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The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology

By Jrgen Moltmann New York, Harper & Row, 1974. 346 pp. $ 10.00. Moltmann's new book is an important theological event. It will certainly attract as much attention as his highly influential Theology of Hope published a decade ago and when compared with it will no doubt raise the question whether the author has performed a theological somersault. Whereas the Theology of Hope presented theology as eschatology "from first to last," The Crucified God contends that the cross of Christ is the foundation and norm of Christian theology and discipleship. Whereas previously Moltmann emphasized the resurrection of the crucified Lord, the recent book stresses the continuing significance of the cross of the resurrected Jesus. Whereas Moltmann spoke earlier of the promise of God that keeps history open to the new and which constitutes the horizon of the mission of the church, he now argues that the event of the crucified God is the "field of force" in which the liberation of personal and social life takes place. Moltmann readily acknowledges that a shift of emphasis in his thought has occurred, but be does not view this as a reversal of the themes announced in the Theology of Hope. Rather he sees his new book as deepening the earlier themes and distinguishing them unmistakably from the cheap hopes of bourgeois optimism and from the instant utopias of the new revolutionaries. If the aim of the Theology of Hope was to arouse the critical and revolutionizing power of Christian hope from its dogmatic slumbers, the purpose of The Crucified God is to identify the distinctive basis and discipline of Christian hope. Although "eschatology of the cross" was, for careful readers, already a mark of his earlier thought, Moltmann now makes it absolutely clear that in his view there is no resurrection without crucifixion, no Exodus church without learning obedience in the wilderness, no authentic proclamation of the promise of God without recognition of the passion of God. "Unless it apprehends the pain of the negative, Christian hope cannot be realistic and liberating" (p. 5). The book thus deals basically with the questions: What is the basis of Christian solidarity with the poor and the misery both of the oppressed and of the oppressors? What gives hope in God's promised kingdom its staying power in face of terrible evil? How is it possible to continue to love and hope in the midst of repeated disappointments, suffering, and death? How is the passion for righteousness kept alive and protected from the cynicism and bitterness that often follow defeat in the struggle for liberation? How is apathy, the great spiritual sickness of our time, combated? Moltmann's response to these questions is to engage in radical rethinking of the theology of the cross. At its deepest level the cross of Christ reveals that "God's being is in suffering, and suffering is in God's being itself, because God is love" (p. 227). Only this "revolution in the concept of God" (p. 152) provides a proper theological foundation for Christian solidarity with the despised, abandoned, and oppressed of the earth. A theology of the crucified God is the necessary basis of a theology of liberation. Moltmann contends that the cross of Christ must not be interpreted abstractly and a historically. Rather it must be understood in relation to the concrete historical struggles of Jesus and in light of his resurrection. Jesus' proclamation of the free grace of God

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brought him into collision with the custodians of the Jewish law. His preaching and ministry also called in question the ultimacy of Roman imperial power, though he was not a Zealot. He was thus put to death as a "blasphemer" and a "rebel." Most disturbing of all, however, Jesus died abandoned by the God whom he had dared to call "my Father." Moltmann places immense weight on Jesus' cry of forsakenness on the cross (Mark 15:34) and claims that "all Christian theology and all Christian life is basically an answer to the question which Jesus asked as he died" (p. 4). Seen in the light of the resurrection, the god-forsakenness of the Son of God constitutes a revolution in the concept of God. According to Moltmann, the theology of the cross and the development of the doctrine of the Trinity are the two traditions in Christian theology which have taken account of the cross in thinking and speaking of God. Moltmann's most innovative and provocative proposal is to fuse these two traditions into an interpretive unity. "The material principle of the Trinity is the cross of Christ. The formal principle of knowledge of the cross is the doctrine of the Trinity" (p. 241). In the cross of Christ, God takes suffering and death into himself in order to open up in himself life and freedom for sinners and the godforsaken. If the death of Jesus is an expression of the being of God, then God cannot be the immutable and impassible deity assumed by so many theists and atheists alike. The traditional theism of the church and the orthodox two-natures Christology presuppose the axiom that God cannot suffer. This axiom, derived from classical metaphysics rather than the biblical witness, is shattered on the cross as an event of God. Suffering, abandonment, and death are taken into God. "Only if all disaster, forsakenness by God, absolute death, the infinite curse of damnation and sinking into nothingness is in God himself, is community with this God eternal salvation, infinite joy, indestructible election, and divine life" (p. 246). For a trinitarian theology of the cross, "the Trinity is no group in heaven, but an eschatological process open for men on earth, which stems from the cross of Christ" (p. 249). From the Son's obedient surrender to the Father unto death and the Father's painful surrender of the Son and experience of his death, there issues the worldtransforming Spirit of love "which justifies the godless, fills the forsaken with love and even brings the dead alive, since even the fact that they are dead cannot exclude them from the event of the cross; the death in God also includes them" (p. 244). There is nothing that can exclude the godforsaken from "the situation of God between the grief of the Father, the love of the Son, and the drive of the Spirit" (p. 277). Thus, for Moltmann the suffering love of the triune God constitutes the ultimate basis of the power of human love to continue in the midst of opposition, to remain open and vulnerable, to persevere in hope, even in face of the final negation, death. "God in Auschwitz and Auschwitz in the crucified God-that is the basis for a real hope which both embraces and overcomes the world, and the ground for a love which is stronger than death and can sustain death" (p. 278). In the two concluding chapters of the book, Moltmann attempts to show the psychological and political relevance of the Christian revolution in the understanding of God. Since man always develops his humanity in relation to what he believes to be truly divine, the question becomes, "How does man develop his life in the field of force of the passion of the crucified God" (p. 291)? As Freudian analysis has shown, individuals who repress painful and ugly experiences may fall victim to "vicious

