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The Living God and the Fullness of Life Paperback – November 13, 2015
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About the Author
Jürgen Moltmann is one of the world’s greatest living theologians. In such books as The Theology of Hope, The Crucified God, and The Trinity and the Kingdom, he has inspired countless readers to encounter the reality of God more fully and respond to the needs of the world more faithfully.
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Jürgen Moltmann’s latest book is a detailed elaboration of earlier work, concerning the doctrine of God and “Spirit”. Therefore, Moltmann assumes the reader to have already become familiar with his earlier work and theological position. In other words, it is not an entry-level read and the reader should have already acquired some background work in Moltmann’s theology.
If you take the manuscript in small portions, you should be able to absorb the material without too much difficulty. I approached the manuscript in the following order of 14 short lessons
1. Negating diminished life pp. 1-14
2. Pre-rational affirmation pp. 23-35
3. False transcendence and attributes pp. 35-45
4. False-transcendence and attributes pp. 46-56
5. Objective transcendence and “unity” pp. 57-67
6. Henosis dimensions of divinity, generations, & earth pp. 73-87
7. Henosis and joy pp. 87-103
8. Henosis and freedom pp. 103-117
9. Henosis and friendship pp. 117-129
10. Henosis and necessity of passion pp. 129-137
11. Love and the binding-agency-of-friendship pp. 137-157
12. Awakening the senses pp. 157-177
13. Transcendence and the “kingdom-of-henosis” pp. 177-191
14. Prayer within “henosis” pp. 191-209
Moltmann approaches theology-proper, that is, the “doctrine-of-God” by introducing a new topic of discussion into systematic theology – the doctrine of the “UNIFYING-ACTIVITY-OF-HENOSIS”. “To enter into a union”, or “unity”. The unifying activity of God’s spirit in lifting creation into union with GODSELF.
In doing this, he openly announces that he is taking-up Hegel; and interpreting him theologically (the Hegel somewhere situated between Tubingen and Jena).
I would classify the book as Grad-level or Post-Grad; and for the seasoned student. But for those who have followed Moltmann over the years; you are going to love it. Brilliant, inspiring, prophetic. 5 stars
Another theme that takes up much of the first quarter of the book (and is revisited at the end) is the “openness of God” (though Moltmann never refers to it as such). He writes compellingly that “The biblical experience of God would correspond to a ‘self-moved Mover’ rather than to an ‘unmoved Mover.’”
The second half of the book had some incredible writing on topics such as joy (“Joy is the meaning of human life. Human beings were created in order to have joy in God. They are born in order to have joy in life.”), the eros of God in creation, and hopeful eschatology. The chapter on friendship was particularly good.
I do have two critiques of the book. First, at the outset Moltmann writes that he “tried to write comprehensibly for theologians and nontheolgians and had in view both those who enjoy thinking theologically and those who have not yet tried to do so.” Mission not accomplished. The first 30% of the book was very dense (though it eases up, somewhat, after that). I think that most who have not read a fair amount of theology or philosophy might put the book down early on. The material was well worth wading through but the author could have/should have spent more time writing these thoughts in a more accessible way. The second critique I have has to do with certain assumptions that the author has taken. One reviewer humbly stated that he wasn’t a “theological scholar" and hadn’t studied all of Moltmann’s work, and continued his review with these disclaimers. I saw this as a weakness of the book, not the reviewer. There were a few times throughout the book where I felt a bit lost. However, I started realizing (while checking the endnotes) that Moltmann was expounding on his previous work. I felt this particularly on some of his Trinitarian work. In fairness, after finishing the book I reread the introduction where Moltmann stated, “I have taken up ideas that I already expressed earlier and have developed them further. I have gathered together previous experiences and insights about the fullness of life, and am setting them in the new context of this book.” This is fair, however, it is difficult for those who are “nontheologians” to whom the book was, at least partially, directed.
Overall the book was dense but fantastic. The endnotes do help one to know where to further explore Moltmann’s particular thoughts, so in that way it is a good place to start.
*I’m reviewing the book from a digital copy that I received from Netgalley