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Theology of Hope by Jürgen Moltmann
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Theology of Hope (1967)

by Jürgen Moltmann

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In Theology of Hope: On the Ground and Implications of a Christian Eschatology, Jürgen Moltmann, a German Reformed Theologian, presents an argument for the hope that is within every Christian, and links that hope to the final end to which Christians look for assurance and direction. The work may be briefly described as a theological/philosophical discussion as to the why of one’s hope. Originally published in 1964, the reviewed edition was translated from the German by James W. Leithch in 1967.

Moltmann begins by attempting to help us understand his vision of the interrelationship between the idea of hope and one’s perception of their place in the reality of now. As we exist, always leaving the past and moving toward the future, the now is the optimal place for the expression of hope. This results from the fact that in the Scriptures the Christian’s hope is always pointed “towards what is not visible” (18). Hence, when the Christian expresses his hope, he is simultaneously expressing his faith in the risen Christ. It is in the risen Christ that one is able to find the path to eternal life, but it is the expression of hope that keeps one on the path to that life. Therefore, one lives in the present with a hope for a future that extends into eternity; this is why Christians are moving forward to the beginning of their life, not headed toward the end. This is the hope expressed by Paul in Romans 8:19 when he speaks of the “earnest expectation of the creature,” as he redirects the attention of the believer to the future.

Considering the nature of hope, Moltmann relates his forward-looking theology to such considerations as ESCHATOLOGY AND REVELATION, PROMISE AND HISTORY, THE RESURRECTION AND THE FUTURE OF JESUS CHRIST, ESCHATOLOGY AND HISTORY, and EXODUS CHURCH. These divisions form the basic sections of Moltmann’s work, and in each case the theological considerations presented – following a discussion of the contemporary philosophies or theological positions – are insightful and carefully crafted. At times, one seemed to be walking through a dense philosophical fog and stumbling upon a ray of light that not only pierces but clears the fog for a moment. One example of this occurs in the ESCHATOLOGY AND HISTORY section. Moltmann goes through a discussion of several different “historical heuristics” (241) and then proceeds to outline several different directions which is eventually related to the Christian perspective. Then the insight:

"What is the result of this for the process of Christian proclamation, for its ‘tradition’? Christian tradition is then not to be understood as a handing on of something that has to be preserved, but as an event which summons the dead and the godless to life. The process and procedure of the Christian proclamation is the calling of the heathen, the justification of the godless, the rebirth to a living hope" (302).

This isn’t a new insight, but in light of how we as a people understand and use history, Christianity is presented as a unique philosophical stance as opposed to other major philosophical understandings that tend to look back instead of forward.

This book has assumed place in the top ten on the “List of Difficult Books I’ve Read.” First, the work was translated from German into English and there were spots that required rereading several times. The quality of the translation is not under consideration, just the simple fact that what was being translated presented some very difficult material. There are also several times when Moltmann uses Latin, Greek, and German expressions that, for a more complete understanding of the topic, requires having a source for quick interpretation. This leads to the second reason the work landed on the list, the philosophical nature of Moltmann’s considerations. At many points the conversation seemed to circle around a specific concept which often stemmed from a blend of Moltmann’s and other philosopher/theologian’s presented work. The effect of which makes for difficult reading when Moltmann is attempting to relay what he obviously considers an important point for consideration. This blending is the third reason the work makes it into the top ten. Each section and sub-section begins with a review of the contemporary philosophical work (contemporary for Moltmann) related to the topic under consideration. Often in Moltmann’s writing his perspective seems to proceed from a point that assumes the reader also has read and understood those contemporary writers.

A difficult but enjoyable read in which the hope to which Christians cling is examined and highlighted from a number of different directions. Moltmann’s work remains a call to a forward vision in which hope is seen as a primary foundation of the Christian experience in this life. Hope calls us forward. Hope gives us vision for ourselves, for mankind, and for the Church. Hope in the future is a defining characteristic of the Christian mindset.

Some quotes from the work:

“As long as hope does not embrace and transform the thought and action of men, it remains topsy-turvy and ineffective. Hence Christian eschatology must make the attempt to introduce hope into worldly thinking, and thought into the believing hope” (33).

“The goal gives meaning to the journey and its distresses; and today’s decision to trust in the call of God is a decision pregnant with future” (97).

“The gospel of revelation of God in Christ is thus in danger of being incomplete and of collapsing altogether, if we fail to notice the dimension of promise in it” (139-40).

“The Christian hope for the future comes of observing a specific, unique event – that of the resurrection and appearing of Jesus Christ” (194).

“This tradition of promise turns our eyes not towards some primaeval, original event, but towards the future and finally towards an eschaton of fulfilment” (298).

"If, however, the vital decisions are delegated to the Church as an institution, which is then regarded as an institute for relieving us of them, then the result is the religious attitude of an institutionalized non-committal outlook” (323). ( )
  SDCrawford | Mar 11, 2017 |
This is the first part of Moltmann's theological trinity. (The Crucificed God and The Church in the Power of the Spirit being the other two.)

Here Moltmann tries to give eschatology a new grounding, and is pretty succesful at it. I wish more people would read this, and not the Left Behind series! I read it as a layperson, and a theological vocabulary is needed, as well as an overview of major theological thinkers, but it could easily be read by any intelligent lay person. ( )
  Arctic-Stranger | Jan 14, 2008 |
Moltmann's Theology of Hope is challenging and stimulating. ( )
  DrJane | Aug 9, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0800628241, Paperback)

"The following efforts bear the title Theology of Hope, not because they set out once again to present eschatology as a separate doctrine and to compete with the well known textbooks. Rather, their aim is to show how theology can set out from hope and begin to consider its theme in an eschatological light. For this reason they inquire into the ground of the hope of Christian faith and into the responsible exercise of this hope in thought and action in the world today. The various critical discussions should not be understood as rejections and condemnations. They are necessary conversations on a common subject which is so rich that it demands continual new approaches."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:51 -0400)

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