IntroductionMuch of the popular-level theological landscape in North America in recent years has been shaped by the ‘gloom and doom’ eschatological outlook made popular by the Left Behind novels. Against this suffocating backdrop, a German theologian’s hope-filled eschatology may be the revitalizing, life-giving breath of fresh air we so desperately need. In a lecture presented for the Trinity Institute, Jurgen Moltmann recently quipped:
“Coming from Germany, I have no good news for American ‘millionarionists.’ The Left Behind series doesn’t sell in Germany. They tried with a translation of the first volume, but it became a flop. The German soul is either too stupid or too wise to get excited with end-of-the-world scenarios.”
In the same lecture, Moltmann goes further with his critique, stating:
“American fundamentalists illustrated their apocalyptic dualism with modern end-time scenarios: Hal Lindsay, and LaHaye and Jenkins with their Left Behind series. People may be fascinated or entertained or annoyed by these strange end-time fantasies, but they do shape present worldviews.”
Moltmann believes that worldviews and theologies are shaped by their eschatology. As Grenz and Olson rightly point out, for Moltmann even natural theology finds its basis not in ‘proofs,’ but in “the sighs and groans of Creation for redemption.” Moltmann, himself, contends that when he wrote his groundbreaking Theology of Hope , his intention was not to “simply write a theology about hope,” but rather his purpose was to compose “a theology out of hope—theology as eschatology, theology of the liberating kingdom of God in the world.” Further, in the same work, he states:
“The eschatological is not one element of Christianity, but it is the medium of Christian faith as such, the key in which everything is set, the glow that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day. For Christian faith lives from the raising of the crucified Christ, and strains after the promises of the universal future of Christ. Eschatology is the passionate longing kindled by the Messiah. Hence eschatology cannot be only a part of Christian doctrine. Rather, the eschatological outlook is characteristic of all Christian proclamation, of every Christian existence and of the whole Church.”
Thus, in Moltmann’s view theology is eschatology, or at the very least inherently eschatological.