September 11, 2009

Moltmann Conversation - Eschatology/Science

Billboard in MN, said “Unless you confess God cannot bless”, more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I got. It seems like a reformed idea, but I’m not sure it fits. It seems to me that God is by nature a non-contingent being. God isn’t sitting around waiting for me to do something, I don’t give God the power to forgive me. Once we do _____, then Jesus will return. Almost like God is handcuffed waiting for us to do certain things… If ___, then God _____. But this seems to be against the nature of God: I agree! You cannot make as a human being conditions to God. This is what it means to make God an object, and idol. God will bless whom God will bless, whether you confess or not. And with the relationship of God’s blessing and your professing – the initiative is God’s, He will bless and then you will be led to confess. God is God and not a bargain partner for you in your religion. This is completely heathen! The original idea of other religions in the world is ____ we give sacrifices and then God will bless us – but this is not Xian at all. It is a denial of the freedom of God. I am opposing completely this bargaining with destiny or with God. If I do this, God must do that – this is pure commitalism.

So let me ask you about Jesus. If God as subject has complete freedom and God’s activity is not contingent upon our activity. Yet Jesus teaching about prayer is almost unequivocally – be persistent and God will give you what you want. (widow & judge, keep asking for bread): These are not the only sayings of Jesus about prayer. Whenever you pray, God knows already what you need, otherwise it would be nonsense to pray. The hearing of God preceeds your prayer.

What does that mean about God’s relationship to time as we have experienced it? Can I pray for something in the past? What do you want to pray for? There is a long tradition of prayer for the dead. Medieval tradition of praying for the dead. Luther – pray 3 or 4 times for the dead and then hand it over to God b/c they are already included in the prayer to the lord. Calvin, don’t do that. I think I am praying for the dead, because the dead are not dead. They died, but we cannot say they are dead now. For Luther, they are sleeping until the day of resurrection. For Calvin, they are watching over us. Tradition from Asia – the dead are not in a modern sense dead and gone…. They are present and if you believe Romans 14 that Christ is the Lord of the living and the dead then we have a community with the dead in Christ and a community of hope because we were raised from death together. And therefore we must overcome this modern understanding of death as annihilation. We should learn from the ancestor veneration in Africa and Asia again. This would help and then you may pray for your grandmother.

• This idea of zimzum, which you borrow from kaabalism Judaism – I understand it as prior to creation, God was everything and in order to create something other, God withdrew Godself enough to make space for a relation, an object, creation with which God could have a relationship. Two questions: 1) what relationship does God’s self-relationship relate to panenthism 2) is part of God’s self-limitation that God voluntarily bound Godself to time? I am not the first one who took up this idea from kabalistic thinking – in Xian tradition for 300 yrs. Before God created, God decided to become the creator. 1st act of creation was not on the outside, on the inside. Out of his unlimited possibilities he took this one – to become a creator. He contracted himself from all the other possibilities to this one – to be the creator of the world. 2nd he created the world in time and space. So before he created heaven and earth there must be a womb/room place to which heaven and earth could be place – this is the place of creation and this is due to a contraction of God that another reality – the limited and finite reality of heaven and earth can be and can co-exist with God. The coexistence of a finite world with an infinite being presupposes a contraction so that they can both be there. This is the reason why there is freedom of the creatures… that there is creativity of the earth to the creatures in Genesis 1:26/24 – this is important. We can… whoever of you that has children, knows that at the beginning you must do everything for a child so that it can grow – but then 10-12 you must take away your sovereignty so that your child can grow and have freedom and responsibility and this is very creative to retreat into yourself to let another being be. This is the other side of creation. Normally we understand creation as act – but to take oneself back to oneself to let another being develop and flourish is very creative

• Very much in keeping with the activity of God in Jesus and the hymn of Christ in Phillipians: If you put it in Trinitarian terms it’s completely understandable b/c the F/S/HS are kenotic beings, giving self to the others and receiving the others into the selves, so you already have in perichoresis the self-limitation, so not only outside to the creation, but the true essence of the being of the son of God in relation to the father and the holy spirit. The kenosis is not only God’s acting to the outside in Christ, but already inside the Trinity – the persons self-giving to each other in the eternal Trinitarian love.

