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.



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.