Monday, December 08, 2014

The Crucified God by JÜRGEN MOLTMANN #1

51yqieBgJzL._AA160_For the last couple months I have been working my way through Jurgen Moltmann’s, The Crucified God, The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, for my Sunday “ theological reading. Some of you have been following the quotes from the book I have been posting on my Facebook page. I will also post the link to my blog on my page and would comments and discussion about this post there. The great strength of the book is the reminder that, “The theological foundation for Christian hope is the raising of the crucified Christ. Anyone who develops a ‘theology of hope’ from this center will be inescapably reminded of the other side of that foundation: the cross of the risen Christ... Hope without remembrance leads to illusion, just as, conversely, remembrance without hope can result in resignation. (ix) We get focused on a lot of theological issues but we must remember that everything must take into account the fact that the incarnate God came to this earth to submit to crucifixion. We must reveal God in our lives the way he revealed himself to us…

I saw that when God reveals himself to us godless men and women, who turn ourselves into proud and unhappy gods, he does not do so through power and glory. He reveals himself through suffering and cross, so he repudiates in us the arrogant man or woman and accepts the sinner in us... What is manifested in the cross is God’s suffering of a passionate love for his lost creatures, a suffering prepared for sacrifice. x.

The theme of the book is that the cross must be placed at the center of all theology. No theology is Christian that does not take seriously the abandonment of the sufferer undergone for the all of creation alienated from God. This is the church’s mission as “The Christian church and Christian theology become relevant to the problems of the modern world only when they reveal the ‘hard core’ of their identity in the crucified Christ and through it are called into question, together with the society in which they live. ” (3) This is how the church “takes up its cross.”

The first chapter deals with The Identity and Relevance of Faith. It is only through a theology centered in the cross that the church can pursue relevance in modern society without losing its identity as biblical Christianity. The church is in a crisis of relevance because biblical faith has such a tendency to degenerate into dogmatism, legalism, sectarianism, separatism and fail in its mission. However when the church jettisons the cross to be relevant it becomes no different than any other social or rebel movement. To maintain identity while seeking relevance…

When a Christian community feels obliged to empty itself in certain social and political actions, it must take care that its traditional religious and political identity is not exchanged for a new religious and political identity, but must sustain its non-identity. Otherwise a church which, seeking for an identity and not preserving its distinctiveness, plunges into a social and political movement, once again becomes the ‘religion of society’. 17

This creates a “crisis of Christian identity.” “Christian identity can be understood only as an act of identification with the crucified Christ, to the extent to which one has accepted the proclamation that in him God has identified himself with the godless and those abandoned by God, to whom one belongs oneself. If Christian identity comes into being by this double process of identification, then it is clear that it cannot be described in terms of that faith alone, nor can it be protected against decay by correct doctrinal formulae, repeatable rituals and set patterns of moral behaviour.” (19) Good doctrine alone is not enough. Changed practice, structures and circumstances as a result of hearts changed by Christ is the main thing that is necessary.

The solution is to realize that ultimate truth is revealed in the cross and “One must become godless oneself and abandon every kind of self-deification or likeness to God, in order to recognize the God who reveals himself in the crucified Christ.” (27) The church must live out the cross in fellowship with those who are “different or alien.”

The church of the crucified Christ cannot be assimilated to what is different and alien to it. Nor can it shut itself away from what is alien in a social ghetto, but for the sake of its identity in the crucified Christ, must reveal him and itself, by following him, in what is different and alien. 28.

The second chapter discusses THE RESISTANCE OF THE CROSS AGAINST ITS INTERPRETATIONS. The uniqueness of the Christian church has always been the worship of a crucified savior. It is odd to worship something so horrible, as “the cross is the really irreligious thing in Christian faith. It is the suffering of God in Christ, rejected and killed in the absence of God, which qualifies Christian faith as faith, and as something different from the projection of man’s desire.” 37 The cross thus contradicts the desire and focus of human culture and tradition…

The symbol of the cross in the church points to the God who was crucified not between two candles on an altar, but between two thieves in the place of the skull, where the outcasts belong, outside the gates of the city. It does not invite thought but a change of mind. It is a symbol which therefore leads out of the church and out of religious longing into the fellowship of the oppressed and abandoned. On the other hand, it is a symbol which calls the oppressed and godless into the church and through the church into the fellowship of the crucified God. Where this contradiction in the cross, and its revolution in religious values, is forgotten, the cross ceases to be a symbol and becomes an idol, and no longer invites a revolution in thought, but the end of thought in self-affirmation. 40.

Sadly human tradition has tried to maintain the “cult of the cross” by making the once-for-all sacrifice of the cross a repeatable event. Moltmann also criticizes the church for misusing the mysticism of the cross “in the interest of those who cause the suffering.” Instead it should be that “Jesus was their identity with God in a world which had taken all hope from them and destroyed their human identity until it was unrecognizable.” (48) But ultimately,

The poverty and sufferings of Christ are experienced and understood only by participation in his mission and in imitating the task he carried out. Thus the more the poor understand the cross, in the mysticism of the cross, as the cross of Christ, the more they are liberated from their submission to fate and apathy in suffering. 52

We don’t follow Christ by assent to good doctrine, following religious rituals etc. Those who want to follow Christ must suffer and die with him. When Christianity assimilates to the values of the society around it “the cross is forgotten and hope is lost.”

The suffering of love for forgotten, despised and betrayed human beings wherever they are oppressed is concrete suffering in imitation of Christ, and in practice can be called taking ‘one’s cross’ upon oneself. But it should not be isolated, and for all the existential understanding of Jesus that in fact is achieved in it, the qualitative difference between Christ’s own cross and the cross of those who follow him should not be ignored. The cross of Christ is the basis on which the apostle, the martyrs and those who show selfless love are crucified with him. 64

A real theology of the cross transforms lives…

A Christian theology which sees its problem and its task in knowing God in the crucified Christ, cannot be pure theory. It cannot lead to a pure theory of God, as in the vision of God in the early church. Pure contemplation of this kind abandons the realm of the transitory, of mere appearance and uncertain opinion, and finds true, eternal being in the logos. The pure, self-forgetting contemplation of God transforms him who contemplates into that which he contemplates, and enables him to participate in God himself, making him divine through mimesis and methexis.  68.

And sets people free in the experiential knowledge of God..

Man seeks God in the will for political power and world domination. If he sees and believes God in Christ who was powerless and crucified, he is set free from this desire to have power and domination over others. Man seeks to know God in the works and ordinances of the cosmos or the course of world history, in order to become divine himself through knowledge. If he sees and believes God in the suffering and dying Christ, he is set free from the concern for self-deification which guides him towards knowledge. 69

And Moltmann concludes chapter 2…

The crucified Christ therefore remains the inner criterion of all preaching which appeals to him. So far as it points to him, it is tested by him; so far as it reveals him, it is authorized by him. 75.

We cannot know the crucified God unless we are willing to serve the suffering and alienated people of the world and be crucified to the values of the society around us.

We will look at chapters 3-5 in the next post.

1 comment:

Howard Merrell said...

Thanks,I will cling to the old rugged cross.