- The Living God and the Fullness of Life by Jürgen Moltmann
Although some might have thought his autobiography, A Broad Place, to be his swan song, in this new work, Jürgen Moltmann has given the world a timely engagement with contemporary life and a theological challenge to see all of life in the greater context of the life of the living God. Many will recognize in this book a continuation of Moltmann’s thoughts expressed in earlier works. Nevertheless, they will also find here a freshness and an energy that will capture their imaginations and encourage them.
Moltmann’s thesis is two-fold: the truly fulfilled life is a life lived in God, and this life is no other than real life that begins now (1). Modern life without God is a reduced life, because, following Feuerbach, it denies the qualitative transcendence of the human creature that comes from God and brings the true fullness of life (13–14, 16). In contrast to the “diminished life” of modernity, faith in the living God revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the words of Athanasius, “makes of life a never-ending festival” (xi). Having asserted that the fullness of life comes only through a relationship with the living God, Moltmann launches into an exploration first of the living God, then of the fullness of life. [End Page 471]
In his discussion of the living God, Moltmann argues that the ways of thinking about God often accepted as good theology in Christianity are not actually Christian or biblical at all but are drawn from various streams of pagan, Greco-Roman thought. In particular, Moltmann highlights the notions of divine immutability and impassibility as foreign to the God of the Bible. Such ideas are theologically incorrect for a truly Christian view of God (35).
Yahweh—the living God of Israel, the Father revealed in Jesus Christ—is not mutable in the sense that he can be changed from the outside, says Moltmann, but he can change himself, when he is moved by his own compassion. At the same time, the living God demonstrates his true unchanging character in his faithfulness to his people (36–37). To say that God is incapable of feelings would be to deny God’s heart-felt and gracious love and compassion (38–39). God compassionately undergoes suffering in solidarity with humans through the death of Jesus Christ, precluding immutability (40–43). The Triune Yahweh, is living, active, and relational, whereas the philosophical notion of “God” inherited from the Greeks and Romans is nothing more than a product of the human heart’s idol factory (53–54, 59).
Eternal life that comes from this living God is, says Moltmann, real, physical life (74). The fullness of life comes from living in the joy of the resurrection (90–92). Such joy means not an absence of suffering but the taking up of human suffering by the suffering of God on the cross and the conquering of death in Jesus’ resurrection (92–93). Christians live the fullness of life, because they can experience all of life through the joy of the resurrection. Christians live eschatologically, knowing that the future fullness of salvation is present now through the hope brought by the resurrection of the living God (189–190).
While many of the themes are familiar ones, they are by no means cloying. Christians who read this book in the midst of life with all of its joys and pains will be refreshed by the resurrection life of the living God in Christ whom Moltmann here proclaims. Readers will be both encouraged and challenged to live life fully as an anticipatory Maranatha of what is to come. [End Page 472]