Moltmann’s Sitz im Leben

Jürgen Moltmann has undoubtedly been an influential voice in contemporary Christian theology, with his initial work, Theologie der Hoffnung (1964; English translation Theology of Hope, 1967), putting him on the theological map of the twentieth century. As is true with any theologian, Moltmann’s life setting has had a critical impact on his theology—a fact of which he himself is well aware:

For me, theology was, and still is, an adventure of ideas. It is an open, inviting path. … The road emerged only as I walked on it. And my attempts to walk it are of course determined by my personal biography, and by the political context and historical kairos in which I live. (Experiences in Theology, xv)

Throughout his theological career, Moltmann has attempted to establish a theological project having three key features: 1) a political responsibility, 2) a biblical foundation, and 3) an eschatological orientation (History and the Triune God, 182). It is helpful to understand the Sitz im Leben in which Moltmann’s theology was formed and received, for only then will it be possible to assess his thought, particularly in regards to the question of how his life has been responsible for his hermeneutical method and theological emphases.

Jürgen Moltmann was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1926 and was raised in a thoroughly secular and faithless household. He recalls that “at home Christianity was only a matter of form . . . as something rather remote” (Experiences of God, 6). During his teenage years, Moltmann developed a passion for science and had planned on studying mathematics at University, but the outbreak of war had him drafted to serve in the Werhmacht (the German armed forces), carrying with him to war the works of Nietzsche and a volume of Goethe as a testament to his rearing in the writings of the German Enlightenment, calling these works his “iron rations” which he took with him into the “miseries of war” (ibid., 7). This time is of paramount importance to Moltmann’s theology, as his theological trajectory begins not with Barth or Iwand, but with World War II and the crucial events occurring to him during this time.

In 1943, while stationed in Hamburg, Moltmann’s anti-aircraft unit was struck during the Allied bombing known as Operation Gomorrah. During this event Moltmann witnessed his friend killed by an incendiary device, yet he himself survived with only minor shrapnel wounds, despite their standing mere inches apart. Apart from causing Moltmann to give grave consideration as to why he had survived and his friend had not, it also led him to asking the question of where God is in the midst of suffering; a question which has remained central throughout his entire theological career.

Two years later Moltmann was sent to the front lines in Reichswald, Belgium. It was here that he surrendered himself to the Allied forces and subsequently was placed in POW camps for three years in Belgium, Scotland, and finally, at Norton Camp in England. It was during this time that Moltmann was confronted with photos of the atrocities perpetrated by the Third Reich on the Jews in places like Auschwitz and Buchenwald. During his internment in Belgium Moltmann was provided with a Bible by an Allied chaplain. He found solace in the Psalms of lament, particularly Psalm 39, and upon reaching Jesus’ death cry in the Gospel of Mark—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” (Mk. 15:34)—Moltmann had found his answer: “this is someone who understands you completely, who is with you in your cry to God and has felt the same forsakenness you are living in now” (ibid., 30).

This development of faith was further supported by his internment in Norton Camp. This facility was run by the YMCA in conjunction with the British army, functioning as a type of captive seminary, with theological studies being provided by fellow prisoners and others brought in from the outside world, including Anders Nygren and Martin Niemöller. During this time as a prisoner-of-war, Moltmann experienced a slow but steady conversion to the Christian faith, which he describes as follows:

In the camps in Belgium and Scotland I experienced both the collapse of those things that had been certainties for me and a new hope to live by, provided by the Christian faith. I probably owe to this hope, not only my mental and moral but physical survival as well, for it was what saved me from despairing and giving up. I came back a Christian with a new “personal goal” of studying theology, so that I might understand the power of hope to which I owed my life. (A Broad Place, 59-60)

Upon his return to Germany, Moltmann continued to study theology, receiving his doctorate in theology from the University of Göttingen in 1952, having studied under Gerhard Von Rad and Ernst Käsemann. Meeks gives a thorough assessment of the influence that three of his other Göttingen teachers—Otto Weber, Ernst Wolf, and Hans Joachim Iwand—had on Moltmann during his time there (see M. Douglas Meeks, Origins of the Theology of Hope, 19-53).

Marrying the feminist theologian Elisabeth Wendel the same year that he received his doctorate, Moltmann then spent five years as a pastor of a reformed church, followed by a position on the theological faculty at Bonn University. In 1967, Moltmann was offered the prestigious chair of systematic theology at the University of Tübingen, becoming Professor Emeritus in 1994.

