Hello Readers, it has been too long. Quickly catching up: I spent a large chunk of last semester trying to get acquainted with Moltmann. One of the prevalent issues I encountered and that was in my mind at the outset (primarily because of this) was the need to make sense of how Moltmann’s theology has changed. While I am still wading in the waters here I think I’m beginning to understand why this somewhat common “problem” among major theologians is especially vexing when it comes to Moltmann. In my final essay for my independent study I began to flesh out my understanding of whether/how Moltmann changed through examining how he related certain elements in his thought throughout his career-a type of test case essentially. Since that essay is still pretty raw and I hope to develop it for publication, I will hold off for now on that and simply turn to you readers: what do you think?
Hopefully tomorrow I will start posting outlines of Moltmann’s works, starting with The Crucified God. These will be nothing fancy, just lightly edited and adapted entries from my academic journal. I’m hopeful that if formatted properly they will stimulate some interesting conversation. In anticipation of that, here is a quote I found quite moving:
Anyone who does not put himself to the test is hardly tried or tested at all. Only when, with all the understanding and consistency he possesses, a man follows Christ along the way of self-emptying into non-identity, does he encounter contradiction, resistance and opposition. Only when he leaves behind the circle of those who share and reinforce his opinions in the church, to go out into the anonymity of slums and peace movements, in a society ‘where the absence of peace is organized’, is he tempted and tested, inwardly and outwardly. Then the crisis inevitably comes, in which the identity of that for which he involves and commits himself comes into question, and a decision has to be made about it .
Apparently even among renown theologians some topics are off-limits at the proverbial dinner table:
Whereas he knew that I was on the side of the Latin American Liberation Theologians, he [Pannenberg] fought vigorously against them … with the aim of silencing liberation theology. Since then we have preferred to talk about problems of the immanent Trinity rather than about politics.
So if you’re scoring at home, theology yes (if you must), but politics no-avoid at all cost, even at the cost of discussing the immanent Trinity instead.
Jurgen Moltmann, A Broad Place, 107.
Fall semester is here, my first as a PhD student. It has been a couple weeks, and so far I am enjoying it quite a bit. This is b/c, in addition to the excitement that comes with finally starting, I am starting to feel a bit more comfortable on campus, and think the other newcomers to the program will be a pleasure to interact and work with.
Although my grandiose vision for blogging through my entrance exam prep quickly revealed itself to be too much extra work, I’m happy to report that I’m cautiously optimistic that I did well, and hopefully I will never have to think of the final week of prep again.
All in all, it is an exciting time, and I look forward to seeing how this first year plays out. While it is clear that I shouldn’t make any promises when it comes to the future here, & thus will refuse to make any, I’m hopeful to post here and there on subjects related to my fall schedule: (1) American Theology in the 20th Century, (2) God and the Doctrine of the Trinity, & (3) the Thought of Jürgen Moltmann.
On Edit: (1) I will also be taking up Latin again (another summer task that was punted in light of entrance exams), so I may mention that as well, and ANY tips in learning the language are much appreciated. I get the sense that the language requirements may be the most difficult aspect of this process for me. (2) I have updated the “my reading habits” widget to reflect my week’s work-be sure to check it out over the semester to see what I’m working on, as I hope to update it weekly.
So, what was initially supposed to be a week hiatus turned into roughly 3. Without further delay, let’s resume by shifting gears to pneumatology, where Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen has provided a helpful typology to survey major “contemporary approaches” in pneumatology, each illustrated by a representative theologian:
- According to Kärkkäinen, Moltmann’s Spirit of Life represents the trend of blending traditional and novel approaches to pneumatology. Moltmann brings pneumatology into conversation with pressing social concerns like “the environment, justice, and equality” while also seeking to deal with “traditional topics, such as the Trinity.” While this approach may not seem especially provocative initially, what makes Moltmann’s approach interesting is the level of integration he seeks between current and traditional questions. As Kärkkäinen writes, Moltmann “is in search of a ‘holistic’ pneumatology in which the doctrine of the Spirit encompasses areas that are often left behind in older pneumatologies, such as the human body and the earth.” Thus Moltmann is not merely trying to apply traditional dogmatic inquiries and answers to pressing concerns, but rather seeks to cast a wider net of investigation throughout the process of theological construction.
- In Michael Welker’s book, God the Spirit, Welker makes two methodological moves in developing his pneumatology worthy of attention. First, Welker attends to the biblical witness, and does so not in the interest of proof-texting, but rather “to discern the patterns and leading themes that emerge from the biblical discussion of pneumatology.” Second, Welker does not try to systematize the diverse perspectives, but rather “allows the plurality its own witness.” It is this second move that grants significance to the first, because while Welker has attempted to develop a “biblical theology of the Spirit,” it is one that departs from the normal meaning of that term.
- Finally we turn to the late Clark Pinnock, and his Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit. Simply stated, in this work Pinnock “endeavors to construct a full-scale systematic theology from a pneumatological perspective.” Traditional theological loci are treated in light of “pneumatological foundations.”
While there are other important approaches to pneumatology today (which we will survey in the future), Kärkkäinen believes these to be the major ones; holistic, realistic, and foundational. Obviously, typology can be a dangerous tool to theological work, being useful primarily as an object of deconstruction once the preparatory service it provides has been rendered. So, how would you poke, pull, and blur the edges of Kärkkäinen’s typology? Is there anything he is missing that borders on criminal? In trying to explain contemporary approaches to pneumatology to a first year M.A. student, what, if anything, would you change or amend?
While interacting critically with Kärkkäinen’s typology is valuable what interests me more is how each approach illuminates a major concern in contemporary pneumatology. That will be the subject of the next post.
Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti. Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.
This week has been consumed by work & preparing to see my family this weekend for the first time since moving to MN. The CCH will return next week after they are gone, but for now here is a quote that despite it’s apparent banality struck me this morning:
No religion can survive which does not know where it is. And current religion does not know where it is, and it hates to be made to ask. It hates theology.
Sadly, the CCH hasn’t gotten off the ground yet. BUT, I’m determined that neither circumstances nor laziness will kill this series. I think I’m ready to go now, so check back tomorrow evening for the first post in this series.