‘The Gospel of the Judgement and New Creation of All Things’, by Jürgen Moltmann


The Gospel of the Judgement and New Creation of All Things

By Jürgen Moltmann

What is the Goal of Christ’s Judgement?

The goal of helping victims and rectifying culprits is the triumph of God’s creative justice over everything godless in heaven, earth and below the earth, not the great reckoning with wages and punishments. This victory of divine justice leads to God’s great day of reconciliation on this earth, not to division of humankind into blessed and damned and the end of the world. On Judgement Day, “all tears will be wiped away from their eyes,” the tears of suffering and the tears of repentance. “There will be no mourning, crying or pain” (Rev 21,4). Thus the Last Judgement is penultimate, not ultimate and is not the end of God’s works. It is only a first step in a transition or transformation from transitoriness to intransitoriness. The new eternal creation created on the foundation of justice is definitive. Because the judgement serves this new creation of all things, its justice is a healing, creative justice re-establishing life according to this future, not a retaliatory justice referring to the past. The judgement serves the new creation, not sin and death as the great reckoning. It was the error of the Christian tradition in picture and idea, piety and teaching to see only judgement on the past and not God’s new world beyond the judgement and thus not believing the new beginning in the end.

The practice and endurance of evil are not always apportioned to different persons and groups of persons. Victims can also be perpetrators. In many persons, the perpetrator side and the victim side of evil are inseparably connected. The knowledge that the coming judge will judge us as perpetrators and as victims, reject the Pharisee in us and accept the sinner in us and reconcile us with ourselves. Judging victims and perpetrators is always a social judging. We do not stand isolated and dependent on ourselves before the judge as in human criminal courts or in nightly pangs of conscience. The perpetrators stand together with their victims, Cain with Abel, the powerful with the powerless, the murderers with the murdered. Humanity’s story of woe is inseparably joined with the collective history of culpability.

There are always unsolved and unsolvable social, political and personal conflicts where some become perpetrators and others victims of sin. As in the Auschwitz trials and the South African truth commission, victims have a long tormented memory while perpetrators have only a short memory if they have a memory at all. Therefore the perpetrators depend on the memories of their victims, must hear their reports and learn to see themselves with the eyes of their victims, even if this is frightening and destructive.

Dialectical Universalism

In conclusion, what practice follows from this future expectation? How do we visualize Christ’s coming justice?

An American friend asked his Baptist grandmother about the end of the world and she replied with the mysterious spine-chilling name “Armageddon.” According to Revelation 16,16, this is God’s end-time battle with the devil. Today the struggle of good against evil is generalized with the final victory of the good at the end. From this idea of the end, American fundamentalism developed a fantastic modern end-time struggle scenario. George W. Bush Jr. invented such a scenario, justifying “friend-enemy thinking” as a basic political category. To this end, he conjured the “axis of evil” reaching from Iraq to Iran and North Korea. “America is at war,” he announced after “September 11” and “whoever is not for us is against us.” America remains “at war” since no state had attacked the US but the criminal Islamic unit Al-Qaeda. In what war? The apocalyptic war called Armageddon has already started!

The judgement expectation common to Christianity and Islam has a very similar effect on the present. If the end of the world is God’s judgement over believers and unbelievers with the twofold end: believers in heaven and unbelievers in hell, the present will inevitably be ruled by religious friend-enemy thinking: here the believers in “God’s house” and there the unbelievers in the “house of war.” Since there is no hope for unbelievers, they can be punished here with contempt or terror. Unbelievers are enemies of believers since they are God’s enemies. Anticipation of the Last Judgement by separating people into believers and unbelievers and possibly persecuting unbelievers as God’s enemies is wrong because it is godless. God is not the enemy of unbelievers or the executioner of the godless. “For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom 11,32). Thus all people of whatever faith or unbelief must be seen as befriended by God’s mercy. God loves them whoever they are. Christ died for them and God’s spirit works in their lives. Thus we cannot be against them.

The all-embracing hope in God’s future explains this boundlessness of love. Why should we take seriously the faith, superstition or unbelief of others as God’s mercy? That was a theme for Christendom in the atheistic East Germany (DDR) state. This cannot be otherwise in our dealings with people of other religions that must be marked by God’s unconditional love. The difference between believers, persons of other faiths and unbelievers are real but are annulled in God’s mercy with everyone.

Christian universalism does not hinder but promotes taking sides for victims of injustice and violence. In a divided and hostile world, the universalism of God’s mercy with everyone is reflected in the well-known “preferential option for the poor.” God acts unilaterally in history in favour of victims and also saves perpetrators through them. Jesus calls the burdened and heavy-laden to himself, accepts sinners and sends the Pharisees away empty. For Paul, the community itself is a testimony for God’s unilateral action in favour of all people. “Consider your call, brethren: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth, but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor 1,26-29). Therefore we sing “Sun of Righteousness, Arise in our Time.”

Ecumenical Church Hymn

Sun of righteousness,
arise in our time.
Dawn in your church
so the world can see.
Have mercy, O Lord.

Wake up, dead Christendom
from the sleep of security
so it hears your voice.
Have mercy, O Lord.

Behold the divisions
that no one can resist.
Great Shepherd, gather
everything that has lost its way or gone astray.
Have mercy, O Lord.

Open the gates to the nations.
Let no cunning or power
hamper your heavenly race.
Create light in the dark night!
Have mercy, O Lord.

Let us see your glory
in this time
And seek what creates peace
with our little strength.
Have mercy, O Lord.

Let us be one, Jesus Christ,
as you are one with the Father,
remaining in you always,
today and in eternity.
Have mercy, O Lord.

Power, praise, honour and glory
Are yours Most High always
As Most High is three in one,
Let us be one in him.
Have mercy, O Lord

[Source: Christ im dialog; HT: Marc Batko, via Jürgen Moltmann group]

One comment

  1. “God acts unilaterally in history in favour of victims and also saves perpetrators through them. Jesus calls the burdened and heavy-laden to himself, accepts sinners and sends the Pharisees away empty.”
    I’m not quite sure that I understand this…are the Pharisees the only ones who won’t make it? Is there an eternal place reserved just for them while the rest of us live with a Universalist God?
    Interesting to hear Moltmann expound what appears to be a univeralist theology; I hadn’t realised he was working along this line.


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