To Prof. Jürgen Moltmann
Basel, Bethesda Hospital, 17 November 1964
It was most kind of you to have a copy of your Theologie dei Hoffnung sent to me. During my stay in the hospital, which is to end the day after tomorrow, I had the leisure to read it all at once and assimilate the basic contents. It is time for me to express my thanks not only for the attention shown to me but also for the instruction and stimulation I received from reading your work. May I say a couple of words about the impression it made on me? I have been looking for decades-I was looking even in the twenties-for the child of peace and promise, namely the man of the next generation who would not just accept or reject what I intended and did in theology but who would go beyond it positively in an independent conception, improving it at every point in a renewed form. I took up and studied your book with this expectation, and at beginning of my reading I seriously asked myself whether Jürgen Moltmann, who, as far as I recalled, was as yet unknown to me personally, might not be the man. I have in fact been impressed not only by your varied scholarship but also by the spiritual force and systematic power that characterize your book. This attempt, as I foresaw, had to be ventured one day, and the critical insights you have brought on both the right and left hand must and will carry the discussion further. It is to be hoped that note will be taken of you in all circles. I am glad to see how you deal with some earlier efforts to portray me and to note what you say about the present state of knowledge concerning me.
But, dear Dr. Moltmann, I do not find in your Theology of Hope what is really needed today to refine C.D. and my own theological thrust. I will not hold it against you, as Gollwitzer does, that your book gives us no concrete guidance on ethics in this sphere, determined and bordered by the eschaton. Nor does it seem any more important to me that one looks in vain for a concrete eschatology, i.e., for an elucidation of such concepts as coming again, resurrection of the dead, eternal life etc. You obviously did not intend to write an eschatology, but only the prolegomena to one and to the corresponding ethics. My own concern relates to the unilateral way in which you subsume all theology in eschatology, going beyond Blumhardt, Overbeck, and Schweitzer in this regard. To put it pointedly, does your theology of hope really differ at all from the baptized principle of hope of Mr. Bloch? What disturbs me is that for you theology becomes so much a matter of principle (eschatological principle). You know that I too was once on the edge of moving in this direction, but I refrained from doing so and have thus come under the fire of your criticism in my later development. Would it not be wise to accept the doctrine of the immanent trinity of God? You may thereby achieve the freedom of three-dimensional thinking which the eschata have and retain their whole weight while the same and not just a provisional) honor can still be shown to the kingdoms of nature and grace. Have my concepts of the threefold time [C.D. III, 2, §47.1) and threefold parousia of Jesus Christ [C.D. IV, 3, §69.4) made so little impact on you that you do not even give them critical consideration? But salvation does not come from C.D. (I started out here when reading your book) but from knowledge of the “eternally rich God” with whom I thought I should deal (problematically enough). If you will pardon me, your God seems to me to be rather a pauper. Very definitely, then, I cannot see in you that child of peace and promise. But why should you not become that child? Why should you not outgrow the inspired onesidedness of this first attempt in later works? You have the stuff (and I congratulate you on this) from which may come a great dogmatician who can give further help to the church and the world …
With friendly greetings, renewed thanks, and all good wishes for future,
– Karl Barth, Letters 1961–1968 (trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 174–6.