Moltmann and Resurrection

Jürgen Moltmann published his landmark work The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions, in 1990. It has since been heralded and cited by countless theologians. The chief upshot of the work is Moltmann’s thesis that the Christology and Christopraxis of the Church are organically inseparable. For Moltmann, the Church’s doctrine concerning Christ cannot, in any manner, be cut off from the way in which the Church acts according to this doctrine. The one entails the other.

As Moltmann discussed how these ideas pertain to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, I came across a passage that was particularly illuminative. In it, Moltmann discredits the gnostic spiritualization of resurrection and argues for the inaugurated eschatology so many of my peers have come to love. For your pleasure and your edification,

The formula about ‘giving life to mortal bodies’ indicates that the hope of resurrection is not related to a different life. It is this mortal life that is going to be different. Resurrection is not a deferred consolation — ‘the opium of the next world.’ It is the power which enables this life to be reborn. The hope is directed, not towards a different world but towards the redemption of this one. In the Spirit, resurrection is not merely expected; it is already experienced. Resurrection happens every day. In love we experience many deaths and many resurrections. We experience resurrection by being born again to a living hope through love, in which we already, here and now, wake from death to life, and through liberation: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Cor. 2.17).

If we see resurrection as this process, it is then possible to integrate the fundamental ideas of Barth, Bultmann, and Pannenberg, and to correct their one-sidedness. As the beginning of the annihilation of death and the appearance of eternal life, the raising of Christ from the dead is ‘the fact that changes everything; and is therefore in itself the revelation of God. As the Wholly Other, God is the radical criticism of the world. As ‘the One who changes everything’, God is the creator of the world that is new. Faith in the resurrection is itself a rising up in the power of life. The ‘liberating judgment’ pronounced over the bondage of existence to the world of sin, power and possession is the beginning of the rising to true life. The raising of Christ from the dead must not be viewed as a retrospective act which affirms Christ’s death to be a redemptive event, whether this affirmation be the verdict of God’s revelation or the human verdict of faith. The resurrection must be seen ‘much more’ as an anticipation of eternal life for mortal beings. The resurrection of Christ designates the history of the world to be the history of the end, and places the spheres of historical experience in the context  and against the horizon of expectation of the new creation. In order to grasp the process of resurrection, we ought to make it a rule in theology never to separate Kant’s three question: the theoretical ‘What can I know?, the practical ‘What ought I to do?, and the eschatological ‘What may I hope for?’ These questions have to be answered in relation to one another and therefore altogether. Only then can we understand the event, the Spirit and the future of the resurrection in their integrated whole.

The Way of Jesus Christ. Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 1993. 242.


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