September 11, 2009

Moltmann Conversation - Last Session Ecclesiology

• You gave me language to describe myself in Crucified God, as a person born with disability – how to people who have gifts and burdens have access to the full expression of the church In the power of the holy spirit: a disability concerned me my life long, because my older brother was a severly disabled person and he died when euthanasia began in germany. I think the church must be consist of disabled and not disabled persons – a congregation without disabled persons accepted is a disabled church. Let our families bring them into the congregation and as a part of the community – because they all are images of Jesus Christ.

• When we talk about the imago dei, we talk about our ability to reason – yet there are human beings who have not this same ability to reason from abnormality or accident, but you wouldn’t dare say that person wasn’t created in image of God – how does persons with mental disabilities affect our doctrine of imago dei: I think that imago dei concept speaks of a relationship not of a qualification of a human being – but a relationship of God to the human being by which the human being is an image, a resonance of God.l This is the first relationship – the relationship of God to every human being and this cannot be destroyed, not by disability or sin. The other is the relationship of the human to God and this is the similarity – our response to God. This is a life of faith and responsibility and a conformity of our life to the will of God. The first relationship of God to humans is in every human being, be it a Xian or Muslim or atheist – in every person or disabled person or child or older person, this relationship of God is in everyone. So we must respect God in every person we meet. The second is the similitude of our relationship to God – God created all men equal, free & equal, so we must respect the image of God in every person, even in a murderous person or a terrorist! It is difficult, I know, but it’s not a question of our judgment, it’s a question of respecting God’s presence.

• Inalienable human rights… Macintyre = these are unicorns, we made them up, the Aristotelian language determines them and as Xians we use the bible to live by them – theologically, what do you think of this concept on which America was founded? I praise your document of independence for saying this. In 1978 I wrote in a document God’s rights and Human Rights, adopted by World Alliance of Reformed Churches. The only question was then, afterwards in 1990, in Seoul, how to relate these on human rights to the world of nature. Unfortunately dictatorial governments deny their citizens the human rights with the arguments of the persons you just quoted. But every Chinese person, every African person has inalienable human rights and those who commit crimes against humanity will be brought to court in Denmark – we have this in the UN already. War crimes in Balkans, etc… unfortunately the US did not sign the establishment of international courts to persecute crimes against humanity and human rights. You have a court from the crimes in Rwanda and Brundi and Tanzania and other places and this is really good development, because the growing world community will be based on human rights or there will be no world community at all…. come to the insight that it would be better to join this cause in the world. Every government will respect the human rights of their citizen, b/c human rights are deeper and more serious than citizen rights in a given society. Every person in China or Africa says, “Am I not a human being?”

• Rowan Williams proposed that because of the growing propotion of Muslims in Great Britian, that british law should make room for Shariah law – and there was a lot of discrepancy about that: Yes, especially from women, who say are we not human beings too? This is the cry from Muslim women in Germnay. I do not understand Williams at this point, perhaps I don’t understand the british legal system. You can’t let everyone have their own rights, than no one can be brought to court. This is an impossible idea.

• You refer to God as a he and HS as a she in this conversation – it’s coming up with pronouns that are appropriately intimate and personal for God and yet don’t anthropomorphize God with a gender is difficult: yes of course, God is neither he/she/it – God is God. And we should not use God’s divinity to justify the domination of men, of women, and therefore, the image one can be described of the trinity is neither the F/S/HS, but they have unity – this can be reflected in a human community – the church is by the unity of the Trinity the united community. If you look carefully in the gospel of John you can find clearly – let them all be one, like you father in me and I in you… no human being is the image of the father, and no human being is the image of the son – they are in community the image of the communal identity of love.

• The filioque clause which was part of the great schism – you have written it has led to a monarchial monotheism, or hierarchical trinity, you align yourself with Eastern Christians on that cause and there is an Australian theologian who wrote that this has written to the subjugation of women… What led to your rejection of that and what is the politics around that among Western theologians (esp Catholics?): Well, let me begin wit hthe practical side. In 1984-5 we had a big congress in Rome on the HS. And then the good John Pope II when he came to the Nicene creed, he read it in Greek and in Greek it has no filioque. In the book of Concord – the Lutheran tradition, you have it in Latin with it, in Greek without it side by side. There are traditions which do not follow the schism.

