“Briefly:” A Theological Statement
It is easy to write a neat theological statement regarding the Trinitarian nature of Christian theology and all that thusly flows out of that Trinity; it is much harder to take a theological position in light of that statement in only six pages. If in doing theology - theology oriented around the nature of the God of Jesus Christ whose Spirit dwells among us and works towards the fulfillment of promised resurrection and reconciliation - we can make the act of doing this work somehow succinct, I in turn wonder over a theological map that takes up little space and even less considerable thought. That being said, it is not easy for me to write in response to the course material we have covered, and it is harder still for me to do as Moltmann says and “[respond] to God’s joy.” Yet, here I am: responding to Christian hope, the Living God who suffers not only our our behalf but with us.
Theology cannot touch upon “God with us” unless God is incarnational - having a human response or understanding to or of the transcendent God is only possible through God’s transcendence being incarnate. Named, this incarnate transcendent God is Jesus Christ. Following this, the only theology that can be done is Christian theology: theology is cornerstoned upon the Word on God, the Logos tou Theou. In the Word of God - in Jesus Christ - God’s movements in history grow and multiply towards an eschatological completion.
In growth and multiplication, Christianity deals specifically with nature and time, and through these dealings calls into question the nature of life and death. In light of the resurrection of the Incarnate God, Christians see a unique relationship between these two seemingly binary sets of existence. Also in light of the resurrection, and the promise of the God of the Creation narrative that works towards a redemptive and reconciliatory eschatology, one sees that this God works in Trinitarian movements. The Spirit that works “all things together for the good” becomes the sealant on Christian doctrines, modes of living, and relationships to God. Without the Trinitarian nature of God, considering nature and time in any capacity becomes impossible. If theology is not done in light of Trinity, there is no revelation of God’s Self to be reflected upon, and no bringing to a close the world’s beginning.
Reflecting on God’s Self becomes vital to the tasks of ecclesiology, ethics, spirituality, and the liturgical communion in the life of the church - all of which concern themselves with God’s people. God’s whole Self - Father, Son, Spirit - makes a movement of grace, peace, and love towards God’s people and amongst God’s people. This movement is itself a teaching about humanity, God’s life with humanity, and the ways in which the Spirit of God works among humans to bring about the eschatological completion. They are past, present, and future movements, and they - grace, peace, and love - become diggers in the well of hope.
Hope, according to Moltmann, is the life of the Christian person and especially that of Christian communion. Hope, he says, refutes idealism and realism alike, seeking instead to imagine a world in complete communion with the Living God and works towards that end. The “making [of] all things new” is regenerative; instead of the Creation narrative consisting of a system closed in “perfection” to look backwards upon as a model for the future, it is a story of an open system moving forward towards perfection in Christ, in the Word, and in the life of God. Moltmann asserts that we are continuously hoping for life, for freedom, and for peace, but that it is not yet - and the tension between this and the reality of present sufferings is of God. God is present in our waiting on the promises of God’s Trinitarian movements, both throughout history and in the future: hope becomes possible because of the promise of this God. Nature, time, life, and death are set in motion by the Creation story, but are not participating in love, or in agape, in totality. This love is present and simultaneously is yet to come, and it is “good.”
This way of thinking calls God’s people, and the world, to participate in the life of the Spirit’s movements towards the eschatological completion while simultaneously reflecting on the life and death of Christ. The process of hope is a process of movement towards God, and opening oneself to God’s loving openness to us in light of that movement. In grace, we see that God makes the first movement of peace and love through the hopeful life, death, and resurrection of Christ. God’s Spirit gently opens human eyes, ears, and sense of feeling to the reality of God’s Self. When humans are open to this, they no longer attempt to coherently dominate current reality, but seek instead to agape God and neighbor in hope and anticipation for the promises of God and future reality not yet seen.
God’s promises and movements are especially hopeful in light of agony, death, suffering, and injustice. The problem of pain and especially the problem of evil are still what they are - problems - in light of God’s promises. There are no concrete answers to these problems, only solid speculations. Still, these speculations may still yet lead God’s people towards a rest in the hope for the future. God’s immanence and incarnational nature provide no ontological answer, but in themselves create an answer in an open system of becoming that is not yet finished. That is, in resting in the promise of God together with God’s people, one finds answer in the promise of Christ and in the movement of God’s Spirit working to fulfill that promise.
