailed notes, which you can find here below the embedded video and audio (I may try to improve them later if I get a chance to listen again).  Verbatim quotes are denoted by quotation marks or blockquote indentation. Quotes are Moltmann except when stated otherwise. I’ll do a follow up post with some of his responses from the Q&A in the near future. Other lectures from the Barth Conference have been posted by Princeton Theological Seminary, and I’ve provided a listing with links here. Continue reading Predestination: Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Election (Audio, Video & Notes from Moltmann’s #KBC2015 Lecture)

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