• So we should probably describe what that is – that the HS goes forth from the father and the son, or the HS goes out from the father alone. If the HS goes out from the father alone, the HS goes out from the father of the son, JC is already present in the going out, therefore the filioque is not necessary to be added. If we start with not a filioque, we can say the F/S/HS – this is important to understand the relationship of the Trinity in the life of Jesus, in the synoptic gospels: baptism, in the desert, working through Jesus healing and accepting, in the life of Jesus, the real subject of action and passion is the HS, so we have the order F-HS-S, b/c the HS came upon the Son… only after the resurrection this is turned around. HS comes from F on behalf of S – Jesus asks God to send the paraclete… you have a much richer understanding of the tradition in the scriptures…. In filioque, HS is always 3 – but you can’t number them anymore in perichoresis, they are all equal. The congregation has the spirit not only from the pastoral and the word of God, but also directly from God. This is certainly a reason for Pentecostalism. On the other hand, trad. Protestant churches, the HS only comes through the pastor, he is a spiritual man and through the Word. There was a time in Sweden, in the Lutheran world, where pastors were not allowed to pray freely – they must read the prayer. One must say to Pentecostals “lets all be in the community with Jesus from which the Spirit is a part” you can feel the baptism of the HS in the community with Jesus, but not so to speak directly from heaven (like shamanistic tradition) the filioque might be good for Pentecostals, but not trad. Churches.

• This has a huge impact on our action world! Filioque has a bearing on our structues of power. Maybe this is held onto so tightly because it supports their own version of human community and sovereignty/authority – a lot of us in the us emergent community says that the authority lies with the church – the body – and the pastors role is an organizing role. If the spirit comes from the Son, then the pastor as the bearer of the word…: this was my criticism over Barth in his volumes on creation. In the trinity there is a commanding father and an obedient son, therefore in creation, heaven is above and earth is below. Soul is above, body is below, man above, women below – this was against everything he knew about the relationship btwn soul and body from psychology and other things and also from the relationship of man and woman – which he had a lively exchange of letters from a woman who said she does not like the idea of a beheaded woman and a bodyless man.

• Paul seemed to think a lot about sex, Augustine certainly, in the American church – sexuality is a schismatic topic currently and the reason why others of us have withdrawn from those denominational fights: let me first say, this is no problem in Germany. We never have a struggle about this in the churches and in between the churches, because the church is about the gospel and not about sex. ….. Homosexual or heterosexual who believes by faith alone is saved! And is certainly able to be ordained in a Christian community. I would not say that a lesbian or homosexual partnership is equal to a marriage, because a marriage is intended to father children, I’m not intentionally objected to adoptive children, but I’m in no terms objected to blessing such a partnership. It is neither a sin, nor a crime – I don’t see the schism or the heat of the debate on it. But I know how much this is destroying children in this countries. Why is this more important than questions of war and peace."

• Death in a person’s life – am I not right in trusting in a future of togetherness in which we might all together live/learn/love/grow: I’m not one to get into a dispute with Jesus. But I trust that those who died are not dead, they are with us, they are watching over us and we live in their presence. They also, according to the understanding of … are growing until they reach the destiny for which they were created. So if a life was cut short, God will bring what he had begun for the human being to its intended end and death cannot hinder God to do this, because God is God, and cannot be overcome by death. Love is an expression for an intimate relationship… Barth was asked, do you think we shall see our beloved ones again? Yes, but the others too.

• You said the church is the agent of God’s mission in the world… in that you talked about what is the church, how do you do church in America – so what is the church? there are many perspectives on it. For a long time: Body of Christ, body of risen Christ, after Vatican II, even Catholics talk about the people of God. If we say this, we must also say that God has two parts of the people – Israel and the Church. And the mission is not only through the church of the peoples, but also through Israel and we must take care of both sides, not only looking to the people of the world/poor but also to the Jews who also are the elected people of God. New church order saying that the church is in dialogue w/ Israel b/c we have a book in common and a hope in common. The church has a task of Christianizing society in which the church is - but restricted. Now we have dialogue everywhere, but this is not good, because a dialogue as such has no goal if the dialogue is the goal we want to convert the other partner, the dialogue will end. The way is the goal to dialogue. It is good to know the other religious communities, but a dialogue needs a common ground and this is with Israel the OT and this is the special relationship of the church.

