Transcript: Jürgen Moltmann with Miroslav Volf

Here are two transcripts for the Moltmann and Volf videos I have embedded below. The first video is a shorter excerpt from the second.

Here is a suggested citation: Dion Forster, Yale Divinity School, “Who is God for you? (Jürgen Moltmann with Miroslav Volf),” YouTube video, 4:15, posted 14 August 2014,, transcript accessible at ***.

Volf: Who is God for you?

Moltmann: Jesus Christ is the human face of God. Without Jesus Christ I would not believe in God. Looking at the catastrophes of nature and the human catastrophes of history, I would not come on the idea that a God exists. And this God is love. This was unthinkable for me. [Unclear] Jesus Christ and his message and his suffering on the cross and his resurrection from the cross, my feeling that God is present in the midst of suffering is a firm trust of my heart.

Volf: So you’re not speaking right now simply as a theologian–you’re speaking from personal experience of discovering or being discovered by God?

Moltmann: Yeah.

Volf: Can you say more about this experience, which was experience of anxiety, aftermath of terror, a place where joy normally would not find its entrance?

Moltmann: When I was sixteen, I was drafted to the German army in 1943, and experienced the destruction of my hometown, Hamburg. In the midst of Hamburg there was an anti-aircraft battery and we schoolboys had to serve in this battery. The operation called by the British was the “Operation Gomorrah,” the destruction of the sinful city of Hamburg. And I was in the midst of it. At that time I cried out to God for the first time. And later, I was in a prison camp in Scotland. There I read with consciousness for the firs time the Gospel of Mark. And when I came to the cry with which Jesus died, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?,” I felt that there is a divine brother who feels the same as my feeling was at that time. This saved me from self-destruction and desperation. So I came up with hope on a place where there was no expectation to come home soon. The imprisonment lasted for three years.

* * *

This is the second video:

Here is a suggested citation: Yale Divinity School, “Theology of Joy: Jürgen Moltmann & Miroslav Volf,” YouTube video, 25:43, posted 14 August 2014,, transcription available at ***.

Volf: I’m sitting here with Jürgen Moltmann, one of the foremost theologians in the world today. We’re in Tübingen where he used to teach for many years. We have just finished a small consultation on joy, and that’s the occasion why we are talking together. Jürgen, if I may, you have written a book about joy some forty years ago. What have you learned in the meantime about joy?

Moltmann: Forty years ago it was the time of the protest movement against the Vietnam War and the student unrest everywhere in the world. At that time I was thinking about “How can I sing the Lord’s song in an alien land?” [Psalm 137:4] Forty years after I want to understand how to sing the Lord’s song in the broad place of his presence [cf. Psalm 31:8; Job 36:16]. So from the dialectic to the affirmation. Hope is for me anticipated joy, as anxiety is anticipated terror. Today, at least in Germany, we live more by anxiety and terror than by hope and joy.

Volf: So in anxiety and terror, how does one find [the] way to joy?

Moltmann: Whenever I feel the presence of God, my heart is lifted up and I see more positive into the future of the coming of God. Thus hope is awakened in me.

Volf: Who is God for you?

Moltmann: Jesus Christ is the human face of God. Without Jesus Christ I would not believe in God. Looking at the catastrophes of nature and the human catastrophes of history, I would not come on the idea that a God exists. And this God is love. This was unthinkable for me. [Unclear] Jesus Christ and his message and his suffering on the cross and his resurrection from the cross, my feeling that God is present in the midst of suffering is a firm trust of my heart.

Volf: So you’re not speaking right now simply as a theologian–you’re speaking from personal experience of discovering or being discovered by God?

Moltmann: Yeah.

Volf: Can you say more about this experience, which was experience of anxiety, aftermath of terror, a place where joy normally would not find its entrance?

Moltmann: When I was sixteen, I was drafted to the German army in 1943, and experienced the destruction of my hometown, Hamburg. In the midst of Hamburg there was an anti-aircraft battery and we schoolboys had to serve in this battery. The operation called by the British was the “Operation Gomorrah,” the destruction of the sinful city of Hamburg. And I was in the midst of it. At that time I cried out to God for the first time. And later, I was in a prison camp in Scotland. There I read with consciousness for the firs time the Gospel of Mark. And when I came to the cry with which Jesus died, “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?,” I felt that there is a divine brother who feels the same as my feeling was at that time. This saved me from self-destruction and desperation. So I came up with hope on a place where there was no expectation to come home soon. The imprisonment lasted for three years.

Volf: You have later written a book that I’ve heard you say you consider to be the most important book that you’ve written, namely The Crucified God. And at the heart of that book, in a sense, is this cry of dereliction. How is that book related to the book on hope? [Moltmann laughs] How is a cry of dereliction, of pain, related to the joy of jubilation, of resurrection?

