Any Questions? image

Any Questions?

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Jürgen Moltmann’s The Trinity and the Kingdom of God is a challenging read. It isn’t challenging because it’s particularly difficult to read, but because it poses questions that I hadn’t given much thought to before. I find some of Moltmann’s theology to be thought provokingly brilliant, whereas at other times he can say things that seem a bit off the ball. One thing that can’t be said, though, is that his theology is mundane. Rather than going into the complexities of Moltmann’s Trinitarian theology as a whole, I will just pose two of these questions that he raises. I can’t decide why I haven’t given them much attention previously; it could be that others are kept awake by them every night whilst I’ve been blissfully ignorant! It might be that they are unimportant questions, or it might be that they are uniquely important questions to Moltmann because of the direction of the rest of his theological schema (this seems quite likely). The question is, are they important questions in and of themselves, and if so, how do we go about answering them?

They are what I would deem properly theological questions; that is, they’re not questions that arise from any sort of objective standpoint, but ones that come from a confessional belief in God as Trinity. The raw material, of course, is scripture; but scripture does not, I would argue at least, provide definitive answers (I understand that this might invoke some proof texting!). These particular questions may not be answerable, and some would say that such things are meant to be understood as being within the realm of mystery. Nevertheless, I think that as questions they are fundamentally important, not least because they draw us into the very life of God. Anyway, the two questions are:

    1. Is the Father the Father of the Spirit, or only the Father of the Son?
    2. Does God have a future?

Although I won’t try to answer the questions, it’s worth highlighting a few things. With respect to the question of the nature of the Father’s Fatherhood, Moltmann has in mind the question of how much the Son and the Spirit are to be differentiated from one another. If the Father is the Father of the Spirit, does that not turn the Spirit into just another version of the Son, albeit a Spiritual version? So any potential answer must reckon with this concern. In relation to the question about God’s future, Moltmann is not asking whether the idea of God has a future, nor whether God is about to cease existing, but literally whether God has a future. Moltmann is driven here by wanting to consider the implications of saying that God enters into time in the divine Son and is therefore asking to what extent time becomes part of God. He is aiming to tread the difficult path of valuing the reality of the incarnation whilst also preserving God’s freedom (which it’s questionable whether he does in the case of freedom). Our responses, therefore, should probably reckon with these concerns also. And, as soon as we begin to answer questions such as these, other difficult questions arise, particularly in the tricky area of Trinitarian theology (e.g. To what extent is the Father the Father because he is the Father or because of the nature of his relations?).

So, over to you. Are these questions important? Are there any adequate answers? Or should we just retreat into the enclave of mystery? One last question therefore: are questions more helpful in our enquiring after the nature of God than answers?

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