Moltmann on Distinguishing between Liberal and Political Theology

I just read this today. It’s helpful for clarifying some of the key differences Moltmann sees between himself and his contemporaries:

Political theology is not the same as ‘progressive’ theology, whether this be liberal Protestant theology or modernist Catholic theology. The differences and conflicts between the conservative Protestant Wolfhart Pannenberg and myself, or between the political theologian Johann Baptist Metz and the progressive post-modernist Hans Küng, are obvious. These others have never taken part in our initiatives and conflicts. On the contrary, they have often fought against us. Liberal theology was, and still is, the theology of the established middle classes. Political theology has its Protestant roots in Karl Barth’s anti-bourgeois theology, and in the experiences of the Confessing Church in its resistance to National Socialism. In the early peace movement of the 1950s, we always looked in vain for Bultmann and his liberal followers. As I see it, political theology is the true dialectical theology: a theology of contradiction and hope, of negation of the negative, and the utopia of the positive.

God for a Secular Society, 57.

Note that Küng is a close friend of Moltmann’s, and the two have worked together on various projects, notably various editions of Concilium. For the personal side, see the index and relevant sections in Moltmann’s autobiography. Also helpful here is Moltmann’s “Personal Recollections of Wolfhart Pannenberg,” trans. by Steffen Lösel, ed. by Jeania Ree Moore, Theology Today 72:1 (2015): 11-14. Finally, David Congdon’s The Mission of Demythologizing, the best currently available secondary work on Bultmann, has a section on Moltmann’s relationship to Bultmann and his critique of Bultmann’s politics (see the index). While I don’t agree with Congdon’s attempted defence of Bultmann’s politics, the short exposition is helpful.



Self-Hate and the Enjoyment of God

Today I have been reading through Kazoh Kitamori’s Theology of the Pain of God, originally written in Japanese in 1946 and first translated into English in 1965. The book exercised some influence on Moltmann in writing The Crucified God. See Moltmann’s A Broad Place, 177-8, 192. I have been trying to trace similarities and differences between the two theologians. One thing I noticed is that wrath and sin are a lot more at the forefront of Kitamori’s theology than they are in Moltmann’s! Here’s a sample:

“We should never forget to ‘hate ourselves’ even in the very moment of our enjoyment of God, choked by tears at the thought of our being loved so surpassingly by him.”

Theology of the Pain of God, 76. Kitamori adopts the idea of hating yourself from Luther.

Richard Hays on Scripture and the Citation Formula in the Gospel of Matthew

Dear readers, I have been quietly squirrelling away at the page of Moltmann’s works in English, having almost finished what is to my knowledge a pretty complete list of books of Moltmann’s available in English, along with contents pages, which are often not available on the Internet. I have also included as many articles and chapters as I have been able to find published in English after 2002, the year of Wakefield’s reasonably comprehensive bibliography of Moltmann’s works. I have also added pieces that I have found written before 2002 that do not appear in Wakefield, such as the odd foreword, as well as a few that also appear in Wakefield. I have not gotten around to doing any much more than that at the moment, however, and I would recommend that those who have access to Wakefield would make use of him, or if not, then try convince your library to purchase it!

In my spare time I have begun reading Richard Hays’s Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. I was struck by the size of his task in these introductory comments to the Gospel of Matthew, which has gotten me wondering just how I’m going to start looking at the role of Scripture in Moltmann’s theology (I have started, by the way, looking at the methodological presupposition that guides much of his exegesis, the distinction between Greek philosophical and Hebrew biblical thought). For now, here is Hays:

We must reckon with a Matthean hermeneutical program considerably more comprehensive than a collection of a dozen or so prooftexts…. There are at least sixty explicit Old Testament quotations in the Gospel. That means that the formula quotations constitute, even by the most generous estimate, only one-fifth of Matthew’s total. And that does not even begin to reckon with the hundreds of more indirect Old Testament allusions in the story.
Above and beyond the question of citations of particular texts, we must reckon also with Matthew’s use of figuration, his deft narration of ‘shadow stories from the Old Testament.’ Through this narrative device, with or without explicit citation, Matthew encourages the reader to see Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament precursors, particularly Moses, David, and Isaiah’s Servant figure. And at a level still deeper than these narrative figurations, Matthew’s language and imagery are from start to finish soaked in Scripture; he constantly presupposes the social and symbolic world rendered by the stories, songs, prophecies, laws, and wisdom teachings of Israel’s sacred texts.

Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016), 109.

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.

Theses and Dissertations Updated

Thanks to Prof. Dr. Klaus Dietz, from the University of Tübingen, I have added some 20 new items to the list of theses and dissertations. Klaus Dietz is a friend and neighbour of Moltmann’s and provided him with the updated list of theses and dissertations. He informs me that Moltmann knew of around 200, having been notified throughout the years by the authors of the respective dissertations, but had no idea that the list was so large!

Moltmann’s Dependence on Georg Picht

I am currently looking at the role Georg Picht plays in the development of Moltmann’s theology. The most important aspect is Moltmann’s concept “the epiphany of the eternal present/presence of being” (die Epiphanie der ewigen Gegenwart des Seins), which is taken from Picht. The other seems to be his tracing of the, according to him, Hellenistic staticity of modern theology (Bultmann and Barth) to Parmenides. Below is what I think is the most important paragraph for Moltmann, demonstrating Parmenides’s influence on Kant and Plato:

Ist aber die bleibende und unwandelbare Zeit, deren innerstes Wesen ewige Gegenwart ist, die Zeit der Geschichte? Wir können diese Frage nur beantworten, wenn wir noch einmal uns der Griechen erinnern. Denn wenn Kant die Zeit durch die Substanz vorstellt, die er als reine Identität und als die Negation alles Wechsels überhaupt begreift, so verweist er uns, ohne sich dessen bewußt zu sein, auf das unwandelbare Sein des Parmenides. Wir müssen es uns versagen, durch eine Auslegung des Parmenides zu zeigen, wie hier im Ansatz der griechischen Ontologie bereits der Entwurf vorgezeichnet ist, in dem sich das Denken von Kant bewegt, sondern erinnern nur an die parmenideischen Seinsprädikate. Das Sein ist ungeworden und unvergänglich (ἀγένητον καὶ ἀνώλεθρον), es ist ohne Ziel (ἀτέλεστον), es war niemals noch wird es jemals sein, da es jetzt ist zumal als Ganzes (οὐδέ ποτ’ ἦν οὐδ’ ἔσται, ἐπεὶ νῦν ἔστιν ὁμοῦ πᾶν,), es ist Eins (ἕν) und zusammenhängend (συνεχές. Von hier aus hat Zenon, der Schüler des Parmenides, die Paradoxien des Kontinuums entwickelt). Wir treffen hier also das ganze Gefüge von ontologischen Prädikaten, das Kant aus der theologischen Metaphysik des Christentums vertraut war; die Epiphanie der ewigen Gegenwart des Seins verstellt bis heute die eschatologische Offenbarung Gottes. Und nur diese Epiphanie ist bei Parmenides Wahrheit, ἀλήθεια. Die Vergänglichkeit, die Vielheit und der Wandel in der Zeit hingegen ist δόξα, ist Erscheinung, in der für den Wissenden doch stets nur das Eine ständig gleiche Sein erscheinen kann. Auf dem Boden der Ontologie des Parmenides hat Platon einen Zeitbegriff gegeben, der ganz aus der Epiphanie der ewigen Gegenwart gedacht ist. Die Zeit ist nach seiner Definition im Timaios (37 D) „der im Einen verharrenden Ewigkeit nach Zahl fortschreitendes ewigliches Abbild“ (μένοντος αἰῶνος ἐν ἑνὶ κατ’ ἀριθμὸν ἰοῦσα αἰώνιος εἰκών). Sie ist Abbild, [42] weil sie die ewige Praesenz des Seins re-praesentiert. Wenn aber das Wesen der Zeit überhaupt die Re-praesentation des Seins ist, so muß auch das in der Zeit erscheinende zeitlich Seiende ontologisch durch die Repraesentation bestimmt sein. Deshalb ist nach Platon das Sein alles zeitlich Seienden seinem Wesen nach Abbild-Sein. Die Zahl, nach der die repraesentierende Zeit ihren Gang nimmt, ist uns durch die Umläufe der Himmelskörper gegeben; deshalb können wir an der Fixstern-Sphäre das Abbild der ewigen Gegenwart mit Augen sehen. Wie der Tag und das Jahr, so verläuft auch die Zeit im Ganzen in einem zyklischen Umlauf; „die Zeit selbst scheint so etwas wie ein Kreis zu sein“, sagt Aristoteles (Phys. 223 b 29). Auch darin ist sie das Abbild des Einen Seins, von dem Parmenides sagt, es sei „vergleichbar der Masse einer wohlgerundeten Kugel (εὐκύκλου σφαίρης), von der Mitte her gleichgewichtig überall“ (B 8, 43/4).