Moltmann: Well, I started with hope and the resurrection of Christ, with the ground of hopeful expectation of the coming of Christ and the coming of the kingdom of God. When I experienced in the US that they took this as a reinforcement of the normally American pursuit of happiness and the American optimism, I said I when I would return I would only speak of the other side of Christ on the cross. And so I came from the side of the resurrection to the side of the crucifixion. There are two sides of the presence of Christ.

Volf: You wrote in the paper that was read by the participants of the consultation on joy that Christian faith is a unique religion of joy. And you tied that to the key moments in the Christ story–death, resurrection, and then also coming of the Spirit. Can you say more about this uniqueness? In what ways and why is Christian faith uniquely [a] religion of joy?

Moltmann: At the centre of Judaism is the Torah. At the centre of Christianity is the euangelion, the Gospel. And this is good news. And this is the news that God has raised the crucified Christ to be the Lord of the world. Therefore Christianity is unique in this sense–that it is a religion of joy. Christmas carols and Easter laughter and the awakening of Pentecost feelings–this is unique in Christianity. I don’t mean that Christianity is absolute. But it is unique in this way. Compare this with Judaism and the [sic] Islam and Buddhism. They are all unique in their centre. But the centre of the resurrection is unique in Christianity.

Volf: You’ve earlier contrasted [the] pursuit of happiness, a certain form of optimism–also in your paper, you spoke about Spaßgesellschaft, fun society–and contrasted all these–pursuit of happiness, optimism, fun–to joy. How are they different?

Moltmann: Fun is a superficial feeling, which must be repeated again and again to last, while joy is a deeper feeling of the whole existence. You can have fun at the side, but you can experience joy only with your whole heart, your whole soul, and all your energies. Therefore Schiller thought that joy is divine. It comes from outside into our life in a surprise, in a turning from sadness to goodness, from sickness to health, and from loneliness to communion. And this turning point awakens joy.

Volf: So joy isn’t, then, kind of simply a feeling. Joy is a response to certain states of affairs that have been changed, created, to which there is a particular of responding. Would that be a way to express it?

Moltmann: You cannot make yourself joyful. This would be self-satisfaction. But you are always outside of yourself, watching yourself: Am I being happy or not? And this would never lead to joy. Something unexpected must happen. So, falling in love, for example, to take it from natural life, or sudden success, or, in political life, the unification of Germany or the coming of Nelson Mandela out of thirty years of prison in Robben Island. He came and everybody expected civil war. Nothing happened. Nelson Mandela came. This is a reason for surprise and joy.

Volf: So, in a sense, it’s not a natural course of events that we expect to happen. It comes to us, almost, as a gift, as a gratuity from outside. I think of great events that you were describing. And maybe I can give an example as a contrasting one also, something much more quiet that may be a source of joy. Let’s say a child is born. That may be like the event of the Exodus[?], that may be like the event of something completely new comes, and there is joy and there is rejoicing in it. But the child is growing and there’s kind of a quieter joy that attends to relationship to something that’s there but that it’s also always experienced as gift. Or one falls in love but then love matures and every morning it’s a kind of new. So there may be exhilarating joy and there may be kind of quieter joy. Does that make sense?

Moltmann: Yes, of course. I think the intention of love is the happiness of the beloved. So love’s intention is not to own the beloved but to have the beloved happy. And therefore love sometimes supports the beloved and sometimes taking oneself back to let the beloved in freedom. So both actions are actions of love. We are not loved because we are so beautiful and good but we are beautiful and good because we are loved [Luther]. This is true for interpersonal relationships and also true with the relationship of God who is love, as we say with the New Testament [1 John 4:16]. He wants to see his beloved children on earth happy and joyful.

Volf: And, in a sense, the contrast that you made–we are not loved because we’re beautiful; we are beautiful because we’re loved–it kind of breaks a cause and effect relationship. If I’m beautiful and [then?] loved, my beauty kind of elicits the love and it’s expected. But if I’m not, the loved comes to me always as a gift, as a surprise, and lifts me up precisely in those terms, and then is a cause of joy. So do see a connection between joy and gratitude?

Moltmann: Yes, of course. Every child knows this at Christmas [both laugh].

Volf: [Unclear] of perceiving oneself as having been blessed and therefore grateful–in other words, it’s not enough for a child to get the present, right? They have to receive that present as a gift and be grateful for it for joy to occur. They may be dissatisfied because they didn’t get quite the present they wanted and then joy’s gone, right? But when it works well, the present, gratitude and joy form kind of an axis.

