Friday, June 30, 2006

Quarter-final 1: Moltmann vs. Ratzinger

Ok, the contestants need no further presentation from me. The eight theologians left are world renowned theological giants. Not to know at least a bit about them is a lacuna in your theological knowledge. This is a good moment to do something about that.

The problems in the last round of voting has caused me to reconsider for whom this tournament really exists. This is my conclusion: You can vote if you are genuinely interested in systematic theology that is based in the academic world. I think it should be obvious what kinds of voters this excludes. If you sense this is you, please abstain from voting. You may still hang around and comment of course. Maybe you'll pick up some ideas that may be interesting.

This is how we will do the voting in this round:
Below is a poll. That is not the official voting. It is kind of like an "exit-poll" in general elections. Those votes will not count, there are there only to provide a sense of how the game is going, and the extra info about where the voters live.

The real voting is in the Comments. These are the rules:

  • No anonymous voters will be counted. If you do not have a blogger account, at least think of a nickname.
  • Votes that do not give a comment will not be counted. You have to give a comment that will show some knowledge of both contestants. You may be witty, intelligent and partial. But you have to say something. I realize this will cause a lot of you to don't bother. It's ok. You do not have to write an essay, a few line will do. Copy-pasting is not recommended.
  • Please write the name of you candidate first, then a blank line, and the your comment. It will be easier for me to count. (See my vote as an example)

Do not vote in the poll unless you are giving an official vote. It would just defeat the purpose of the poll.

Bring it on!


Patrik said...


Moltmann's theology of Hope is one of the most important new ideas to come around in 20th century theology, and I 100% approve of him connecting theology and politics.

Ratzinger is an accomplished theologian but I disagree completely with his view of doctrinal truth.

Joshua said...


Moltmann's early work in Theology of Hope and the the Crucified God is exciting, provocative, frustrating, and developed from a deep existential place. Additionally, he is one of the first Christians to face head on the probelm of auschwitz and Jewish-Christian relations. To say nothing of his worldwide impact. I wager no German theologian is as well read in Korea, Latin America, and Africa as Moltmann.

Ratzinger commands my respect, but his theological output pales in comparision to moltmann (not to mention von Balthasar, de Lubac, and others like Schil, Rahner, and Cognar). He is still in this because he is the Pope! Bless him for that, but...

D.W. Congdon said...


Ratzinger is important, and his recent Deus caritas est is beautiful, but in this match-up there is no competition. I may disagree with him on the Trinity and his (crypto-)panentheism, but Moltmann has accomplished some important things, primarily his emphasis on the "Crucified God" his "theology of hope." The Coming of God is one of the best books on eschatology ever written.

Pontificator said...


Moltmann is fun and imaginative, but I honestly do not see him as a serious, substantive theologian. He is popular, yes--popular, I suspect, because of the novelty of his thinking and because his writings are accessible--but he lacks depth.

Question: to what extent is he really dependent on Pannenberg?

So I'll go with Ratzinger, even though his career in the CDF limited his serious writing. Ratzinger is simply a deeper, more incisive theologian.

Patrik said...

Pontificator, I think its mostly Panneberg that is dependent on Moltmann.

Marketa said...


He is called 'Mozart of theology'. His thoughts are very deep although simply written so even non-theologian understands it. I agree with his theology completely.

Moltmann is also important theologian, but disagree in some issue of Theology of hope. So much influenced by marxist Ernst Bloch.

Gaunilo said...


Moltmann and Pannenberg should be seen independently; I believe Revelation as History predates Theology of Hope. At any rate, Pannenberg is highly critical (rightly, imho) of Moltmann. And of course, the obverse relation obtains. The really interesting question is to what extend they're both dependent on Barth.

I'm no longer a fan of Moltmann, but it remains the case the Theology of Hope and Crucified God are fundamental works of C20 theology, and quite insightful in many ways. Whole swathes of contemporary theology are hard to understand without Moltmann's work. Therefore reluctantly I'll vote for him, as I just don't think Ratzinger-cum-Benedict XVI has had a wide influence outside of RCC theology. I actually think he's the better scholar, though.

Patrik said...

Revalation as history (in which Panneberg wrote a chapter) came out in 1963, while Theology of Hope came out in 1964.

byron said...


Moltmann's work in both eschatology and trinitarian thought will last: recovering a genuinely futurist hope and re-invigorating a social trinity. Neither are unique, but the energy and life he has brought to them and gained from them has inspired many many others. Although the specific answers he gives to contemporary issues might sail a little too close to the Zeitgeist, the way he handles eschatology and trinity is impressively fecund and forces him to speak to today's issues.

