Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Crucified God by JÜRGEN MOLTMANN #2

51yqieBgJzL._AA160_In this post I will continue my discussion of Moltmann’s, The Crucified God, The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. In today’s section I will look at chapters 3-5. In these chapters Moltmann looks at Jesus in terms of who he was historically (3), who he is in terms of the cross and how a theology of Christ developed from that (4) and then who he is in regard to his resurrection and eschatology (5). As before for discussion and comment please go to my Facebook page.

In chapter 3, Questions About Jesus, Moltmann asks 4 questions about God (see below). He recognizes that there are many Christ’s out there but real Christianity involves relationship and faith in the Christ that has its foundation in the historical Jesus. “Thus the first task of Christology is the critical verification of the Christian faith in its origin in Jesus and his history.” (84) I

If one wishes to say who the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Logos, etc. actually is, then one must use the name of Jesus and recount his history. The name of Jesus can neither be translated into other languages nor be replaced by other names, or by the names of other people. His history cannot be replaced by other histories, or by the histories of other people. To say what Jesus is, means and does, one must go to the ancient and modern titles for his office and function, expound them and supplement them anew. The constant in the changes brought about by time, and in the transformations in the concrete form of faith, love and hope, is the name of Jesus, and the essential reference to him and his history in every Christian statement about God, the world and man. But the variables are to be found in the titles and predicates which can always be altered, and which are meant to state what Jesus is for us today. 85–86.

The first question that must be asked is “Is Jesus True God?” The early church so emphasized the divinity of Christ that they almost became docetic (Jesus was not really human, he only seemed to be human). One of the great objections to Jesus’ divinity was, “How could God be crucified and die.” Thus the cross must also be an important factor when we think of who God is.

If the mystery of Jesus is the eternal presence of God amongst men, then the salvation of the world is also to be found in him. God became man, so that men could partake of God. He took on transitory, mortal being, for that which is transitory and mortal to become intransitory and immortal. 88.

The second question that must be asked is “Is Jesus True Man?” That is, can Jesus the man be called God? Theologies that split Jesus from the Christ remove the convicting power of a faith and removes Christianity from relevance to practical action and its ability to deal with human sin and its consequences.

Modern Christology always assumes faith, and states that Jesus can be understood in this way in faith. But it rarely says why one should have faith, and have faith in Jesus in particular. Thus it becomes a modern Christology which is accepted within its own circle, but has virtually nothing to say to non-believers, unbelievers or those who hold a different faith. 97.

The third question is “Are you he who is to come?” In this section Moltmann joins the disciples in dialogue with the Jews and focuses on the inauguration of the kingdom promised in the OT. He sees this anticipation as fulfilled in the church, in a very real and concrete way, which reaches out to all the unredeemed in the world.

The Jewish answer could be described by saying that God forces Israel to repent through suffering. The Christian answer is that God brings the sinner, whether a Jew or a Gentile, to repentance through his own suffering in the cross of Jesus. The ultimate difference between Jews and Christians lies in the attitude to the crucified Christ. 102.

The final question of chapter 3 is “Who do you say that I am?” This question turns things around, as Jesus is the one asking the question, and requires the reader to make a response to Jesus. The hope of the world is now centered in Jesus, who has fulfilled the hope of Israel. We follow because we believe the crucified one is also the returning one who will “make all things new.”

This question of Christ can only be answered by a new creation, in which the novelty which is Jesus is no longer a novelty, and his cross is no longer a scandal, and in which they have become the basis and the light of the kingdom. By confessing Jesus as the Christ, faith also confesses that this future of his is real...Thus it is profoundly significant that the name of Jesus and his history remain fixed, as fixed as his death, whereas the titles of Christ which are a response to his openness are historically changeable with the passing of time, and in fact change history. 106.

Chapter 4, The Historical Trial of Jesus, is an attempt to “achieve an understanding of the crucified Christ, first of all in the light of his life and ministry, which led to his crucifixion.” (112) He again emphasizes the historical crucified Jesus cannot be separated from the risen Christ. By “the trial of Jesus” he means “the struggle for the truth of God in which he came forward as a witness.” The first question he asks is about the origin of Christology. How did the Jesus who preached become the Jesus who was preached? He finds the answer in the cross and resurrection….