Moltmann: But every child and every person knows that anticipated joy is the best joy–

Volf: But if you always anticipate only [laughs]–

Moltmann: There’s a certain melancholy of the second day of Christmas. If you get what you anticipated–

Volf: But if you never get what you anticipate, if you only anticipate, right? So it’s a kind of dialectic between the two. At one point you have also connected kind of the character of the God, as Christian faith embraces or believes in, a God who is love but God who is [a] kind of passionate God, God who is engaged with the world, with the issue of joy, so that the passion of God becomes the foundation of joy.

Moltmann: Yes, and I feel at one with Abraham Heschel from Judaism who spoke of the pathos of God. A passionate God is on every page of the Hebrew Bible–or the Old Testament, as we say–but we in the Christian tradition have still to wrestle with the absolute God of the Greek metaphysics who is apathetic by nature. God doesn’t feel joy. God doesn’t feel pain. He is above pain and joy. So the apathetic God makes man apathetic too. This is the sovereignty of the soul which is above feelings of joy and pain. And the pathos of God, or the passion of God, makes the believers compassionate. They participate in the suffering of others and participate in the joy of others. Sometimes it seems to me that compassion with the suffering of others is easier than compassion with the joy of others. We feel so good if we can have mercy with somebody else. And we feel some envy if somebody else feel[s] joy and success, at least in the academic world. This is the case.

Volf: The rest of the world is spared from that temptation, I’m sure [Moltmann laughs]. The joy of God, it’s almost like a revolutionary idea, right? The God, the Creator of all that is, would rejoice, at least against the backdrop of Greek philosophical thinking, and much of the Christian tradition too.

Moltmann: How can we speak of the love of God if we don’t dare to speak of the joy of God? Because God loves somebody, joy, and participates in the joy of his creation [sentence unclear]. In the New Testament we have Luke 15 where there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents over ninety-nine just people, which is not true according to the parables given in this chapter because the lost coin could not repent and the lost sheep could only make noise but not repent. Only the prodigal son repented. But the father was not interested in his confession of sin. He loved him as soon as he saw him. So it’s God’s finder-joy in these parables.

Volf: You have–I think yesterday, if I listened to you rightly–you have connected joy of God with love of God–or love of God with joy–but you’ve also connected love of God with wrath of God so that joy and wrath and love would go together.

Moltmann: I interpret the wrath of God as God’s wounded love. If you feel the wrath of another person, you feel also the interest of another person in you. Only if that person turns away and turns their back to you, then you feel indifference. And this is the most terrible thing we can experience of God, that he has turned his countenance away from us. The Jews call this hester panim, the dark face of God, the contrary of the opposition to the shining countenance of God from where the blessing comes, according to the Aaronite blessing, Let shine your blessing over us and give us peace [Numbers 6:24-27].

Volf: But joy is more lasting and stronger than wrath.

Moltmann: Yeah, we have certain testimonies of this, even in the Old Testament. “My wrath is only for a moment and my grace is everlasting” [e.g., Psalm 30:5].

Volf: So joy, in the end, wins.

Moltmann: Yeah, I’m convinced of that.

Volf: Thank you Jürgen.


Transcript: “An interview with Jürgen Moltmann by Selina Palm VLOG 63”

This is a transcription of “An interview with Jürgen Moltmann by Selina Palm VLOG 63,” embedded here:

Here is a recommended citation: Dion Forster, “An interview with Jürgen Moltmann by Selina Palm VLOG 63,” YouTube video, 37:40, posted 5 April 2017,, transcript accessible at

Here is my transcript. Please comment below for corrections:

Selina Palm: We’re very privileged that he has stopped by our university on the way to receive an honorary doctorate at the University of Pretoria. We have managed to catch him on his way, journeying through, and we are very grateful for that. The Professor arrived yesterday…? [Moltmann nods]. And he’s still settling in.

I don’t think that Professor Jürgen Moltmann needs any introduction. He’s renowned for his theology of hope, his image of the crucifed God, and his development, alongside others, of a new, liberating political theology from below. So I want to start with a slightly provocative anecdote. As you know, Professor Moltmann, our country has been gripped over the last few years by student protests, much like your earlier times in 1968. Many universities have been calling for the decolonisation of education. I was not particularly surprised, then, when your visit was announced, to see a black, African, feminist student friend of mine commenting on Facebook. She said, and I quote, “I’m always tired of male, white, European theologians coming to tell us how to do transformation in Africa. But,” she said, “I want to make an exception for this one [laughter], Jürgen Moltmann. I’m really looking forward to him.” She pointed to two things that you have said. One, your insistence that all theology is and must be contextual–and, I would add, political, as we heard yesterday. Secondly, your ongoing belief, which has shaped your life and your theology, that it is hope that can make us resist and struggle against the injustices of present, in the name of a different, possible future.

