The Crucified God

For Lent I’ve been reading Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God.  It’s sophisticated theology, interacting and often agreeing with radical and liberal theologians, and yet there are treasures on virtually every page.  Here are some quotations:

“When God becomes man in Jesus of Nazareth, he not only enters into the finitude of man, but in his death on the cross also enters into the situation of man’s godforsakenness. In Jesus he does not die the natural death of a finite being, but the violent death of the criminal on the cross, the death of complete abandonment by God. The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father. God does not become a religion, so that man participates in him by corresponding religious thoughts and feelings. God does not become a law, so that man participates in him through obedience to a law. God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him.”

“The knowledge of the cross brings a conflict of interest between God who has become man and man who wishes to become God.”

“God became man that dehumanized men might become true men. We become true men in the community of the incarnate, the suffering and loving, the human God.”

“The one will triumph who first died for the victims then also for the executioners, and in so doing revealed a new righteousness which breaks through vicious circles of hate and vengeance and which from the lost victims and executioners creates a new mankind with a new humanity. Only where righteousness becomes creative and creates right both for the lawless and for those outside the law, only where creative love changes when is hateful and deserving of hate, only where the new man is born who is oppressed nor oppresses others, can one speak of the true revolution of righteousness and of the righteousness of God.”

“God allows himself to be humiliated and crucified in the Son, in order to free the oppressors and the oppressed from oppression and to open up to them the situation of free, sympathetic humanity.”

via The Crucified God Quotes By Jürgen Moltmann.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Grace

    Dr. Veith

    “For Lent I’ve been reading Jürgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God. It’s sophisticated theology, interacting and often agreeing with radical and liberal theologians, and yet there are treasures on virtually every page. Here are some quotations:

    I don’t believe it’s “sophisticated theology” nor is it factual – it appears at first glance, that it is an intellectual piece, but further reading negates that thought.

    Below is one of the quotes:

    “God became man that dehumanized men might become true men. We become true men in the community of the incarnate, the suffering and loving, the human God.”
    Jürgen Moltmann

    No, that isn’t true, we receive Salvation through Christ by faith. We were sinners before we believed, we were never “dehumanized men” – the quote is nothing but mumbo jumbo.

    Jesus never lost HIS Deity, or HIS being part of the Trinity, HE was always God the Son. That’s a tricky quote above, but it isn’t the whole truth.

    44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me

    45 And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.

    46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.
    John 12

    This is proof that Christ is God the Son. As He saith “he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” who sent Christ? it was His Father. Christ’s Deity is proven over and over again, … this passage of Scripture is the diamond found. Christ tells us all who HE is, and who sent HIM. The LORD Jesus Christ is truly God the Son. He is God!

    dehumanized definition:

    divested of human qualities or attributes
    dehumanised, unhuman
    nonhuman – not human; not belonging to or produced by or appropriate to human beings; “nonhuman primates such as chimpanzees”

  • Pete

    Grace, @1 says, “Jesus never lost HIS Deity, or HIS being part of the Trinity, HE was always God the Son.”
    I’m not sure that’s what Moltmann is saying here – i.e. that Jesus lost His deity. A robust Christology (as per the Athanasian creed) has always asserted that it is critical to a correct understanding of Jesus (and, by extension, of Good Friday) that He be understood as both fully divine and fully human – however paradoxical that may seem.
    As concerns the idea of our being “dehumanized”, have you ever read “The Great Divorce” by C.S. Lewis? He paints a great picture of people in Heaven who have been restored to full, original humanity.

  • Tom Hering

    I’m not sure that’s what Moltmann is saying here … (Pete @ 2)

    No, you’re right, it’s not what Moltmann is saying. And you’re also correct that the Fall dehumanized us.

    No, that isn’t true, we receive Salvation through Christ by faith. (Grace @ 1)

    Moltmann is talking about the why and the what, not the how.

  • kempin04

    Kudos to Grace for manning the boundary of Christ’s true and eternal divinity. It may or may not be what Moltmann was saying, but her caution is quite correct. You are sounding positively lutheran and creedal, Grace! (And I mean that as a compliment.)