From my readings through Moltmann’s works, what is readily apparent is the role that his Sitz im Leben has played in his theology. Despite the twentieth century beginning with a tinge of humanistic optimism and a certain buoyancy of spirit, this attitude was called into question with the advent of the Great War. This was followed by another World War and the Shoah. It is this setting which is so critical to understanding where Moltmann and his theological project is coming from. While one can appreciate that Moltmann’s experience in World War II is his theology in nuce, thus leading him to approach theology from the viewpoint that the world is at peril of total self-annihilation, he has nevertheless allowed subsequent experiences, such as his interaction with liberation theologians and his ecumenical endeavors, to continually inform and direct the contours of his theology.

Liberation Theology and a Theology of Hope (Part VI)

Concluding Thoughts

In looking at liberation theology and theology of hope through Moltmann and Gutiérrez, one can surmise that both are political theologies that attempt to orient theology towards the downtrodden of society, albeit from different contexts. There is also an undeniable common thread of Marxism to be found in both their political theologies. Moltmann himself notes that Marxism is used by most liberation theologians, including Gutiérrez, as “an analytical instrument – a way of grasping the situations of the poor in Latin America. . . . Put in simpler terms: Marxist analysis, yes; communist therapy, no!” (Experiences in Theology, 245). This use of Marxism, however, isn’t necessarily true for every liberation theologian, as not all liberation theologians adopt Marxist theory, (e.g., Jon Sobrino seems to deliberately avoid the use of Marxian categories such as class struggle and a classless society in his writings; another example is Hugo Assman).

While both Moltmann and Gutiérrez have used Marxist social theory, both decidedly ditching Marxism’s dialectical materialism and atheism, there seems to be a stark difference in how they base their use of Marxism. Gutiérrez appears to start with Marxist analysis and then seeks biblical verification, though naturally departing from Marxism when it comes to the obvious issues of death and God, etc. Conversely, Moltmann starts with the biblical depiction of the future kingdom of God and then employs Marxism as a critique on how the current way of things is opposed to this future hope. The primary appeal to Moltmann in Marxism (as he found it in Bloch) is its imagination for a better future society, rather than the Marxist strategy for proletarian revolution which seems to be a more useful aspect to Gutiérrez.

Gutiérrez’s understanding and use of “hope” stands in distinction to Moltmann’s; he has not just uncritically embraced Moltmann’s view of hope but has instead only borrowed from it in order to create his own. Gutiérrez’s hope is directed towards a liberating utopia and a plan for a qualitatively changed society that is more just towards the poor. This is different to Moltmann who sees hope as being founded upon the resurrection of Christ and directed towards the ultimum novum, declining to pivot around a more static final objective such as Gutiérrez’s utopia. In short, one could perhaps say that Gutiérrez’s theology reflects a temporal human-based hope, while Moltmann’s theology employs a more future divine-based hope.

Moltmann’s influence on Gutiérrez (and other liberation theologians) is a noteworthy case of theological cross-fertilization between first-world and third-world theologians. Yet, Gutiérrez was wary of not taking too much from Moltmann and Europe, primarily seeing the benefits of hope theology in its critiques of the hyper-individualized gospel and our overly capitalist society, while also coveting the stimulating effect Moltmann’s theology has on political consciousness and engagement.

An adequate theological stance on hope must rest upon sufficient grounds. The eschatological hope of Moltmann that is predicated on the resurrection of Christ and the everlasting faithfulness of God appears somewhat different to Gutiérrez’s more evolutionary optimism, that seems to depend on an extrapolation of the present process, thus providing a less sure hope. In the end, after briefly looking at the role that Marxism and hope play in their respective theologies, one could almost say, to borrow a wordplay from Kayayan, that Moltmann’s theology of hope was effectively secularized in Gutiérrez’s liberation theology, turning it from a theology of anastasis (resurrection) into a theology of epanastasis (revolution)! Naturally, though, Gutiérrez’s revolution would be with bread and wine, not guns and bloodshed.

