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The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology
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Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jurgen Moltmann is Professor Emeritus of Theology at the University of Tubingen in Germany, and one of the most prominent and revered scholars in contemporary Christian theology. From 1963 to 1983, he was a member of the Faith and Order Committee of the World Council of Churches. He is the author of numerous influential books, including "The Theology of Hope", "The Crucified God", "The Way of Jesus Christ", "The Spirit of Life", and "The Coming of God", for which he was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Religion in 2000. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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However, his purpose in The Coming of God is not to simply trace the history and influence of Christian and Jewish eschatology in the west, but to critique and present his thinking on just what it means to think of the coming of God to creation.
Moltmann is someone you should read.
1. It is hope in God for God's glory.
2. It is hope in God for the new creation of the world.
3. It is hope in God for the history of human beings with the earth.
4. It is the hope in God for the resurrection and eternal life of human people. (Moltmann 1996, xvi).
The book is breathtaking in scope: Moltmann engages many different areas of study throughout the book, interacting primarily with theology, but often touching on history, philosophy, science, and sociology. He is clearly interested in engaging people and ideas from the ground up: hardly a chapter or section of the book is just him expounding on what he will; it's always in response to or interaction with. There are five chapters in the book looking at eschatology from five different viewpoints: eschatology today, and then personal, historical, cosmic, and divine eschatology.
The first chapter discusses eschatology today, and really is a survey meant to show what past and present thinkers have written in regards to how they view the topic. Such authors as Albert Schweitzer, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Franz Rosenzweig and Walter Benjamin are discussed and evaluated. Ultimately, Moltmann sees the "eschaton [as] neither the future of time nor timeless eternity. It is God's coming and his arrival" (Moltmann 1996, 22). This is to say that God is continually coming into his creation: it's not a matter of some set future time when he will `return.'
In chapter two, Moltmann looks at personal eschatology, looking at such subjects as Life and Death (49ff), Immorality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Body (58ff), Death as the Consequence of Sin or Life's Natural End (77ff), and finally the question of Where are the Dead (96ff)? Having wrapped all of these things together, Moltmann concludes that "[t]he crucified Christ consoles us by bringing the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit into the abysses of our suffering and the hell of our lostness...so we can believe in victory of life over death (cf John 19.9)" (Moltmann 1996, 127).
Chapter three looks at the historical concepts of eschatology and covers everything from political eschatology (131ff) to `Christ's descent into hell and the restoration of all things' (250ff). Moltmann concludes having looked at the historical perspectives that "[t]he eschatological doctrine about the restoration of all things has these two sides: God's Judgment, which puts things right, and God's kingdom, which awakens new life" (Moltmann 1996, 255).
Chapter four examines cosmic eschatology and looks at the questions of what will happen to creation. Is all of creation bound to be completely destroyed, or is the idea more that everything will be restored and made fresh? Again, many different movements are looked at and discussed, with Moltmann ultimately discussing the earth as the dwelling place of heaven (Rev. 22), and "[t]he presence of the divine life becomes the inexhaustible source of creaturely life, which thereby becomes the life that is eternal" (Moltmann 1996, 319).
Finally in chapter five, Moltmann evaluates divine eschatology in looking at the very character of God in self-glorification and realization, as well as God's interaction with humanity and the fullness of God in eternal joy. The book concludes with a three words summary: Soli Deo Gloria (to God alone be the glory).
As the title for my review states, this is a very dense read and will take a while to comprehend: this is not just a light, energetic read. However, this book flips much of popular Christian Eschatalogical presuppositions on it's head, and is well worth the read.