Moltmann Monday: Cooperation, Integration and Shalom

Happy Moltmann Monday! Today’s passage comes from Sun of Righteousness, Arise! in a chapter on evolution and Christian theology, and in a section on new research in neurobiology.

The frame of reference for interpreting the evolution of life does not have to be the ‘war of nature’ and the ‘struggle for existence.’ On the contrary, the fundamental principle for the buildup of biological systems is cooperation… From the neurobiological viewpoint, we human beings are aligned toward trust and social resonance, recognition and acceptance. The social tie is not a human weakness, nor is it merely a social instinct, as Darwin thought; it is the only element in which human life can develop…

It is not competition and the struggle for existence which drives forward the evolution of human life; it is mutual recognition and cooperation. The insight that the acceptance and recognition we receive from others is the most profound basis for all motivation has emerged during the last five to ten years, and is the result of a series of extensive investigations…

If we want to escape the reductionism of a specialist science, we have to absorb its results into integrational sciences, so as to arrive at a better understanding of the world we live in, and of ourselves. We integrate the bodies analyzed by the specialist sciences, fitting them anthropologically into the social and historical orders of the person, and we integrate individuals sociologically into the communities in which we live; we integrate the special communities in which we live into the community of humanity, and ecologically fit humanity into the community of creation; and theologically we integrate the community of creation into the community of the triune God. This is not meant in the sense of a total world view, but it nevertheless indicates the perspectives in which we try to understand what we see.

So, this isn’t the first time I’ve shared something from our German friend about cooperation. I mentioned a different section of this same chapter here and compared it with the emerging church, and just a few months ago I shared this passage from Ethics of Hope where he echoes these same sentiments. Why am I writing about this again?

Because it takes a long time for this truth to get into our bones.

And also because of that last sentence, which is what I want to focus on. One of the difficulties of Enlightenment rationality is that it was reductionist and separatist by design. That did a lot of good things, but it also skewed our perception of things. Only now are we seeing the long-term effects of distancing even our ideas from one another. If we want to move away from reductionistic thinking, we have to move toward one another again.

That’s a complicated task, but I like how Moltmann describes it above. The bodies we analyzed in specialist sciences then need to be integrated into our understanding of history and society. We need to think about how individuals become part of communities locally, and then make sense of those local communities further by nesting them into our global community. We have to consider how our global community relates to the community of creation. And then we see the community of creation as an expression of the community of God, who created everything in love.

And what this gives us, friends, is perspective. We recognize our relational connection to everyone, and everything.

When we do that, when the truth of that begins to live deep in our bones, we don’t live like people who are at war. We live like people who are in this together.

In biblical terms, we call this shalom. It is the wholeness that comes from living at peace with God and others.

So this week, let us remind ourselves. Winning is not the goal. Shalom is the goal.

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