Moltmann and “The Source of Life”

fresco at the Karlskirche in vienna (by Johann...
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I’ve just started reading Jurgen Moltmann’s The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life and today I would like to share some excerpts from chapter two with you.  If you are not familiar with Jurgen Moltmann, you can read about him here and you can read some of his work on line, here.

Chapter two is titled, “The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life” has two sections, “The presence of God’s Spirit: biblical perspectives”   and “The mission of the Holy Spirit today”.

Moltmann begins the chapter by writing,

The gift and the presence of the Holy Spirit is the greatest and most wonderful thing which we can experience-we ourselves, the human community, all living things and this earth.For with the Holy Spirit it is not just one random spirit that is present, among all the many good and evil spirits that there are. It is God himself, the creative and life-giving, redeeming and saving God. (10)

What I want to highlight here is Moltmann’s position that the Holy Spirit affects, is involved with, and transforms all of creation, not only humans. Rather than summarize Moltmann’s work, I want to share his words with you.

Prayers to the Holy Spirit are all fundamentally a plea for the Spirit’s coming...The Spirit is more than just one of God’s gifts among others; the Holy Spirit is the unrestricted presence of God in which our life wakes up, becomes wholly and entirely living, and is endowed with the energies of life…The response to the plea for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit’s coming and remaining, its outpouring and indwelling. People who ask for the Holy Spirit to come to us- into our hearts, into the community we live in, and to our earth- don’t want to flee into heaven or to be snatched away into the next world. They have hope for their hearts, their community and this earth. We don’t pray ‘Let us come into your kingdom’ either. We pray “Your kingdom come on earth as in heaven’. The petition for the coming of the divine Spirit to us frail earthly people implies a great, unbroken affirmation of life.

Another response to the petition for the Holy Spirit is its ‘outpouring on all flesh; (Joel 2.28; Acts 2.17ff.). This is a quite astounding metaphor. What is it saying? ‘All flesh’ is of course human life first and foremost but, as Gen 9:10ff. says, it also embraces all the living generally- plants, trees and animals. …

The astonishing thing is that here the Holy Spirit is seen not just as a divine Person but as the divine element too. The Spirit is ‘sent’ and ‘comes’ like a tempest; it spreads itself out over all living things, like the waters of a flood, pervading everything. If the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit and the special presence of God, then when God’s Spirit is poured out, ‘all flesh’ will be deified. All mortal flesh will be fulled with the eternal life of God, for what comes from God is divine and eternal like God himself. … The transition from the Spirit itself to the Spirit’s many different energies- from charis to the charismata- is as fluid as an emanation. The divine becomes the all-embracing presence in which what is human- indeed everything that lives- can develop fruitfully and live eternally; ‘You encompass me on every side and hold you hand over me’ )Ps139.5).  (selected passages from pages 10-13)

God’s mission is nothing less than the sending of the Holy Spirit from the Father through the Son into this world, so that this world should not perish but live. … The sending of the Holy Spirit is the revelation of God’s indestructible affirmation of life and his marvelous joy  in life.  (19)

What happens in the mission of the Holy Spirit is the renewal of God’s people, the renewal of all the living and the renewal of the earth. All things are created and held together by” the breath of God’s life”.

Shalom will bring human beings and animals into a new shared life, as Isaiah 11 prophesies. When ‘the Spirit’ is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest, then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field’ (Isa 32.15f). This can be called the ecology of God’s Spirit.  (25)

Like all the living things with which we live, people are created out of the earth (Genesis 2). This earth is our shared environment and in a realistic sense ‘our mother’ (Ecclus. 40.1). By the earth we don’t just mean the global system with its atmosphere and biosphere in which we live. According to biblical traditions, it is the earth that ‘brings forth’ plants, trees and animals, and human beings are taken from her too. This living-space earth is part of the community of creation shared by all the living.  It was modern industrial society which for the first time viewed the earth simply as matter, and no longer as holy. It is time for us to respect the holiness of God’s earth once more, before the catastrophes descend on us. God’s Spirit fills ‘the world’, as Israel’s Wisdom says. The kingdom of God, whose beginning and seal here and today is the Holy Spirit, will bring ‘a new heaven and a new earth; (Revelation 21). There is no eternal life without the kingdom of God, and no kingdom of God without the new earth. (25).

2 thoughts on “Moltmann and “The Source of Life”

    1. Yes, me too. I was struck while reading this chapter how Moltmann sees the Holy Spirit at work and active everywhere. When I look out my window now, I see a little more than I did before. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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