So [unclear] to you an exceptional skills visa, to come and visit South Africa’s soil. And we welcome you as a comrade in our diverse, complicated, intersectional struggle, for human dignity for all–black, white, rich, poor, male, and female. Welcome to the conversation [applause]. In this particular session, situated as part of the launch of the–can I use the f-word?–feminist gender unity, here, at Stellenbosch University, at the theological faculty, we want to honour and remember feminist theologian, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, your fellow theologian, friend, life-partner, and wife, for over sixty years, who died last year. We do not expect you to speak on behalf of your wife–that would be a very unfeminist thing to do–but we hope over the next half an hour or so you will share through your own memories. There are no abstract humans, as you constantly remind us. We are concrete, relational beings, and we look forward to hearing you talk[?] about this relationship.

To keep on this reflection, I’m going to read a sentence from your earlier autobiography, A Broad Place, which tells us something about your earlier relationship with Elisabeth. This is from Jürgen Moltmann’s biography, 2008. “Elisabeth and I met more and more often and with more and more pleasure. We walked through the Hainberg, cycled the countryside, attended seminars and lectures together, and went to films. Slowly, my inward imprisonment, which I had hidden behind Kierkegaard’s motto ‘desparing yet consoled’, dissolved. My soul expanded and I became lighthearted again. At the end of February 1950 we exchanged the first kiss [Moltmann laughs, audience claps] and rejoiced in each other” [BP, 48]. [Unclear] captured your heart.

Moltmann: [To the audience] You see before you only half a Moltmann. The other half is Elisabeth. And we shared one hundred percent love, one hundred percent respect, and a lifelong friendship and a [unclear]. When I first met her she was already a doctoral student. In order to come nearer to her, I asked her professor whether he would accept me as a doctoral student [laughter]. And, so, she was responsible for my theological career. I would not have thought of a doctorate in my head[?] before knowing her.

Palm: And she graduated six months before you, I understand, with her PhD?

Moltmann: Yes, the first virgo doctissima in Göttingen–because I started later. I was released from Bristish prisoner-of-war camps only in April of ’48. So I started later than her. And I followed her half a year later with a doctorate and an examination beginning in two weeks[?]. This was too much for both of us. She was born in [unclear; NOTE: Moltmann-Wendel was born in Herne and soon moved to Potsdam] in Potsdam. At that time [unclear] to Germany [unclear] and I came from Hamburg [unclear]. We wanted to go into the socialist country of Germany with the Christian faith. Unfortunately, I was not allowed to enter the GDR because I was not a national[? unclear] but a resident[?], British resident[?], so I was suspicious–I was a suspect. So, finally, our walk ended up in the little village near Bremen, Wasserhorst, where I served for five years. I was a pastor in a Reformed congregation. There was twelve [unclear], only one dyke[?], and every four hundred metres a farmhouse. And Elisabeth, she came [unclear] all the time [laughter]. Our first child died at birth, and we had two girls later in Wasserhorst, which was [unclear] whole congregation[?]. Last year we celebrated a feast of friendship[?] in Bremen, and all my doctoral students, from Korea and Greece and the United States, came and I preached in the little church of Wasserhorst. One of the farmers stood up and spoke to me in [unclear]–which is near the Netherlands language– and revealed himself as the first confirmant[?] of mine, after sixty-five years.

Palm: It says[?] also here, Professor Moltmann, that your wife in her autobiography, starts to speak of the divergence of your experiences, man and woman. She says, “We studied theology, we started as partners, in equal status and equal birth … [‘(we) enriched each other,’] he with philosophical knowledge and I with political views …. We began a shared life” [Moltmann-Wendel, Autobiography, xi, quoted somewhat freely]–but, while you were able to become a pastor, while she married you she was not also able to train for the ministry. She was only able to become at that time [unclear] system[?].

Moltmann: She didn’t want to be a pastor. She liked to be a teacher.

Palm: She was a good teacher.

Moltmann: Yeah, and it happened in 1973, on a trip through the United States, when she discovered the feminist movement and feminist theology. In our German tradition, we liked the woman to [unclear]. We liked the woman to be the nurse and the mother. And Elisabeth discovered human rights for woman. With this message she founded–co-founded–the feminist movement in Germany: Human rights for woman.

Palm: Thank you. She speaks in her autobiography about a turning-point, Uppsala in 1968, I think, where they talk about man with his divinely willed human rights. She speaks about being quite upset about that and thinking, What about human rights for woman? So it’s one of the things I’ve really enjoyed about her reading. [Unclear] take us on from feminist theology and your wife’s feminist journey, I’m going to read from one of of your books, Experiences in Theology, the chapter entitled, “Feminist Theology Today,” where you say, “I did not come to feminist theology. It came to me through the discoveries of my wife, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel. I was drawn into it, and then experience astonishing changes in myself. Out of respect for her independence, I have never claimed to be a ‘feminist theologian’ …. But from 1972 onwards, feminist theology became an important part of our conversation as man and wife, and in the family, and — whether consciously or unconsciously — it influenced me deeply” [ExpTh, 268]. Could you maybe share a little bit more about this journey for you?