Liberation Theology and a Theology of Hope (Part V)

Gutiérrez and Hope

While Moltmann’s Theology of Hope was first being read and debated in Europe, Gustavo Gutiérrez was defining theology as a consideration on the praxis of the poor, publishing his important work, A Theology of Liberation, in 1971. Moltmann’s emphasis on hope was readily incorporated into the work of some liberation theologians and some of what Gutiérrez says about hope bears a striking resemblance to Moltmann’s thought. Gutierrez’s liberation theology has a strong bond with Moltmann’s theology of hope in its interest for present transformative action in conformity with a hoped-for-future. Another similarity to Moltmann, but divergent from most other liberation theologians, is in how Gutiérrez draws upon Ernst Bloch’s understanding of hope (A Theology of Liberation, 123-24). Another parallel between Gutiérrez and Moltmann is seen in how Gutiérrez defines “hope” as an “openness to the God who is to come” (ibid., 204), which sounds similar to Moltmann who argues that hope must always be open to the future in which God finally fully arrives and is wholly present.

Yet Gutiérrez’s adoption of Moltmann’s hope theology was not without its criticisms. For instance, Gutiérrez levels the charge that while “hope fulfills a mobilizing and liberating function in history,” Moltmann’s theology is open to the risk of merely replacing a “Christianity of the Beyond” with a “Christianity of the Future,” weakening the struggle for liberation and freedom in the present (ibid., 124). Contra Moltmann, Gutiérrez argues that real emancipatory hope doesn’t have its basis in a promise from the future but rather develops through the praxis of the poor contending with their present situation and transforming it (ibid., 201-3). Thus, Gutiérrez’s consideration of hope is focused upon a liberating utopia which sees hope as an obligation to a social praxis through which humans become the means of transforming the present into a more just society. He says, “Hope thus emerges as the key to human existence oriented towards the future, because it transforms the present” (ibid., 123). As a corollary to this, the power of the future is seen as an extension of God’s power in the present at liberating the oppressed, directing history towards its full realization and completion. Gutiérrez’s understanding of hope goes beyond the seemingly never-ending and open-ended dialectical analysis of Moltmann.

Gutiérrez argues that it is hope that thrusts society forward by challenging and denouncing the unjust conditions of the present, while seeking and heralding a more righteous future. This understanding of hope is crucial to Gutiérrez’s conception of “utopia” in A Theology of Liberation. While he overtly discusses utopia only in a short section (ibid., 135–40), the role of utopia pervades every other topic that he writes on in that book. At the onset of his discussion on utopia, Gutiérrez clarifies his use of the term as referring to “a historical project for a qualitatively different society and to express the aspiration to establish new social relations among human beings” (ibid., 135). This liberating utopia is the motivation for hope.

This divergence of Gutiérrez from Moltmann in regards to hope is also seen in how he places an emphasis on a temporal hope. He says: “The Kingdom is realized in a society of fellowship and justice; and, in turn, this realization opens up the promise and hope of complete communion of all persons with God. The political is grafted into the eternal” (ibid., 135). Note that Gutiérrez delineates between hope in the eternal and hope in the temporal (political). He also says that: “The hope which overcomes death must be rooted in the heart of historical praxis; if this hope does not take shape in the present to lead it forward, it will be only an evasion, a futuristic illusion” (ibid., 124). Here he lays bare his belief that eternal hope cannot exist independent of a temporal hope that is “rooted in . . . historical praxis.” Further along, Gutiérrez says that “without liberating historical events, there would be no growth of the kingdom [of God]” (ibid., 177).

Liberation Theology and a Theology of Hope (Part IV)

Moltmann and Hope

It was after reading Ernst Bloch’s The Principle of Hope that Moltmann was left wondering, “Why has Christian theology let go of its most distinctive theme, hope?” (How I Have Changed, 15). From this question arose the momentum for his innovative and influential work, Theology of Hope. For Moltmann hope is the most significant element of human life and experience. Quoting a Rabbinical commentary, he says that “God created all things with finality . . . but he created man in hope” (The Experiment Hope, 27). Elsewhere he says: “That is why it can be said that living without hope is like no longer living. Hell is hopelessness, and it is not for nothing that at the entrance to Dante’s hell there stand the words: ‘Abandon hope, all ye who enter here’” (Theology of Hope, 32).

