Moltmann Monday: On Wonder

Happy Moltmann Monday! Today’s selection is from God for a Secular Society where he’s talking about the importance of wonder:

Knowing is remembrance and expectation, remembrance of what is familiar and expectation of what is new. It is therefore both re-cognition and a fresh cognition… The Greek philosophers therefore called the deepest ground of knowing wonder. In winder the senses are opened for the immediate impression of the world. In wonder the things perceived penetrate the senses fresh and unfiltered. They impose themselves on us…

‘Concepts create idols, only wonder understands,’ said the wise Gregory of Nyssa….But the most astonishing thing of all seems to me to be the ground of the ‘being-there’ of all things, the ground whom we have to thank for the there being anything there at all. The One we call God eludes our ideas, which nail him down, and our concepts, which try to bring him within our grasp; and yet he is closer to us than we ourselves…For ‘in him we live and move and have our being.’  Wonder is the inexhaustible foundation of our community with each other, with nature, with God. Wonder is the beginning of every new experience and the ground of our creative expectation of the new day.

Wonder is so often left to children. We find it adorable when children have eyes full of wonder. When adults have eyes full of wonder, we think they’re flighty. I love that Moltmann spends three or four pages talking about how what we know is rooted most deeply in wonder. That’s where wonder belongs- in the deep, with all the mysterious realities that words will never fully express. Wonder is not childish; it is the anchor of our souls.

A couple of years ago I was having the most difficult time writing sermons and discussions. And I was asked to speak at a few conferences and I declined because I was in this wordless zone where, really, the only thing that made sense was to listen. I still haven’t made sense of that season of life, and honestly, I’m still not entirely outside of it yet, either. It’s perhaps the epitome of irony that I wake up every morning with these two competing affirmations: God is so far beyond what we can express in words, and I am called to write about God anyway. What I do know is that nothing seems more real to me than to contemplate the ‘being-there’ of all things, which I call God. If I catch a moment where I find myself present to that Reality, it’s like the whole world goes on slow-mo and everything comes together into crisp focus. For just a moment, the beauty of the world is right here, and also everywhere.

I do not want theology to explain everything away for me. I don’t want science to try, either, or psychology, or history, or sociology. I don’t want “away”–I want presence.

You do too, right?

I think it’s important for us to remind ourselves of that pretty often, especially when our ideas about God or the world or our life purpose is in flux. The end goal isn’t answers in those moments. It’s wonder. It’s presence. It’s realizing that we are loved by the same One in whom we live and move and have our being, that we are all tied up in it together.

If, in our theologizing about God, we forget to adore the beauty of God, the sheer ‘being-there’ of God, the absolute wonder of God, well, haven’t we lost exactly what it is we’re looking for?

Here’s to wonder. May it find us all this week, and may we be open and brave enough to notice it.


*The image above is a snapshot of a beautiful book called I Wonder by Marian Bantjes, who is a graphic designer who gives readers what looks like a beautiful door into wonder through her designs.


  1. I want your not knowing.
    I want your wonder.
    I want the awe you had as a child.

    My beloved, where have you put those childhood eyes
    The ones as big as baseballs?
    Have you tossed them in with your other toys
    That you are now too old to play with?

    Go! Lift them from the toy box.
    Put them back on.
    Peer through them,
    Through the door of unknowing
    And into My Presence
    Wrapped in My Comfort.

    For you need baseball-sized eyes
    And an unknowing heart
    To feel the height
    And breadth
    And depth
    Of My Love for you
    Which has no end.

  2. Beautiful, Jim! Thank you for sharing!

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