September 10, 2009

Moltmann Conversation - 1: Method/Life

• Talking about theological method is like listening to someone clearing their throat – if you do it too long, people will leave

• Easy to tell, difficult to live through these years. Born in 20’s in Hamburg, secular family of educators, no connections to a church – NO church in Hamburg,

• Went to Christmas eve not to celebrate birth of Christ, but to celebrate the holy family: father, mother and first child

• Wanted to study physics - @ 16 started studying quantum physics, but then drafted into German army

• Royal Air Force came and destroyed Hamburg w/ “firestorm” – 14,000 (40,000?) people died on these nights at the end of July, mostly women and children b/c the men were already on the front lines… person standing next to him was bombed, and he was spared – “inconceivably”

o Two questions – Where is God? Why am I not dead like the others?

o These two questions followed him and tortured him for years

• Became a prisoner of war – spent time asking those questions

• My return to life from completely desperate, all prisoners in the camp were trying to conceal their wounded seals by an armor of untouchability

o Blooming cherry tree: overwhelmed by this demonstration of life that he nearly collapsed – still feel the weakness in his knees as he remembers it

o Scottish brothers were so kind to them as their enemies – looked at them like human beings – sensed forgiveness of guilt without confessing

o Distributed bibles (would have expected cigarettes!) and found the psalms of lament – esp Psalm 39.. lost his interest in poems of gothe and faust and started reading the psalms and the death cry of Jesus “my God, my God, why have your forsaken me” – found a fellow sufferer who understands

• Felt jesus in his life and felt like he was taking him (a lost prisoner) up to the resurrection… lost interest in math/physics and wanted to find the truth of Christian faith – seeking God

• Education camp for teachers in post war germany – funded by an American businessman

• First theology book he read was Nehibors “nature and destiny of man” then learned Hebrew and greek… first contact with the church

• Returned hom in April of 48 – his soul was healed from the wounds of the war in the post war time – had come together with Jacob through the struggle with the dark side of God. Experienced the dark sides of God and that experience was also the warmth of his love, the presence of his countenance, the shining face.

• Met wife @ school… passed doctoral examinations and a wedding in same year

• Impression after reading Barth that there can be no new theology, so turned to study of history of reformed theology.

• Began as a pastor in a rural congregation – I had a PHD, but was trying to bridge life experience to life experience – but couldn’t build a connection with them – they were all with their cows! More interested in the 10 commandments than in existential self-understanding problems

• As a pastor had young/old/all the problems of life – as a professor had only young students and a distance between him and the others – hard to bring life into this more distant way of doing theology than he experienced in his congregation

• Guest prof at Duke – differences between German and Duke students… G – What is the church?, Duke – How to run the church?

• Saw race relations in the US in the 60’s – MLK Jr. shot when he was at a conference – “was this the end of my American dream?”

• Began to love America after witnessing a sit-in, people standing up for what they believed in, holding on to hope, “We Shall Over Come”

Conversation pieces:
The significance of what it meant for him to convert from a secular culture is hard to imagine… what is the message of Faust, Gothe – what was the appeal of it: do good, love the beauty of nature, follow your instinct for adventures of life – humanism, freewill of reason and emotions. Gothe was convinced God is present everywhere and everything is divine – with this supposition, you can’t go through war, and imprisonment and suffering – it collapses very quickly.

In the war you had close friends die right in front of you, you learned Hitler was exterminating Jews, were these some of the events that caused that to collapse: There were no words for these experiences of forsakenness and destruction – I found the words in the psalms of lament and in Jesus

“all the best theologians were pastors” Do you continue to draw on those years of pastoral ministry?: when a theological thought occurs to me, I ask what would the people think about it, what would they make with it. Then of course, the people of my congregation appear in my virtual eyes and react to it. Listen to the people’s questions and their answers. The people should not be shy and get away from “professional theology” but should take responsibility for their education – they have connections!!

Can you tell us the story of being in Latin America: I cam by chance to live there, was invited to give lectures in Buenos Aires and then went to other schools there. Managua, Nicaragua which had been destroyed by war – very self-conscious people, had won their freedom by themselves. Story of how his book “the crucified God” fell out of the bookshelf into the blood of Sobrino when he was killed.
o Conference with liberation theologians – comparison with Marxism, labels thrown around… He knew Marx very well, but he was not a Marxist – the next day, realized all the liberation theologians in Brazil were white! Not black! Then someone from Cuba looked around and said more than a half of humankind is female – there are no females in the room!

Franke read from EinT, my favorite is intro to the Trinity and the Kingdom of God. You write in preface that after talking to liberation theologians, you realized you were a white, German theologian – so talked about 6 contributions. Impact of burgeoning liberational theology world: Started in theology of hope – resurrection of Christ; then turned b/c antinomianism to the experiences of the cross; book on the crucifixion only – Jesus as son of God and God the Father and we asked where is the Holy Spirit? I found it and wrote this social doctrine of the trinity because since Augustine, we have a psychological doctrine of the trinity – his image is the subject of will and reason – Christ and H.S. – This I found misleading ecause then the misleading b/c then HS only the interrelationship – but they are already interrelated! If the HS is the relationship, then the HS is not a subject! In the Western tradition in the icons of the Trinity – two persons and the dove… in the Eastern tradition – three angels sitting around the table. For a complete doctrine of the trinity, we need the idea to create the social doctrine of the trinity – F/S/HS interrelated, perichoresis, mutual indwelling… then it is completely clear that the Christain congregation is a good image of the Trinity… we are one and we are in one another. Holy Trinity as most basic community. It’s not a mystery – it’s very simple. If you come to fellowship with Jesus, you come into fellowship with the God he called Abba-Father, and you feel the life giving energies of the Spirit. Before we developed the doctrine of the trinity, we lived already in God, surrounded by God – we don’t believe in the Trinity, we live in the Trinity

Appreciate the way you have helped us talk about the unity of the trinity. Jesus said I and the father are one – not one and the same. DS comes from a non-doctrine based church… their unity comes not from their doctrine but through Christ who provides the unity. As pastors of congregations where there are disagreements – this unity that is not sameness is important: Jesus addressed God as Abba-Father, Paul heard the abba prayer in Galatia and Rome, but after the first century, the prayer disappeared and was replaced with “Our Father who art in Heaven” with a great distance, patriarchalism… if we would use the Abba prayer, we would feel the presence of Jesus in that moment! Tried to convince congregations to replace Lord’s Prayer with Abba prayer – because then you are already in the Trinity. Not just three persons, but three rooms- they give room for the other persons within.

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