The Eschatological Nature of Moltmann’s Theology -- By: Randall E. Otto

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 54:1 (Spring 1992)
Article: The Eschatological Nature of Moltmann’s Theology
Author: Randall E. Otto


The Eschatological Nature of Moltmann’s Theology

Randall E. Otto

It has been noted, either positively or negatively, that the theology of Järgen Moltmann is “conspicuously close to the philosophy of Ernst Bloch; no more than a whisper [Hauchzart] separates them.”1 This close proximity is evinced in the Marxist gradualist pose that Moltmann strikes in his historical views, leading some critics to conclude that, in Moltmann’s thought, God is the future of man.2 The point in Moltmann’s dialectic that stands in antithesis to this historical processive perspective is, however, the eschatological point, in which the kingdom breaks in radically from the future, not gradually through history.3 The absolute future is said to surpass anything that man could project and thus to be more liberating than the Marxist view. “God’s being does not lie in the process of the world’s becoming, so that he would be the unifying goal of all tendencies and intentions of the transient things: finis ultimus, Point Omega.”4 God’s being is not in becoming, but in coming; as such, God, not man, is the subject of the transformation for which man looks. It is God and eschatology, Moltmann contends, that distinguish his thought from Marxism. An examination of the eschatological character of Moltmann’s theology is thus necessary in order to determine whether his invocation of God and eschatology truly distinguishes

his thought from Marxism or whether God and eschatology are merely regulative of practical reason and are utilized as heuristic devices to further revolutionary praxis.5

I. The Rediscovery of Eschatology

“The discovery of the central significance of eschatology for the message and existence of Jesus and for early Christianity, which had its beginnings at the end of the nineteenth century in Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer, is undoubtedly one of the most important events in recent Protestant theology.”6 This recognition of the eschatological character of early Christianity toppled the notion that there could be a harmonious synthesis between Christianity and the world. Notwithstanding, Weiss and Schweitzer failed to take their discovery seriously. Weiss, in his pioneering work Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes (1892), contradicted Albrecht Ritschl’s view of Jesus as the moral teacher of the Sermon on the Mount, concluding that the supra-world...

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