Moltmann: A thumbnail portrait


In coming posts, I must refer to “revealed God” vs. “hidden God” religion. To lay some background now, I reproduce a 2007 post from Messiah Truth, where I am known as Proteus.  The context was a moderator’s insistence that Naziism was a Christian expression.  I refer to the premiere Christian theological response to Naziism, Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God.

The recurring Hebrew phrase translates as “grace and love and light.”  In accordance with Jewish etiquette, all names of gods have been intentionally misspelled.

My recollection is that The Way of Peace didn’t come to me until 2010.  It is interesting to find some antecedents here.

Proteus
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(2/11/07 2:54 pm)
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Moltmann: a Thumbnail Portrait


Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run,
There’s still time to change the road you’re on.
                                                — Led Zepplin, “Stairway to Heaven”

Religion comes from two independent impulses that are, IMO, ever-present in every human being.  One finds them both expressed throughout TaNaKh, and throughout the so-called “New Testament” as well.

Thus this is not a Chrstian-vs.-Jewish issue; and I would ask all respondents please to refrain from trying to make it one.

Which impulse is stronger depends on which one is more fed, by one’s cir­cum­stan­ces, one’s culture, one’s personality (per Jung’s 16 types) and even one’s phys­i­o­lo­gy; but most of all, by one’s personal choices.

The two impulses are independent — not opposites, not contrary.  They are as independent as the x- and y-axes on a graph.  However, a society’s pursuit of one makes genocide increasingly impossible, and of the other makes genocide increasingly inevitable.

One impulse accounts for pretty much everything anyone of any faith has ever done that did humanity any good; including the Heidelberg Disputation, at which Luther first set forth the analysis I’m using now.

The other impulse accounts for Luther’s infamous book.[1]  As said, both impulses are present in all persons at all times.

חֵן וְאַהֲבָה וְאוֹר

One impulse is a yearning to connect, from somewhere deep inside oneself, to an All which one perceives is somehow like that self-within.  It perceives that the world of matter, time and space is but a small portion of a much larger whole; wherein, invisible or “hidden” from our view by the veil of time-space, G-d does dwell.

Contemplation of this “hidden G-d” (Luther: deus abscondus) leads to awe and altruism.  One becomes connected to that One from whom all healing that occurs, occurs.  One thus can accept woundedness, since This One will “restore my soul.”  Thus one becomes able to admit error and, consequently, to learn.  Ability to admit error also spells ability to forgive.  One can “let go and let G-d.”

“Hidden G-d” religion says:
Because the power of my life derives somehow from G-d’s own,
therefore I can do my best to do whatever G-d requires.
Because G-d loves me without condition or limit,
therefore I can love others that way, too.
Because G-d is at all times with me and for me (even when I’m not),
therefore I can face whatever circumstances I may meet.

THE WAY OF THE WORLD

The other impulse finds G-d manifest, or “revealed” (Luther: deus revelatus) in the visible circumstances of this world.  Behold the rich, the beautiful, the prolific, the powerful.

“Revealed G-d” religion says: 
If people are like that, then G-d loves them.
If G-d loved me, then I’d be like them.
If I do the right thingsthen G-d will love me, too.

Note the contrasting language: unconditional because-therefore propositions, on the one hand; conditional, if-then statements on the other.  This is a telling indicator of which impulse is at work.

Note also that “revealed G-d” religion does not ask if anyone is happy, or loving, or creating shalom for oneself and one’s community.  It asks only about externals, circumstances and appearances.

Moreover, to the extent “revealed G-d” worship occurs and “hidden G-d” worship does not, a person becomes unable to tolerate woundedness or admit error.    Healing DOES NOT occur in contexts where this G-d-concept controls.  One can’t “let go,” and thus won’t “let G-d.”

In such contexts, forgiveness is out of the question.  In the face of offense, one’s only recourse is revenge.  In the end, this comes to include revenge for offenses that have never occurred; as in the use of “Chrst killer” as a basis for the pogroms.

HOW IT WORKS (NOT)

Given all that, let’s give “revealed G-d” religion a try.  After all, it’s the only religion most people ever do try …

Go ahead; make your list of right things to do.
Perform every item on there as diligently as you can.
It won’t get you anywhere.
There are no guarantees.

Next step: when the initial system fails, tweak it.
Add new and better “right things” to expect everyone to do.
Spin out ideatic rationalizations as to why the first edition didn’t work.
Try the new one.
Watch it fail.

