Thursday, June 24, 2010

Christology: On Moltmann's The Crucified God

I thought I was taking on a lot to do Schleiermacher, but here comes you and Jurgen Moltmann – and you did very well. So far as I can tell, anyway. And you’re right to point out so many of these crucial points. I do think it is key to remember, as it is with all theologies, what preceded them – in this case, the ‘death of God’ theology of Barth, Niebuhr and Tilich. Against classical theism, it might sound like such a contrast to say that God actually died on the cross in some way – but against people who already thought that God had already died in some real sense, it must matter that Jurgen says God died on the cross, that this was, in some sense, already Auschwitz.

Living in the wake of Moltmann and Niehbur, as well as Nietzche, it’s hard precisely to know what to make of all of this – a bizarre mixture of comfort, because clearly we’re not, this generation, coming from the pro-Platonic side of things, but also disconcerting because it is precisely in the wake of not one, but repeated genocides and the stangely personal event that was 9/11, one starts to wonder if it might be better if there were a God who didn’t seem impotent in the face of human evil, who we didn’t seem to hold so much power over, no matter how we got it, that Jesus doesn’t just keep getting back up on the cross.

Having read Moltmann on the Spirit and the Resurrection, I feel he does put together something salvific ultimately, but hearing Jesus described as an ‘emergency measure’ raised my eyebrows here. I myself have talked about the crucifixion as a crisis, but a crisis has, at least in literary terms, a resolution – it is the climax, with all these chiastic overtones. But in an emergency those things don’t necessarily have to happen. An emergency isn’t part of a story. An emergency is just what happens to people. People come through crisis; people die in emergencies. So to me Moltmann here, in his Trinitarian focus, in its focus on the cross alone, is profoundly true but ultimately incomplete. I can’t find it hopeful. I don't know that there's a God here strong enough to trust.

Later, Moltmann says, if I remember correctly, that the Cross is the Resurrection is the Pentecost, that it’s all part of the one thing, and there I think he’s on to something. That’s what I’m looking for. Moltmann here in many ways is something that I’ve already heard; it’s something that the world keeps telling us over and over and over: we really did kill Him. And I agree, but I’m listening for something more. I want the rest of the story.

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