• So, do you think if God has a being by nature that is timeless, is part of God’s self-limitation that God has bound himself to time as part of his own self-limitation, that God is experiencing time with us? Yes – otherwise he could not be the Living God! The Living God has living, limited relationships to Israel, to the fathers, to Christ, to the church, etc. they are lively by limited relationships, otherwise you have a dead God. But if you have a living God then he must be able to have life giving relationships to other living beings. To put it more abstractly.

• Some of us who follow your theology are accused of being too Hegalian – that God is simply the unfolding of History… it is very easy to accuse a german theologian to be Hegalian, but Hegel did not develop an understanding of the Trinity – he had an understanding of world history as an autobiography of God, but this is not a good theology. He developed this dialectical understanding of world history as a history of God out of a self-consciouslness of the divine subject. But this had nothing to do with the God in Jesus. Hegelian closed system – nothing new can happen under the sun, no eschatology. Is this panentheistic? This terrible term was brought into the debate by a Hegelian – it means everything is in God, but this is only one side of the biblical understanding of the presence of God, the other part is that God is in everything! Understanding of OT, Shechinah – God dwells on high and in the souls and is dwelling in Israel – the cloud/fire – the indwelling of God. Behind the covenant with Israel is the intention: I will dwell among the Israelites. In the NT, you have a mutual indwelling especially in John & letters of John – the perichoresis, the mutual indwelling. I in you, you in me., remain in love – remains in God and God in him…. Much more than panentheism! …. The orthodox theology has a sacramental understanding of nature b/c God is already in everything which has life. This is alsot the understanding of the presence of God/HS that God is in everything in John Calvin (Institutes Book 1). For Calvin, the glory of God is already reflecting itself in all things. The burning fires of God are surrounding ourselves form all sides, but we don’t have eyes to see it! Had a strong understanding of creation in the HS. In Trinitarian terms, quite understandable. Theistic terms – you may end up in pantheism – then the question arises was God in the tsunami, with the terrorists. So I would put it all in Trinitarian terms and avoid an abstract philosophical theism.

• Also embrace an Easter theosis – God became man so that man can become God (Athanasius): Martin Luther had a wonderful idea…. God became human being so that we could, proud and unhappy gods become truly human in community with Jesus. God became human to liberate us from our god complex. Hubris is playing God with God – making conditions to the sovereignty of God.

• Original sin – Augustine thought was impt – condition genetically passed on that left God no choice but to have this transaction. On Original sin, Judaism doesn’t have a doctrine of original sin: I think these ideas of Augustine are leading to a Xian type of Gnosticism. That procreating is already bad and that sex is… original sin is like aids which we deliver from one generation from another and you had better stop this and become a monk or priest to stop this procreating of original sin – this is Gnosticism. This is not following the OT understanding of life and the joy of life. We have received life and we should give life to another generation and those who cannot are poor. Original sin has nothing to do with sex and procreation – the idea is more collective guilt. This was the understanding of Luther in the articles – one fundamental sin, capital sin and this is general. So everyone is guilty of everything which happens in the world because everything is related to everything – same as Dostoevsky – collective destiny because we share into everything and everything shares with us and we need liberation of this collective guilt of humankind. This has nothing to do with Adam or Eve – in the NT, still debate of whether sin came through Adam or Eve! This is all speculation I think. We can follow the church understanding that guilt came into the world through Cain and Adam through brother murder and since that time there is one against the other and there is war and murder in the world – this is more realistic I think.

• Many of us grew up in a church that had this forensic transaction that God’s anger could only be appeased by this sacrifice of the Son – we’ve talked about “identification” atonement but there area also scriptures that talk about the sacrificial nature of the crucifixion: Other religions, I give so that you may give. If you don’t sacrifice enough or in the right way, the Gods became angry and you experienced disease/earthquake – so whenever these things happen you look around for whether there was one who didn’t sacrifice/offer enough! Happen to Jonah. This is all not Biblical. The scapegoat is giving by GOD! He is not asking this from the people of Israel, but giving this to Israel so that the sins can be put there and then the goat carries the sins away to the desert. God is reconciling himself with the world – he doesn’t need a sacrifice. He is himself giving his own son to reconcile the world to himself. 2 Cor 5 – the initiative is God’s initiative. They used the old temple language, but something completely different is meant – it is the love of God by which he reconciles the whole cosmos to himself.

