Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Crucified God by JÜrgen Moltmann #3

51yqieBgJzL._AA160_The three final chapters of the The Crucified God, are “three systematic chapters which will develop the consequences of this theology of the crucified Christ for the concept of God (Chapter 6), for anthropology (Chapter 7) and for a critical theory of church and society (Chapter 8). These chapters are basically applications of the previous ones to theology, psychology and politics/culture.

Chapter 6 asks the question, how do we form a concept of God “which seeks to understand ‘the godforsakenness of Jesus’ on the cross.” Do we really begin and base our theology on the cross? The center of theology must be the “resurrection of the crucified Christ.” The cross involves the entire Trinity.

‘On the cross, God stretched out his hands to embrace the ends of the earth,’ said Cyril of Jerusalem. This is a symbolic expression. He invites the whole earth to understand his suffering and his hopes in the outstretched arms of the crucified Jesus and therefore in God. ‘O blessed tree on which God was outstretched.’ This symbol is an invitation to understand the Christ hanging on the cross as the ‘outstretched’ God of the Trinity. 207

In the next section of the chapter Moltmann follows Luther’s understanding of the cross as “as God’s protest against the misuse of his name for the purpose of a religious consummation of human wisdom, human works and the Christian imperialism of medieval ecclesiastical society. It is a protest for the freedom of faith. (208) We don’t understand mainly through dry, speculative theology but through how he has supremely revealed himself in the cross.

To know God in the cross of Christ is a crucifying form of knowledge, because it shatters everything to which a man can hold and on which he can build, both his works and his knowledge of reality, and precisely in so doing sets him free. 212.

The cross is ‘set up in the cosmos to establish the unstable’, we read in the apocryphal Acts of Andrew. There is a truth here: it is set up in the cosmos in order to give future to that which is passing away, firmness to that which is unsteady, openness to that which is fixed, hope to the hopeless, and in this way to gather all that is and all that is no more into the new creation. 219

The theist who does make the cross is not the center of theology becomes “brother to the atheist.” A God who does not suffer with his world and is unaffected by it is not the God of the cross or scripture.

A God who cannot suffer is poorer than any man. For a God who is incapable of suffering is a being who cannot be involved. Suffering and injustice do not affect him. And because he is so completely insensitive, he cannot be affected or shaken by anything. He cannot weep, for he has no tears. But the one who cannot suffer cannot love either. So he is also a loveless being. 222

God himself loves and suffers the death of Christ in his love. He is no ‘cold heavenly power’, nor does he ‘tread his way over corpses’, but is known as the human God in the crucified Son of Man. 227

It is only when theology is centered in the cross, that one can make sense of the incarnation and the two natures of Christ.

So if we are to speak seriously of salvation in fellowship with God, we must go beyond the general distinctions between God and the world, or God and man, and penetrate the special relationships between God and the world and God and man in the history of Christ...God became man that dehumanized men might become true men. We become true men in the community of the incarnate, the suffering and loving, the human God. 231

We also need to center theology in the cross for a proper understanding of the Trinity. “The shortest expression of the Trinity is the divine act of the cross, in which the Father allows the Son to sacrifice himself through the Spirit. (241)

What Jesus commanded in the Sermon on the Mount as love of one’s enemy has taken place on the cross through Jesus’ dying and the grief of the Father in the power of the spirit, for the godless and the loveless. 248.

A start from the cross helps us to see God, not as just a unity, but as a Trinitarian, relational being who can love.

With a trinitarian theology of the cross faith escapes the dispute between and the alternative of theism and atheism: God is not only other-worldly but also this-worldly; he is not only God, but also man; he is not only rule, authority and law but the event of suffering, liberating love. Conversely, the death of the Son is not the ‘death of God’, but the beginning of that God event in which the life-giving spirit of love emerges from the death of the Son and the grief of the Father. 252.

Then the call to obey and serve God becomes a call to love and be loved.

If Christian belief thinks in trinitarian terms, it says that forsaken men are already taken up by Christ’s forsakenness into the divine history and that we ‘live in God’, because we participate in the eschatological life of God by virtue of the death of Christ. God is, God is in us, God suffers in us, where love suffers. We participate in the trinitarian process of God’s history. Just as we participate actively and passively in the suffering of God, so too we will participate in the joy of God wherever we love and pray and hope. 255.

If the relationship with God, Christ and us is only functional – we just need Christ to be perfected and have eternal life – then Jesus becomes superfluous in the final kingdom. But if the purpose is eternal relationship within the relationships of the Trinity it has eternal value.

The goal of the consummation does not lie in the dissolution by Christ of his rule so that it is taken up into the rule of God, but in the consummation of the obedience of the Son and thus in the consummation of the brotherhood of believers. 266.

And we participate in eternal relationship and experience of the Trinity and with each other.

God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, 276.

Chapter 7 attempts to answer the question, “Who is man in the face of the rejected Son of Man who was raised up in the freedom of God? How does he develop his life in the field of force of the passion of the crucified God?” 291.