Hope is a grossly abused word in today’s culture, but Moltmann’s vision of hope stands in a drastic tension with the secular hopes offered up elsewhere in his day, whilst also opposing accusations leveled against hope by thinkers like Spinoza and Freud who argued that hope is an infantile and illusionary deception. Unlike others before him who advocated for an optimistic secular hope without faith in Christ that winds up becoming merely “a utopia and remains hanging in the air” (ibid., 20), Moltmann’s hope is founded upon the resurrection of the crucified Christ, saying that Christian faith and hope “stands or falls with the reality of the raising of Jesus from the dead by God” (ibid., 166); Moltmann does not see the resurrection faith of the apostles as merely a nice feeling in their bowels having been liberated from the tribalist concepts of cult and law. Neither does Moltmann see hope as simply an optimistic outlook in progress of the Enlightenment, a deferred escapist hope of being raptured out of this world, nor as an individualized post-mortem hope for another world—the “pie in the sky when you die.” Instead, for Moltmann, in Christ’s resurrection God has embodied his ultimate promise to us, giving us the foundation for a “living hope” (1 Pet 1.3) in the kingdom of God that is announced in the Scriptures and found in the life and teachings of Jesus.

Moltmann’s hope for the future draws upon Hegel’s forward-moving dialectic of history, seeing the past (thesis) as misery and the future (antithesis) as hope, which requires us to work in the present (synthesis) to effect the change.  It is because Moltmann sees the resurrection of Christ as a guarantee of the new creation that he also views the future as having an impact on the present, rather than the typical way of thinking which postulates that the present leads to the future. By doing so, Moltmann is attempting to give hope the gravitas it needs in order to affect our present lives by seeking to restore to the Church its hope for God’s new creation as a driving force for societal transformation.

Moltmann considers hope (based on the resurrection of Christ) as a source of courage to truly enter into history, rather than a heavenly hope which seeks to escape it. Yet it is critical to note that while Moltmann sees hope as a tangible means of enacting this future kingdom of God in the present, he does not think humanity can fully bring in this new creation; instead, it can ultimately only come about by the direct intervention of God himself in the world. A notable commentator on Moltmann, Richard Bauckham, agrees, saying: “It is not that human activity in the present builds the future kingdom, but that the future kingdom by arousing hope and obedience in the present creates anticipations of itself within history. These are real anticipations of the kingdom, forms of God‘s presence . . . within the contradictions of a still unredeemed world, but they are precisely anticipations of a kingdom which itself remains eschatological, transcendent beyond all its historical approximations” (The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann, 104).


Liberation Theology and a Theology of Hope (Part III)

Gutiérrez, Marxism, and Political Theology

The Marxist thought which underpins Gutiérrez’s liberation theology is responsible for making it visibly political. In fact, an oft-repeated critique of Gutiérrez’s liberation theology is it has a proclivity to reduce faith merely to politics. This is not a terribly surprising charge in light of Gutiérrez’s belief that theology and doctrine follow praxis, saying that “theology does not produce pastoral activity; rather it reflects upon it” (A Theology of Liberation, 9). A way in which Gutiérrez emphasizes praxis is with an emphasis on theology as it relates to social structures. This, in various ways, is seen building to a better world, eventually leading to a kingdom of God on earth; the kingdom of God could be said to arrive through a reorganized society. This understanding of the relationship between praxis and theology is, in part, what led Gutiérrez to not being entirely satisfied with Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, for he seemed to see it as only being built upon vague notions of promise and hope without providing a legitimate plan for societal change. Gutiérrez sought to rectify this by offering up a viable way of effecting the change necessary in his Latin American context.

Gutiérrez develops his theology within his local context, in the underclass of Latin America. Latin American liberation theologians contend that the developing economies of Latin America are dependent upon advanced capitalist countries, such as the United States, who wind up only perpetuating their exploitation by putting into place political regimes that are merely in support of the status quo. Thus, not surprisingly, Gutiérrez is particularly interested in salvation when it is seen as a political liberation for Latin America from U.S. hegemony. Because of all this, Gutiérrez is careful to exclude elements of Western theology that he considers foreign to his Latin American context, but he is nevertheless in agreement with Moltmann in that he sees the Christian gospel as inextricably consisting of a political element that is not reliant on any particular current political structure. Gutiérrez says: “The Gospel does not get its political dimension from one or another particular option, but from the very nucleus of its message” (ibid., 139).

