Reformed Theologian, Jürgen Moltmann

Posted by Suthee.Thumasathit on August 3, 2017

J Moltmann

Jürgen Moltmann was born on April 8, 1926 in Hamburg, Germany. He grew up in a secular family, and enjoyed reading the works of German idealists such as Lessing, Goethe, and Nietzsche. As a teen, he also idolized the work of Albert Einstein.  

During World War II, he served in the German Air Force, but surrendered to the first British soldier that he met in 1945. After that, he was imprisoned in several prisoner of war camps. In one of the camps, he met a small group of Christians and was given the New Testament and Psalms by an American chaplain. At first he read out of boredom, but later grew convicted by Scripture. In his own words, “I didn’t find Christ, he found me.” Moltmann was eventually transferred to Norton Camp, where he met many theologians and began to study Reinhold Niebuhr’s Nature and Destiny of Man. This book taught him how suffering and hope reinforce each other, and it played a profound role in shaping his theology.

After the war, he returned to Germany and began to study theology at Gottingen University. While there, he was strongly influenced by the writings of Karl Barth. He received his doctorate in 1952 and married Elizabeth Wendel, who also received her doctorate at Gottingen. He then became the pastor of the Evangelical Church of Bremman-Wasserhorst and afterwards a theology professor at an academy at Wuppertal. A faculty position at the University of Bonn followed. Finally, he was appointed to the position of professor of systematic theology at Tübingen University, where he served until his retirement in 1994.

Moltmann’s most important work is the Theology of Hope. His theology is built on eschatology and the hope given by the resurrected Christ. He demonstrates a passion for God in the present and also the Kingdom of God in the future. Through his writings, he urges the reader to view the present through the lens of the future. This type of perspective of eschatology makes the hope of the future, the hope of today. The other two volumes of his landmark trilogy are The Crucified God and The Church in the Power of the Spirit.

Moltmann also espouses some of the ideas of liberation theology. He believes that both the oppressed and oppressor need reconciliation. In his words, "Oppression has two sides: on one side there is the master, on the other side the slave… Oppression destroys humanity on both sides."

In his writings, Moltmann also stresses trinitarian theology. He warns against seeing God as only a monotheistic God, as this can lead to political and clerical absolute monarchism. He suggests that we view God in a trinitarian sense as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He believes in the perichoresis of the three Persons of the Trinity – that is, that they all dwell within each other.

As a modern-day reformer, Jürgen Moltmann has shaped the body of reformation thought. Even in his days as a prisoner of war, experiencing suffering, his theology of hope was being formed. He has been a prolific writer, publishing nine major works and at least 35 others. Throughout his long career, he has served as a dedicated professor, teacher, scholar, and theologian.  

Suthee Thumasathit is a Thailand native who grew up in Iowa and is now practices internal medicine for Texas Health Resources. He is a leader in NorthPark's Thai Fellowship and a current NorthPark Presbyterian elder.


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