Moltmann on Ernst Käsemann

I enjoy reading biographies as the figures whose theology I have read or read is put in a new light. This is certainly the case with Moltmann’s remarks on Ernst Käsemann in his autobiography:

Käsemann and his* wife became close friends. Their daughter Elisabeth went to Argentina in order to put into practice what her father had talked about and, after having been cruelly tortured, was shot by the military junta in 1977. Astonishingly enough, her body was released. I had to take the funeral, and Käsemann had impressed on me, “The sermon: no more than 10 sentences!” In his lectures and seminars Käsemann continued the struggle of the Confessing Church, which he had carried on in Gelsenkirchen with a congregation of miners. Unfortunately, during the war he had acquired a sergeant-major’s voice, which was not to the liking of every student. The maxim of his life was the old pirate saying: “the friend of God and the enemy of the whole world”. For truth’s sake, he broke off old friendships, first with Bultmann, then with Fuchs, then with Ebeling, finally, alas, with me, too, because he did not like my dialogue with Judaism. But our ways already began to drift apart a little when I replace his “new obedience” in faith by “liberty in the breadth of the Holy Spirit”. His interpretations of the Epistle to the Hebrews (written in prison) and of the Epistle to the Romans–his great work–were always theological. As a result he roused the criticism of historical scholars in the English-speaking world, who sought for an answer to “the new question about Paul”. As a Christian, Käsemann felt himself to be a “partisan” in a country occupied by foreign forces. He had a powerful theology of the cross, but he had problems with Christ’s resurrection. He was buried with the text of Isaiah 26.13: ‘O LORD our God, other lords besides thee have ruled over us, but thy name alone we acknowledge.” And that characterizes his theology of resistance in the Babylonian captivity of Christianity in this world, its alienation from God.

A Broad Place, 149-50.

*It is unclear whether Moltmann is referring to Käsemann’s wife or the wife of Otto Michel from the previous paragraph. Please comment if you have anything to add.

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