Ratzinger: although I am less familiar with him, and I deeply appreciate another genuine theologian pope (like JP II), he has not rocked my world the way Moltmann has and continues to do.

dan said...


Having wondering how one could do theology after Barth, Moltmann rightly realised that the place to turn was eschatology. Hence, beginning with his Theology of Hope and continuing through all of his work (and climaxing in The Comning of God) Moltmann forces contemporary theology to recover a long neglected understanding of eschatology.

Secondly, Moltmann's reflections upon suffering, and the suffering of God (especially in The Crucified God -- which is sort of the reverse side of the coin of his Theology of Hope -- but also in The Way of Jesus Christ and The Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit) is profound. Of course, this suffering, as Moltmann so beautifully describes it, is the suffering of love, and by revealing the intimate link between these two things, Moltmann challenges all Christians to move beyond a comfortable form of Christianity.

Furthermore, Moltmann has played a large role in bringing trinitarian theology back into popularity in Protestant circles (trinitarianism in Moltmann, like in von Balthasar, is everywhere but is especially the subject of The Trinity and the Kingdom).

Finally, although Moltmann has tended to avoid describing himself as a systematic theologian, the scope of his work is amazing. He rightly brings together trinitarian theology and politics, and has even been a significant voice in recovering a cosmic perspective on the Christian faith (cf. esp. God in Creation).

As a postscript, I also find Moltmann appealing because he may well be the last of the great universalists (now it seems that pluralism has replaced a genuinely Christian universalism -- I think it was J. B. Metz who once wrote an article on this, but I can't remember).

Whereas Moltmann could be said to be a major influence on at least one other person in this tournament (Pannenberg) Ratzinger has been more influenced by others in this tournament (like Rahner and von Balthasar). Granted, being made Prefect of the CDF severally limited Ratzinger as a theologian. Indeed, he himself realised this and he asked on more than one occasion to be removed so that he could write his books. Also, one need to recognise the impact Ratzinger has made through Communio -- the journal he helped to found -- but his output of articles pales in comparison to Moltmann's output of books.

Ratzinger's approach to politics (perhaps too largely shaped by his experiences as a prof during student protests?) also pales in comparison to Moltmann's. Thus, his ongoing (and in my opinion) rather negative influence upon the liberation theology movement. But, once again, in this regard he was hampered by his role in the CDF. While he was a prof he was delighted by the work of his student, Leonardo Boff, and actually assisted in the publishing of Boff's thesis -- then later, as Prefect of the CDF, he silenced Boff.

Perhaps Ratzinger will emerge to be one of the great theologians of the early 21st century. But is he a greater 20th century theologian than Moltmann? Most definitely not.

Brian said...


Moltmann's ability to re-center Christian theology within its Hebraic roots is impressive, and I find his work to be some of the most helpful for the 21st Century Post-Mainline churches here in the United States.

Ratzinger may turn out to be a great Pope but as Joshua notes his work as a theologian is less than impressive when compared to the other giants in the field here.

One of Freedom said...


No other single theologian has shaped my thinking or challenged me more than Moltmann. I first ran into Moltmann in an introduction to theology class and realized that I had found a master. Over the years his writing has challenged me and broadened my horizon, he took a narrow evangelical and showed me the real heart of the gospel.

I appreciate Ratzinger's contribution, and as a student at a pontifical university have had plenty of opportunities to interact with the documents that came out VatII, especially Dei Verbum. But still they didn't challenge my horizons, only made me feel that our Roman brothers and sisters were on the right track. I haven't read Ratzinger beyond that, but obviously if he isn't important enough for a _pontifical_ unversity to highlight (and Moltmann definitely is highlighted there) then how truly influential can he be as a theologian?

John P. said...


Love him or hate him, Moltmann's work is far more prolific across interdenominational boundaries than Ratzinger...I love Ratzinger's work (his Intro to Xtianity is eloquent and insightful), but it does not compare to the likes of Crucified God, Theology of Hope, or God in Creation.

A hundred years from now, both men will be remembered...Ratzinger: for being Pope, Moltmann: for his innovative and challenging work across the theological spectrum.

baptistnomad said...


moltmann: after reading his work chronologically, i find him to be the most comprehensive interdisciplinary theologian. a friend of feminism, liberation theology, philosophy, [etc.] and a great lunch date [thanks to my teacher who was one of his doctoral students]!

Ratzinger: in my mind, joe continues to be the "watchdog" for the Catholic Church. where there is the liberation of theology in moltmann, i find no liberation of theology in ratzinger.

benkku said...