Individuals and religions and societies will, and always have, repeat[ed] that “next step” again and again, ad infinitum, as long as the dogmatic premise (the blue if-thenstatements above) is never questioned.

How much diligence and zeal they invest in this quest to “close the system” — to obtain a scheme of concepts and conduct that absolutely guarantees attainment of all desired outcomes, and thus eliminates uncertainty, indecision, and any need for real sacrifice  — depends, as does how much trouble they create along the way, on several factors.  People who are insecure, frustrated or angry will “go at it” more energetically than others; with a tendency for all those bad emotions to escalate each time a new edition fails.

Other factors that may come into play — some only in extreme circumstances — include these:
privilege of ethnicity
privilege of rank
license to rewrite history
Make no mistake: Weimar Germany was a nation very much at risk, vulnerable to these dynamics.  I have seldom seen these facts admitted, even in Chrstian contexts.  They had just lost a war — a tremendous blow to any nation’s ego.  The Treaty of Versailles exacted cruel and unrealistic reparations, which plunged the nation into poverty.  Add to this a minor disturbance known in the U.S. as “The Great Depression;” and yes: to the extent these people worshipped a “revealed” and not the “hidden” G-d, they were highly motivated in this quest.

From time to time a person or people will presume to have got it right, to have “closed the system.”  Moltmann says they never, in fact, do; as no one, in fact, can.  But a short list of recent history’s all-stars in this regard would certainly include Pol Pot, Charles Taylor, Ratavan Karadsic, Osama bin Ladin, and Timothy McVeigh.

Turn back the clock a few decades, and we find the example that gave rise to Moltmann’s book.  The Nazis believed themselves to have closed the system.  Their own name for their answer: The Final Solution.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  Even in Nazi Germany, there were those — Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and others — who worshipped principally the G-d of חֵן וְאַהֲבָה וְאוֹר.

IMPERFECT FAILURE

It’s as difficult to be 100% wrong all the time, as it is to be 100% right.

So likewise, within limits, there are features of “revealed G-d” religion that aren’t completely wrong.  Alternatively, Luther would say, some are to some extent inevitable.

The desire to obtain desired outcomes — to do well at any task — is adaptative and universal.  It is so strong that Luther referred to it as a “bondage of the will.”  Only when one crosses that invisible boundary into seeking to “close the system” — a seeking Luther termed “curved inwardness” (curvatus in se) — does one begin to flirt with trouble.

Doing right things is no condition for G-d’s love, but does have tremendous potential to improve one’s quality of life.

In my ’hood,[2] the foremost cause of death for males is murder, which often occurs in response to perjury, adultery or theft.  The Ten Words[3] include specific provisions concerning those behaviors.  Observance of those four alone would effect a revolution of consciousness in my ’hood, and a vast improvement of the quality of life.

A FAITH THAT WORKS

Luther wrote a famous hymn based on a Jewish text about the “hidden G-d.”  Tehillim 46:1: G-d is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in [ time of ] trouble.

“Revealed G-d” religion promises that there will be no trouble.  This text acknowledges that there will.  What, then, is G-d?  “Our refuge and strength; a very present help.”

I’ve faced some hard times in recent years.

One weekday afternoon early in 2004, I kept an appointment at church to work with Sister Kati on some worship plans.  Sister had to excuse herself briefly, and Pastor happened by and asked how I was doing.  The National Merit Scholar, voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by his high school senior class, replied:

“No one would ever have believed
I would ever be
in the straits I’m in.
The stress I’m under,
it’s astonishing to me that I can even stand up.
Literally.”

In retrospect, I had no clue at that time what sorts of things would occur in 2005-2006.  One day in July ’06, while taking a shower, pondering my situation, I said:

Things can’t possibly get any worse.

Answer came, from within, a truer self:

Yes, they can.
They can get a lot worse.
They can get infinitely worse.
It doesn’t matter:
“G-d is our refuge and strength;
a very present help in trouble.”

As I go about my affairs from day to day, most of the time I maintain a cheerful demeanor, actually smiling; no one would guess (any more than, aside from my saying so, anyone would guess here) that I’m under any stress.  On my part, this is not an act, not faked, not forced; I am happy, and loving, and creating shalom for myself and my community.  This is a natural outcome of the blue because-therefore propositions set forth above.

G-d is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble. B”H.

P.


[1]On the Jews and Their Lies
[2]Barclay
[3](Ten Commandments)

 

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