Quote of the Day

Rod recently made reference on his blog to Jürgen Moltmann in a post about explaining the Trinity which brought to mind something hilarious that Paul Molnar quotes George Hunsinger as saying:

With respect to Moltmann’s belief (discussed below) that there has never been a Christian tritheist, George Hunsinger remarks, ‘If this is true then one can only conclude that Moltmann is vying to be the first. Despite the evident scorn with which he anticipates such a charge, The Trinity and the Kingdom is about the closest thing to tritheism that any of us are ever likely to see’, Review of Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and The Kingdom, in The Thomist 47 (1983), 129–39, 131.

Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of Immanent Trinity, 201, n. 23.

B”H

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16 thoughts on “Quote of the Day

  1. Hunsinger is a Barthian.

    That fact alone is enough to suffice for me that he denies God’s immanence in the world.

    I would suggest one actually read Moltmann’s works than going off of hearsay of other critics.

  2. Nick,

    That is your opinion and I value it. I just do not agree with you, just like I do not view things the way Karl Barth and his disciples (such as Hunsinger) do. Karl Barth starts with the Apostles’ Creed as the starting point for his theology. Moltmann at least begins with the cross. I will take the cross each and every time. You are probably familiar with Luther’s distinction between theologies of glory and theologies of the cross. Moltmann’s is the latter, and Barth’s is the former, and the evidence shows in their works, the works of their followers too. Barthians are less likely to address issues of suffering and oppression; their concern is with doctrinal issues irrelevant to today’s ecclessial controversies. Moltmannians, if you will, tend to have a keen eye for issues pertaining to the oppressed– the difference being that Barthians believe in a God far far away, transcendent, unreachable, who begins in the world of the abstract. Moltmannians have a different view of God’s transcendence, and it is not the definition of God as “Wholly Other,” which contradicts both the Incarnation and God’s indwelling in the life of the faithful as well as creation.

  3. Rod: While I’m certainly no Barthian, I don’t think that’s a fair or accurate representation of Barth or his disciples (at least not as a general description). But I’ll leave it to the Barthians to defend themselves.

    Obviously we know that Moltmann’s coming up in Hitler’s Germany and his own suffering in a P.O.W. camp had a serious impact on his later theological beliefs, so much so that he couldn’t conceive of a God who didn’t suffer with his creation (and not merely in the incarnation). What was it that Boehnhoffer said about that? Something like “only a suffering God can help,” right? So it’s not surprising that Moltmannians are concerned with oppression and suffering. And from where I’m standing there’s nothing wrong with being concerned with such things, but the problem arises when they read their experiences back into the life of God. God’s being ‘wholly other’ doesn’t contradict the incarnation, it gives rise to it. Without God’s ‘wholly otherness’ the incarnation becomes irrelevant, meaningless even. If God qua God suffers then what help is that to humankind? None as far as I can see. Moltmann’s picture of the ‘suffering God’ is a God that can’t truly help anyone. But if God doesn’t suffer as God but rather becomes man and suffers as humans do, then he can truly identify with our very human suffering and he can eliminate the problem at its root (sin). If you’ve not read it I’d recommend Thomas Weinandy’s Does God Suffer? on this point, in particular chapter 7 “God’s Love and Human Suffering” (esp. the conclusion on pp. 170-71).

    BTW, thanks for dialoguing on this; I so rarely get to discuss such issues! :-)

  4. Nick,

    Scripture describes God as holy, but never as “wholly other.” When we just into categories about the Being of God, one should start with what exactly makes God holy. God determines God’s own holiness in His actions. God separates Godself from humanity because God is entirely good; only God is good according to Christ in the Gospel. God demands us to be holy as God is holy (in the Old Testament) and to be perfect as God is perfect (in the New Testament). This holiness/perfection (if you will) is determined by God alone, and God’s action in the world.

    Tradition and scripture affirm divine suffering. God suffers (it is what we would call wrath) when humans sin against God. To only limit suffering to human suffering is to leave out parts of the biblical narrative such as God’s suffering the anguish sending the Israelites and Judeans into exile. God does not take delight in these (Ezekiel 18; Jeremiah 31) for it is not God’s will that any one should die or perish. Divine suffering is different from human suffering, and should not be identified with it, for sure. Let us not ignore these passages that clearly show God suffering shame and anguish and put them off as “anthropocentric.”

    The notion of divine suffering is not an idea where persons’ read their experiences into God’s revelation. On the contrary, divine suffering is a concrete explanation for how God relates to the world. God does not suffer from human sinfulness the same way humans suffer in their depravity. God suffers to overcome and conquer iniquity. That is why we have the Resurrected Christ, who gives us hope and the Holy Spirit to conform us to his image. Evangelicals are big on saying, “God is relational” “God wants a relationship with you” but the question is, exactly how does that happen, exactly? Do we just take Rick Warren at his word or do we take God at God’s Word of the Cross? I prefer the latter. God is relational, and that relationship begins with God freely choosing to suffer in the world in order to rid it of suffering. The God on the cross that Moltmann refers to is the same God who suffers during the exile in the Old Testament. Humans and God suffer; their suffering is different because God is sovereign and holy, while human are not. but they can become holy, only through receiving Christ Crucified.