Gutiérrez incorporates some of Marx’s ideas, yet does so without becoming a full Marxist himself. His use of Marx can still be aptly summed up in the eleventh thesis of Marx against Feuerbach: “Hitherto philosophers have explained the world; our task is to change it.” In order to bring about this transformation of the world Gutiérrez employs the Marxist critique of religion in order to criticize bourgeois Christianity for supporting and legitimating the oppressor-oppressed structure of society. He draws upon the Marxist critique of the relationship between religion and capitalism, a relationship which perpetuates the poverty of the poor by reconciling them to their poverty through a hope for riches and justice in the eschatological upheaval when “the first shall be last and the last first.” Gutiérrez also adopts Marx’s critique of individualism (one of the key pillars of capitalism). He adopts this critique and elucidates its theological corollaries, such as it running counter to the biblical directive of solidarity. Another way in which Gutiérrez utilizes Marxism is by adopting Marx’s idea of class struggle. Gutiérrez believes that the oppression of the poor will not be overcome merely by understanding it in theory, but that the poor must see themselves as the oppressed and understand the causes behind their oppression, and must view themselves as the driving force in history and the instruments through which change can be implemented, reshaping society in accordance with the elevation of their own welfare. The poor are not meant to merely sit idly by and wait for God to solve our problems and create a just society; it is the poor who are to reform society.

While Gutiérrez believes that capitalism has failed to succeed in Latin America due to exploitation by other countries, he is not necessarily promoting a thoroughly Marxist economic system, as he concedes that Marxist states have failed. Instead, he advocates for a system that is unique to the needs of Latin America. He believes that any tangible social transformation can only really come about through small communities and must be a change from bottom up, as opposed to a top down change imposed upon citizens by an authoritarian vanguard party (such as what is found in historic examples of communist states).

Liberation Theology and a Theology of Hope (Part II)

Moltmann, Marxism, and Political Theology

The impetus of Moltmann’s theology is found the crisis that the German church found itself facing in a post-Auschwitz Germany. After the war, Moltmann returned to Hamburg, but among the food shortages, an infrastructure consisting primarily of rubble and craters, and the public awareness of the “final solution,” there loomed the daunting question of what role the church should now play in society. Moltmann found that the only glimmer of hope of the Protestant church during the Third Reich, the “Confessing Church” and its Barmen Declaration, had simply succumbed to rebuilding itself in its pre-war image, supporting the immediate re-institutionalization of the church. Yet considering that the churches had supported the Nazi regime (whether directly or indirectly through their silence), Moltmann found this lackluster response to be quite disconcerting and, appropriating a biblical metaphor, describes it as the church pouring “their new wine into old bottles” (Experiences of God, 10). Moltmann determined that the reason there was little resistance against the Nazi leviathan was due to religion being considered a private matter in Germany. Thus, Moltmann set it upon himself to de-privatize religion by offering up to Christians a “political” or “public” theology in his writings.

Meeks describes Moltmann’s political theology as follows: “For Moltmann, political theology is essentially the theology of the practice and realization of Christian mission in the world” (Origins of the Theology of Hope, 129). Or to quote Moltmann himself, his political theology “does not want to dissolve Christian faith into politics; nor does it want to replace Christianity with humanism” (“Political Theology,” Theology Today 28 [1971]: 6–23, quote from 22). Note that he also says that he “does not want to make political questions the central theme of theology or to give political systems and movements religious support” (ibid., 8).

Also, Moltmann originally labeled his theology as a “political” theology but over the years he has seemingly shifted towards calling it a “public” theology. The two labels have no obviously discernible difference, with both simply meaning “social” in the sense that they’re an attempt to determine the public responsibility of Christians.

Moltmann’s political theology is often said to go together with Marxism, though this a caricature. Moltmann primarily draws upon Marxist theory through the neo-Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch, who in the 1950s published Das Prinzip Hoffnung (The Principle of Hope), a work that combines Jewish eschatology together with Marxist social analysis. There are also scattered references to Marxist and socialist theory throughout Moltmann’s 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 or that he is merely presenting a Christianized form of Marxism. See, for instance, the completely misguided charge from Paul Enns: “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). 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, 143–86, quote from 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 the 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). Moltmann does not utilize Marxism to such an extent that it diminishes the Christian hope for the kingdom of God to something that can be accomplished through mere revolutionary political action. Moltmann only really employs Marxist theory in order to free bourgeois Christianity from its capitalist fixation with consumerism and its fetishism of money, rather than a means to promote a Christianized form of Marxism.

