Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Theology: Moltmann's Hope (part 3)


Most theologies, and even eschatologies claim to be rooted firmly in the past; i.e. through revelation. More than a few theologies assert that they are rooted in present experience (feminist, black, etc.). Moltmann orients his thought from a different direction entirely. He claims:

“There is…only one real problem in Christian theology, which its own object forces upon it and which it in turn forces on mankind and on human thought: the problem of the future. For the element that encounters us in the hope of the Old and New Testaments—the thing we cannot already think out and picture for ourselves on the basis of the given world and of the experiences we already have of that world—is one that confronts us with a promise of something new and with the hope of a future given by God.”

Thus, Moltmann orients all theology from the perspective of the future. He takes this so far as to assert that God has “the future as his essential nature” (a phrase he borrowed from Bloch). As Grenz and Olson rightly assert, for Moltmann, the future is “ontologically prior,” and thus the present and the past do not determine the future, but rather are, themselves, determined by it. This is not to say that Moltmann believes that God only exists in the future. He clearly believes that this God of the future does break through into the past and present, though it should be noted that Moltmann conceives of this has happening in the form(s) of the Trinity.

While he is clear that his theology is thoroughly eschatological, Moltmann is equally clear that in his view, eschatology does not focus on the end of history. He explains:

“In actual fact, however, eschatology means the doctrine of the Christian hope, which embraces both the object hoped for and also the hope inspired by it. From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present.”

…and in another work, he further clarifies by explaining:

“…Christian expectation of the future has nothing whatsoever to do with the end, whether it be the end of this life, the end of history, or the end of the world. Christian expectation is about the beginning: the beginning of true life, the beginning of God’s kingdom, and the beginning of the new creation of all things into their enduring form. The ancient wisdom of hope says: ‘The last things are as the first.’ So God’s Great promise in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, is ‘Behold, I make all things new.’(21.5)”

In other words, eschatology is the root of theology, but this root is characterized by hope for all creation rather than despair. Eschatology is led by the future, and not merely the end result of history. Moreover, history is being led into a future beginning (re-birth, redemption, etc), and not the destruction of a fiery end.

1 comment:

Kenny Payne said...

Great article. Unfortunately you cannot have a beginning without also having an ending. While most want the new beginning that is obviously the intent of God, few who benefit from the old order are simply willing to let their benefit "die" so that the new can emerge. That is why new beginnings are always birth in blood - some fighting for life some resisting their impending death. The resurrection is only good news for those who eagerly await the new. For those who graspingly cling to the old, the resurrection is the worst possible news.
It is hard to believe that the new is coming - when you see the violent death spasms of the old, and it is hard for those who benefit from the old order to understand that God will also provide for them in the new order.

Creation continues to groan and we continue to await the new birth - the renewal of all things.