    All things considered, though, there is a lot that gives me concern in these statements. To say that Christ ” revealed a new righteousness which breaks through vicious circles of hate and vengeance and which from the lost victims and executioners creates a new mankind with a new humanity,” for instance, sounds very much like Marcionism. It sounds like “righteousness” is made “new” by redefining righteousness itself–from the “hate and vengeance” of the old testament to the “free, sympathetic humanity” found in Christ.

  • Tom Hering

    … sounds very much like Marcionism (kempin04 @ 4)

    Sounds to me like an expansion on the statement the Moltmann quote begins with, which you left out: “The one will triumph who first died for the victims then also for the executioners …”

  • Steve Bauer

    Who are we Christians but the lost victims and executioners [both!] from which Jesus has created a new humanity?

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    But in their theology of the cross and passion, Paul and Mark understood the risen Christ as the crucified Christ. This meant that they had to understand the God who raised him as the God who crucified him and was crucified. – The Crucified God

  • tODD

    Moltmann said, “We become true men in the community of the incarnate, the suffering and loving, the human God.” To which you replied, Grace (@1), “No, that isn’t true, we receive Salvation through Christ by faith.” My question to you then is: what’s the difference? Your statement doesn’t appear to contradict Moltmann’s at all.

    You continued, “We were sinners before we believed, we were never ‘dehumanized men’.” Again, what distinction are you making, as you don’t seem to be disagreeing with Moltman, even as you claim that you are? The point is that sin has removed something from us as humans (Scripture says it is the image of God, in which we were created at the Beginning, but which we lost as humans at the Fall).

    You continued:

    Jesus never lost HIS Deity, or HIS being part of the Trinity, HE was always God the Son. That’s a tricky quote above, but it isn’t the whole truth.

    Except that Moltman didn’t say that Jesus lost his deity. He said that “God became man”. And Scripture teaches that explicitly. Be careful in your zeal to defend Christ’s deity that you do not deny his humanity.

  • tODD

    Kempin (@4), I’m a little confused by your comment. Admittedly, I had to look up Marcionism, so it wasn’t on my mind when I first read the post, but it seems a bit of a stretch to find it in that quote.

    I mean, it doesn’t seem terribly controversial to say that Christ “revealed a new righteousness”, given Romans 3:21-22, which was what that passage reminded me of.

    Now, I’ll admit that Moltmann’s paragraph there is confusing and muddy, and there are lots of things I find ill-phrased at best (Christ “first died for the victims then also for the executioners”?).

  • Grace

    From my post @ 1

    “We were sinners before we believed, we were never “dehumanized men” – the quote is nothing but mumbo jumbo.”

    “God became man that dehumanized men might become true men.” Jürgen Moltmann

    Once again – the above is false. Sinners are not “dehumanized” they are sinners before they have faith and believe in Christ as Savior, or if they never believe. We stay “human” throughout our lives.

    This is just the sort of nonsense, which twist the true meaning of who we are as ‘human beings.

  • Grace

    Kempin @ 4

    Thank you, I took your words as a compliment.

    Blessings to you on this very, very special day.

  • tODD

    Grace (@10), of course we “stay ‘human’ throughout our lives”. The word “dehumanize” presupposes that the one who is dehumanized is necessarily human.

    The point remains, however, that in the Fall, humanity lost something. Do you deny that?

  • SKPeterson

    Grace – What Moltmann is saying is akin to the concept of the Imago Dei being lost through Original Sin. What we were meant to be as humans has been lost in the Fall – we have been dehumanized, at least as how we were supposed to be as humans under God’s original intent. What marks us as not fully human, i.e. dehumanized, is our sin. The first mark of our dehumanization in this context is our sinful nature.

    That being said, I share Kempin’s suspicion of Moltmann. What you said in your statement @1 is actually a very neat summary of Moltmann’s thesis, yet you used quite serviceable and biblical language to describe the situation. Moltmann has a tendency to eschew clarity of expression for density such that great leaps of “meaning” can be found within. Sometimes this is useful, often it is dangerously misleading.

  • George A. Marquart

    Moltmann writes, “The suffering in the passion of Jesus is abandonment, rejection by God, his Father.”

