God And History In Jürgen Moltmann -- By: Randall E. Otto

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 35:3 (Sep 1992)
Article: God And History In Jürgen Moltmann
Author: Randall E. Otto


God And History In Jürgen Moltmann

Randall E. Otto*

It is the judgment of Jürgen Moltmann that God and history must be conceived in dialectical relation. In this way the idea of God garnered from history will be devoid of the philosophical prejudice that has ostensibly plagued Christian conceptions of the Deity hitherto. Although Moltmann purports to derive his historical orientation from the OT, this essay will endeavor to show that he has actually imposed upon the OT a revisionist Marxist view of history, resulting in a view of God that is alien to the OT and that is instead the processive becoming of humanity.

I. The Idea Of History In Israel

According to Moltmann, if Christian theology is to have a proper concept of God it must think historically since for Israel there was a dialectical interplay between God and history. In the words of von Rad, “there was history for Israel only insofar as God accompanied her; only this and no other temporal expanse can be so described.”1 Hence, Moltmann says, “The experience of reality as history was made possible for Israel by the fact that God was revealed to Israel in his promises and that Israel saw the revealing of God again and again in the uttering of his promises.”2 The promise of God opened up history for Israel and controlled all its experiences. Hence history is a peculiarly Hebrew phenomenon.

As an originally nomadic people, Israel by nature had a religion of promise since the nomad does not live within the cycle of seedtime and harvest as do agrarian peoples, who hallow times, places and seasons that thereby become bearers of hierophanies and are sanctified as protection against chaos by being anchored in the eternal cosmic order. In the agrarian cultus, time the great destroyer is thus regenerated by means of the periodic celebrational return to the beginning (restitutio ad integrum). “To the sanctification conferred at the places of epiphany upon the area in which man lives and builds, menaced as it is by chaos, there corresponds

*Randall Otto is pastor of Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, Box 516, Trumbauersville, PA 18970.

the sanctification of time in the cyclical recurrence of the epiphany of the gods in times of festival.”3 Epiphany religions thus conceive a world out of which man flees to an unchangeable God in whom is no chaos but rather rest. Epiphany religion underlies any religious speech of the “self-disclosing” of the divine.

The striking thing for Moltmann is ...

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