Showing posts with label Jürgen Moltmann. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jürgen Moltmann. Show all posts

Sunday, June 23, 2024

Jürgen Moltmann, obituary for the father of the errors of contemporary theology

With his book "Theology of Hope" from 1964, Jürgen Moltmann became the impetus for all currents of political theology 

By Stefano Fontana*

On June 3, the Protestant theologian Jürgen Moltmann died in Tübingen at the age of 98. He is usually referred to as the "theologian of hope" because of his major work, "Theology of Hope," which was published in Germany in 1964 and then in numerous other languages. This memory of him is not wrong or too short-sighted, because this work did not aim to deal with one chapter of theology, namely hope, but to reformulate it in its entirety.

From hope came a new explanation of all traditional theological themes: revelation understood not so much in its doctrinal but rather in its historical character, transcendence understood as the future in a temporal rather than a spatial sense, sin as the rejection of hope, grace as the gift of the possibility and ability to hope, conversion as turning away from the present and turning towards the future. Hence the revolutionary impact of his theology, linked to the pan-Protestant idea of the mature world, secularization as a Christian phenomenon and the need for a secular theology, which was also expressed the following year, in 1965, by Harvey Cox in his book The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective, as coordinates of the new theology that we find in all subsequent theology, including Catholic one.

A secular theology with political language

The illusion of earthly "paradise"

In both the Old and New Testaments, according to Moltmann, God is not understood as a consecration of times and places, but is linked to a word of promise. The promise binds man to the history that stands between the promise and its fulfillment. This is the space for human responsibility, for the future, morality and practice. The theology of hope is elaborated in an eschatological key that henceforth entrusts the theologian with the task not of "interpreting the world, history and human nature, but of transforming them in anticipation of a divine transformation". The place of God's revelation becomes history, and God reveals himself through historical promises and historical events starting from the Exodus. The task of the Christian is not so much to ask who God is and what qualities he has, but to recognize where God is at work in history and to actively participate in his work of redemption. It is necessary to eliminate all metaphysical dualism and all spatial conceptions of God in order to create a secular theology with a political language: "This means that we recognize where God is at work and thus participate in his work: this incessant action is a way of speaking: in doing this, the Christian speaks of God." Truth becomes action. Who God is is not said by the theologian through speeches, but by the practice of Christians.

With Moltmann, the dimension of history enters theology and confuses its connotations. The aforementioned Harvey Cox approached theology of hope, arguing that "God loves the world, not the church" and uses the world, not the Church. In his book The Christian as Rebel, he states that "it was professional baseball, not the church, that took the first steps toward racial integration. We are way behind on this whole thing. We must hurry to catch up with what God is already doing in the world."

The real breakthrough in contemporary theology

As we can see, the "church that goes out" has distant origins. Moltmann's new proposals were taken up by Johann Baptist Metz in his Political Theology, and Karl Rahner would also adopt the same assumptions, starting with secularization, which required us to think that the revelation of God took place in human history before the Church. It can be said that the real innovative turn in contemporary theology was brought about by Moltmann. All other theologies will in fact follow the path he took. The theology of hope can therefore be compared to an explosion that sets off others in a chain reaction. He was able to deal with the theology of revolution and liberation, and was the midwife of black theology and feminist theology. He was also at the centre of the dialogue between Christians and Marxists.

This last keyword leads us to another important chapter in Moltmann's story. I am referring to the dialogue of ideas with the East German Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, who so strongly influenced Moltmann's theology at that time and later. Bloch's principle of hope and Moltmann's theology of hope relate to each other. Bloch reformulated Marxism under the category of utopia, he sees all reality as determined by the future and driven to self-overcoming, he reads the Bible as an expression of a "transcendence without transcendence", future and history are as much features of the Christian religion as of the secularized world, the God of Israel is the God of the eighth day, "who was not yet and is therefore more authentic", and Christ has nothing spiritual, but is the man who sat not at the right hand of God but in his place, because Christianity is liberating and therefore atheistic. In this way Moltmann met not only with Marxism but also with the atheistic nihilism of modernity.

To pass judgment on Moltmann's theology is also to pass judgment on much of contemporary theology. To celebrate his thought by praising it is to condone the great errors of that theology and of the theologies that followed. I have limited myself here to recalling some basic assumptions. Readers, if they wish, can train themselves to recognize the negative effects of Moltmann's thought on theology since then and also on the practice of the Church.

Stefano Fontana, Director of the International Observatory Cardinal Van Thuan for the Social Doctrine of the Church ; his recent publications include “La nuova Chiesa di Karl Rahner” (“The New Church of Karl Rahner: The Theologian Who Taught Surrender to the World”, Fede & Cultura, Verona 2017), together with Archbishop Paolo Crepaldi of Trieste “Le chiavi della questione sociale” (“The Keys to the Social Question. Common Good and Subsidiarity: The Story of a Misunderstanding”, Fede & Cultura, Verona 2019), “La filosofia cristiana” (“Christian Philosophy: A Complete View of the Areas of Thought”, Fede & cultura, Verona 2021).

Translation: Giuseppe Nardi 
Image : National Archives of the Netherlands (screenshot) 
Trans: Tancred vekron99@hotmail.clom