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The coming of the Kingdom

by
10 August 2010

Nicholas Sagovsky considers a forward-looking theologian

iStock

Clothed with the sun: The Woman of the Apocalypse, c.1689 by Juan Correa(Mexico, c.1646-1716), from Sacred Spain: Art and belief in the Spanish world, edited by Ronda Kasl for last year’s great US exhibition (Indianapolis Museum of Art/Yale, £45 (£40.50); 978-0-300-15471-9). Essays consider mirac­ulous images and visualisation of the Immaculada.  See also below      

ACERVO DEL MUSEO NACIONAL DEL VIRREINATO, TEPOTZOTLAN/INAH

Sun of Righteousness, Arise! God’s future for humanity and the earth
Jürgen Moltmann
SCM Press £25
(978-0-334-04348-5)
Church Times Bookshop £22.50

JÜRGEN MOLTMANN’s theo­logical exploration continues. In this collection of essays, he revisits themes and areas he has previously treated at length: hope, eschatology, the Trinity, ecclesiology, ecology, and the Spirit.

New perspectives are provided by engagement with the world’s reli­gions, especially those of the ancient world, and with modern scientific thinking. Moltmann has lost none of his concern with the plight of the world’s poor and the part played by the Church in the struggle for justice.

He looks first at the future of Christianity. Then he discusses God as the God of Christ’s resurrection; God as the God of righteousness, who creates justice and puts the world to rights; and God as the author of those traces and signs that give the world meaning.

In this book, Moltmann pursues a number of conversations. One conversation is about the nature of the Church: how the Church is to prepare for the Kingdom of God, and what we should expect when we pray for the coming of the “King­dom of God” (“for this earth to become God’s temple”) or proclaim our belief in the resurrection of the body (“perfect fullness of life in un­restricted participation in the life of God”).

Another conversation is with Judaism and Islam: given the mediating place of the Shekinah in Jewish thinking and the Qur’an in Muslim thinking, are these forms of monotheism really so far from the monotheism of the incarnation?

Another conversation is about the nature of the last judgement: Molt­mann commends what he calls a dialectical universalism in which none are lost (since “God’s creative justice . . . brings justice for the victims and puts the perpetrators right”). Yet another is over the her­meneutics of science, especially Darwinism (“the values inherent in the struggle for existence must be replaced by an ethic of peace in existence”).

Provided that theology is seen as “play” — the play of ideas — these continuing conversations are extra­ordinarily helpful. They did, how­ever, leave me wondering about the ground-rules for the exegesis. On the resurrection of Christ, Molt­mann reads the New Testament carefully and conservatively; on final judgement, he is much more selective, seeing his own “dialectical universalism” as the product of a process of “consistent Christian­isation”.

So with the exegesis of Darwin­ism: in the end, he simply confronts “the God of evolution” with the “God of Christian faith” and the hope that “Out of the victims in the history of nature and the victims of human history, God builds his coming kingdom of peace.” How much comfort is there really here for the victims?

This is a conversation in which more needs to be said — lest we forget that the “Sun of Righteous­ness” is none other than Molt­mann’s “Crucified God”.

The Revd Dr Nicholas Sagovsky is Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey, and a member of ARCIC.

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A Dominican is shown his order's founder: The Miracle of Saint Dominic in Soriano, c.1652-67, by Alonso Cano, (Granada, 1601-67). From Sacred Spain, details at the top of the page

INSTITUTO GOMEZ-MORENO, FUNDACION RODRIGUEZ-ACOSTA, GRANADA

Order either of the books mentioned on this page through CT Bookshop

A Dominican is shown his order's founder: The Miracle of Saint Dominic in Soriano, c.1652-67, by Alonso Cano, (Granada, 1601-67). From Sacred Spain, details at the top of the page

INSTITUTO GOMEZ-MORENO, FUNDACION RODRIGUEZ-ACOSTA, GRANADA

Order either of the books mentioned on this page through CT Bookshop

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