Souhan, Moltmann, and Theology

Jim Souhan criticizes we Okies. After reading his piece in The Oklahoman titled, Don’t Act Like Okies, Minnesota, I though of responding all schoolyard. You know, something like, “And you really think your team will ever make the postseason?” Or, “You’re just jealous.” Even, “Don’t be a hater.”

Criticism opens up a whole set of possibilities. For instance, maybe the colored logo on the shirts provided by fans needs to be larger so that Mr. Souhan is able to see the chroma color t-shirts are not really mono-chromatic.   I realize he is considering the appearance on television but most beat writers know better. Until you have been in the wildest, small-market, NBA venue in the Country it may appear all same-same. Enter the Peake and anyone there knows it is anything but same-same.

Context is everything. Souhan lives in the erudite North. We hail from the red-neck South, but not really South as in Dixie. He sees things differently than we do. And, we need that.

One of my friends who hails from the Land of the T-Wolves talks a lot about Jürgen Moltmann. In fact Tony Jones and Tripp Fuller have been quote bombing each other. Tony triggered it all with a Moltmann quote. Tripp responded. For some time I have been intending to read The Crucified God by Moltmann. But, like Tony have endless stacks of “to read” books. Mentioning Tony and Tripp as friends, considering reading Moltmann, and linking to them in itself may prompt knee-jerk criticism to be sure.

This morning I was reading Moltmann’s In Explanation of the Theme, something of a Preface or Introduction. I came across a quote or two that reminded me of Souhan’s criticism of we Okies. Really it struck me that criticism opens up possibilities. We tend to receive criticism and become defensive. We go all schoolyard on our critic. But, criticism often acts as a means to expose our own ideologies. We must own them and see how the criticism calls our way of thinking into question. After all, when we offer our own critiques we do the same.

For Moltmann it appears he intends to critique the Christian theology of the Cross as received as too narrow. By received, I mean as it has been codified in history and packaged for subsequent generations. The problem, it seems, arises at the point of context. What may have been molded in the 16th Century owes its vision and project to the peculiarities of its time. The idioms and metaphors worked as they were part of the common vocabulary of the time and embedded in a generally common experience.

The experiences out of which Moltmann writes differs distinctly from that of, say, Martin Luther. Interpreting the world and the Cross of Christ from the context of suffering the horrors of the holocaust certainly calls into question the way in which the vision cast by a neatly packaged version of the Gospel today, that Scot McKnight calls the Soterian Gospel, avoids seeing the Cross in a larger context that takes in personal salvation rather than that the Cross is all or only about personal salvation.

Today I will be thinking about a couple of quotes from the early pages of The Crucified God,

Ideological and political criticism from outside can only force theology and the church to reveal their true identity and no longer hide behind an alien mask drawn from history and the present time.


What does it mean to recall the God who was crucified in a society whose official creed is optimism, and which is knee-deep in blood?

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

4 comments on “Souhan, Moltmann, and Theology

  1. Glad to hear you’re reading Moltmann! The Crucified God and Clark Pinnock’s Flame of Love are what convinced me I wanted to be a theologian. Enjoy!

    1. Emily, I have long intended to read Moltmann. I do remember in a common conservative learning context we share how Moltmann would surely be taboo. I plan to enjoy. Thanks.

  2. Guy Rittger says:

    Todd –

    “But, criticism often acts as a means to expose our own ideologies. We must own them and see how the criticism calls our way of thinking into question.”

    This pretty much sums up my experience at our alma mater – Oklahoma Baptist University – where my own admittedly narrow -dare I say “dogmatic” – views were gradually exposed as profoundly ideological. In my case, it came about as “critique” through relentless questioning – that is, the demand to justify and defend my views against insightful interrogation from those with much broader and richer experience.

    Dare I say that this experience contributed substantially to the person I am today. Interestingly, the theologian with whom I first had to come to terms was Rudolf Bultmann, followed shortly thereafter by the even more unsettling (at the time) Martin Heidegger. I remember to this day the “fatal” moment when that inner voice – the Devil or one of him minions, perhaps – telling me: “Suspend your reflexive refusal to engage with what you’re reading and try to understand.” That pretty much poured the gasoline on the fire kindled by the likes of Bill Hagen, Don Wester and Slayden Yarbrough, if you’ll pardon the “burning” metaphor.

    Moltmann is on my list but first I need to empty the shelves of all the Zizek.

    1. Guy,

      I found this quote especially affirming. My own learning journey dovetails quite a bit with this statement. I tired of the default position that seemed more determined to talk loudly and over those who critiqued should be engaged. Sadly, there are still those who prefer to double down rather than engage thoughtful criticism in healthy dialogue. And the memories of the gang at OBU. For me it was Soden, Clarke, and Yarbrough, among others.

      I am still holding out hope to read more Zizek too.

      And, somewhere along the way I hope we cross paths in the real world beyond the virtual. It would be fun hanging out and enjoying some good conversations. No doubt we could conjure the “commute.”

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