• If that’s the reformed part of your theology coming out so strongly – it makes God always the protagonist – God is always the initiator of the action between humans and Godself. How is that… in the Trinity image of perichoresis… there is so much in that relationship that it overflows and sweeps all of creation into that. How is God in that way the protagonist, in allowing that love to overflow – in creating so much love: Love takes God outside of himself – he wants to communicate the joy of his love. He creates creatures which can resonate this beauty and love of God. So he is not in need of the creation - the creation is a result of his overflowing joy and love.

• Speaking of love… known as eschatological theologian – seems to me both liberals and conservatives have a negative view of the end. Liberals: church is shrinking, society more banal; Conservative: when Jesus comes back there is going to be a shitstorm. It was good news when Jesus came the first time, it will be good the second time – but this is not the overwhelming understanding today: If there is a new creation, new heaven, new earth – new song this is not the end but the beginning! The new creation will be the eternal creation so we must look forward not to the end but the beginning – the beginning is not behind us, its before us – the best is still to come. This is a certain kind of dispensationalist which is not a Christian idea – the old Jewish idea that God created the world in seven days, so the world history will follow seven dispensations. With every dispensation, the world grows older and older and our time is running out. It’s coming shorter and shorter to the end. You can think about this without mentioning Christ. Christ had just one part in it between disp. 5 & 6 or 6& 7 what is lacking is the New Beginning which we experience in the resurrection! There is already a new beginning inside of world history in anticipation of the general resurrection and the new creation…. The new has already begun, the future of God is not far away or very short, but has already begun with the coming of Christ/resurrection of Christ. Read the prophets – don’t remember the things of old – behold, I create a new thing! Old and new are the categories of God’s work in world history, not dispensations.

• My synthesis of Moltmann and Gotteman? Is that there is this horizon that is approaching us – and as I grow, my interpretive horizon is growing and at some point, these horizons meet and this is the eschaton when them meet? They met already! Because the eschatological horizon has already opened up with Christ and the Spirit of the resurrection so you can speak of this horizon, otherwise you would develop your own person horizons into the unknown. If you still have resurrection hope, you develop your personal relations in the horizon of your life inside the horizon of the resurrection – Morning has come!

• Do you think there will be a moment in time that is the paraousia? That humans will experience a moment in time of Jesus return? Yes. Well, we have this time of linear concept of time, future/present/past – this is the time of our clock. In linear time, Jesus will not come – otherwise Jesus will come at 10:15 tomorrow on a train from Chicago… this is impossible to think. We also have kairos time – good opportunity. Our life experiences are not according to clock time, but kairos – a good time. This kairos is an anticipation of the eschatological moment wit hthe trumpets and the dead will stand up/rise up. So you can put it in terms of fulfilled time. In a fulfilled time, for fulfilled life, you don’t care about the clock anymore. You live so to speak in an eternal moment. Therefore whenever you come into an intensity of living, the clock goes away. Clock time is not very good understanding of time. I had a friend who visited and interviewed an Indian swami and said I must go and the Indian said you have the clock and we have time.

• Truly reformed person doesn’t think we cooperate with God in anything – yet you write, of us being co-creators with God and cooperating with God in creation, particularly in your ecological theology: Paul spoke about his work as a co-creator with God. I don’t think putting all the responsibility on God is a good Christian understanding of God’s presence in the world. It’s not that God has no hands apart from our hands, but that God enables us, gives us chances, and energy to work in accordance with his will. To resonante with his tune and to take responsibility to which includes response! If God would be all-in-all already, the reformed pastor would be right, but he is not all-in all, it is our responsibility. I think he was speaking to come of age and not little children to go and do anything. I think Calvin would disagree with this reformed pastor.

