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The role of suffering in Jürgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope McIntyre, Lawrence


When Jürgen Moltmann wrote his first book, Theology of Hope, in the 1960s, hope was in the air. The 1960s was a decade of great hope. It was a time of great hope for the Catholic Church, with Vatican II. Hope was in the air for oppressed people, with the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movement. And it was a time of great explorations that launched people into space and left footprints on the moon. Moltmann’s book resonated with the times. Its publication vaulted him from an obscure professor to the forefront of theology. The book shook up established principles of theology, including the meaning of eschatology -- that it wasn’t just about the end times or last things, but that it was about now. Yet, this time of great hope occurred just a few short years after a period of great suffering and despair -- World War II -- when millions lost their lives in battle or as innocent, collateral victims of war, or in the targeted murder of Jews that was the Holocaust. My claim that it is not a coincidence that hope follows suffering. Indeed, my claim is that hope emerges from suffering. This is true for the development of Moltmann’s theology of hope, i.e., it emerged from the suffering he experienced as a youth in Hitler’s military in WWII. And, more importantly, this is true for Christian hope. God has consistently responded to the suffering human condition with hope.

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