I have read his book Principles of Catholic theology and I truly like his conception of Faith. I like the way he bases personal faith (fides quo) in ecclesial faith as its ground and conditions possibility.

Anna said...


In a world where all too often the church looks like just another religion that you can pick and choose from in a smorgasbord of settings, Moltmann's Crucified God makes you have to stop and realize that Jesus is fundamentally anti-religious, something that helps people stop and take another look.

Andy Goodliff said...


He has written some of the most interesting theology over the last 40 years and ultimately I believe he has made a larger contribution to systematic theology

Scott Paeth said...


Apart from founding an entire theological movement, his creative use of the theology of Ernst Bloch and the Frankfurt school allowed for an entirely new lens on Christian expectation and the theology of the cross, and provided a theological basis for Christian political engagement.

Ratzinger is a fine theological mind, but I can't help holding against him his rejection of liberation theology, his hostility toward Gutierrez and Boff, and his turning of his back on the most important elements of Vatican II.

Clare said...


Despite the break in his theological career to undertake a job he did not seek or find congenial, Ratzinger's contribution remains permanent. His role at the Second Vat Council went far beyond the official one of 'peritus' - among other things, breaking the stranglehold of neo-scholasticism and calling for a return to the study of the church fathers. His writings - on Christology, ecclesiology, liturgy, for instance - have a timeless quality and will certainly be read and studied 100 years from now.

Agreed, Moltmann's writing, notably the Theology of Hope, had a profound impact during the later part of the 20th century, but whether the novelty of his ideas will stand the test of time, it is too early to say.

David said...


Both of these theologians are highly accomplished. Ratzingers contribution to Catholic dogma has been immense and demands great respect (3rd after Rahner/Von Baltharsar). However, Moltmann has made a more significant contribution terms of his social trinitarian thought, theology of hope and eschatology.
In view of his literary output and global influence he surely stands out as one of the greatest living theologians.

Thom said...


Being a protestant and a lover of Luther, I love that Ratzinger loves Luther. I love, for example, Ratzinger's taking up Luther's arguments for the bondage of the will over and against the somewhat naive optimism of Gaudium et Spes. Nevertheless, Moltmann gets my vote.

Moltmann gets my vote because he connects a vibrant spirituality to a political theology that is not resigned but freed from the possibilities of things by the promises put into action by the economic vulnerability of the Trinity itself. Men and women find the kiss of this promise in the resurrection of the crucified God, but also its burden for today.

Michael Joseph said...


Ratzinger's work and influence at the Second Vatican Council far eclipsed that of Rahner. He was instrumental in grounding the Catholic Church's theology of revelation back in the Fathers. Also, he was the darling of nearly every Catholic theological camp immediately following the Council (hence, Kung's early jealousy). He helped found the two most important post-conciliar journals of theology, Concilium and Communio. Finally, he is one of the FEW theologians in this competition who refuses to consider systematic theology apart from liturgy, prayer and worship.

Moltmann, as has been expressed, had some very creative ideas. I truly admire his drive to reestablish an eschatological consciousness in Christian thought that extends to both the eternal and the political spheres. Nevertheless, I cannot see Moltmann as providing more than just ideas, which is why I doubt we will even be hearing his name after another decade or so. I do not try to discount or diminish his thought, but he simply seems to be a fad theologian more than a foundational theologian.

Christopher said...

[Vote for]: Ratzinger

A hundred years from now, both men will be remembered...Ratzinger: for being Pope, Moltmann: for his innovative and challenging work across the theological spectrum.

Just the same, I would have to say that what impressed me about Ratzinger was his work "across the theological spectrum" -- from his general survey of the Apostle's creed Introduction to Christianity to his Eschatology : Death and Eternal Life; I have been especially thankful for his work in interreligious relations, dialogue,and religious pluralism (Truth and Tolerance: Christian Belief and World Religions is an anthology of earlier writings on the subject, in which he interacts with John Hick, Paul Knitter, Roger Haight and other theological voices); and Jewish-Christian relations (Many Religions, One Covenant) and his work on the restoration of the liturgy and the meaning of the Eucharist (The Feast of Faith; Spirit of the Liturgy; ).

More than a simple "watchdog" (as some choose to characterize him), he has demonstrated a capacity for dialogue w. philosophers (Marcello Pera, Jürgen Habermas; he recently published a dialogue with Moltmann) and even interreligous dialogue. Even while serving as Pope John Paul's "enforcer of the faith," Ratzinger was credited with saving the Catholic-Lutheran dialogue in Augsburg, Germany in 1999. Also, as one with a Swiss-Mennonite background, I am particularly impressed by Ratzinger's meeting with the Bruderhof, an the Anabaptist community, in 1985, two occasions (but not the only) in which even as Prefect he has burst the typical characterization thrust upon him by his critics.

