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The Way of Jesus Christ Paperback – August 1, 1995
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There are seven sections of The Way of Jesus Christ. The first located the field of christology within Old Testament messianology by way of pneumatology. In his self-appropriation of Isaiah 61 and 58 in Luke 4, Jesus declares the agency of the Holy Spirit, and at other points in ministry he links himself with the Son of Man in Daniel 7. Sections 2 and 3 emphasize three components of the messianic identity of Jesus Christ that must be held together: the bringer of the eschatological new creation of all things (emphasized by modernists), the theological child of God (emphasized by traditional christology) and the socially human friend of sinners (emphasized in newer contextual christologies). The historical overemphasis on one aspect over another (and the implications thereof) is fleshed out in Section 2, leading to Moltmann's insistence on dialectical tension between the three.
Section 4 focuses on "The Apocalyptic Sufferings of Christ." Some of Moltmann's influential ideas from his earlier work The Crucified God are expanded upon in this section, discussing the very serious trinitarian implications that are raised in the suffering messiah. How can a good God stand by while his son is crucified by a rebellious humanity? Moltmann suggests a "theology of the pain of God, which means the theology of the divine co-suffering or compassion" (178). God did not cause Jesus' suffering, as if the Trinity could turn on itself. The resurrection is explored in Section 5 not as a historical act but an apocalyptic happening (214), an idea that carries into Section 6, "The Cosmic Christ." Through the two sections, Christ's redemption is emphasized as not merely for humanity, but for "all things." Moltmann here leans heavily on Ephesians and Colossians, with Christ as the head of a new creation, firstborn over all creation, reconciling all things to God. Moltmann concludes with a section on the parousia, which he does not view as a "second coming," but rather as "...the fulfillment of the whole history of Christ, with all that it promises; for it is only with Christ's parousia that `all the tears will be wiped away'. It is only in the parousia that Israel will be redeemed, and this `unredeemed world' created anew" (319).
It is difficult to know where to begin in reflection on this work. One of the most helpful things about it is the sheer vastness of its vision. Moltmann writes a christology that attempts to do justice to Jesus the messiah, and therefore it encompasses all of human history and beyond. Occasionally I would get lost when his reflections went beyond history into this cosmic/apocalyptic mode. Within a christology that is very biblically rooted, it seems that he is merely arguing from logic. Of course, the same could be said about C. S. Lewis' conceptions of time. Regardless, the argument deserves consideration.
He lays out convincing philosophical arguments for the apocalyptic nature of resurrection and parousia, claiming they must not and cannot occur "within history." He says "At [sic] the end of time, the parousia comes to all times simultaneously in a single instant" (317). This is rooted in what Moltmann calls the transience of time. To call something like the resurrection or the parousia "future" or "past" is to completely miss the point. Temporal categories exist because we experience time in this way: past, present and future. Yet when Christ is resurrected, he is raised for all people for all times, and when Christ returns, it is not merely to a point in human history, but to "all times simultaneously." I love the idea, but it needs some time to settle into my heart and mind.
Moltmann argues for an ecological christology which I would like to explore a bit. I mentioned his heavy reliance on Ephesians and Colossians for this theology of the redemption and reconciliation of "all things." This is because "the worship of cosmic forces was a part of their environment...[they] had apparently found themselves faced with the scope of Christ's lordship. The Christian answer was that since Christ is the mediator in the creation of these powers, he is also their redeemer, and therefore their true Lord" (284). Moltmann believes that this approach saved Christianity from becoming just "another religion" in Ephesus and Colossae, because it was not a competitive jockeying for position. Instead, it was integration into the reconciliation and peace of Christ, the ultimate metanarrative not just for humanity, but for the cosmos. Moltmann sees Christ's body, the church as the beginning of this reconciled cosmos, but very importantly he sees the church as an agent for cosmic redemption, not as a means for `churchifying' the world (285). This is a bold call for the church to take seriously its role and responsibility as residents of this planet.