Reason #5: He formulates theology in a way that is truly open.
I mean at least two things when I say this. First, the style of Moltmann’s writings have an open quality to them. I can only describe it by saying that I can become claustrophobic when reading other theologians because they are intentionally leading you down a quickly narrowing corridor. Arguably, there is a kind of beauty to this way of logical reasoning; the downside is that you end up in a small, neatly organized closet. Moltmann does the opposite. He might lead you down a narrowing corridor, but he only does so to shove you at the end into an endless field and an open sky so you can realize how dumb it was to stand in the corridor.
To be fair, this is what some people don’t like about him- he’s not always exact. But Moltmann is more interested in helping us see from a certain “space” (the space of hope, for example) and he wants us to see that space EVERYWHERE. This is why he refuses to write theology in traditional categories. He doesn’t want to write about God Creator and then turn all the other parts of the story on blurry background mode. He wants to think about the act of God in creation and cast the net so far and wide that we end up considering the act of creation present in everything. Where other theologians narrow, Moltmann widens.
Secondly, Moltmann readily acknowledges that his theology is not a closed system, not a finished product, not in any sense complete, but simply a “contribution” to an ongoing conversation. Look- I know some other theologians say this, but then they write a multiple-volume systematic work of theology and sigh when they’ve finished it. Moltmann flatly refused to write systematic theology. He wrote a series of books on a variety of topics that contribute to theology but are not meant to be held as his final word, and certainly not meant to be seen as God’s final word. Theology for Moltmann is always theologia viatorum, theology on the way. We speak of God, but we do so as people who are moving, changing, reaching for God’s coming future.
Because he formulates theology openly, he has been able to dialogue with a variety of people with multiple perspectives- and he has freely allowed them and invited them to influence his own thought. He is genuinely interested in hearing what others have to say; consequently he’s more interested in adapting his theology with new insights from outside voices than he is defending his theology from criticism. He has sought out feminist voices (not least his wife, Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel, who is a rock star), liberation theologians, Orthodox and Catholic and Jewish and Muslim conversation partners, environmentalists, the list goes on. And because he’s such an authentically interested listener, he has this amazing ability to set up a place for open conversation to happen between some unlikely partners. Here’s Minjung theology for the ruling classes! Let’s talk about feminist theology for men! (Both of these examples are chapters in his Experiences in Theology.) Moltmann wants theology to be robust conversation, open dialogue, a plethora of voices, an expansive table.
Thanks, Professor Moltmann, for giving us an example of how to live graciously and openly-and yet not without conviction-in a pluralist world. You know how to throw a truly festive theological dinner party.