Finally, if "baptistnomad" and "scott paeth" can credit Moltmann for being a friend of liberation theology, I would hope that entitles me -- without turning this into an extended debate on the merits/demerits of liberation theology -- to convey my appreciation for Ratzinger's own critique of the same, in his capacity of prefect for the CDF.

On Moltmann -- I happen to be the inverse of Byron (who comments above) -- I am very familiar with Ratzinger but less familiar than Moltmann, have read excerpts back in college but not very familiar in his work (although recent discussion on this blog has provoked my interest in his writings). I trust Patrik will determine if that disqualifies me.

Patrick McManus said...


Although I voted Ratzinger in the last match, this time it has to go to Moltmann. Ratzinger is an insightful and brilliant theologian and pastor, but as far as the discipline of theology goes, Moltmann has the edge, both in his constructive theological work and the sheer influence he has exerted since the publication of his Theology of Hope. Although I find his panentheism the achilles heel of his theology (ultimately his Hegelianism is to blame), my vote goes to Moltmann. But when he meets Jüngel next, he will go down!


Shane Clifton said...


My thesis supervisor could not stand Moltmann, accusing him of being "loose" and "unsystematic". Moltmann admits that what he is doing is simply providing contribtutions to the field. His genious then, is not of the same type as, say, Pannenberg. Rather, it lies in his ability to pinpoint central dimensions of Christian theology (hope and forsakeness, social conceptions of Trinity, messianic christology etc), and communicate his ideas in a way that verges on poetry. It was through Moltmann that i fell in love with the discipline.

My main reading of Ratzinger has been with his communio ecclesiology - various articles, and "called to communion." Fascinating reads - but his portrayal is so framed (restricted) by institutional parameters that it seems more a defense of traditional catholicism than a theological treatise. I did enjoy his first encyclical on love - but for me, Moltmann is the broader (certainly ecumenically), and more rounded theologian.

The difficulty, Patrik, is that i am the reverse of christopher - more familiar with Moltmann than Ratzinger. Such is the problem of voting for a theologian

hewson said...

Ratzinger's communio ecclesiology is quite the opposite of his neo-scholastic opponents who were the ones restricted by "institutional parameters." I think Shane may have read a stereotype into Ratzinger's ecclesiology since it contains very little of what he describes.

I think Ratzinger will lose this match, and perhaps not unjustly. Nevertheless, having read over many of the comments, I am convinced that only a few commenters speak from genuine knowledge of his work. Instead, there are many fanciful constructs most likely based upon caricatures and hostile portrayals.

Now don't we all feel silly for making such a big deal over the fan club?!?

RCEsq said...

"This is my conclusion: You can vote if you are genuinely interested in systematic theology that is based in the academic world."

I doubt that it is acceptable academic theological practice to change the rules of engagement midway because you fear the outcome (it certainly isn't kosher in any other academic discipline). That said, one must return to the original premise of the tournament: who is the greatest systematic theologian of the 20th century. The reason those who are not systematic theologians themselves or who have an abiding professional or profound amateur interest in the subject should be permitted to participate is that the term "greatest" was not defined from the outset. So here's a definition: A theologian who meets the threshold of recognition in his field (women have not been seriously in the running here as in many other traditionally male-dominated fields), who has made significant contributions to subject areas outside his chosen specialization, and who is acknowledged by non-specialists too as a luminary. What I know of Moltmann suggests that he more than meets all but the last qualification. He is lauded for his originality, interdisciplinary work and engagement with contemporary currents in politics and social science (offering, for example, an ecological approach to the concept of God and man). However, as between Moltmann and Ratzinger, only one man has been elected to the Académie des sciences morales et politiques and that is Ratzinger. As Cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger took the place vacated by Andrei Sakharov. Enough said.

My vote's for Ratzinger

RCEsq said...


I just reread your new rules and realized that I should have put my vote first.

Margaretha said...


Moltmann's influence may be very large, but I still have my doubts regarding how long it will last.

As a Protestant myself I should be happy that he seems to be THE great hero here. He has "rescued" the eschatological perspectives of the Scriptures, in the view of many fundis, but isn't that an exaggeration? Has it been gone for two thousand years only waiting for Moltmann to resurrect and save? Or is it rather a question of Moltmann, a child of the 20th century, creating a new interpretation and vision that suits the spirit of the time? I find it dangerously (uh-hum) attractive myself, seeing that it does have similarities with (for example) Teilhard de Chardin although obviously different in approach. Still, the underlying premises are similar. His panentheism and the view of evolution within a Trinitarian account of continuous creation may be a reason for his appeal...but it may also be Moltmann's "achilles heel", as some comments already pointed out.