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circles" of behavior, i.e., legalistic patterns that lock people into fearful, repetitive, and unfruitful existence. Moltmann agrees with Freud that religion, including Christianity, can function in support of repression and escapist illusions. Yet the true message of Christianity is liberating rather than enslaving. If God is the crucified God, the theological basis of repression is removed. "In the situation of the human God the pattern formations of repression become unnecessary. The limitations of apathy fall away. Man can open himself to suffering and love. In sympatheia with the pathos of God he becomes open to what is other and new" (p. 303). There are also social, economic, and political "vicious circles." The Reformation theologia crucis was elaborated to combat the vicious circles created by the church. Today a theology of the cross must also oppose the vicious circles of modern social and political systems that are officially optimistic but "knee deep in blood" (p. 4). To interpret the theology of the cross politically means to expose the civil religions which serve to justify and to integrate ritually particular societies, however closed and repressive they may be. It also means struggling against the vicious circles of poverty, violence, racism, pollution of nature, and the general modern experience of meaninglessness. It is clear that Moltmann wants to avoid the disastrous split between individualexistential and social-political hermeneutics. Both are required to bring out the full meaning of the proclamation of the crucified God. "As human life is complex and is lived at the same time in a number of spheres and dimensions, a number of hermeneutical processes are necessary" (p. 292). This concern to avoid one-sidedness also appears in Moltmann's discussion of vicious circles such as poverty, racism, and the exploitation of nature. These are seen as "reciprocally related." "Therefore liberation must be sought in all ... dimensions simultaneously in every specific situation. Anyone who falls short here is courting death" (p. 336). A book as original as this is bound to raise many questions. One problem is whether Moltmann's powerful emphasis on the vulnerability and passion of God is consistent with the theme of divine freedom characteristic of Reformed theology and impressively restated in the Theology of Hope. I think a clear yes can be given to this question. It should be remembered that Moltmann is a master dialectician. For him God's suffering is by no means a matter of necessity or fate but the most profound expression of his freedom. God suffers not because he is forced to suffer but because he freely wills to reach out in costly love toward his creatures. Another question has to do with Moltmann's epistemology and his theological method. While he wants to make room for the use of analogy within the "negative dialectic" of the theology of the cross, it is not clear just how this works. To put the question sharply: is there any important sense in which the human experience of love helps us to understand what transpired between Jesus and his Father even if that event is seen by faith as the decisive disclosure of the depths of love? Daniel Day Williams, who was as emphatic as Moltmann in speaking of the suffering God in contrast to the invulnerable God of classical metaphysics, insisted, rightly I think, that the source of our understanding of the structure and dynamics of love cannot be restricted to the revelation of God's suffering love in Christ. An analysis of love in human experience gives us some insight into the fact that there can be no love without suffering. Does not

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Moltmann in fact presuppose this in his frequent use of Hegel's description of the dynamics of love? A related question concerns the tension between the theoretical and the practical aspects of the book. Moltmann's aim to provide a solid theological basis for Christian faith and practice in the midst of affliction speaks to an urgent need. His restatement of the doctrine of the Trinity to show its profound relevance to the human situation is probably the most important contribution to trinitarian thinking since Barth. The difficulty is whether Moltmann's remarkable presentation of the trinitarian history of God as an eschatological process into which the history of suffering creatures is taken up and transformed can be prevented from slipping into a speculative theodicy. Moltmann surely does not want it to become that. Perhaps more than any other contemporary theologian, he has emphasized the necessary bond between theory and practice, doctrine and life. It is therefore to be hoped that the response to Moltmann's latest work will not get bogged down in speculative controversy and ignore the development and reshaping of Christian discipleship "in the situation of the crucified God." Daniel L. Migliore Princeton Theological Seminary Princeton, New Jersey

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