    This is a compounded absurdity that has become fashionable among Lutherans. How many times have I heard the phrase, “Oh, it was not really the pain …” Well, let them try crucifixion for a few hours and see if they can ignore the pain because of some greater suffering. The other absurdity is in the “rejection by God.”

    Shortly before our Lord’s passion, the voice from heaven was heard, “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” So when did He reject His Son? Could God reject Himself? Did the Father abandon His Son? Yes, in the sense that God abandoned Job so the Devil could have his with way with him. But He never rejected Job, as the story makes clear. The story of Job is a paradigm of the suffering of our Lord.

    We do no know why our salvation had to be obtained in the way it was; therefore we can only know what God has revealed to us through Scripture. Scripture is very clear that our salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ has two components, without explaining why it had to be that way. First, the perfect life of our Lord, Romans 5:14, “Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many.” In other words, as we inherited sin from Adam, we receive righteousness before God from the perfect Man, Jesus. We did nothing to inherit the sin of Adam, we do nothing to obtain the perfection of our Lord.

    The second component is the shedding of blood, because, Hebrews 9: 22 “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Again, we don’t know why it is so; we just know that it is, and that the whole Old Testament testifies to that. This shedding of blood took place when our Lord offered Himself, Hebrews 9:26, “But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

    Before Adam was created God already loved the word so that He would give His only Son to save it. He never hated Him, He was never angry with Him, He never rejected Him. The whole nature and history of salvation is centered in God’s love. He did not engage in some Passion Play with His Son, where “now I love you, now I hate you, and now I love you again.” Only people can think of such an absurdity; Scripture does not support it. 2 Corinthians 5:19, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself.” Is it possible to reconcile and reject at the same time?

    The temptation, into which the Devil tried to lead our Lord on the cross, was for Him to stop loving those who tormented him. But He prevailed: He continued loving those who struck Him, those who pressed the crown of thorns on His head, those who whipped Him, those who rejected Him, and those who pounded the crude castings through His flesh. Had He not, it would all have been in vain.

    Peace and a joyous Easter to all.
    George A. Marquart

  • tODD

    George (@14), I suppose I don’t really get your point, but it does seem like you’re missing, for example, Matthew 27:46 in your analysis when you ask, “So when did He reject His Son? Could God reject Himself? Did the Father abandon His Son?”

    let them try crucifixion for a few hours and see if they can ignore the pain because of some greater suffering.

    Doubtless it was incredibly painful to a degree that most of us will never encounter. And yet, it’s also true that none of us has known or will ever know what it would be like to be in Jesus’ location — to be a sinless man who had taken the sin of the world upon himself. And thank God that he did that for us so that we don’t have to. But I don’t think it minimizes Jesus’ physical pain to point to his unique, sin-related suffering. It’s also worth pointing out that Scripture does not speak of Jesus’ crying out from pain, but rather, from being “forsaken” (as well as once he finished his work).

  • Grace

    George, I enjoyed your post @ 14, excellent!

    Many people ask: Why did Jesus cry out on the Cross?

    And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
    Matthew 27:46

    My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?
    Psalms 22:1

    Why did Jesus cry out these words? My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Jesus was quoting a prophecy, which had been made in Psalms 22 – Jesus quoted the passage to declare, HE was fulfilling the prophecy on the Cross. from the Old Testament.

  • Grace

    George,

    The end of my post above was not worded properly. Jesus did suffer on the Cross, that is the reason HE cried” out. .

    The passage below proves just how much our LORD and Savior loves us, and the “agony” which Christ knew HE would endure on the Cross. Verses 41 praying to HIS Father 33 – 44 tell us how difficult this time was for Christ.

    41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,

    42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

    43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.

    44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

    45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,

    46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
    Luke 22

  • kempin04

    tODD, #9,

    I admit that my suspicions are based only on the brief quote, and that they could very well be ill founded.

    The thing that seemed to evoke Marcionism to me was the way in which he spoke of righteousness–”new” in a way that seems to contrast with old; “hateful” as opposed to “free and sympathetic humanity.” Perhaps I was just misunderstanding him. Yet when the scriptures speak of “righteousness,” it is not that the new righteousness is better than the old. It only differs in that it is given, as opposed to earned. The law of God is good and just, even if condemns me for being neither.

    If that makes sense . . .