Moltmann: I loved her discoveries in the Bible [unclear] and the interpretation of the Bible. For example, Miriam next to Moses, and Maria Magdalene next to Jesus, and the women around Jesus, are his friends[?]. I often served for her typical male thinking [laughter].

Palm: You objected to her experiments on how men think?

Moltmann: And she forced me to think and express as I believe. As a person in Germany, we used to tell the truth objectively [laughter]. And we refused [unclear] and lecturing, “I see that way”–to take into account the subjective perspective. I discovered a contextual, German theology, very limited in academic, and far from the public and far from the church.

Palm: So we actually have your wife to thank for your turn to the contextual? We’re very appreciative, as second-generation feminist theologians for that turn. I’ve really enjoyed reading some of the work that you and Elisabeth did together, writing together and speaking together, in [unclear]. And this was often shaped around the theme of becoming human in new community, the subject of one of your books. In your wife’s autobiography, she quotes a journalist who comments on you–I didn’t tell you that I was going to read this quote–in her autobiography this journalist quotes, “His wife has, we may assume, always prevented her husband from coming to grief on that rock on which so many patriarchal men of God come to grief, namely male self-righteousness. Jürgen Moltmann has not only practised the next new, honourable community of women and men in the church in his more than forty years of marriage to the theologian Elisabeth, but has also urged it on academic theology, a male domain” [Autobiography, 142]. Can you tell us a little bit more about this idea of modelling something different, of becoming human in new community together, and of finishing with[?] friendship? [Unclear].

Moltmann: In 1981, [unclear; NOTE: probably a speaker at the June 1981 WCC Consultation on the Community of Women and Men in the Church] shared a lecture in Sheffield [unclear] and the new community between men and women. We worked hard[? took part?] of it. We took days’ and nights’ discussion and I was caught up in a new conversation with Elisabeth that man–educated in a human way[?]–that man must be strong and hard and violent, aggressive, at least in the old German education tradition. So I formulated the sentence: “The lord in man has died so that the friend could be born.” [Unclear]. Friendship is the highest form of communicating [unclear from 20:10 to 20:33, though picking up on words “affliction,” “husband” and “trust”].

Palm: And what about the issue[?] of freedom in that quote that “the lord in man has died so that the friend might be born”? I think [unclear] theologian of freedom and that’s been a characteristic, maybe, of your theology. Tell a little bit more what that was like, your own experience as a man? The notion[?] of the lord in man died so that the friend could be born. Was that a hard journey? You speak about a concrete theology of male liberation as a journey that needs to be taken by men to accompany the feminist journey of women. Could you maybe share what that was like for you?

Moltmann: When I was sixteen, I was drafted into the German army, and I was educated as a soldier to kill and be killed.

Palm: Aged just sixteen.

Moltmann: With [unclear], I was released from [unclear] in ’48.

Palm: Did you serve three years, I think–two and a half years as a prisoner-of-war in a British…?

Moltmann: Two years in [unclear] and three years in [unclear].

Palm: So experience as a soldier and as a prisoner in those very formative[?] years of being a young man?

Moltmann: This was a special situation and this was not atypical for my generation. We survived.

Palm: Thank you. One of the things I liked most, quite a lot about this book, I Am My Body, by Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, focussing on a theology of embodiment–and maybe this has been a dimension particularly important for feminist theology that you brought to men, the idea that we’re not just talking heads but we are embodied creatures. How was that journey for you, to step outside this very famous [unclear]?

Moltmann: I [unclear] for this book in my book, God in Creation. The traditional picture was: the body is a container for the soul. And everything which comes effects the soul. But all the ways of God end in the body, in the incarnation and in the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh. So I referred the exchange of Apostolic Creed the resurrection of the flesh, which means all life, not only human life, not only bodily life, but all life. We wait[? write?] now in the resurrection of the dead, which means only human beings.

Palm: So the idea[?] that all flesh is resurrected, all creation [unclear] the body, in the sense that God has [unclear]. Thank you.

Moltmann: And this idea was not only the body as container of the soul but as [unclear, something about Protestant?]. The body has to serve morals and ethics that we pursue. We have to be in command of the body in all circumstances.

Palm: Now [unclear] to ask a theologian, but, as you speak about this shift from lordship–relating to masculinity [unclear], command over the body, command over the earth, the military metaphors, the notion of lordship… How long has this for you reshaped your understanding of how you commit[? relate?] to God?

