These past few posts leading up to this final one on Moltmann and Hart stem from an initial posting on the Confessing Christ listserv on discussions centering around the suffering of God the father. While there may be more commonalities between Hart and Moltmann than what may seem evident in a straight forward appropriation of their views, the differences between Moltmann's view of God's eternal and "retroactive" suffering as a result of the cross and Hart's view of God in his eternal essence as beyond the fray of human history remains both noteworthy and significant. Perhaps the following extract from the piece below can serve to telescope the issues addressed in the critical differences between hart and Moltmann in their respective Trinitarian theologies:
It is in this respect, the reflection of God’s incarnational glory even onto deification, that Moltmann and Hart share a common aspiration. For Hart, however, the viability of God’s incarnation depends on the depth and range of his transcendent beauty, which Moltmann does not conceptually deny, but dramaturgically underplays throughout the passion of his theological narrative. By contrast, for Moltmann God is eternally wounded in his triune being as a result of Golgotha in a manner that resonates with rather than in any way inviolates his fullness.
More briefly stated, one might argue that Moltmann's focus is God within history, up to the eschaton in which Hart, while fully embracing God's incarnational indwelling both in Christ and in the creation, is more fully focused on the eternal nature of God's being which he conveys to and through creation "in an infinite display of analogical differentiation."
Moltmann and Hart in Critical Juxtaoposition
Hart hits very close to Moltmann’s core project if the convergence of the economic and immanent Trinity “is taken to mean that “God depends upon creation to be God and that creation exists by necessity (because of some lack in God).” In such an interpretation, “God is robbed of his true transcendence and creation of its true gratuity.” It is true that for Moltmann, God’s passibility, his vulnerability is a voluntary self-limiting, but by this he also presses the point that given his very nature as creator, a God of love could do no other than to give to humanity and the created order “its time” in the economy of God’s kingdom, which, on Moltmann’s interpretation has a retroactive impact on the very nature and substance of God’s triunity. To this, McDougall raises a core challenge that, despite the emphasis he places on biblical foundations, “Moltmann’s theological move to postulate such an eternal self-limitation is certainly a highly speculative move that lacks any direct support in the biblical witness.” This is so, one might argue, even as it possesses a certain explanatory power in shedding light on his effort to attain an underlying coherency in his broader theological project.
It is also worth emphasizing at this point Moltmann’s rejection, and perhaps caricature, of any notion “about ‘the mystery of the Trinity’…pointing to some impenetrable obscurity or insoluble riddle.” However much there may be some convergence in their perspectives, Moltmann and Hart exhibit profoundly different emphases in their Trinitarian theologies, ultimately over the passibility and impassibility of God’s need to suffer in order to be the God whose Son went to the cross, and the role of God’s transcendence even in the midst of his incarnational indwelling within the created order. Hart, for example, does not deny the importance of a dynamic vision of the Trinity, one of Moltmann’s major concerns. What he wants to assure is that “[t]he insuperable ontological difference between creation and God—between the dynamism of finitude and an infinite that is eternally dynamic” is maintained. This, he believes is viable through the capacity of “creatures [hence of, creation as well], embracing” God’s infinity “in an endless sequence of finite instances,” which for Moltmann is the Spirit’s work of deification in bringing creation toward its ultimate destination; what McDougall, in turn, refers to as “drawing creation into” the “life of fellowship” of the divine Trinity itself. “In so doing, the Spirit acts to consummate the original intention of creation, that is, to make all things [in Moltmann’s words,] ‘the home of the triune God’” through which the creation itself participates in God’s triune being even as the distinction between the creation and the creator is maintained.
For Hart, the persisting gulf between God and humankind is not an intrinsic barrier toward living a life that is increasingly attuned to God. He maintains, rather, that the gap between that which can be attained, “the presence of the infinite God” within human flesh, and the creation itself, can never fully realize the desirable (total union with God) because the desirable is infinite in its capacity to transcend every achievable human incarnation in which God existed fully complete in his triune plenitude before the creation and will exist similarly even after the consummation comes to fruition. For Hart, God will be all in all because God is all in all even before the creation, which on his view adds nothing to the plenitude of God even as the bestowal of the gift of creation was an overwhelming expression of his desire. There is nothing static about this as Hart has it in the ever present possibility of going from glory to glory in the infinite embodiment of the indwelling spirit and power of God to infuse and transform human reality within the context of its own finitude and historicity “in an infinite display of analogical differentiation.”
Continuing with his words, creation is infused with “the infinite plenitude of the transcendent act in which all determinacy participates” wherein “God is the being of all things, beyond all finite determination, negation and dialectic, not as the infinite ‘naught’ which all things are set off.” Rather, through what he describes as “the analogy of [God’s] being—the actual movement of analogization, of our likeness to God within an always greater unlikeness,” we have the capacity, that is, the possibility of participating in God’s triune identity in and through the various finite manifestations that characterize our lives in which the specter of non-being as false identity is also an ever present existential possibility.
In short, for Hart the gap between our finite being and God’s ever infinite splendor is never overcome even as “deification” can be experienced in the here and now embodying in analogical plenitude God’s glory in an infinite array of display in concrete manifestations as diverse as the universe itself. For Hart, this “gap” is the basis of God’s apatheia, which if diminished results in a rhetorical attenuation of nothing less than God himself even ultimately in his fully incarnated manifestation. It is in this latter respect, the reflection of God’s incarnational glory even onto deification, that Moltmann and Hart share a common aspiration. For Hart, however, the viability of God’s incarnation depends on the depth and range of his transcendent beauty, which Moltmann does not conceptually deny, but dramaturgically underplays throughout the passion of his theological narrative.
By contrast, for Moltmann God is eternally wounded in his triune being as a result of Golgotha in a manner that resonates with rather than in any way inviolates his fullness.
For Moltmann, there is something profoundly suspect about any claim of God’s eternal glory that itself is not a dynamic process of perpetual agonistic overcoming in the very midst of the history of God himself in the unfolding of human and creational time. As Moltmann has it, therefore, in contrast to Hart, the crucified God in his triune fullness unequivocally embraces the pain and shame of the cross as the provocative and exceedingly risky means of its transcendence in the resurrection and ultimate promise of the final eschaton that on his reading the Spirit brings to fruition.
This persisting dialectical dynamic within the stream of time as well as in the diversity of the divergent Trinitarian functions in the midst of its interactions in history is crucial to Moltmann, without which in the most fundamental sense, there would be no triune God as revealed most fully in the New Testament. In contrast, Hart emphasizes at least the possibility of a perpetual indwelling of the infinite Spirit of God manifested within creation (deification) in which God’s apatheia does not result in dialectic contradiction as a result of human suffering and evil. This is so on Hart’s reading even as contradiction in creation is a consequence of an all-too-common occurrence of human sin, but not of the intrinsic nature of creation, itself.
The difference between the two can also be parsed in that Moltmann focuses primarily on what he refers to as “the history of God” within the context of human and creaturely time leading to, but not, extending in his theology, in any dynamic sense beyond the eschaton (1 Cor 15:28). For Hart, by contrast, the starting point is the eternal significance of God’s ontological reality and the appropriation of his glory in human and creaturely time. The difference in emphases has a great deal to do with how the transcendent/immanent manifestations of God’s revelation are perceived in which neither Hart nor Moltmann take a strictly polar approach even as each pulls very strongly toward one pole (apatheia) or the other (pathos) as theological starting point for very compelling reasons that go to the heart of their respective projects.