Sound Bites from the 2009 Emergent Theological Conversation

Last night Mike and I returned from the 2009 Emergent Theological Conversation with Jurgen Moltmann.  To describe it in a few words, it seemed like a conference of sound bites. People asking Moltmann questions often quoted short passages from his books and then asked him to comment on them.  Topics changed somewhat rapidly.  Catchy one-liners from Moltmann were then tweeted and retweeted throughout the Twub.  A screen behind professor Moltmann displayed tweets from people attending the event. Everyone had a laptop open to either Facebook or Twitter where they conversed online with other people attending the event and with those following from far away.  I found it difficult to keep my attention focused on anything. I wondered at times if it was an event designed for people with attention deficit disorder.

Nevertheless, I managed to take six pages of notes, which I will now share here in soundbite form.  Here are the quotes from Moltmann which I found most interesting during the event:

“Talking about theological method is like listening to someone clear their throat.”

“Professional theologians must again and again go down to the people and the people’s questions and their answers.”

On his life story: “It is easy to tell, but it was difficult to live.”

On the Trinity:  “The doctrine of the Trinity is not a mystery; it’s really quite simple. If you come into fellowship with Jesus, you also come into fellowship with the God whom he called Abba, dear Father.  And in the fellowship of Jesus in the prayer to our dear Father, you feel the life-giving energies of the divine Spirit. . . . Before we develop the doctrine of the Trinity, we live already in God. . . We don’t believe in the Trinity only; we live in the Trinity.”

“The Trinitarian persons in their indwelling relationships are not only three persons, they are three rooms.  They give room to each other. . . . When we accept other people . . .  we give them a ‘life-space’ in which they can rest freely.  . . . This room-giving to each other is the best way to live the love of the Triune God.”

“The Reform tradition is my origin and the ecumenical church is my future.”

“God is not in control of everything; God is carrying and bearing everything.” 

“I read the Bible with the presupposition to meet the divine word in human words.  And whenever I meet the divine word which became incarnate in Jesus Christ, his suffering death and resurrection, then I meet the truth.”

In response to the question, “How do we practice hope?”: “Follow the Sermon on the Mount.”

“We have two crosses in Christian history: one is a real cross at Golgotha. The other is a dream cross of Emperor Constantine. “

“If you, on the side of the guilty, want to enter into the truth of your life, listen to the victims because they can tell you who you really are.”

“I am afraid I am not a universalist because, you know, there are perhaps a few people I don’t want to see again.  But God may be, because he created them and he’ll want to see them again.”

“I go on praying for the dead because the dead are not dead, they have died, but are not dead.  They are sleeping.

On the relationship between science and religion: “The fundamental question of natural science is, ‘do you understand what you know?’  Knowledge increases rapidly, but do we understand it?  We need a hermeneutics of nature together with science.”

“A congregation without disabled persons is a disabled church.”  

“The growing world community will be based on human rights or there will be no world community at all.”

“We do not celebrate at the Lord’s Table our theories about his presence, but his presence.  Let’s celebrate his presence first and then afterward talk about it.”

In response to the question, “What should we be reading?: “The Bible.”

Moltmann’s parting words: “Peace be with you and good theology too.”

  1. Terry L Chapman said:

    I agree with your “soundbite” observation. Fortunately we are blessed with the whole story in his many volumes, which I find myself reading with great anticipation! Thanks for the notes, I only took a few and just absorbed the rest.

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