Moltmann: When we read, “God created man and woman in the image of God,” so there is equality and [unclear] between man and woman to be the image of God, to correspond to God’s love and God’s beauty. I developed a–Elisabeth too[?]–creation anthropology. First, when I published the book on the social doctrine of the Trinity, she was disgusted [laughter] in the spot[?] of speculation of the beyond. And, finally, she understood the relation of God in the Trinity. One of my doctoral students discovered in the [unclear] of Count Zinzendorf, the motherhood of the Holy Spirit, which he proclaimed in [unclear] in Pennsylvania in 1741, the motherhood of the Holy Spirit, where the Holy Spirit comforts one as a mother and we are reborn out of the Holy Spirit, who must be a mother. Later, Count Zinzendorf told[?], the essentia[?] of community must have proclaimed the motherhood of the Holy Spirit, not I, not me, as a man.

Palm: And I loved [unclear] your shift from this almighty, lonely, patriarchal God to this notion of a relational God. And I know the last few decades you engaged much more strongly with the Pentecostal church, and the notion of the church as a charismatic community. What do you think you’d have me, for our churches here in South Africa, if you were to embrace this model of the church as open friendship, fellowship, community, as opposed to a [unclear] hierarchy of lordship? [Unclear] you[? view?], your ethical texts?

Moltmann: [Unclear] Ubuntu…?

Palm: We do have an Ubuntu. I am because we are.

Moltmann: And this corresponds to our [unclear] of friendship–open friendship, not closed friendship.

Palm: And I understand you’re going to be meeting Desmond Tutu later this week? I feel that’s going to be a fascinating conversation. I’m sure there’s many of them because I can ask people I’m aware of having been people in the room who have many questions they would like to ask you in [unclear] session later, four o’clock. But an opportunity, maybe if there’s one or two questions from the floor. So people can put hands up so I can have a bit of a sense and then I can [unclear] people.

Questioner 1: I really wonder if one can ask you a question that[? about?] South Africa as it is today. [Unclear] has wept until now. There is no [unclear] now. They are now making[?] what they have wept. How can you advise them? Because now they weep, we give them a [unclear]. But now, [unclear]. Because we [unclear], we have the constitution which is democratic now[?], but there is no [unclear] now.

Palm: [Unclear, something about Moltmann arriving?] in South Africa about twenty-four hours ago.

Moltmann: I would like, to my white brothers and sisters, say: Come, [unclear], and listen to others. To the other I would recommend: Get out of [unclear] and rest your voices [applause].

Palm: Do we have any other questions?

Questioner 2: Professor, my question is about friendship, which was stated quite clearly earlier on. The Dutch call friendship [unclear, something like hass-vrij?], the freedom of things[?]. Within the reality of the churches worldwide with homosexuality we [unclear]. Can friendship really work as a tool to cross the borders of same-sex relationships in giving our brothers and sisters the rights and the responsibilities to be fully members within our churches? Can friendship be harnessed[?] in a model to create more diversity within our churches?

Moltmann: Diversity is the sign of a rich church. And uniformity is a sign of a sect [laughter and applause]. As much as we can integrate different people, of different opinion, of different social standards, the more we become the community of Jesus.

Palm: I know in your wife’s book on friendship–somebody was telling me yesterday–she speaks–and I believe you also speak–about friendship as a sacrament that we live in a world with resolve[?] to make marriage into the ultimate sacrament, and that maybe there’s a need to rediscover the model of friendship between diverse peoples, as a sacrament in our Christian tradition.

Moltmann: There was one mystical tradition [i.e., Joachim of Fiore] with talk of relationship between God a[? of?] servant and Lord, of children of God and the Father, and of the Spirit of the friendship of God. God[?] becomes powerful and we pray as friends of God. We are not beggars, are not children, but grown-up friends of God. It was in [unclear] of that according to all[?] wisdom, which is fragmentary all the time. We respect the freedom of God to fulfil our prayer or not. This is the sign of friendship with God, to respect his freedom and trust his love.

Palm: So I think we’re gonna come to a close for this moment. On that note, the idea moving away from being slaves to a normal God, or even being children to a patriarchal parent God, to the notion of an egalitarian model of friendship*. Not only in our relationship to God but in our relationship to one another. And that signifies Jürgen Moltmann, I think, the friendship we have in community which you tried to live and worked towards. So, as you continue on in your journey with us, we thank you for spending the time to come and speak to us.

Moltmann: [Unclear] a Gospel word: Ich bin gut, ganz und schön.

Palm: That’s your wife’s words, isn’t it? I am good, whole and beautiful.

