Monday, August 27, 2012

Opening Up of History: What Would Moltmann Say to Us?

Moltmann in Chicago 2009
One of the features of Jürgen Moltmann's theology that really speaks to me is how we, as the people of God's promise, experience history. Through the cross and resurrection of Christ history is opened up to the new possibilities created by the promise of God. In Kingdom terms, we experience the inbreaking of Kingdom reality in the present (history) which opens up new possibilities for Christianity, humanity, and even beyond. There are two aspects of Moltmann's notion of the promise that opens up history that I want to present for our meditation: first, the promise is what the Father has done, is doing, and will bring to completion; and second, hope is hope for history.

Doing What the Father Is Doing

One of the things I love about the Vineyard is our passion to be doing what we see the Father doing. Moltmann insists that the Bible is the narrative recounting of God's promise. We see in it the record of God's faithfulness which orients us towards what God is continuing to do with hope to one day experience the fulness when 'God is all in all' (Motmann's favourite eschatological passage: 1 Cor 15:28). Sometimes we get hung up on what God has done already - when we live there it is like living on the mountain of transfiguration. We should not misread that account as a cop out - what happened on the mount of transfiguration was truly amazing. But it was meant to orient the disciples in their ministries at that moment in time - they needed to see Jesus alone. When we want to stay on the mount we are building a tabernacle to the past. We are not allowing the past to lead us to the present. But our experience of God's promise through the narrative history of the Bible does not just park us in the present either. God's promise orients us to see Jesus who actively does all that he sees the Father doing (not having done or hoping to do in the future). We need to see Jesus alone to be properly grounded in the present. This promise grounds us in the present in a particular way. It is not what theologians call an over-realized grounding (that is a fancy word for the Kingdom being all about the now and not the not-yet). It is not an unrealistic view of the present as if somehow we bypass or turn a blind eye to the effects of sin in our present reality. Jesus didn't bypass reality - he faced it head on with a willingness to do whatever it took to open history to God's promise. Not my will was his prayer in the garden. Moltmann tells us that the promise of God creates a conflict or contrast with our experience of the present. This conflict shows us where the Father is moving. Wherever we see this contrast Moltmann encourages us to be doing what the Father is doing.

Hope is a Hope for History

As the people of God's promise we are oriented towards hope. Moltmann tells us that anything less that a hope for the whole cosmos is not worthy of God. That's huge. We sometimes just want the future, the end of the promise and so we sit waiting on the sidelines for the end to come. But to do so is to abandon history to hopelessness. Moltmann tells us that this is the primary function of the millennium - it is that moment of consummation which is a transition from history redeemed to the end of history where God will be all in all. How can we who have a millennial hope believe God wants simply to abandon history to the destructiveness of sin and death? What Moltmann's millennialism avoids is a sort of triumphalism that sees all that has gone before (history past) being simply swept away in some sort of cosmic reboot. The history of God's promise is one of redemption. It is not a history of a far off clock-maker God who cares not how this world runs down. Our God is the one who sent Jesus into the world for the sake of all that is (cosmos is the term in John 3:16, any love less than this is frankly not worthy of God). It is the God who sent the Holy Spirit to be with us always. This is a God who redeems, draws near, revolutionizes and tranforms the world. Moltmann encourages us to have a hope that matches our God. To see, in God, the opening of history to the redemptive possibilities of God's promise. To be the people of God's promise.

So let's be about the Father's business and not sell God short as we passionately follow the Creator and Redeemer of all things. 

Frank Emanuel - Ontario Region

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