God only knows (and bemoans) how crappy the Church can be. A brief look at the history of the Church and you can easily make a big list of reasons one group of Christians think another group is wrong enough to go to Hell and a slightly smaller list of times the truth holders helped the heretics meet God quicker. Of course you could say it is the collateral damage of being a community of humans, but it is more than that. The history of the Church contains multiple occasions of tyrannical power, ‘eternal’ manipulation, and end-time inspired violence. These real historical failures tragedies require a different guiding vision of the church for the future. There must be a different way to handle ethical challenges, theological disagreements, and the questions of the age than we have in the past. In response one could (and one google search will reveal) decide to enthrone plurality, figuring that the continued magnification of multiplicity, difference, and diversity would protect the Church from repeating these past (and continued) problems.
In a chapter titled, ‘the rebirth of the Church,’ Moltmann offers a trinitarian reading that privileges the One over the Many on behalf of the Many. Instead of a fear of diversity Moltmann sees the nature of God calling us to trust that the one Spirit of God is at work in our diversity, saying ‘God’s life-giving Spirit is the inexhaustible wellspring of a plurality of original powers and forms of life, for it gives everyone what is his or hers.’
There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are varieties of service, but the same Lord. There are varieties of powers, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. (1 Cor. 12:4-6)
‘Paul’ he argues ‘is putting forward a trinitarian argument for unity in diversity and diversity in unity…this is not a premodern eulogy of a uniform unity, nor is it a postmodern glorification of diversity.’ Life lived in this kind of community is such that one experiences fellowship with God neither as ‘the power above them’ or as ‘the ground below them’ but as ‘the bond between them.’
The church, Moltmann argues, is a minority with a universal mission but this mission is NOT the flourishing of our religion, society, or truth. The church is a community with a ‘comprehensive hope for the peoples of the world and for this earth. The future of the church is more than the church; the future of Christianity is more than Christianity. The church answers for God’s universal future.’
Emergent Village is finally posting the audio from the ‘theological conversation’ with Jurgen Moltmann. Go check it out.
For even more Molty, check out the audio from the ‘Holy Spirit in the World Today’ conference. It includes Rowan Williams, Mirslav Volf, David Ford, and more. Well worth all the FREE you pay for it!
None of this will top actually reading Moltmann’s new book. It is awesome!