The Source of Life: A Critical Analysis

Jesus Christ is known as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and He is the one that defeated death, so that all that believe may have everlasting life in Him. Jesus did not stay on Earth, but instead, he ascended to His throne in Heaven. In His absence, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to be with us (John 14:15-31). Jürgen Moltmann asserts that the Holy Spirit is “the source of life” as the Spirit brought Christ into the world, and Christ defeated death.[1] It is through the same Spirit that creation came to be, brought Christ into the world, and provided the resurrection. The Holy Spirit is the comforter in times of trouble, and it is the seal that marks our future hope of eternal life. Through the Holy Spirit, there is present peace and future hope.

In 1944, Jürgen Moltmann was drafted into military service for Nazi Germany. Upon being sent to the front lines of the war, he surrendered himself to the British. After being sent to a prisoner of war camp, he began his re-education to learn the horrors that Germany had committed in the name of Nazism. He was disgusted at the atrocities shown to him of the concentration camps and initially set out to become the lowest point of his life. Despite being the “enemy,” Moltmann was shown love. It was through the love that Christians showed him, that he came to faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. It was in the prisoner of war camp that he read his first Christian literature, discovering various theological writings that would give him his future direction.

It was from his new relationship with Christ in which Moltmann found peace in the camp. Love was shown to him unconditionally that he knew he did not deserve.[2] Moltmann recalls this blessing to have begun in “the night of war” and upon becoming a prisoner of war at Norton Camp, “the sun rose for us.”[3] Instead of God turning His back to him, he was greeted with the “warmth of [H]is great love.”[4] This experience shaped Moltmann’s theology that is centered around the Holy Spirit as “the source of life.” It was in his conversion experience that he was born again, into life through Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

It is through the Holy Spirit through which all of humanity is renewed.[5] Moltmann views the atrocities of the world as problems that can all be solved through the world developing relationships with the Holy Spirit. In this, humanity will not be able to be silent to the horrors committed and will aid each other in times of need. He finds it impossible to act any other way after experiencing the powerful transformation power of the Spirit. In the meanwhile, the Spirit provides the power for the believer to endure their suffering. Moltmann argues that sometimes the trials of life come from the Spirit, just as the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, from which our faith determines the outcomes.[6] Although becoming a prisoner of war appears to be horrible, it was indeed a blessing in his life, so all trials are not destructive events, but they can be instruments for good.

Moltmann is critical of Christians that stifle the Holy Spirit, seeing the Holy Spirit’s work in fullness as necessary in one’s life. In fact, Moltmann points out Paul’s claim that the Holy Spirit is our promise of the future eternal life that we have in Christ.[7] This relationship is available to all as humanity is created in the image of God.[8] He asserts that the church does not have control of the Holy Spirit, but instead, the Holy Spirit has authority over the Church.[9] He sums up his ultimate view through Psalm 104, in which “in his Spirit, everything comes alive.”[10]

Moltmann makes excellent claims proving the importance of the Holy Spirit’s role in the lives of Christians. His story of finding light in a dark tunnel is like many other converts to Christianity. The love of God overcomes the despair of circumstances which develops into a strong faith that marks a radically changed life beyond circumstances. While hardships are not necessary for conversion, it is certainly a frequent story for many Christians. It is possible many of these events are not simple senseless suffering, but instruments for bringing about belief. In some cases, a person must be humbled, and their hearts softened so that they may receive the gospel. While it is not known the purpose of all evil, it is all within God’s permissive will. God loves all his creation and will allow even the evilest a chance to come to faith in Christ Jesus as their Lord.

The presented arguments in support of communism as a means to end suffering are too far-reaching in his liberation theology, but his motive comes from a good heart. He fails to draw the connection that Nazism is indeed a form of socialism, just as communism is, so there is great danger in this form of governance. More atrocities have been committed through these forms of government than any other, so if ending suffering is the desired outcome, then these must be avoided. Assuming innocent motives, it is likely this is desired in a perfect world where every person care for one another, but we do not live in a perfected Earth yet. When that time comes, suffering will be ended, and all will be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Another weakness can be found in the egalitarianism supported by Moltmann. His unwillingness to submit to the exhortations of 1 Corinthians is worrisome.[11] While post-modern society tends to support egalitarianism, it is Scripture that should dictate our actions and not the desires of the world. Moltmann equates some of the restrictions for women in the church as limiting the Holy Spirit’s work, but this is illogical. The Scripture is the very Word of God, so why would scripture put limitations on the Spirit? As scripture is perfect in wisdom, it must be accepted that it does not limit the Spirit, but instead, there are other reasons for those restrictions for women in the church. It is safe to assume that the reason is not an inability, but by design found in the creation order. It was not Eve’s sin that humanity was cursed, but by Adam’s sin. It is likely that these ordained roles proceed from the structure in the federal headship. A complementarian view should not be viewed as a demeaning, but instead, all roles should be equal in importance, just different. A better argument for egalitarianism is that the restrictions on women as outlined by Paul are due to cultural reasons and are no longer applicable. If all scripture is good for teaching and breathed out by God, then why would such statements be allowed into the canon of scripture (2 Tim 3:16)? Ultimately, all arguments for egalitarianism must denounce the Scripture as inerrant.

Moltmann makes a strong argument for directing Christianity’s focus toward the present peace found in the Holy Spirit instead of the future hope of eternal life in the consummation of the Kingdom. While the Parousia is a truly glorious event, Christians should find the current life to be glorious as well. In the present, Christians have been crucified with Christ and resurrected into life through the Holy Spirit. The flesh is not inherently evil requiring our glorified bodies for us to enjoy God’s presence. The bondage to sin has already been broken, and the Spirit is already within the believer, so our focus should be toward building the Kingdom of God here, now. The systematic theology laid out by Moltmann is truly a pleasant read. His story is a message of hope in bleak circumstances that can reach a diverse audience. While his liberation theology may not sit right with everybody, the love he displays through it should help all recognize that there is far too little love in this world. If Christians are truly be conformed to the image of Christ, many of Moltmann’s desires for liberating the world of suffering will come to fruition. As it is God’s will that all are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, all Christians should strengthen their relationship with the Holy Spirit. It should not just be the Pentecostals that do this, but mainline Protestants as well. The Holy Spirit is truly our source of life, in which we have present peace, and the future assurance of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

[1]. Jürgen Moltmann. The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life. Translated by Margaret Kohl. (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1997) Kindle Edition. Kindle Location 273.

[2]. Moltmann, 94.

[3]. Ibid., 145.

[4]. Ibid., 152.

[5]. Ibid., 315.

[6]. Ibid., 430.

[7]. Moltmann, 460.

[8]. Ibid., 950.

[9]. Ibid., 1152.

[10]. Ibid., 1404.

[11]. Moltmann, 1243.

Gordon Bland
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Gordon Bland

I am a seminary student working toward my M.Div. While I grew up Pentecostal, within my first semester of seminary, I came to a different understanding of the Word and theology. I am now Reformed Baptist. #1689 I love teaching others about Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, for it was Christ that transformed me. For a number of years, I was a militant atheist and substance abuser. If God can change me, I know he can do the same for you! I am but a wretch, yet He still chose to give me grace. He truly is amazing and deserves all our praise!

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