    Nick,

    No where in the Gospels does it say that Jesus suffered and died as a human. No where. I have heard these claims before but that is because I was talking with a Dallas Seminary student who begins with the presupposition of God’s impassibility (something I outright reject). Jesus is both entirely divine and entirely human. He died as the God-man. I do not separate the sufferings of Christ when it comes to his divinity; it is actually an attribute of his divinity. In fact, Phillipians 2, one of the many times Paul refers to the cross as the kenosis, or the self-emptying of God, affirms divine suffering. God is capable of suffering in both the Old and New Testaments.

    As for your concern about persons reading their experiences into God’s revelation, that is a valid concern. But if God is a God who is relational as evangelical and liberal Christians say now-a-days, we must understand the nature of that relationship, of God’s love. The biblical witness points to God’s love, revealed on the cross, the suffering God who helps us and who overcomes suffering through the resurrection.

  5. Rod: Nice pun, but I’m afraid it’s rather beside the point. No one will argue that God is not holy, or at least I won’t. But God’s holiness is not determined by his actions, rather his actions are determined by his holiness. Again, I find this idea that God must act in history in order to be holy panentheistic. I’m well aware that Moltmann is comfortable with a panentheistic God, so I’m guessing that you are as well. If so then we’re at an impasse because I don’t see this God in Scripture and I don’t know this God from experience.

    What you describe as God’s ‘suffering’ as affirmed in Scripture and tradition is not the suffering that I’m talking about, nor is it suffering in the sense that humans suffer. To quote Weinandy:

    Sorrow and grief are attributed to Godnot by way of predicating a passible emotional change within him, but rather by way of denoting that he is all-loving and good. Because he is perfectly loving and good, he finds sin and evil repugnant, and so he can be said to sorrow and grieve in light of their presence. God does not grieve or sorrow because he himself experiences some injury or the loss of some good, nor that he has been affected, within his inner being, by some evil outside cause, but rather he grieves or sorrows only in the sense that he knows that human persons experience some injury or the loss of some good, and so embraces them in love. This sorrow and grief ascribed to God could contain the note of suffering only if we mean that, as all-loving, he is intensely concerned with the reality of sin and evil, and the suffering that ensues from them. To ascribe suffering to God is not to denote a positive passible emotional state as if such a state were distinct from a variety of other emotional states within God, but solely to specify the truth that God, as all-loving and good, is opposed to and finds abhorrent all that is not loving and good. (Does God Suffer?, 169.)

    Also, I wouldn’t describe passages that speak of God as having emotions as “anthropocentric” but I would call them “anthropopathic.” And in recognizing this I need no more believe that God goes through inner emotional changes than I need believe that God has physical arms, eyes, or wings when I read passages that describe God in anthropomorphic terms.

    And since I’ve not read Rick Warren I couldn’t take him at his word, but neither will I take you at yours since I find that it is only the incarnate Son who truly suffers in a way that humankind can relate to. And make no mistakes, I’m not advocating that Jesus suffers in his humanity alone; I’m no Nestorian! I don’t divide the natures, and I technically didn’t say that “Jesus suffered and died as a human,” but rather that he suffered as humans do. My point is that it is God the Son incarnate that suffers and dies for us and for our salvation. It is the incarnate Son that is able to relate to us because he took upon him the form of a servant and became obedient to death. The Father and the Spirit did not do this, however complicit they may have been in it, but the Son did this! To say that this suffering is an attribute of his divinity seems ridiculous on its face. Had the Son not added a human nature to himself in the incarnation there would have been no such suffering, no such sacrificial and atoning death.

    And I think another place where we part ways is in caring what evangelical and liberal Christians say now-a-days. Much of what they say isn’t the way things are, and where they diverge from the truth is where I cease to agree with them. I believe that with regard to a passible God they are wrong and I can’t therefore agree.

  6. Nick,

    You are arguing against strawmen at this point. I never denied Christ dying for us and our benefit. Not only do I affirm what you believe about the Son, but Moltmann would too I believe.

    Suffering is an attribute of God’s being. Call it “anthropathic” all that you will, but an apathetic God just does not line up with the biblical narrative or the Crucified God.

    I never used the label of Nestorian. In fact, I did address you or the authors you quote with labels. It was you, in fact, who started the conversation with boogey-man accusations of “panentheism” and “modalism.” I do not need scare tactics. I was only pointing out the consistency of your argument with the student from DTS (who happens to have a biblioblog and whom I know personally).

    But I digress.

    Truth and Peace,
    Rod

  7. Rod: I’ve not said that you denied that Christ died for us and our salvation. I don’t doubt for a second that you believe this. I only clarified what I was saying. I’d have to know how you’re using apathetic before I can agree or disagree with your statement.

    And I used the label Nestorian because it accurately describes someone who separates Christ in such a manner as to assert that only the human Jesus died on the cross. I was simply explaining that I don’t do that. I’m not sure why the words “Modalism” or “panentheism” are perceived as “scare tactics.” They’re simply terms that describe beliefs. I don’t think that Moltmann can escape the charge of panentheism after having written God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God. Likewise, the statement in your post that “the Trinity is a historical event” can be accurately described as panentheism. I don’t see why this should be taken with offense, especially since none was intended.

    In any event, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on this.

  8. Esteban: I’m inclined to agree. Unfortunately he hasn’t produced the volume of work as the other greats like Calvin, Luther, and Barth. :-(

    Bryan: Mine too! Or at least he (or she?) used to when he blogged.

    Dan: I’ve never had the pleasure unfortunately. If memory serves I got a mention for questioning the Godfather of modern theology, Mr. Karl Barth.

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