Georg Picht, Die Erfahrung der Geschichte, 42-3.

For more on Moltmann’s dependence on Picht, see Morse, The Logic of Promise in Moltmann’s Theology, 55-7

Pannenberg on Patristic Theology

These last few months I have been dabbling in and out of Pannenberg’s earlier theology to get a sense of how Moltmann is influenced by him and attempts to present an alternative to his theology of history in Theology of Hope. This morning I have been looking at some of the responses that Pannenberg offers to Moltmann’s critiques. I came across this insight on patristic theology that I would like to share:

“As a student I was deeply impressed by the unity of faith and reason in patristic theology. Since that time I have considered the age of patristic theology as a model of what Christian theology should achieve in our own time.”

Pannenberg, “A Response to My American Friends,” in Braaten and Clayton, ed., The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, 316.

I was taken by this because I still find pre-modern theologians very difficult to read. I have loved working my way through Augustine’s De Trinitate, though his exegesis is hard to appreciate after having been trained in and constantly exposed to historical-critical methods. For Pannenberg, though, the exegesis of the patristics is not something to be pitied but celebrated, something from which modern theology can learn much.

Israel and Individualism

One of my hobby horses is emphasising the communitarian view of people in Scripture, in an attempt to throw out of balance what I have often seen to be an overly individualistic approach to faith (with some important exceptions!) in contemporary church life. But while I think this horse’s race has is not yet fully run, it is important also to make sure that we get a sense of the whole picture. I found this overview of an article to be interesting:

“Rainer Albertz argues that there is evidence for the religious life of individual persons [in ancient Israel], and that it is notably uncoordinated with the salient features of the so-called ‘national’ religion portrayed in the Hebrew Bible. Individual psalms, for example, hardly mention the great ‘acts of God’ such as the Exodus or the giving of the Land, and concentrate rather on salvation and blessing as known or sought in the personal life of the worshipper, while the wealth of theophoric names [i.e., names that have an element of a divine name in them: Isra-EL, Eli-JAH, Meri-BAAL] concentrate on the divine care for the individual being named. Personal piety was by no means always directed to Yhwh — indeed, the biblical prophets attest that people often prayed to other gods, perhaps in some cases local or household gods, seeing Yhwh as the god of the nation rather than of the individual. (Albertz points out, however, that no theophoric names occur with Asherah or any other goddess as an element — a feature Israel and Judah share with some of their neighbours …) Evidence of personal piety can also be found in wisdom collections, especially Proverbs, which also has scarcely anything to say about the ‘national’ religion. Biblical scholarship has sometimes seen the individual as merely part of a larger collectivity, and has thought it anachronistic to see him or her as having a life apart from the group; but the evidence for individual piety tends in the opposite direction, suggesting that many individuals had a distinctive kind of religious belief and practice, radically different from the national cult and focused on living a good life and trusting in divine power in times of crisis. Archaeology supports this picture, with amulets attesting to the belief in divine aid in trouble and the many figurines of nude women holding their breasts mediating prayers to the divine realm to ensure conception and safe delivery.”

From the introduction to Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah, ed. Francesca Stavrakopoulou and John Barton. Albertz’s essay appears in the same volume.