Monday, July 21, 2008

Quote of the Day

On the train coming back from central London today, I read the following Moltmannian delight:
"God is nowhere greater than in his humiliation. God is nowhere more
glorious than in his impotence. God is nowhere more divine than when he becomes man"
The Trinity and the Kingdom, Jürgen Moltmann, 119

The last line, being the end of a meditation on incarnation and kenosis, struck my theological inner man with particular force. "God is nowhere more divine than when he becomes man". I can't help but feel that there is something wrong with the claim, but perhaps the problem is mine. A true thought-provoker!


At 7/21/2008 11:58 PM, Anonymous Scott F said...

O don't know... I sometimes feel that people throw out these paradoxical sayings thinking they contain some "deep" meaning when they are really just contradictory. It's as if once the phrases have been uttered, Mystery can be invoked and the words become untouchable.

Being able to hold ten contradictory concepts in your mind at once is NOT a virtue but it sometimes passes for one among philosophers and theologians.

At 7/22/2008 12:53 AM, Anonymous X-Cathedra said...

A great quote.

One might look at it as: ontologically, Incarnation or not, God's overabundant divinity would remain undiminished. He is technically no more or less God when He becomes man (Chalcedon, no?). Yet this God is also only ever the God of promise, and as man He is achieving the fulfillment of His salvific action that is somehow tied up with His divinity. Thus the God whose name is "I will be Who I will be" is in a sense "most" God when the promises tied to His identity are fulfilled, and this as humiliated man.

Pax Christi,

At 7/22/2008 3:08 AM, Anonymous David W. Congdon said...

It is an excellent quote, but mainly because it is simply a paraphrase of what Barth says. If we only understand who God is in the person of Jesus Christ, then we have to conclude that what it is to be "divine" is to become human. Or, as Barth puts it in his essay, "The Humanity of God," God's divinity includes humanity.

At 7/22/2008 4:11 AM, Anonymous Cliff Martin said...

The quote is right on (or in light of Chris's following post, it is Wright on!) I love it! As x-cathedra says, God never ceases to be all that he is in terms of his omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc. But a God who is all of that has no need to prove himself; self-realization, or self-actualization are completely absent in him. He is solidly self assured, free of any need, and he is love. These uniquely divine characteristics are best displayed in his complete humility. Any lesser being could not be so humble. So his divinity is expressed more perfectly in humility than in majestic displays of supernatural power.

At 7/22/2008 6:34 AM, Anonymous dan said...

This is one of my favourite Moltmann quotes, and one of the reasons why he is my first-love (at least when it comes to theology).

Glad to see you've been working your way through The Trinity and the Kingdom.

At 7/22/2008 11:47 PM, Anonymous Ben said...

Here's a twist on that...what if you switch the humanity and divinity in the last statement. This is what Wingren says about Irenaeus' soteriology:

Irenaeus saw that in his present condition man is becoming no more than man. But according to God’s decree in Creation man as man is to be like God, and when man becomes like God he is in actual fact becoming man. When Irenaeus represents the idea of a “deification” of man, this “deification” coincides with man’s “becoming man.” (Man and Incarnation, 209-210)

At 7/25/2008 4:39 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Why stop with that Moltmann quotation?

Why not add that...

God is never more visible than when He's invisible.


What is the sound of one Moltmann clapping for "God?"

At 7/25/2008 4:46 AM, Anonymous Edward T. Babinski said...

Muslims and devout Jews would BOTH disagree with Christians like Moltmann who imagine "God is nowhere more sublime than when He becomes man." That's not "sublime" according to a devout Jew of Muslim, but blasphemous.

Same goes for the Noahide Christians who have left Christianity for a stricter monotheism because the Trinity is so pagan-like.

At 7/25/2008 11:57 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Scott,
I hear you about paradoxical sayings. I suppose I feel different about Moltmann here because it is part of a reasoned argument.

Great name!

Hi David,
Yes, I think I too heard this first in Barth (or more likely a summary of Barth). But for some reason it grabbed me reading Moltmann in a way it didn’t reading Barth.

Hi Cliff, I think you have found a lovely way of putting the matter:

“These uniquely divine characteristics are best displayed in his complete humility”

Very nice!

I am SO grateful you got me this book. What an absolute delight; tonic for my soul.

Thanks for your thoughts; I really enjoyed the point you made. Especially this bit: “when man becomes like God he is in actual fact becoming man”. This is a truth that is gripping me at the moment. To be more like Christ is to be made after the last Adam, the image of God. Yes, to be Christian is to be fully human. Exactly. What a liberating thought.

Hi Edward,
The reason Moltmann doesn’t go there as it is not part of his argument. This quote is part of a line of reasoning which, I know, is never obvious in such a quote of the day situation.

At 7/31/2008 8:51 PM, Anonymous Brian Mooney said...

While some admittedly employ paradox in an attempt to appear profound, I think the phrasing here is worthy of Chesterton (and I hope this will be understood as a high compliment), that still-underestimated master of paradoxical insight and statement. Of course, I see the world as essentially, and wonderfully, full of paradox so this would appeal to me anyway. Thank you for quoting these words!



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