Vale, Jürgen Moltmann 

Vale, Jürgen Moltmann 

One of the world’s best known and celebrated theologians, Jürgen Moltmann, died on 3 June 2024. He was 98. 

Moltmann’s work influenced countless ministers and theologians, including the likes of Mirislav Volf. He was the author of dozens of books, including The Crucified God, Theology of Hope, and God in Creation. Among other ideas, he explored the concept of the divine suffering involved in the life of Christ, especially on the Cross. 

Moltmann first came to faith in a POW camp after World War Two. He was pre-deceased by his wife, Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel (1926-2016), who was also a theologian. Together they wrote a book called God: His and Hers.  

A theological pillar

Several Uniting Church ministers and theologians told Insights that Jürgen Moltmann  influenced their faith and ministries.  

Former Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford said that Moltmann brought the church the gift of, “a prophetic voice woven seamlessly with a theological voice.” 

“The journey of his life through the Second World War and its consequences, his ministry, the tragedy of his son’s death, the extraordinary theological voice of his wife Elisabeth, all informed a theologian who strove never to speak in the abstract, but with a profound understanding of, and engagement with, people’s lives, most especially all those who suffer,” he said. 

Rev. Hansford remembered reading The Crucified God as, “a “conversion” point for me in my formation for ordained ministry.” 
“My copy fell open at this quote, which informs so much of my preaching at Easter and, indeed, at the funeral of a loved friend just this week: 

The message of the new righteousness which eschatological faith brings in to the world says that in fact the executioners will not finally triumph over their victims. It also says that in the end the victims will not triumph over their executioners. The one will triumph who first died for the victims and then also for the executioners, and in doing so revealed a new righteousness which breaks through the vicious circles of hate and vengeance and which from the lost victims and executioners creates a new [humankind] with a new humanity. [The Crucified God, p.178]” 

“May Jürgen Moltmann rest in peace and rise again in glory.” 

Rev. Dr Clive Pearson is a theologian and former principal at United Theological College. 

“The 20th century produced a number of so-called theological ‘giants’ including Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Paul Tillich. Moltmann was the last of these – and the only one to live into the present century and engage with the issues now before us,” he said. 

“Other ‘giants’ are known through their ongoing influence on subsequent generations as we seek to make use of their ideas. Moltmann was different. He lived long enough to wrestle with concerns that we face – like how do you express the Christian faith in the public domain, in dialogue and distinction with other faiths and no faith, in the midst of competing spiritualities, in the wake of nuclear accidents, and a rapidly changing environment.” 
“In some ways Moltmann should never have been a theologian. He was not raised a Christian and grew up in 1930s Nazi Germany. He came to faith through the reading of Mark’s gospel and the kindness shown to him by members of the Scottish church while he was in a prisoner of war camp. One of his companion experiences was the sheer shock of surviving the fire bombing of Hamburg during the war.” 

Rev. Graham Perry told Insights that engaging with The Crucified God during his ministry formation in the late 1980s was a transformative experience.  

“Jürgen Moltmann is a theological pillar,” Rev. Perry said. 
“Like Karl Barth before him, it is impossible for a 21st century protestant theologian not to engage with him. But I would say the same for a serious pastor and preacher. I could not have understood my ministry to the world in which we live, without Moltmann’s foundation in hope and his leading toward joy.” 

“In the face of our cultural assumptions about the nature of God and the meaning of the cross, it became clear that only through the suffering of Christ could we understand and approach the God who suffers with us. This God alone could be present in and with the many sufferings of the world. In the crucified Jesus, God enters into and transforms the suffering of the poor and oppressed of the world, confronts evil as dark as the Holocaust, challenges political structures, and indeed identifies with the whole suffering creation.” 

“In one ground-breaking work after another, Moltmann addressed all the key themes of theology – Creation, Trinity, the Spirit, Eschatology and future hope, Christian life and Ethics – in dialogue with the ecological crisis, the politics of globalisation and oppression, the changing landscape of technological living, the tensions between Christians and other faiths and the opportunities for reconciliation and cooperation.” 

“This may sound relentlessly grim and serious (it’s true, Moltmann takes effort to read and digest) – but Moltmann’s work begins with the Theology of Hope and in his later years, in shorter essays, has been concerned to explore the enduring power of Joy in all that God has done and is doing,” he said. 

“What makes life worth living? is a key question for the later Moltmann and followers like Miroslav Volf.” 

Rev. Dr Seforosa Carroll told Insights that Moltmann would have a longlasting legacy. 

“Jurgen Moltmann is no doubt one of the theological greats in theology in this century,” Rev. Dr Carroll said. 

“His revolutionary theological insights will continue to be a part of theological discussions, debate and research in and beyond the theological halls.” 
“Moltmann’s theology arose out of the experience of suffering and as such theology was not mere abstraction but liberative and as such necessarily political and grounded in hope.  Moltmann grounded hope eschatologically and in the resurrection of Christ. Eschatology then, was not merely just about the “end things” or the “end times” but rather as Moltmann asserted “hope awakens our sense for potentiality and for possibilities of what could be.”” 
“Hope was a vision of a future that is already fulfilled in Christ yet recognising (quite painfully) the limitations of the not yet in the here and now. Moltmann states that “Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionising and transforming the present.”” 
“Moltmann’s ideas were not always considered orthodox in his time and thankfully so because his theological works opened alternative pathways for theological reform, thinking and (re)imagination.” 

Moltmann’s final academic journal article was published in 2023. 

A 2014 interview between Moltmann and Mirislov Volf is available to watch on YouTube. 

Insights sends condolences to Jürgen Moltmann’s family and friends.  


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