God’s Spirit and the movements that flow from it are the tangible touches and workings of God. According to Moltmann, he world is not finished, not self-realized, and not self-estranged, but is “engaged in a history.” This history is becoming in and through the workings of the Trinitarian God, whose incarnate Self promises solidarity and blessing to the poor in spirit and the oppressed. This is where hope lies: God being with us in Spirit, wholly, and yet promising that God’s being with us can only become more whole in the future completion. Creation is God’s beginning, the crucifixion is God’s entry point into human pain and suffering in solidarity, and the resurrection is the promise of “now but not yet.” It is here, in pain and in promise, that I personally meet with God and have faith that God meets me.
The following is a reflectional prayer I wrote after our class discussion of theodicy. It contains my doubts, fears, anger, hope, and joy in response to everything I have written above.
“At times I feel my head pulling apart and then pushing against itself in effort to rest somewhere. Always, always desiring rest, always complaining in the wilderness. I’m in my exodus. Perhaps we all are, slowly; then all at once.
“You give me manna and I attempt to hide it up in my sleeve, as if you won’t see. It molds by nightfall. I cannot grasp this, cannot grasp God. I am finally accepting there is no grasping on my part to be done: I am only the grasped, only asking to be held and not to understand.
“A suffering God comes to us, works through the assurance of promise that is not yet, and then works slowly over time to bring it to completion? This goes against Modern sensibilities; good change is always immediate, not arduous, and definitely not painful! Why this Way? Is there no easier Way?
“We react, we choke, we sputter, and especially we ask Why? Why death? Why depression? Why genocide? Why gentrification? Why suicide? Why rape?
“There are no easy answers, if any at all. We all wish to put you on the stand, God, if you are there, and judge you as we would each other, but you keep offering to die alongside us and even in our place. “I’m suffering with you,” you whisper, but over the screaming silence of our torturous existence we say it’s not enough; you should do something! Why don’t you do anything!
“Sputtering, we either deny you, leave you, or spit on you, unwilling to see the movement you have already made and the movements you promise to fulfill. It’s not enough. It’s never enough. We always want more, more, more-
“answers, everything. Give us yourself! we cry, and when you do, we do not want you. We fail to see your martyrdom: faithfully, quietly, slowly bringing us into communion with the Living God via the medium of pain. We want to understand. We want answers to the binaries we have perceived: good and evil definitely exist, and God does not unless God explains why.
“Help me, God of the Resurrection. These questions and angry outbursts are mine.
“Help me to see death and resurrection as partners to the joy of life; and especially help me to exist faithfully in the tension of now but not yet.”
And here, another theological movement I have made in recent weeks in light of the problem of living in death:
“Depression throws a wrench in the Christianity of those who believe Christ delivers us unto present nonsuffering, inculpable existence, and the opposite of what his sermon proclaims: that is, the mourning are blessed and will be healed at the time of resurrected completion.
“Depression (in Christianity) is not an accepted state of mind in light of the world’s suffering and chaos, but is diagnosed as spiritual dysfunction and/or sidestepped in an attempt to dismiss the point of God’s entry into our lives. Depression is a cause for fear, not mercy or grace.
“What is Christianity without a suffering God? What is hope without the state of despondency? To not recognize individual and global pain is to ignore the potential for God to make a movement towards us, and to be swept up in that movement in Hope towards the Trinity.
“Wake up, smell the Spirit-laden touch in the center of our deepest angst. It leaves a breeze that carries us to the cross. There we kneel, depression in hand, and sit at the feet of Jesus in joy until he comes again.
Perhaps that is all that I can end this paper with: a plea to the incarnate God whose Spirit I feel washing over me in 90 degree heat despite the confusion and chaos of learning to rest in the hope of “now but not yet.” Perhaps my “position,” however abstract, is a plea, and then a “resting anticipatory wait” to see how I may participate in movement towards the eschatological, redemptive, grace-filled, loving completion of creation. Perhaps my plea becomes a small prayer of gratitude: gratitude that alongside my suffering, God suffers in love. That God touches me in ways only a Triune God can, despite myself. Perhaps, my life is a plea, and then a