• Daniel Harrell - Nature’s Witness – my question/interest goes back to testimony of science that it brings to our understanding – creation bears the handprint of God. Trinity in creation esp that creation that science portrays for us is rife with decay, death, disease – all of this preceding the advent of the new creation. Who is the Trinitarian God in creation giving this nature? I think the fundamental question of natural sciences is do you understand what you know. Our knowledge is duplicating, we know everything it’s in the computers, but do we understand what we need. We need a hermeneutics of nature along with scientists. Interpret science of nature explained by scientists. Scientists explain, but we need understanding. EG: a doctor measures your blood pressure/temp/data from your body to tell if you feel not well. He takes the data as symptoms of a disease. He interprets the symptoms of a disease you have – then therapy can begin. Similar w/ natural science. They take the data, we must understand as symptoms of whatever we suspect and interpret these to understand what we know. And to understand the data we get from climate research and economic research as we put them together to see them as symptoms of the coming natural catastrophe and then we can react and put therapy in as requires to prevent the danger that is coming with a hermeneutics of nature.

• I would agree with that… original question – when you see what science reveals regarding nature, what is the Trinitarian interp. Of nature that comes to bear: we put whatever we know of nature in the transcendent dimension. The evolution of live – we see that they all belong to the same family. The transcendent dimension there is no progression of value – the primitive forms are just as important as the advanced lives! Bring us to Darwin understanding of evolution. Second – we can see the working of the HS as the immanence of transcendence in every complicated being forming their self-transcendence. Or biologists say more complex life forms are open systems, transcending themselves. This is an expression of the immanence of the transcendent spirit – there can be no self-organization in the natural world with out transcendence!

• So then part of the struggle for some Xians who try to see Darwinian evolution through a theological grid is the problem of decay/death/deformity – how is that an manifestation of the spirit? Is it a fallout of the spirit? You must differentiate between the HS herself and the energies of the HS – lots of different gifts of the HS – every Xian is filled with energies, therefore they form a community of different gifts and different energies. It is similar in the world There are different energies/gifts/ one spirit. The annihilating energies are not from the spirit. In each criminal act, or negative act of destruction, there is energy which must be redeemed! This is in another book of Dostoevsky that even the sinners redeem the sin – that is transformed the criminal negative activity into a positive life giving, affirming energy.

• Would you then say that the necessary organic death that happens in context of evolutionary epoch – is that redemption? Which would make that death a bad thing, or is that necessary death which leads to life a positive of the spirit? Lets start from the final end = if death is no more, there will be a creation without organic death. Not only death of the sinner, but no more death So new creation, new biology, so how is that different from now? The indwelling of God – we have only an anticipatory glimpse of the creation, that is not yet here in this experimental way of creation that this is.

• So kairos time in this new experience, it is something that has to be something that is so radical that we can’t really have an experience in our current life that would approximate it. There has to be this dramatic transformation if we are talking about brand new creation. If we are talking about physical/experienced reality. Maybe no different from whoever is in Christ is a new creation – what is new in you/ over and against… is there a radical discontinuity in the new creation ? You cannot talk about discontinuity without continuity – not an either/or question. But we have so many anticipatory changes from the old to the new that we cannot understand this quite easily. For Paul this was a change of name. new identity with Christ living in him. This is to some extent true for every Xian, whether we are conscious of it or not.

• So to the scientist/biologist for which such discontinuity would defy everything they know about created reality – how would you speak to them regarding that unfathomability? In biological terms, you either have an evolution of causes and everything is in development because everything isn’t already enveloped in the beginning – so nothing new can happen – everything is already included in the original. New term – emergence… something new can develop, the whole is more than the sum of the parts… always something new is happening and we try to integrate it in what is already… without the new, nothing would emerge. We cannot understand the coming new as a coming old from the past. To analyze the parts of something does not lead to an understanding of the whole. “Genome” – looking at a genome you can’t tell who someone is, because from the past of his genes, you cannot extrapolate who that person is!

• Given that this earth as we experience it will certainly end, if physics is correct. What does our hope anticipate for us on the other side of that. I strongly believe in the teliosis concept of the church fathers/orthodox theologians – God will be all in all! in every science, the end is not the annihilation of the world, but the deification of the world . Lutheran: annihilation and only God/angels/saved survive somewhere in heave; Reformed: not annihilation, but transformation of the world, into new creation; Orthodox: deification of the world, indwelling of God in everything – very close to reformed tradition of transformation.

• Part of this dialogue is for the theologian that is open to the contributions of science – there are ways theology adjusts to that, but you don’t see science adjusting to the hermeneutic that theology can bring, so I find a struggle there: The struggle between religion and science is better than ____ science. We came out with a book, the end of the world and the ends of God.

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