Moltmann Conversation – Session 2: Method

Method w/ Tripp Fuller:

• You broke some of the rules of German Protestant Systematic Theology that would have been part of your theological education. “Every consistent theological system lays claim to totality… in principle one has to be able to say everything… everything has to fit in w/o contradiction… an aesthetic charm… this is a dangerous seduction… humanly speaking, truth is to be found in unhindered dialogue: Aquinas – Is there a God or not? 5 ways of speaking about that.. and then he died. b/c all the great theological systems of medieval times must have an open end, because of the paraousia of Christ. Similar to the great cathedrals – they are beautiful, but they are not allowed to be finished, b/c you must keep at least a hole open for the coming of God – otherwise the system of theology would replace the coming of God/presence of God. A theological system begins with prolegomena – the clearing of the throat. Tillich – message, system, everything related to everything.. but he’s rarely quoting the bible, rarely in discussion Barth started w/ presuppotion: prolegomena w/ self-revelation of God. Dogmatics are for those who are inside the church – good for developing Christian doctrines on things like predestination. But very weak and poor at dialoguing with contemporaries. Theology of nature is the task of Christian theology – our theology is not just for Christians, it is for the kingdom of God for the mission for those who are outside. Yale school: Xian theology for Xians, Chicago school: Xian theology for everybody, otherwise no mission! Moltmann: Xian theology for the kingdom, starting with X and the HS

• Did the fact you didn’t grow up in a tradition give you more freedom? We feel like we need to defend the heritage of the system in which we were reared: Christ is more than one denomination! =) reformed theology was my origin, ecumenical is my future

• Many young people met you in the course of theological education where we have read you after 9/11… Moltmann’s theology helps us to talk about God in a world after world tragedy (following WWII) – What advice do you give us as pastors still wrestling with this experience?: Moved by “Night” by Elie Wiesel, God was not absent, but God suffered with them. This is his recommendation to the victims/families of 9/11 – that God suffered with them, that the terrorists did that act against God also… God is not punishing us by these events. “you carried us like a mother who carries a child in her arms, like a father carries a child through the desert, bearing us on eagle’s wings” This carrying gives his world time, and a chance, and a future – this is the omnipotence of God. Not in control of everything, but carrying and bearing everything.

• Idea of an impassable God? The God of Israel is not apathetic, is full of pathos, full of anger (wounded love) and passion for his people. If God is an apathetic God, then his image of us must be apathetic too – but for us, apathy is an illness. Get out of apathy – it is better to be defeated than to not begin the fight. How was this received – controversial “I like to be controversial”

You use experiences others don’t – mystical experiences, and don’t express doubt. Advice to pastors about how to do that: Put life and death questions together with theological questions – only way to make it unabstract – otherwise it’s a game only for play. Life experiences are the source of theology.

Scripture and methodology – the church and theologians need to read forwards and backwards in scripture: I read the bible with the presuppotion to meet the divine word in human words. And when I meet the divine word which became incarnate in Christ – his suffering, death and resurrection – then I feel to meet the truth. But then I have also a contrarian over against the human expressions over the human experiences of the truth. Eg: Paul Galatians 3:28 – all one in Christ & heirs of the kingdom. Justified equality of men/women… but Paul also says women should shut up in the congregation! So I ask, what sentence is closer to Christ – and then my decision is clear. If the women silent, we would have knowledge of the resurrection of Christ! And one of the co-missionaries of Paul was female – Phoebe = bishop of small congregation. Some of these are human expressions, not infallible expressions – if we look at the criteria of the incarnate word of God – Christ. In the letters, we read that the Jews crucified Christ, but this is wrong – the Jews couldn’t crucify persons, only stone – this was a Roman affair. The Jews are not the enemies of God. Read in Paul – Romans 9-11, and we say that this is closer to Christ… only criticized based on the criterion that is in scripture itself!

• A lot of strife in the American church – boils down to biblical hermeneutics – we simply read the bible differently – you are advocating a hermeneutic by which we look at what is closest to Christ. How do you determine that? (noting that you don’t discount personal experience) My question to fundamentalists is: do you really read the bible? Do you understand what you are reading? Just to quote the bible on homosexual persons is wrong, because the term doesn’t appear in the original Hebrew words, etc… so we should not leave biblical hermenutics to the fundamentalists, who believe only in 50 fundamentals and not the rest.

• What is it like to be married to a theologian? Convinced me to say not “this is the case” but “I think this is the case.” Not to make objective statements – because this is my experience – to leave room for others to make up their own mind and not just to quote me. There is no theological dialogue in our house before breakfast.

• Other side of 9/11 question – dealing with tragedy justifies the myth of innocence for our own political philosophy. Impact of liberation theology: what kind of invitation to share and proclaim the insights to people who may not even question that there is complicity in American foreign policy: Political theology overcomes hesitations/limitations of our churches during the Nazi regime, question of two kingdoms = don’t mix theology with politics. In fact, supported b/c of political theology. Internal reason for change = the dead of Auschvitz were pressing on our conscience, we had to change in memory of those people. We still have strong social legislation – we take care of people who are vulnerable.

1 Comment

  • EcclesialDreamer

    September 10, 2009 at 6:46 pm Reply

    Thanks for your thorough and thoughtful commentary on the conversation. You are capturing it very well!

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