With so much focus on the hope of the future, the starting out from the "telos", souls like me still have questions about the beginning....! How great is Moltmann on this question?
Another nagging little question: if suffering enters God's "eternity", does suffering therefore becomes eternal? Does Moltman's theology "valorize" suffering?
If the church is to be seen as "the people of hope" (sounds good, yes) and the coming Kingdom gives us a broader vista of reality than the one of private personal salvation... I just don't buy totally into this one, sorry!
Moltmann's theology has magnificent elements, granted, but the opening it affords to Liberation theology (broadly speaking)puts me off, for the simple reason that the results of Liberation theology in my country had been less than impressive. One could even say negative. The praxis is not really working....

My vote goes for Ratzinger. For a very simple reason. Reading Ratzinger brought me back to the Christian faith.

The irony that a Catholic theologian had to "save" me after twenty years of gradually losing faith in the Christian faith because of reading liberal Protestant theologians and too many "studies" on the "Historical Jesus", has now made my home library the most popular venue for my many Protestant friends who have the same sad history.

Ratzinger's Christology filled me with a joy that I have never before experienced. His wide range of theological interests (historical, theoretical, artistic [yippee!!]) are reflected in his writings. He is erudite, a Renaissance man. His writings on Augustinian ecclesiology, on Christian brotherhood, the foundations of dogmatic and moral theology, church and politics, eucemenism, problem of pluralism etc. are impressive. His knowledge of Scripture is profound.

And I love his writing style, his way of working through and with paradox. He argues incisively but his language, his phrasing, his sense of cadence is beautiful, at times even poetic. Never dry theology from Ratzinger. He expresses himself with such clarity and profundity but at the same time with a quality that may be labeled "tenderness". And how is it that a sense of worship shines through nearly everything he says?

Joseph Ratzinger will still be read in two hundred year's time. He is a hundred percent of our time but at the same time he is timeless. Because his theology is universal and timeless.

kim fabricius said...


Ratzinger is a priest who writes from the temple, Moltmann a prophet who speaks from the tent: hence Ratzinger's, rabbinic timeless quality - and Moltmann's poetic, kairotic thrust.

Take away Ratzinger and contemporary Roman theology would not be all that different - apart, of course, from the presence of voices in the mix that he had marginalised; take away Moltmann and contemporary Protestant theology would be unrecognisable.

Besides, if it's a close call, go for the one with the bushy eyebrows.

KitKat said...

I vote for Joseph Ratzinger.

I am originally from Venezuela. Having familiarized myself with trends in liberation theology, I can attest to the fact that the likes of Gutierrez and Sobrino express not the sentiment of the marginalized in Latin American but rather a very European and aridly academic theology. I found Ratzinger's critique (he never rejected it) to be very telling of the feelings of my own people. We tend not to identify with European, Marxist and modernist models of theology that are done from within the academy. Moltmann, at least, admits that his thought is often detached from the actual sentiments of the common man's experience in the political realm. I appreciate Moltmann's attempt to extend Christian hope to all structures of human life. However, his thought remains forever Euro-centric.

Ratzinger's thought has captivated me since I first read his Introduccion al Cristianismo, and he has had a very warm reception among Latin American Catholics. The liberation thought that many Europeans and Americans embrace as announcing the plight of Latin Americans is nothing more than a European/American spin on a cultural existence that is uniquely Latin American. Ratzinger continues to understand this, which is why I cannot but vote for him.

Joey said...


I was introduced to Moltmann when I first read his book "The Spirit of Life". This was the time when the doctrinal and experiential aspects of the Holy Spirit was really controversial in our denomination in our country. After reading the book, i was attracted to read his other books, like The Trinity and the Kingdom of God, one of the strongest trinitarian work i read although most will not agree with his ideas, Theology of Hope, Church in the Power of the Holy Spirit... then his dialogue with practical theology. His ideas are brave at most. Although he have radical ideas, most theologians can still consider him as orthodox.

Ratzinger's books are not as influential as Moltmann's... in fact if he didn't become the Pope, his works may not be known here.

Patrik said...

Moltmann wins 18-8

Bennie said...


My comments would echo Joshua's, which I need not repeat. Moltmann's work on the Trinity was also innovative and provocative.