Saturday, 28 January 2017

God will be All in All: The Eschatology of Jurgen Moltmann

Richard Bauckham (editor), God will be All in All: The Eschatology of Jurgen Moltmann, 1999 T & T Clark Ltd

Of all the modern theologians, Jurgen Moltmann has contributed most to the field of eschatology. While he has said some unhelpful things, most importantly his rejection of classic theism, I think he is worth reading. This set of essays explores different aspects of Moltmann's eschatology. Moltmann himself contributes to the volume with responses to the essays and offers his own final essay.

In his response to the introductory essay, Moltmann outlines the distinction between an eschatology centred on the World in God and one centred on God in the World. The former characterizes the eschatology of Hans Urs Von Balthasar, while the latter is the Moltmannian approach. 'World in God' eschatology emphasizes the drawing in of humanity into the divine life, while the 'God in the World' eschatology emphasizes the entering of God into the world and into history. Moltmann describes the scope of both views:

The eschatology which follows from both is the cosmic Shekinah, the cosmic incarnation, and the cosmic temple for the indwelling of the glory of the Triune God. The eschatological vision of the new heaven and the new earth in Revelation 21 picks up the promises of Isaiah and Ezekiel, and sees itself as the fulfillment of the Jewish and Christian hope for the New Jerusalem.

Where Moltmann sees the limitation of Balthasar's model is in the 'vertical' world into God direction, ignoring the 'horizontal' redemption of history. He suggests this could result in a somewhat Gnostic hope. However, he sees both approaches as compatible with each other.

The most interesting essay in the book is Richard Bauckham's critique of Moltmann's advocacy of Premillennialism in The Coming of God. While I have abandoned Premillennialism myself, I do think there is something refreshing in Moltmann's embrace of it, where other modern theologians would despise the idea of a literal thousand-year reign. Bauckham says much the same thing, though he makes clear his own disagreement with Moltmann on this point. He raises a number of criticisms of Moltmann's Millennialism. Firstly, he challenges Moltmann's historiography, in particular his assertion that the early church had been committed to Premillennialism. He then goes on to question why Moltmann needs to view the millennium as the goal of history. Bauckham sees the eschaton as a perfectly sufficient goal of history. Moltmann's response to Bauckham comes across as rather grumpy. I get the impression from this book that Moltmann does not care much for criticism of his views. Miroslav Volf also criticises Moltmann's Millennialism in his essay, After Moltmann.

Moltmann's concluding essay offers some of the juvenile left-wing politics that has mired his works. He criticises conservatives and progressive liberals, but he makes no criticism of revolutionaries who are responsible for so much of the bloodshed and suffering of the last century.

I thought this book gave a very useful exploration of Moltmann's work and also provided a rare chance to see him interact with his critics.

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