Moltmann: … Because I’m loved as a daughter of God. So this is the jubilation of the justified person.

Palm: What lovely words to end on: I am good, whole and beautiful. Thank you, Jürgen Moltmann, and for the gift of bringing your wife’s presence to us today. And I have a gift [applause].

*NOTE: This comment of Palm’s does not represent Moltmann’s earlier exposition of Joachim’s three kingdoms. “The freedom of servants, the freedom of children and the free­dom of God’s friends correspond to the history of the kingdom of God. They are stages on a road, as it were, but without being stages in a continuous development. Freedom is defined qualita­tively here, not quantitatively. Consequently it is misleading to date these stages on the road, either chronologically or in salvation history, as Joachim admittedly did. It is better to think of strata in the concept of freedom. Then these transitions are present in every experience of freedom. In the experience of freedom, we experience ourselves as God’s servants, as his children, and as his friends; and in this way we perceive the stages for ourselves. To be God’s servant therefore remains just as much a dimension of freedom as being God’s child, even if friendship with God goes beyond both.” — TKG, 221.

Moltmann, Bonhoeffer, and “Violence in Exceptional Situations”


I’m currently reading through Moltmann’s The Politics of Discipleship and Discipleship in Politics (Cascade, 2006). Moltmann’s essays in this volume were originally available in English in Following Jesus Christ in the World Today (now open access), and republished in On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics. Here they are paired with response essays from various Mennonite scholars, a newer response-to-the-responses from Moltmann, and Moltmann’s later essay, “Peacemaking and Dragonslaying in Christianity.” I remember reading Moltmann elsewhere (though I’m not quite sure where, probably pre-CG) on exceptions to pacifism. He then stated that something along the lines of how pacifist Christians shouldn’t be paternalistic in speaking to Christians in other situations who use violence to achieve their ends. A similar idea comes through in his response-to-the-responses (first published 1984 I think). This issue has likely been treated in greater detail elsewhere by other thinkers, though I’m sharing this here as I appreciate Moltmann’s uncertainty here and the side of him that it reveals:

Tom Finger returned with another question, … which really embarrasses me. It is the question of violence in exceptional situations. My answer reveals my personal dilemma. In 1943 at age 17 I was inducted into the German army. I watched the destruction of my home city Hamburg in the “fire storm” in July, 1943, in which more than 70,000 people died. I survived only as by a miracle. In 1945 I was fortunately taken prisoner by the English. In 1948 I returned to Germany. My generation was pitchforked into the war after the war was lost; we were to die because Hitler wanted to live a little longer and to make Auschwitz possible. When I returned, I swore two things to myself: (1) Never again war and never again service in a war and (2) if I should ever have the opportunity to eliminate a tyrant and mass murderer like Hitler, I would do it. In this line, I have participated in the peace movements against the arming of West Germany and against nuclear armament and against the stationing of Pershing 2 in West Germany.

But I have always simultaneously admired Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who took part in the active resistance to Hitler and who gave his life in that cause. I also have great understanding for the Christians in Nicaragua, who have joined the Sadinista Liberation Front, in order to end the crimes of the dictator Somoza. I know both of these decisions in a sense contradict a pure ethic of nonviolence. But I would ask my Mennonite friends to comprehend my dilemma from the bitter experiences of my life. I do not represent the “just war” teaching. I also do not advocate a justification of the murder of tyrants. But I know that there are situations in life in which one must resist and become guilty, in order to save human lives. Perhaps Bonhoeffer was right when he spoke of a conscious assumption of guilt in such cases. My generation in Germany became guilty because we did nothing to hinder the mass murder of the Jews. “Auschwitz” remains our mark of Cain.

PDDP 129-30, paragraph split for ease of reading

New Moltmann Article Published

For those interested in Moltmann’s early theology I have just had an article published on his relationship to the historian of religion, Mircea Eliade: Cameron Coombe, “Another Origin of the Theology of Hope? Moltmann’s Dependence on Mircea Eliade,” Pacifica 30:1 (2017): 88-101. Here is the abstract:

The influence of Mircea Eliade on Moltmann’s work has largely been overlooked in scholarship. This article seeks to address this, providing an exposition of the themes of history and historicism in Eliade’s work and demonstrating how Moltmann draws upon these to develop his concept of ‘epiphany religion’, especially in Theology of Hope but also at later stages in his career. Eliade’s scholarship also bolsters Moltmann’s claims regarding the uniqueness of promissory history in its contention that non-Judeo-Christian societies reject history in the same way that ‘Greek’ society does, allowing Moltmann to situate his polemics against Greek philosophy in a universal context, and giving Moltmann’s theological claims an air of respectability insofar as they are supported by secular scholarship. The second part of the article critically evaluates Moltmann’s dependence on Eliade in regard to generalized claims in both of their works.

