I’m rereading some Moltmann lately and it’s made me want to share some tidbits of goodness with you all, so Moltmann Monday is back! Let’s kick it off with an excerpt from a fantastic interview given by Third Way Magazine (with thanks to my friend Scott Paeth for the heads up). All of it is worth reading, of course, but here were some of my favorite parts:
In your conversation with atheists after the war, they must have said to you: ‘There cannot be a God or why would he have allowed this to happen?’ Were you not then obliged to do theodicy?
No. I am convinced that God is with those who suffer violence and injustice and he is on their side. He is not the general director of the theatre, he is in the play.
Well, that’s the beauty of Moltmann’s approach to theodicy (or refusal to approach theodicy) in a nutshell. No standby conversations. God’s in the middle of it.
And in [The Crucified God] you radicalize the meaning of the Cross, don’t you? You say that not only Jesus suffered but the Father suffered, too. It was a very bold thing to say.
I had some support from [AN] Whitehead, the founder of process philosophy. When his only son died in a car accident at the age of 21, he said: ‘God is a fellow sufferer who understands.’ At first I thought he was thinking of Jesus, but no, he was thinking of his Father.
Then I discovered those pictures of the Gnadenstuhl [Mercy Seat] where God the Father carries the crossbeam of his only Son, and I made the analogy: If we die, we suffer the process of dying but we do not suffer our own death, because we don’t survive our own death; but if our child dies, we suffer the death of the child
because we survive it. And this is a different suffering, the suffering of the father or the mother. Christ suffers on Good Friday and the Father suffers on Good Saturday, when the Son is dead. I think this is quite obvious. Mark’s Gospel starts with the baptism of Jesus and ‘You are my beloved Son,’ and so we are led to understand that the loving Father must have suffered as a result of the death of Jesus.
That’s a comment I don’t remember hearing from Moltmann before, regarding Alfred North Whitehead. However, his boldness in declaring that God the Father suffered during the crucifixion is one of the most important things I think he’s said. He does it so well and so succinctly here.
Also from that same response:
I also found that Christ suffers in solidarity with all those who suffer violence and injustice. His cross stands among the thousands of crosses in the Roman Empire – those who were enemies of the Empire and its system of slavery were crucified. So, he carries the suffering of the world on the one hand and the sins of the world on the other. Where there are evildoers, there are victims, and Christ suffers both vicariously for the sins of the perpetrators and in solidarity with the victims. This is a broadening of the significance of the Passion. Church tradition was always oriented towards the perpetrators, but I think liberation theology, unconsciously perhaps, prepared the way for a theology of the victims.
I tried to convince the churches in Germany, Lutheran and Catholic, to overcome this one-sided orientation towards sinners and look also at victims. But the Augsburg Accord refers only to the justification of sinners. Does God prefer sinners to victims? I think he has a preference for victims. If we look in the Psalms, it is always the victims who are justified by God.
This inclusion of the victims in the soteriology of the cross is one so often overlooked we’ve assumed it’s normal. But it is so antithetical to the cross itself! I so appreciate Moltmann’s call to balance justification in this way- something his protege Miroslav Volf has continued in books like Exclusion and Embrace.
It’s been so long since he wrote The Crucified God, but I still feel we have a long way to go before the most important things he contributed to that conversation become part of our vernacular. By that I don’t mean to upend hundreds of years of theology; I mean a right return to what the story of God really shows us about God, without our attempting to shield God from it. Much to say…which is why we’ll have to continue this next week!
On a much lighter note, how precious is he in these pictures?!