• You say it’s not so much what is the church, but where is the church. Can you expand upon where the church is now that we have not seen in the orthodoxy of the church in the past: on the one hand we have the mission of the risen Christ,whoever visits you is me… on the other hand we have the inviting Christ – whoever visits you visits me (Mt 25) we must not only hear the commandment of Christ, but listen to the invitation of Christ coming from the outside.

• With changing forms of “inside” and “outside” and with new communications/communities/forms of communities that are no longer geographically but relationally based – where parish has changed. What is the future of the congregation? I believe strongly in face-to-face community. Cyber-space may be nice to communicate with everyone in the world, but a cyber space without be without the human. In the new media, you can see and listen, but you cannot feel, taste, smell. So only two of our senses are engaged and the other senses diminish and are no longer developed. You can make the test in school where the children already have their iphones – let them close their eyes and feel – they can no longer differentiate between wood and plastic, because there is no education of their feelings. Taste – doing work on the computers they eat pizza and junk food – this tastese like nothing, not to speak of smelling or anything. The near senses which babies develop first by putting everything into the mouth are underveloped while our far reaching senses are over developed (seeing and hearing). This has effects on our communities and therefore I still believe strongly in local face-to-face communites where we can talk, see, eat and drink together and be a community of full senses.

You mention the eucharist – it seems that we can’t agree on what to call it b/c of different theological perspectives. Radical orthodoxy suggests Eucharistic rationality – with table as center of identity. Zwinglian experience = communion which is more agape meal, less sacramental, gathering and foretaste of great banquet. What is the role of communion/eucharist in the church? this is the most difficult point of the ecumenical gathering of denominations. I believe strongly that we do not celebrate on the Lord’s table our theories about his presence but his presence! We may have different thoeories about how and the way he is present, but lets celebrate his presence first! And then after the eating and drinking around the table, lets sit together and talk about our different theories. If we start with the different theories, we will never come to the table! After eating and drinking, every dialogue is better than dry throats and an empty stomach. I go to every invitation if I hear the inviting words of Christ. I don’t care. And so far no priest has said you are not invited, only those who belong. Jesus invited all those who are weary and burdened to come to him. He is not inviting Catholics only or Methodists only … this would be not the Jesus I know.

I often think if we are going to spend eternity together, its good practice to get to know one another now! My catholic friends and I get to a place where we are both happy: transubstantian is a ____ theory. We have a union between Lutheran and Reformed churches and we believe in full presence of Christ in bread and wine – whether this is transformed this is nonsense, but what is important is that we believe in the presence of Christ in both forms and we rject RC of wine for preist and bread for community. In Vatican II they came close to this form for both for all, now with brother Benedict we have some reactionary forms of eucharist in the tradition, which is unfortunate since he was my brother at Tubingen.

The cyber reality is one form of community/communication, but more and more as we are missional and our focus is in the community – church attendance is less and less because their lives are so busy and the stress of time is almost a commodity so spending time with neighbor is taking neighbor in some of the expressions of church rather than gathering for worship. Some worship is also in connection/serving people who are in their communities around them: this may be true for those who have a job, but not for unemployed people. For those who have a job it is a question of priority – whether they must go to the cabin/seaside or whether they be in the congregation. Its not that they have no time, it’s a question of priorities you set in your life.

Is it the church when it gatheres? Or when it scatters too? Both kinds – we gather people together and we send them into the world, like inhaling and exhaling. – weekly breathing? The summers rest is more heresy than the OT/NT tradition of work days and rest day.

• Writing an ethics! Love of life and political side of new concept of justice/righeousness according to biblical traditions.

Who should we be reading? What are you reading? All of course, the bible. It depends on your eyes. If you have curiosity to find new things in this old book, you will find it! If you have a traditional understanding it will be boring to read the whole text, but it is a revolutionary text and sometimes full of dangerous memories. Read: Miroslav Volf, Philip Clayton, Tony Jones, John Cobb, Nancy Bedford, many young people are coming up with new theological ideas. There are many good people coming up so we can step down and have rest.

1 comment:

  1. Katie,

    Thank you so much for posting Moltmanns comments. What a great conference it was!