I have long enjoyed Phillip Yancy. I have found him mature in his faith; thoughtful, sensitive, and authentic. I have long enjoyed Phillip Yancy. I have found him mature in his faith; thoughtful, sensitive, and authentic. Reared behind the walls of fundamentalism, he has ripened as a mature, fruitful thinker. Yancy described finding God confined inside a barbed wire fence, where he met Jurgen Moltman.
As a youth, the German theologian planned a career in quantum physics, only to be drafted by the German Army at the peak of World War Two . Assigned to anti-air-craft batteries in Hamburg, Moltmann saw others incinerated by fire bombs and was long haunted by guilt. Questions pressed his mind and he wondered, “Why did I survive?”
Moltmann was surrendered to the British Army and spent three years in the prison camps of Belgium, Scotland, and England. Seeing German prisoners collapse from within, lose all hope, and become sick unto death. He experienced his own growing grief while learning the real truth about Nazi Germany. It weighed him down with a somber burden of guilt he could never pay off.
Coming from a non-Christian background, Moltmann brought two books with him into battle: Goethe’s Poems and The Philosophical Works of Nietzsche Finding no hope in either, the young prisoner of war opened an Army-issue New Testament and Psalms given him by an American Chaplain, signed by President Roosevelt.
“If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there,” he read. Was that possible; he wondered. The words captured his desolation and disillusionment and convinced him that God “was present even behind the barbed wire—no, most of all behind the barbed wire.”
Reading sparked a tiny flame of hope. Walking the barbed-wire perimeters during the night hours for exercise, he described circling a small hill in the center of the camp, where he found a hut that served as a chapel. In that chapel, he found a symbol of the presence of God in the midst of the suffering that surrounded him.
Transferred to an educational camp in England operated by the YMCA, Moltmann experienced a warm welcome. They brought him food, taught him Christian doctrine, and never mentioned the guilt the soldiers felt over the Nazi atrocities. Moltmann described how he felt better treated there than by his own German Army.
Following the war, Moltmann began articulating this personal theology of hope and how we exist in a state of contradiction between the Cross and the Resurrection. We are surrounded by decay while we hope for restoration—a hope illuminated by the faint glow of Christ’s resurrection. Faith in that glorious future, says Yancy, can transform the present, just as Moltmann’s own hope of eventual release transformed his daily prison-life.
We find two themes: God’s presence within us in our suffering and God’s promise of a perfected future. Had Jesus lived in Europe during the War Years, he likely would have been branded like other Jews and shipped to the gas chambers, observes Moltmann. In Jesus, he found definitive proof that God suffers with us, as he did in the Crucified God.
Today, searching people assume from the suffering seen in Yemen, Syria, and elsewhere that God is neither all-good, all-powerful, or even all-wise. Yet, faith allows us to believe God is not satisfied with this world any more than we are, and he intends to make all things new and right. Thus, Christ’s Second Coming brings the Kingdom of God to the fullness of its intended shape.
In the meantime, we establish our Kingdom Outposts and we continue using the Gospel as our template. While the Old Testament inspires a certain fear, the New Testament fills us with hope, because those authors have already come to know and trust the Lord whose Day it is.
This is walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com
Seeing a summary of our human past, present, and future captured in the sweep of the pen that describes “from Good Friday to Easter,” and knowing as others before us have observed
“God weeps with us so that we may someday laugh with him.”