If you haven’t heard, my favorite theologian (understatement of the year) has recently had a book published in English entitled Sun of Righteousness, Arise! God’s Future for Humanity and the Earth. This is one of his more pastoral works, which means it’s written not for theologians but for all of us who are trying to practically live out our faith. It’s a great summary of much of his more dense works of theology, with some new material as well. I am BEYOND excited. So much so, in fact, that I have decided to begin a new little tradition on my blog called Moltmann Mondays. Every Monday, I’ll pick an idea or paragraph or quote from Moltmann’s work and talk briefly about it.
To kick off, here are some sentences from the preface of Moltmann’s latest:
“When I think back, I discover with some surprise that I have always understood Christian theology as a unity, irrespective of the persons who have thought it and maintained it. From Orthodoxy to the Pentecostal movement in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, all theologians belong to the whole of Christendom on earth and to the thousand-year-old communio theologorum. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Greek nor barbarian, neither master nor servant, and neither man nor woman. All become one because the frontiers that divide them have been broken down. And the same is true in Christian theology…Christian theology reaches out beyond denominational frontiers and cultural barriers. Its discussions do not run parallel to confessional boundaries…I believe that the only future for a divided Christendom before God, and hence on earth too, is a common future.”
To understand Christian theology as a unity is easier said than done. One of the reasons I was so attracted to Moltmann’s theology is because while most theologians I read were whittling ideas of God down into smaller and smaller bits (and therefore more and more splintered factions that required defending), Moltmann was stretching out wider and wider to bring more pieces in. This makes intuitive sense to me, as one who recently described my appreciation in the emerging church conversation on what we call “big tent theology.” We are not attempting to create a new faction, but rather attempting instead to widen our listening to include a more whole and holistic voice of Christian theology, spanning time, denominations, continents, and other perceived borders. Good theology ought to move OUT and not IN. (And if you haven’t heard me beat this drum enough, I believe the story of God in Scripture only works that way, too.)
Certainly, I also LOVE his recurring refusal to pay attention to boundaries drawn by humans in favor of the God who so loves breaking them. (See: The Boundary-Breaking God)
And I also love his beautiful declaration that if we are to have a future at all, it is to be a shared future. And this future must be held together by the One who alone is able to bring us into unity. I wrote that “Any human dictator can control a homogenous society. Only the living God can hold together a diverse global world in love.” This is the difference between our desire to shrink God/people/the world into easily understandable and controlled splinter categories, and God’s desire to free up people/the world to flourish in creative ways outside of our controlling categories. This is why we have a common future that must be grounded not in our own whittling and splintering work, but in the unifying work of God. That’s as true for theology as it is every other work we do as humans living together in this world. How can we gather rather than shatter?