Jürgen Moltmann

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Jürgen Moltmann (1926-) was born in Hamburg. His grandfather was a grand master of the Freemasons. He studied at the University of Göttingen, an institution whose professors were followers of Karl Barth. He received his doctorate from the University of Göttingen, under the direction of Otto Weber in 1952. From 1952 to 1957 Moltmann was the pastor of the Evangelical Church of Bremen-Wasserhorst. In 1958 Moltmann became a theology teacher at an academy in Wuppertal that was operated by the Confessing Church and in 1963 he joined the theological faculty of Bonn University. He was appointed Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen in 1967 and remained there until his retirement in 1994.

From 1963 to 1983, Moltmann was a member of the Faith and Order Committee of the World Council of Churches.


Moltmann began his course of study at Göttingen University in 1948, where he was strongly influenced by Karl Barth's dialectical theology. Moltmann grew critical of Barth's neglect of the historical nature of reality, and began to study Bonhoeffer. He developed a greater concern for social ethics, and the relationship between church and society. Moltmann also developed an interest in Luther and Hegel, the former of whose doctrine of justification and theology of the cross interested him greatly. His doctoral supervisor, Otto Weber helped him to develop his eschatological perspective of the church's universal mission.

Moltmann cites the English pacifist and anti-capitalist theologian Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy as being highly regarded. However the inspiration for his first major work, Theologie der Hoffnung (1964) or Theology of Hope (1967), was the Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch's "Principle of Hope".

The background influence in all these thinkers is, of course, Hegel, who is referenced more times than any other writer in the Theology of Hope.


Moltmann has a passion for the Kingdom of God as it exists both in the future, and in the God of the present. His theology is often referred to as "Kingdom of God" Theology. His theology is built on eschatology, and the hope found in the resurrected Christ. This theology is most clearly explained in his book, Theology of Hope.

Moltmann's theology is also seen as a theology of liberation, though not in the sense that the term is most understood. Moltmann not only views salvation as Christ's "preferential option for the poor," but also as offering the hope of reconciliation to the oppressors of the poor.

In Moltmann's opinion, all should be seen from an eschatological perspective, looking toward the days when Christ will make all things new. "A proper theology would therefore have to be constructed in the light of its future goal. Eschatology should not be its end, but its beginning." The importance of the current times is necessary for the Theology of Hope because it brings the future events to the here and now. This theological perspective of eschatology makes the hope of the future, the hope of today.

Hope strengthens faith and aids a believer into living a life of love, and directing them toward a new creation of all things. It creates in a believer a "passion for the possible" "For our knowledge and comprehension of reality, and our reflections on it, that means at least this: that in the medium of hope our theological concepts become not judgments which nail reality down to what it is, but anticipations which show reality its prospects and its future possibilities." This passion is one that is centered around the hope of the resurrected and the returning Christ, creating a change within a believer and drives the change that a believer seeks make on the world.

For Moltmann, creation and eschatology depend on one another. There exists an ongoing process of creation, continuing creation, alongside creation ex nihilo and the consummation of creation. The consummation of creation will consist of the eschatological transformation of this creation into the new creation. The apocalypse will include the purging of sin from our finite world so that a transformed humanity can participate in the new creation.

Bibliography in English

Some of Moltmann's works that are available in English include:

  • Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology, 1967
  • The Gospel of Liberation, 1973
  • The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ As the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology,  1973.  The 40th Anniversary Edition has a foreword by Miroslav Volf.
  • Man: Christian Anthropology in the Conflicts of the Present, 1974
  • The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution to Messianic Ecclesiology, 1975
  • The Experiment Hope, 1975
  • The Open Church: Invitation to a messianic lifestyle, 1978
  • The Future of Creation, 1979
  • The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God, 1981
  • History and the Triune God: Contributions to Trinitarian Theology
  • On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics, 1984
  • God in Creation, 1985
  • The Way of Jesus Christ, 1990
  • Is “Pluralistic Theology” Useful for the Dialogue of World Religions?" in D’Costa, Gavin, Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered, 1990
  • The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, 1992
  • The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, 1996
  • The Source of Life, 1997
  • God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology, 1999
  • Experiences in Theology: ways and forms of Christian Theology, 2000
  • Science and Wisdom, 2003
  • In the End the Beginning, 2004
  • A Broad Place: An Autobiography, 2007
  • Sun of Righteousness, Arise! God's Future for Humanity and the World, 2010
  • Ethics of Hope, 2012
  • Creating a Just Future, 2012
  • Theology and Joy, 2013
  • The Living God and the Fullness of Life, 2015. English translation published by World Council of Churches.

