Posted by: HAT | November 16, 2014

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

image of Charles Demuth's painting Incense of a New Church - a stylized treatment of billowing factory smoke

Ironically, in Charles Demuth’s haunting depiction of the antithesis of the Christian eschatological hope, there remains the germ of the idea of that hope.

Hi, Gang!

There seems to be a “subterranean” category of texts: ones read so long ago, at such a time in your personal history, that they are now an unconscious part of your worldview. Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope is probably in that category for me. I read it as a sophomore in college; I am rereading it now. Here is the thesis, in a long but thrilling quote:

In actual fact, however, eschatology means the doctrine of the Christian hope, which embraces both the object hoped for and also the hope inspired by it. From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present. The eschatological is not one element of Christianity, but it is the medium of Christian faith as such, the key in which everything in it is set, the glow that suffuses everything here in the dawn of an expected new day. For Christian faith lives from the raising of the crucified Christ, and strains after the promises of the universal future of Christ. Eschatology is the passionate suffering and passionate longing kindled by the Messiah. Hence eschatology cannot really be only a part of Christian doctrine. Rather, the eschatological outlook is characteristic of all Christian proclamation, of every Christian existence and of the whole Church. There is therefore only one real problem in Christian theology, which its own object forces upon it and which it in turn forces on mankind and on human thought: the problem of the future. For the element of otherness that encounters us in the hope of the Old and New Testaments – the thing we cannot already think out and picture for ourselves on the basis of the given world and of the experiences we already have of that world – is one that confronts us with a promise of something new and with the hope of a future given by God. The God spoken of here is no intra-worldly or extra-worldly God, but the ‘God of hope’ (Rom. 15:13), a God with ‘future as his essential nature’ (as E. Bloch puts it), as made known in Exodus and in Israelite prophecy, the God whom we therefore cannot really have in us or over us but always only before us, who encounters us in his promises for the future, and whom we therefore cannot ‘have’ either, but can only await in active hope. A proper theology would therefore have to be constructed in the light of its future goal. Eschatology should not be its end, but its beginning. [1]

[1] Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, trans. James W. Leitch (New York: Harper and Row, 1967) 16.

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