To summarize: 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: “the kingdom of God can be socialism, but that does not mean that socialism is now the kingdom of God” (The Crucified God, 320). He also states more unequivocally that “humanist Marxism is fundamentally discredited by its Stalinist and post-Stalinist practice” (ibid., 9). For Moltmann, Christianity is not synonymous with political action, but political action is an expression of Christian faith. 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.

Liberation Theology and a Theology of Hope (Part I)

Liberation theology is a school of thought focusing on the poor and marginalized of society and their liberation from poverty and oppression, though it is more appropriate to speak of liberation theology in the plural, for liberation theologies are to be found amongst various peoples around the world. The most notable and lucid expression of liberation theology to date is found in the Catholics of Latin America, the impetus behind this movement being the idea that the underclass of Latin America has been exploited and victimized by capitalism, colonialism, and corporations.

The theology of hope movement—which is more so a confederation of related proposals than an actual school of thought—is comprised of theologians such Wolfhart Pannenberg, Johannes Metz, Dietrich Ritschl, Walther Zimmerli, Carl Braaten, and Jürgen Moltmann. As one commentator has said: “The school of hope is not a religio-philosophical derivative of a previous epistemological or metaphysical orientation. It is an aggregate. Its basis is a mood” (Walter Capps, “Mapping the Hope Movement,” in The Future of Hope, 1–42, quote from 10).

The unifying thread among theologians of hope is a concern to relate the thoroughgoing eschatology and futurism of the Bible to contemporary human experience in a time where the liquidity and velocity of modernity needs to be kept in mind. Hope theology finds its framework in the eschatological thrusts of the Old and New Testaments, with the role of the “future” playing a crucial role in the theology, being found under the rubric of the kingdom of God. Linked to this utilization of the “future” is the role of “hope” in the present. In short, one can say that a “theology of hope” is a criticism of any form of Constantinian Christianity that attempts to find Christianity’s definitive answer in the present rather than the future.

Ostensibly, liberation theology and a theology of hope may seem to have much in common, yet there are actually considerable distinctions between the two theologies. While it can be said that the emergence of liberation theology and a theology of hope were contemporaneous to one another, there is no causation accompanying this correlation; one did not birth the other. Notwithstanding, the theology of hope school did have an impact on some liberation theologians, though the ideas found in it were not taken wholesale, but were instead selectively chosen and adapted freely. In other words, the relationship between the two theologies is best described as dialectical rather than hierarchical.

The next few posts shall examine this relationship by looking at the quintessential theologian of hope, Jürgen Moltmann, and the founder of liberation theologian in Latin America, Gustavo Gutiérrez. Each of these two figures occupies the role of being a pioneer in their respective theology movement, for the theology of hope school owes its existence in large part to Jürgen Moltmann’s work, Theologie der Hoffnung (1964; English translation, Theology of Hope, 1967), and likewise, the key work in the beginnings of the liberation theology movement is Gustavo Gutiérrez’s Teología de la Liberación (1971; English translation, A Theology of Liberation, 1973).

The value of a Moltmann-Gutiérrez comparison as a heuristic device for understanding the relationship between these two theological movements is established when one reads that Gutiérrez lavished praise upon Moltmann and his Theology of Hope, declaring the book as “one of the most important in contemporary theology” (A Theology of Liberation, 125). Moltmann has likewise been influenced by liberation theologians, saying that he found his theology of hope in Gutiérrez’s A Theology of Liberation (see Moltmann’s Experiences in Theology, 217). In the same book (217–48), Moltmann discusses Cardinal Ratzinger’s criticisms of Latin American liberation theology, effectively coming to the defense of Gutiérrez. It must be kept in mind, though, that while the theme of liberation is of paramount importance for Moltmann, he himself is not a liberation theologian, at least not in the normative sense of engaging in critical contemplation upon theological praxis within a particular community of beleaguered and oppressed people.

The next few blog posts will focus upon two key areas in these two theologies: (1) the role of Marxism in their political theology; and (2) the role of hope. By focusing upon these two themes found in hope theology (through Moltmann) and liberation theology (through Gutiérrez), I hope to shed a little bit of light as to the relationship between these two important twentieth-century theological movements.