Neo-Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch exuded a heavy influence in the early theology of Moltmann. There are also scattered references to Marxist and socialist theory throughout his writings, as well as the occasional dialogue with the Frankfurt School (which is dedicated to neo-Marxist values). This has all been used as support for leveling accusations against Moltmann of advocating a theology based in Marxist theory. See, for instance, the completely misguided charge from Paul Enns that “Moltmann is more indebted to Karl Marx for his theology than to the teachings of Scripture” (The Moody Handbook of Theology: Revised and Expanded, 630; Moody, 2008). Robert Walton also provides an inaccurate portrayal of Moltmann’s relationship to Marxism by stating that his use of Marxist philosophy is “the basis of his new conception of election: his doctrine of God and his belief that only the poor and oppressed can be God’s people” (“Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope”, in Liberation Theology; Baker, 1988; pp. 143-86; citation from pg. 153).
What is often left unmentioned, perhaps just going unnoticed by Moltmann’s less scrupulous readers, is how he actually uses the work of Marxists like Bloch as a foil, taking over Marxist critiques as a means to revealing faults in the capitalist market-system, which Moltmann sees as a pervasive ideology found in all areas of life, especially religion:
The global marketing of everything and every service is much more than pure economics. It has become the all-embracing law of life. We have become customers and consumers, whatever else we may be. The market has become the philosophy of life, the world religion. (God for a Secular Society, 153; Fortress, 1999)
Furthermore, as one progresses through Moltmann’s writings, one can see that his use of Marxian categories has steadily decreased over time, perhaps being attributable to his increasing emphasis on ecumenicism. Irrespective as to why his use of Marxist theory declined, it should nevertheless be able to legitimately serve as a foil for theological thinking about economic and political issues.
Moltmann’s use of Marxist theory is a good example of his doing theology à la mode; utilizing currents that are in vogue in order to respond to a problem that society is facing without actually intending to fully appropriate the idea being adopted. So while arguing that capitalism is both alienating and objectifying, leading to the exploitation of relationships and prohibiting people from realizing their true humanity, Moltmann flatly rejects the idea that the abolition of capitalism would led to the realization of the kingdom of God, saying that “the kingdom of God can be socialism, but that does not mean that socialism is now the kingdom of God” (The Crucified God, 320; Fortress, 1993). He also states more unequivocally that “humanist Marxism is fundamentally discredited by its Stalinist and post-Stalinist practice” (Ibid, 9).