So You Want To Read Moltmann?

Jürgen Moltmann is one of the most influential and important Reformed theologians of the latter half of the twentieth century. I’ve read quite a bit of Moltmann’s oeuvre and so I thought it might be helpful to provide some suggestions for those looking to tackle his work.

The book I would actually recommend someone start out with is Moltmann’s Jesus Christ for Today’s World. This is a lay-level summation of Moltmann’s Christology (which can also be found in his much larger book The Way of Jesus Christ). Moltmann covers the topics of the Kingdom of God, the passion of Christ, the forsakenness of Christ, the tortured Christ, the cosmic scope of Christ’s death and resurrection, and Jewish-Christian dialogue (which has always been a critical part of Moltmann’s thinking). So basically, it is an accessible book containing several key themes of Moltmann’s theology.

Another Moltmann book that is more readable for the armchair theologian is Experiences of God. It is quite a small book, running at just under one hundred pages. It contains a chapter explaining why he is a Christian, as well as great chapters of hope, anxiety, and a theology of mystical experience. There is also The Source of Life (which could be seen as a summation of Moltmann’s larger volume on pneumatology, The Spirit of Life). Another good little book for those getting acquainted with Moltmann is In the Beginning – The End: The Life of Hope. It is basically an extended meditation on a key element of Moltmann’s theology: the faithfulness of God in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and how this provides us with a sure and living hope for our own resurrection and for the restoration of creation. ‘Behold, I make all things new!’

Many of Moltmann’s books fall under the category of dense, heavy academic volumes. Here is a list of his “programmatic” writings and “systematic contributions” (as Moltmann called them):

Programmatic Writings

Systematic Contributions

A couple other notable academic books of Moltmann’s (but which are not part of his systematics) are:

His best book (in my opinion) is Theology of Hope, followed closely by The Crucified God.  Though I wouldn’t recommend starting out with these two books unless you’re already quite familiar with reading academic theological works. While some would call those two books overrated, they are nevertheless important contributions in twentieth-century Protestant theology and are his most well-known books for good reason.

There is, of course, a veritable mountain of secondary literature that one can read on Moltmann’s theology, such as in-depth studies on a particular aspect of Moltmann’s theology, e.g., Origins of the Theology of Hope (by M. Douglas Meeks). One of the more important volumes to read is Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann. Though, keep in mind that this was written back in 1995 and Moltmann has written a heck of a lot since then (including the final two volumes in his systematics). Another good work is Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz’s The Kingdom and the Power: The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann (2001).

So for the armchair theologian desiring an accessible introductory work to Moltmann, I suggest you read Jesus Christ for Today’s World. If you enjoyed that, then pick up A Broad Place: An Autobiography (knowing a theologian’s Sitz im Leben helps understand their thought), and maybe take a gander at The Power of the Powerless: The Word of Liberation Today (a collection of powerful short sermons), and Ethics of Hope (by taking the crux of his entire theological project—the eschatological hope that the faithfulness of the God of promise brings us in light of Christ’s resurrection—Moltmann explores the implications this has for Christian praxis).

But for those wanting the dark, succulent meat of Moltmann’s theology, start with Theology of Hope, then pick up The Crucified God, and if you want more, I recommend The Coming of God and The Way of Jesus Christ.

 

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