The Best Secondary Works in English for Getting a Handle on Moltmann’s Theology

There is a lot of secondary literature available on Moltmann’s theology, as can already be seen in the large list of dissertations and theses that you can find on this blog. I thought I would provide a short list of what I think are the best book-length secondary works for getting an overview of Moltmann’s theology.

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1. Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz, The Kingdom and the Power: The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann, trans. by John Bowden (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001).

In my opinion, The Kingdom and the Power is the best currently available work exploring the major themes of Moltmann’s theology. The book begins with two biographical chapters and is then structured around each of Moltmann’s major works from Theology of Hope to The Coming of God, engaging to some extent with other works and essays written over this time. (The book was published in German before Müller-Fahrenholz could attend to Moltmann’s final major work, Experiences in Theology, and other important works such as Ethics of Hope). Two summary chapters outline key characteristics of and themes in Moltmann’s theology. Müller-Fahrenholz also provides short comment throughout on critical issues in Moltmann’s theology, such as his relationship to Ernst Bloch and the feminist critique of Moltmann’s presentation of a “sado-machistic” God. As far as I am aware, the book is still in print. A Kindle and a paperback version are available, and at a good price too. If your library doesn’t have any secondary literature available on Moltmann, this would be the first one for them to buy.

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2. Richard Bauckham, Moltmann: Messianic Theology in the Making (Hants, UK: Marshall Pickering, 1987); The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann (London: T&T Clark, 1995).

Richard Bauckham is still the best Moltmann scholar in both the English and the German world. Besides these two works, he has edited a volume on Moltmann’s eschatology, supervised doctoral dissertations on Moltmann, and engaged with various other aspects of Moltmann’s theology throughout his extensive corpus. The first of these works is unfortunately out of print. You might be lucky to pick up a secondhand copy online, though I can’t guarantee that it would be cheap, or you could request a reprinting, which I think would be a fair request! The book engages Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, his political theology of the late sixties and early seventies, his Crucified God, and his Church in the Power of the Spirit. Before this final chapter, however, Bauckham has also included a chapter on the development of Moltmann’s doctrine of the Trinity leading up to the publication of The Trinity and the Kingdom. The second work is still available on Amazon and other retailers (I’m not sure if it’s still in print), though it might be a bit expensive for the student or general reader. It provides an overview of Moltmann’s theology, including key themes; another chapter on Theology of Hope, this time attending especially to Moltmann’s approach to the resurrection; a chapter on divine suffering; on theodicy, discussing Moltmann in the context of Dostoevsky, Camus, and Elie Wiesel; on political theology, engaging with Moltmann’s later works; on ecclesiology; on the Holy Spirit; on human freedom; on creation and evolution; on Moltmann’s messianic christology in The Way of Jesus Christ; and on mysticism. The book concludes with a bibliography of primary and secondary works, though if you have access to Wakefield’s bibliography you might want to look there first as it is later and more comprehensive. Bauckham is widely read and has great critical insights to share. His work might go beyond the interests of the general reader, but for the student of Moltmann it should not be overlooked.

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3. Ryan A. Neal, Theology as Hope: On the Ground and Implications of Jürgen Moltmann’s Doctrine of Hope (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008).

In Theology as Hope, Neal argues that the central theme of Moltmann’s theology is hope. He investigates Moltmann’s work on this basis, engaging with a wide range of primary and secondary sources, offering his own critical comments too. For example, he argues against the assumption that The Crucified God is a natural development of Theology of Hope, something widely taken for granted in the secondary literature. While Neal’s work does not have the same scope as that of Müller-Fahrenholz or Bauckham, it is one of the best monographs on Moltmann’s work that I have encountered and its being relatively recent makes it all the more valuable. A paperback is available, as well as an affordable Kindle version.

4. Joy Ann McDougall, Pilgrimage of Love: Moltmann on the Trinity and Christian Life (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005).

In the published edition of her doctoral dissertation, McDougall attends to the theme of love in Moltmann’s theology, not the first theme that comes to mind when thinking of what characterises Moltmann’s theology but, as McDougall shows, a prominent one nonetheless. This is another great monograph, proceeding through Moltmann’s major works while being guided by the theme of love. Although McDougall’s engagement with the literature on Moltmann is not as extensive as Neal’s, the quality of her writing makes up for it. She, too, offers her own critical comments, such as in regard to Moltmann’s apparent lack of attention given to sin. There are Kindle and hardcover editions available, though unfortunately they tend to be quite expensive. Make sure you take a look to see if your library has a copy!

I have attended here to what I think are the top 5 book-length works for getting a handle on Moltmann’s overall theology. Is there anything that you’d add? Let me know in the comments.

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.

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