Cowritten books

  • Dialogue, (1979) with Willis W. Harman
  • Concolium 183 Christianity among the World Religions, (1986) with Hans Küng
  • End of Time? The Provocation of Talking about God, (2014) with Joseph Ratzinger, Johann Baptist Metz and Eveline Goodman-Thau.  Edited by Tiemo Rainer Peters and Claus Urban.





Jürgen Moltmann is the source of Emergent theology and eschatology


In 1964 Moltmann published Theologie der Hoffnung (Theology of Hope, 1967), which brought him to prominence among theologians. Moltmann is known as "one of the leading proponents of the theology of hope. He believes that God's promise to act in the future is more important than the fact that he has acted in the past. What is implied by this focus on the future, however, is not withdrawal from the world in the hope that a better world will somehow evolve, but active participation in the world in order to aid in the coming of that better world."

The most influential work by Moltmann is his Theology of Hope, published in English in 1967. Moltmann proposes that Christian hope should be the central motivating factor in the life and thought of the church and of each Christian. For Moltmann, the whole creation longs for the renewal by the "God of Hope." Empowered by hope, the Christian's response should therefore involve: mission of the church to all nations, the hunger for righteousness in the world, and love for the true life of the imperiled and impaired creation.

The Future of God (from Kelly Carter)

Moltmann's views of the last times, or eschatology, are unique. He calls into question traditional beliefs such as the timeless future of eternal life and heaven. These traditional foci, Moltmann contends, are grounded not so much in biblical theology as in the Greek philosophical notions of an immutable, timeless, static God who has prepared an abiding "place" to which the redeemed will journey when life has ended. Christian men and women have traditionally centered their aspirations on this "continuing city" to which God will one day transport them; a place where there is no pain, no death, and no sin.

For Moltmann, the traditional notion of a timeless eschatological future works against the reformations, renaissances, and revolutions of external conditions" which Scripture indicates are characteristic of the coming kingdom of God." Christianity was intended by God as a movement and fulfillment of his reign which encompasses a revolution in earthly conditions. For believers to focus on a timeless place to which God will remove them from earthly life, releases them from social responsibilities and makes the present world nothing more than an "insignificant waiting room for the soul's journey to heaven."

He writes in "Sun of Righteousness, Arise!": The great event of the twentieth century was the end of Christendom, the Christian era and the Christian nations, and the beginning of the church’s rebirth as an independent and resisting community, a community with a universal mission and an all-embracing hope for the kingdom of God as the future of the world.

  • Moltmann ... is embracing a Hegelian way of looking at the world. ... Moltmann has made it very clear that he is Hegelian and that he would never graduate a graduate student that came and studied under him unless that person had adopted a Hegelian worldview. (Chris Rosebrough undocumentet in Fighting for the Faith)

Moltmann applied Hegel's synthesis to theology and eschatology, deciding that because incompabilities were evolving into new and better things, God could not possibly allow the world to end in judgment. Instead og judgment, Moltmann set aside scripture to declare that the entire world and all of creation was heading toward paradise and progressively leaving evil behind. He created a Christian alternative to Marxism that he called a "theology of hope".

Emergent Village and Jürgen Moltmann

  • Emergent Church leaders published a book entitled An Emergent Manifesto of Hope that cites and echoes Moltmann's ideas.
  • Tony Jones (national coordinator for Emergent Village) declares himself to be a Moltmanniac. Jones was studying under Miroslav Volf who had studied under Moltmann.
  • Doug Pagitt (one of the initiators of Emergent Village) arranged “The 2009 Emergent Village Theological Conversation with Jurgen Moltmann”.
  • Brian McLaren (noted spokesperson for the emerging church movement) skryter uhemmet i sin omtale av Tony Jones’ bok “The Church is flat” bl.a. fordi den gir leseren innsikt i den panenteistiske sosiale trinitarianismen til Moltmann.
  • Danielle Grubb Shroyer (member of the Emergent Village Counsil) is a self-identified Moltmanniac.
  • Stanley Grenz (involved in the beginnings of the Emerging Church Movement) quotes Moltmann extensively and positively.
  • Dwight J. Friesen (professor who is active nationally with emerging church movements) praises Moltmann's Theology of Hope as a "groundbreaking book".
  • Nathan Hill

Evangelical leaders, Willis Harman and Jürgen Moltmann

  • From: "A Wonderful Deception" by Warren B. Smith, p. 108: "... a group of Evangelical leaders in the late 1970s was openly meeting with Willis Harman.  These Christian leaders were exploring new and alternative views of the future. Disregarding the prophetic teachings of Scripture, they were looking for a different, more optimistic and hopeful view of the future than the one described in the Bible."
  • further citing Discernment Research Group report: "Why did Evangelical leaders bring ... Theosophist, Willis Harman, to address a 1979 Consultation on the topic of the future - when Scripture plainly teaches that our future blessed hope rests in Jesus Christ and His imminent return?"
  • In 1979 Lutheran Brotherhood published the book Dialogue, by Willis W. Harman and Jürgen Moltmann. They also published a 43 min. tape by the same name.

