From Academic Kids

Jürgen Moltmann (born April 8, 1926) is a Christian theologian.

Contents

Moltmann's Youth

Moltmann was born in Hamburg, Germany. He described his German upbringing as thoroughly secular. His grandfather was a grand master of the Freemasons. At sixteen, Moltmann idolized Albert Einstein, and anticipated studying mathematics at university. The physics of relativity were "fascinating secrets open to knowledge"; theology as yet played no role in his life.

The War

He took his entrance exam to proceed with his education, but went to war instead as an Air Force auxiliary in the German army. "The 'iron rations' in the way of reading matter which I took with me into the miseries of war were Goethe's poems and the works of Nietzsche."¹ He was actually drafted into military service in 1944, when he became a soldier in the German army. Ordered to the Reichswald, a Belgian forest at the front lines, he surrendered in 1945 in the dark to the first British soldier he met. For the next few years (1945-48), he was confined as a prisoner of war and moved from camp to camp.

Theology in the Camps

He was first confined in Belgium. In the camp at Belgium, the prisoners were given little to do. Moltmann and his fellow prisoners were tormented by "memories and gnawing thoughts" -- Moltmann claimed to have lost all hope and confidence in the German culture because of Auschwitz and Buchenwald (concentration camps where Jews and others the Nazis opposed had been imprisoned and killed). They also glimpsed photographs nailed up confrontationally in their huts, bare photographs of Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen.² Moltmann claimed his remorse was so great, he often felt he would have rather died along with many of his comrades than live to face what their nation had done.

Moltmann met a group of Christians in the camp, and was given a small copy of the New Testament and Psalms by an American chaplain. He gradually felt more and more identification with and reliance on the Christian faith. Moltmann later claimed, "I didn't find Christ, he found me."

After Belgium, he was transferred to a camp in Scotland, where he worked with other Germans to rebuild areas damaged in the bombing. The hospitality of residents toward the prisoners left a great impression upon him. In July of 1946, he was transferred for the last time to Northern Camp, a British prison located near Nottingham, UK. The camp was operated by the YMCA and here Moltmann met many students of theology. At Northern Camp, he discovered Reinhold Niebuhr's Nature and Destiny of Man--it was the first book of theology he had ever read, and Moltmann claimed it had a huge impact on his life.

Returning Home

Moltmann returned home at 22 years of age to find his hometown of Hamburg (in fact, his entire country) in ruins from Allied bombing in World War II. Moltmann immediately went to work in an attempt to express a theology that would reach what he called "the survivors of [his] generation". Moltmann had hope that the example of the "Confessing Church" during the war would be repeated in new ecclesiastical structures. He and many others were disappointed to see, instead, a rebuilding on pre-war models in a cultural attempt to forget entirely the recent period of deadly hardship.

In 1947, he and four others were invited to attend the first postwar Student Christian Movement in Swanwick, a conference center near Derby. What happened there affected him very deeply. Moltmann returned to Germany to study at the University of Göttingen, an institution whose professors were followers of Karl Barth and theologians who were engaged with the confessing [non-state] church in Germany.

Since his studies at Göttingen ended, Moltmann has continued to speak and write concerning his views of theology.

Influences

Moltmann cites the English theologian Studdert Kennedy as being highly regarded and relies on Ernst Bloch in his important Theology of Hope.

Theology

The early Moltmann can be seen in his trilogy, Theology of Hope (1964), The Crucified God (1972), and The Church in the Power of the Spirit (1975):

  • Theology of Hope was strongly influenced by the eschatological orientation of the marxist philosopher, Ernst Bloch's The Principle of Hope.
  • The Crucified God posited that God died on the Cross, raising the question of the impassibility of God.
  • The Church in the Power of the Spirit explores the implications of these explorations for the church in its own life and in the world.

This early phase has been compared to the Liberation theologies predominantly found in Latin America at that time.

The later Moltman took a more systematic approach to theology, seen by some as less radical and less challenging.

Endnotes

¹ The items were a gift from his sister. In other places, Moltmann mentions that "Faust" was included in the collection of Goethe's poetry.

² The initial reaction of the prisoners to these photos were that they were British propaganda.

Works Consulted

Jürgen Moltmann, "Why am I a Christian?" in Experiences of God (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980).

Jürgen Moltmann, "An Autobiographical Note" in A. J. Conyers, God, Hope and History: Jürgen Moltmann and the Christian Concept of History (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1988).

Jürgen Moltmann, Foreword to M. Douglas Meeks, Origins of the Theology of Hope (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974).

Jürgen Moltmann, address given at Nazarene Theological Seminary, Dec. 10, 2001.

Jürgen Moltmann, "Stubborn Hope", interviewer Christopher A. Hall, Christianity Today, vol. 37, no. 1 (Jan. 11, 1993).

Bibliography (English) (incomplete)

  • Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology, SCM Press, London, 1967
  • The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ As the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, SCM Press, London, 1973
  • Man: Christian Anthropology in the Conflicts of the Present, SPCK, London, 1974
  • The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution to Messianic Ecclesiology, SCM Press, London, 1975
  • The Experiment Hope, SCM Press, London, 1975
  • The Future of Creation, SCM Press, London, 1979
  • The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God, Harper and Row, New York, 1981
  • History and the Triune God: Contributions to Trinitarian Theology
  • The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, Fortress, Minneapolis, 1996.

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