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Systematische Theologie: Dogmatik


Tang, Siu-Kwong


God’s History in the Theology of Jürgen Moltmann.


Bern-Berlin-Frankfurt/M.-New York-Paris-Wien: Lang 1996. 245 S. gr.8° = Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe XXIII: Theologie, 573. Kart. DM 70,­. ISBN 3-906-755-92-4.


Mark D. Chapman

Of the contemporary German theologians, Jürgen Moltmann is one of the most widely-read and influential in the English-speaking world, and, judging by the length of the bibliography of the secondary literature (229-235), there is something of a mini-industry devoted to his interpretation. This book by an Associate Professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Hong Kong, is based on a doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland supervised by Prof. Richard Bauckham, who is probably Britain’s leading exponent of Moltmann’s theology. After a foreword by Moltmann himself, the author offers a fairly useful synthesis of Moltmann’s many writings interpreted from the standpoint of the history of God, (which, it must be admitted, is hardly an original interpretative scheme). The opening chapters deal with the contrasts between the methods of analogy and dialectic, and are followed by treatments of eschatology, Christology, Trinity and Pneumatology; as might be expected in any account of Moltmann, the resurrection plays the pivotal role: "for the sake of this suffering world, God in Christ identifies himself with the world by entering, participating in and suffering with it so that his resurrection becomes the promise for the future of this world" (86). Overall, the picture presented of Moltmann is fairly accurate and there is a particularly good discussion of the nature of love in Chapter 6; throughout the book, however, greater account could have been given to the significant changes which have taken place in the three decades since the publication of Theologie der Hoffnung (to which Moltmann alludes in his foreword). The "appreciative appraisal" (Chapter 8.2) with which the author concludes is a little less plausible than the rest of the book: Moltmann is made into a repristinator of Aulén’s Christus Victor theory of atonement, Christ becoming the saviour who is capable of overcoming the annihilating power of nothingness (220).

Moltmann’s foreword is marred by being written in unidiomatic and sometimes frankly incomprehensible English, and contains a jarring mistake which attributes the "Gaja-hypothesis" to James Lovestock rather than Lovelock. The author’s own style is also somewhat contorted and there are frequent grammatical errors (which ought to have been picked-up before publication). At times the author goes off at tangents offering lengthy surveys of some of the thinkers who have been influential on Moltmann; the result is that he gives little more than brief and distracting text-book summaries which hardly contribute much to the discussion (e.g. the surveys of Parmenides (25-30), Kant (30-33) or Aquinas (76-79). Incidentally, given the space devoted to Moltmann’s influences it is surprising there is no discussion of Ernst Bloch. The differences between Hegel and Moltmann, however, are well-presented and coherently discussed.

The secondary literature is treated remarkably uncritically, and constant reference has to made to the footnotes to see whether it is Moltmann or some secondary source (particularly Richard Bauckham) which is being used. The gravest weakness of the book, however, is that it is based almost entirely on Moltmann’s works in their translations as well as the English-language literature, and this makes it far less useful than it might otherwise have been: in the long bibliography there are merely two German- language works cited (228-245). That said, this book is not a bad account of Moltmann’s thought, although it would have bene-fited from a thorough reworking. It is, however, no substitute for the original: Moltmann is, after all, one of the most approachable and captivating among the modern theologians.