He who proclaimed that the kingdom was near died abandoned by God. He who anticipated the future of God in miracles and in casting out demons died helpless on the cross. He who revealed the righteousness of God with an authority greater than Moses died according to the provision of the law as a blasphemer. He who spread the love of God in his fellowship with the poor and the sinners met his end between two criminals on the cross. Thus in the end the basic problem and the starting point of Christology is the scandal and the folly of the cross. 125.

Moltmann begins the second part of the chapter,  Jesus’ Way to the Cross, by stating that the death of Jesus on the cross is an assured historical fact. The key question is the meaning of his death. On one side the death and resurrection points to the fulfillment of the law by Jesus and the offer of righteousness through grace alone. On the other side it condemned the powers and authorities of this world while simultaneously offering forgiveness in the person of the crucified Jesus. It brought the outcasts of all the world into fellowship with God.

Faith in the crucified Christ is in the political sense a public testimony to the freedom of Christ and the law of grace in the face of the political religions of nations, empires, races and classes. Between faith in Christ and the deified rulers of the world, the personal cults and the social and political fetishes of society, Jesus himself stands. The recollection of his crucifixion is something both dangerous and liberating. 145.

The cross of the Son divides God from God to the utmost degree of enmity and distinction. The resurrection of the Son abandoned by God unites God with God in the most intimate fellowship. 52.

Chapter 5, “THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TRIAL OF JESUS CHRIST” faces “the task of understanding his death and his life and thus his whole historical appearance in the context of his resurrection from the dead and of eschatological faith.” (160)

Christian faith essentially reads the history of Jesus back to front: his cross is understood in the light of his resurrection, his way to the cross in the light of the saving meaning of his cross, his words and miracles in the light of his Easter exaltation to be Lord. Even his insignificant birth is recalled and narrated in the light of his crucifixion. 162.

Moltmann defines resurrection as “a qualitatively new life which no longer knows death and therefore cannot be a continuation of this mortal life.” (169–170). This is the foundation of both future hope and present Christian experience and life. It gives hope to the outcasts, poor and sufferers of the world…

The message of the new righteousness which eschatological faith brings into the world says that in fact the executioners will not finally triumph over their victims. It also says that in the end the victims will not triumph over their executioners. The one will triumph who first died for the victims and then also for the executioners, and in so doing revealed a new righteousness which breaks through the vicious circles of hate and vengeance and which from the lost victims and executioners creates a new mankind with a new humanity. 178.

The significance of the cross is seen in the fact that the rejected one has become the lord of the universe. Jesus can, thus, both represent God in this unredeemed world and bring in his kingdom as holy God in judgment. In the present it brings “liberating love” to the world and, in the end, God’s perfect kingdom.

Therefore we must say that Christ’s death on the cross is ‘the significance’ of his resurrection for us. Conversely, any interpretation of the meaning of his death which does not have as a presupposition his resurrection from the dead is a hopeless matter, because it cannot communicate the new element of life and salvation which came to light in his resurrection. Christ did not die only as that expiatory offering in which the law was restored or the original creation was reconstituted after the fall of man. He died ‘for us’, to give us, ‘the dead’, a share in his new life of resurrection and in his future of eternal life. 186.

The surprising thing here is that “God not only acted in the crucifixion of Jesus or sorrowfully allowed it to happen, but was himself active with his own being in the dying Jesus and suffered with him.” (190) thus reconciling the world to himself. It is the crucified loving God who brings in the kingdom and lives it through his church in the present.

Creation, new creation and resurrection are external works of God against chaos, nothingness and death. The suffering and dying of Jesus, understood as the suffering and dying of the Son of God, on the other hand, are works of God towards himself and therefore at the same time passions of God. God overcomes himself, God passes judgment on himself, God takes the judgment on the sin of man upon himself. He assigns to himself the fate that men should by rights endure. The cross of Jesus, understood as the cross of the Son of God, therefore reveals a change in God, a stasis within the Godhead: ‘God is other.’ And this event in God is the event on the cross. It takes on Christian form in the simple formula which contradicts all possible metaphysical and historical ideas of God: ‘God is love.’ 192–193.

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