  • Moltmann in Theology of Hope, p. 9: "The atheism that wants to free men and women from superstition and idolatry and the Christianity that wants to lead them out of inward and outward slavery into the liberty of the coming kingdom of God - these two do not have to be antagonists.  They can also work together. Which of them will prove to be stronger in the long run is something we may confidently leave to the future."
  • Moltmann in A Broad Place, p. 214: "I discovered something else as well: Teresa [of Avila]'s interior castle and Thomas Merton's mountain and many other descriptions of mystical journeys use the number seven: on the seventh level the soul finds its way to God, and it is in the seventh chamber of the soul that the mystical marriage takes place. This is nothing other than Israel's teaching about the Sabbath. The person who keeps the Sabbath, and who on the Sabbath experiences the union of the Shekinah with the Eternal One, is already at the place which the Christian mystics strive to attain through meditation and contemplation"

    From "Revisiting Moltmann’s Theology of Hope in the light of its renewed impact on emergent theology", by Noel B. Woodbridge:

    2. Summary of the book

    Moltmann’s Theology of Hope constitutes a groundbreaking work in theology. In his work, Moltmann describes Christian hope in terms of a challenge to both the desperation and official optimism of the Reconstruction that tried to return to ‘the glory days of the past’ rather than live in the hope of a entirely new future that comes from God, who lives not so much ‘above us’ but ‘in front of us’, and who draws us into his own future for the world. Moltmann skilfully incorporates elements of Bloch’s Principle of Hope, Hegel’s Speculative Good Friday, and the Death of God theology to introduce the Christian hope to the post-war Europe and to the world. Clearly, Moltmann’s Theology of Hope has earned itself a prominent position among the greatest works of theology in the twentieth century.

    Austin Roberts in http://austinroberts13.blogspot.no/2011/07/classic-theologians-for-emergent-church.html:

    Moltmann is what you might call a neo-Barthian - basically confessional and creedal, but radical and progressive in ways that one doesn't expect to see in orthodox theology. It would not be fair to call Moltmann an evangelical in my opinion (indeed, even relatively moderate evangelicals like Roger Olson and Stanley Grenz have accused Moltmann of heresy for the various moves he makes in his panentheistic relational theology), but neither is he a liberal. His stance on scripture is much more critical than the dominant evangelical position; he advocates for LGBT inclusion in the church; is a panentheist; affirms a great deal of feminist theology (his wife Elisabeth is a feminist theologian); has influenced and been influenced by Latin American liberation theology; is deeply ecological in focus; he's developed a theology of mysticism; affirms theistic evolution; is a universalist (though not a religious pluralist); and his politics are leftist. But unlike liberal theology, Moltmann holds to orthodox ideas like the divinity, bodily resurrection, and parousia of Christ, the centrality of the cross, and the doctrine of the Trinity. In a neo-Barthian fashion, he presupposes God's self-revelation in Israel and the Christ-event and thus only engages in natural theology in the light of these core biblical events - as he says, "Christian theology is the true natural theology." Even so, he feels free to criticize certain parts of the bible for failing to describe the image of God revealed in Jesus. He is remarkably open to discovering truth in other religions, emphasizes the importance of inter-religious dialogue, calls for religions to work together for the sake of justice, but nevertheless holds to the ultimate universal salvation of all through Christ alone.  For many progressive post-evangelicals in the emergent church movement, Moltmann's program is ideal in that it holds to many core convictions of their evangelical/orthodox background while moving in a more progressive, open, inclusive direction. Key for Moltmann is that his theology is always in process, "on the way", and partial - mere "contributions" to a wider, global conversation. Both Tony Jones and Danielle Shroyer, leaders in the emergent church, are self-described 'Moltmanniacs' (though I know at least Jones parts ways here and there with Moltmann).  As helpful as the currently popular N.T. Wright is in many ways, Moltmann seems to me to be more in line with the ideals of post-evangelical emergent Christians.  Emergents may want to modify some of Moltmann's thought in the light of other similar theologians like Wolfhart Pannenberg, Elizabeth Johnson, and Jon Sobrino, but he nevertheless provides an incredible conversation partner.

    Suggested further reading: "The Emergent Church" by Bob DeWaay, chapters 1 and 9. 

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