Faith in the resurrection becomes faith that raises up, wherever it transforms psychological and social systems, so that instead of being oriented on death they are oriented on life. The prayer of Jesus, ‘And deliver us from evil’, is experienced and put into practice where men are liberated from these vicious circles, where the will to life is restored, and man comes out of the rigor mortis of apathy and regains his life once more. 294.

In the chapter he has a “conversation” with Freud’s idea that “neurosis is a caricature of religion.” Moltmann suggests that this is true in most traditional Christian religion which does not center itself in the cross and he suggests that we should take Freud as a corrective.

The prohibition against making images and likenesses, bowing down to them and worshipping them, is meant to protect the freedom of God and the freedom of his image in every man. This freedom is lost where the prejudices of tradition or the fixed ideas of ideology hold man’s understanding captive. It is lost where men worship their own works and bow themselves down to their own creatures, and where the objects that they have made gain power over them. The illumination of prejudices is therefore a liberation from the tutelage of tradition. 297.

We tend to replace real relationship with Christ with obsessive ritual which produces anxiety instead of peace.

Men who have not found their freedom in the humanity of God but, for whatever reason, feel anxiety at this God and the freedom that is expected of them, cling to the law of repressions. They then expect eternal support from things which offer no support. They hope for the absolute from relative values and eternal joy from transitory happiness. Instead of resolving conflicts, they construct aggressive images of enmity and make their enemies into demons in order to kill them spiritually. 301.

Or we set up “obsessional authoritarian and legalistic structures of church practice” to create guilt to control people. These are shown to be superfluous in the crucifixion and resurrection of the human God.

For Christian faith the crucified Christ stands between the slaughtered God and his apathetic, witless slaughterers. The conflict between guilt and anxiety, between guilty liberation and necessary reconciliation, between authority and annihilation, is transferred to God himself. God allows himself to be humiliated and crucified in the Son, in order to free the oppressors and the oppressed from oppression and to open up to them the situation of free, sympathetic humanity. 307

Or we live in a dream world and live by the “pleasure principle.” Of course, this is shattered by the reality of death. Only a life centered on the crucified and resurrected one has real hope.

The central symbol of Christian hope, the resurrection, is expressly related to the assumption of all human reality by God, including that reality which is spoilt by sin and condemned to death. It therefore represents a hope which is indissolubly coupled with the most intensive sense of reality. 312.

The final chapter looks at the question, “What are the economic, social and political consequences of the gospel of the Son of Man who was crucified as a ‘rebel’?” (317) Moltmann’s main point is…

The freedom of faith is lived out in political freedom. The freedom of faith therefore urges men on towards liberating actions, because it makes them painfully aware of suffering in situations of exploitation, oppression, alienation and captivity. 317.

He advocates that faith and politics must correspond, not be separated. He recognizes that politics do not bring real freedom in Christ requires a corresponding response in society that mirrors Christ and what he has done for us.

The path of a theology of the cross that is critical of society goes between irrelevant Christian identity and social relevance without Christian identity. It must make the idols of bourgeois religion superfluous in their own place and destroy them. In place of the ritual integration of a people, a race or a class and its confirmation of itself as a symbol, it must develop openness for the recognition of others and a humanity that is free from anxiety and self-esteem. 324–325.

People liberated by Christ have a responsibility to speak truth and liberation to the culture around them and to hold the organized church accountable.

Wherever Christianity extends, the idea of the state changes. Political rule is no longer accepted as God-given, but is understood as a task the fulfillment of which must be constantly justified... Christians will seek to anticipate the future of Christ according to the measure of the possibilities available to them, by breaking down lordship and building up the political liveliness of each individual. 328–329.

The church then has a responsibility to work to bring Christ’s liberation to people from “vicious cycles of death” like poverty, racism, and economic oppression. The church should be a catalyst for unity between man and God, human and human, and humanity and nature.

There can be no conquest of poverty and oppression without the liberation of men from their racial, cultural and technocratic alienation. 331.

In a situation of godforsakenness and senselessness the knowledge of the hidden presence of God in the godforsaken Christ on the cross already gives ‘courage to be’, despite nothingness and all annihilating experiences. Hell does not lie before men. It has been conquered in the cross. 335.

We prepare for the kingdom by living it out now. We prepare for it by being agents of liberation and transformation as we wait for Jesus to consummate it at his 2nd coming.

In the vicious circle of poverty it can be said: ‘God is not dead. He is bread.’ God is present as bread in that he is the unconditional which draws near, in the present sense. In the vicious circle of force God’s presence is experienced as liberation for human dignity and responsibility. In the vicious circle of alienation his presence is perceived in the experience of human identity and recognition. In the vicious circle of the destruction of nature God is present in joy in existence and in peace between man and nature. In the vicious circle of meaninglessness and godforsakenness, finally, he comes forward in the figure of the crucified Christ, who communicates courage to be. 337–338.

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