In The Crucified God, Jürgen Moltmann states that though often misunderstood, the crucifixion of Jesus is central to the identity and the relevance of Christian faith. Because of the cross and Christ, people’s entire perception of God as well as humanity must be reinterpreted. Moltmann argues that this change in perception would rejuvenate Christology. Rather than sterile arguments about whether Jesus was “truly God” or “truly man,” which set the wrong framework, Christians should enter into dialogues with Jews about the meaning of “Messiah.” Who Jesus is must be defined by the Messianic future; Christology remains forever unfinished until the new Creation arrives, according to Moltmann.

Jesus’ trial and execution put his message into question. Coming as it did at the endof years of conflict with the law and the authorities, Jesus’ final cry of dereliction echoed a conflict even of God against God. Although close to God, Jesus was abandoned and then resurrected. In that terrible hour, the very deity of God was at stake, and believers were forced toward a new and more nuanced concept of the divine. Surprisingly, however, through the cross and the Crucifixion, God was disclosed in his very opposite. Moltmann concludes that not continuity and analogy, but contradiction and struggle, are sources both for people’s faith and moral life.

Moltmann states that the Resurrection indicates that we are in the midst of unfinished history; in that light we should reevaluate both the past and the future. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we look back on his sacrifice as an act of liberating love done for our sakes. We look forward because the “promise” is far more than just a resuscitation, rather it is a summons for us to the future already dawning.

Simple theism has proved inadequate, according to Moltmann. Together the cross and Resurrection drive us beyond even the monotheism revered in Christian heritage. Conventional theism is far too easily misused by worldly Caesars and institutional religions for their own purposes. Theology drawn from a “natural” knowledge of God is manipulated by human perversity and pride. However, the...

(The entire section is 898 words.)


Sources for Further Study

Bauckham, Richard. The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann. Edinburgh, Scotland: T&T Clark, 1995. Irenic British exposition of the major themes found in Moltmann, set against the background of his dialogue partners.

Meeks, M. Douglas. Origins of the Theology of Hope. Foreword by Jürgen Moltmann. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974. The best summary of early influences on the young Moltmann, by a colleague who helped introduce him to the English-speaking world.

Moltmann, Jürgen. Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology. London: SCM Press, 1967. The author’s first major work, which has influenced all his subsequent writings. Across the world, this is one of the most significant theological works of the late twentieth century.

Müller-Fahrenholz, Geiko. The Kingdom and the Power: The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2001. Weaves biographical details and some mild criticism with the most comprehensive analysis of Moltmann’s lifelong work.

Wakefield, James L. Jürgen Moltmann: A Research Bibliography. Foreword by Moltmann. ATLA Bibliography Series. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002. Exhaustive, definitive listing of works by and about Moltmann, including doctoral dissertations and an essay by Moltmann, “What Is a Theologian?”