  • George A. Marquart

    Todd @ 15 and Grace @ 16 and 17.

    The traditional, even Lutheran interpretation is that Jesus was indeed abandoned and rejected by God when He was suffering on the cross, that the wrath of God the Father was on His Son during that period, because He represented the sin of the world, and that our Lord experienced hell during that time, and in that way “bore the punishment for our sins.” One problem I have with this interpretation is that a brief experience of hell is not eternity in hell, which is the punishment for our sins. Nor could any of us atone for a single one of our sins by being crucified.

    A less traditional interpretation is that one first has to take into consideration the physiology of crucifixion. Each breath causes some little movement of the extremities as the torso expands, thereby causing mind-bending pain at those points where the nails are driven through. But not to breathe is not an option; the body does that as a reflex. The crucified wants to take as few breaths as possible. For this reason, our Lord did not hold long speeches. The “seven words” are brief and terse.

    With the exception of “I thirst”, the six other “words” were said for the benefit of others. The point is that even on the cross, even with the physical pain, His concern was for others, not for Himself. As to the “I thirst”, John writes that it was to “fulfill the Scripture” and it is not clear that our Lord actually drank the mixture that was held up to Him on a sponge. It is also possible that our Lord thought of future generations and wanted them no know that to be thirsty, or to be hungry is not a sin.

    So when it comes to the “Cry of Dereliction”, the less traditional interpretation says that our Lord, as devout Jew, would recite this Psalm in any situation of spiritual and physical stress. Maybe He wanted those few who were present to recite the Psalm with Him while He said it in His head, so as to minimize breathing. After all, even though the Psalm begins with abandonment, it ends on a triumphant, hopeful note. So just because He repeated the words, that does not mean He felt rejected by God. I am certain He felt that God was with Him, because this act or redemption was something the Most Holy Trinity had agreed on before the beginning of time.

    Our Lord was abandoned in the sense that He could not call on His powers as God to rescue Himself. He had to die as a perfect man in order to cover the sin of the man, Adam, from whom all humanity had inherited sinfulness.

    As to which was worse, the physical pain or the temptation to sin, or whatever other pressures our Lord experienced, far be it from me to speculate about which component was worse. I am simply convinced that the suffering of our Lord did not include a feeling of rejection by His Father. He knew that His Father was in Him reconciling world to Himself. He knew that He was doing the will of the Father, so how could He feel rejected?

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Tom Hering

    I tend to side with George on this one, though I think the explanation is a bit simpler. What man in great pain – or what God who has become a man in great pain – doesn’t cry out to the Father, “why have you forsaken me”? Strong, continuing, physical pain both effects our emotions and changes our thoughts (about everything). This is unavoidable, there’s no sin in it, and it’s proof that the sufferer is fully and truly human (and fully and truly subject to the evils of a fallen world). The claim could never be made that Christ became one of us, and shared in the worst that we must endure, if He hadn’t fully and truly FELT forsaken. This doesn’t mean He actually was forsaken, just as you and I are never forsaken, no matter what we feel. (Even unbelievers are never forsaken – given up on – in this life.)

  • trotk

    Tom and George,

    The difficulty of Jesus being separated from the Father is answered by His nature. As one person with two natures, He was able to be both separated from God in His human nature and still united with God as a member of the Trinity. And yet, the two natures were undivided. Distinguishable, and yet inseparable, as many theology texts put it. The seeming paradox is the same when we considered whether God died. All of these problems are answered in the divine, theandric union, even if we cannot fully wrap our heads around what this means.

  • Tom Hering

    Still, all the Scripture says is that Christ, as a suffering and dying man, cried out the feeling that He had been forsaken. Scripture doesn’t say, there or elsewhere, that He actually was forsaken. And those who heard Him cry out that day were familiar with Psalms 22, 42, and 43. They knew the difference between a cry of despair and God’s faithfulness. Indeed, Christ’s cry points His hearers (then and now) directly to the Psalms that testify of God’s never-changing faithfulness.

  • Gerald

    Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. After 1500 years satan is still telling the same lies that the early church councils resolved.

  • Grace

    Gerald @ 23

    “After 1500 years satan is still telling the same lies that the early church councils resolved.”

    Would you please give a more detailed reason for your comment.

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