Thursday 11 May 2006

God in a shrinking universe

One of the coolest new blogs out there at the moment is God in a Shrinking Universe, by Patrik Hagman from Finland. This is our new blog of the week.

Patrik sets out to offer a “pessimistic theology.” In his words: “What I want to discuss is the role of the—primarily Christian—religion in a world that is not progressing any more, but is heading towards a scenario with more injustice, suffering and meaninglessness rather than less. It is my belief that this is where our world is heading, and I feel this is something that most, if not all, modern theology does not address sufficiently. Faith in a pessimistic worldview, or God in a shrinking universe.”

Although my own personality tends to be incurably optimistic, I think Patrik is raising some really interesting questions, and he has already written excellent posts on topics like the theology of crisis and the doctrine of creation.


Patrik said...

Thanks a lot for the kind words!

Anonymous said...

Hi Patrik,

Always good to talk with you. But you Finns - isn't pessimism supposed to be intrinsic to your national character? All that cold a darkness? All those lugubrious Lutherans?!

But the world "not progressing any more" - you're enough of an optimist to believe that it once was?

But I always get nervous when theology is done in the mode of either optimism or pessimism, against the backdrop of either the angst or the expectations of one's times - as opposed to their "thick description", which is, of course, crucial to the theological enterprise.

Amidst the rise of National Socialism in Germany in the 1930s, Karl Barth insisted that the task was to do theology "as if nothing had happened". Which was ceratinly not a shrug of indifference or a call for withdrawal - Barth's life, as well as his work, contradicts that libellous interpretation of his words. (As Timothy Gorringe's fine study Karl Barth: Against Hegemony (1999) conclusively demonstrates, Barth's theology is thoroughly contextual.) Rather it was a plea to keep your eye on the ball, a reminder that faith lives sub specie spei, because, appearances notwithstanding, Christ rules the world with truth and grace.

Luther, when asked what he would do if he knew that the world was going to end tomorrow, said, "I would plant a tree."

Of course, if you are protesting against milktoast "Jesus loves you" Christianity, right on!

Patrik said...

I guess what I'm looking for is a theology that acknoxledges that the world might end tomorrow and then gives me strenght to go out and plant that tree.

And I'm not a Lutheran!

Anonymous said...


I assumed you're not a Lutheran. What, me think the worst of people?! But one Lutheran you'd like for sure is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a thelogian 100% bullshit-free.

He wrote: "Christ not only makes people 'good'; he makes them strong too."

And he famously asks: "Who stands fast? Only the person whose final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, hid freedom, or his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all this when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and in exclusive allegiance to God - the reponsible person, who tries to make his whole life an answer to the question and call of God. Where are these responsible people?"

(From Letters and Papers from Prison)

Patrik said...

I've read some Bonhoeffer, (he is really hard to avoid, in Germany he is probably the most popular of he 20th century protestant theologians. I've read his "Widerstand und Ergebung" and I must say I was a bit disappointed. Sure there are the nice parts everybody know in there, but not really much else... You have to admire his courage of course, but I'm not sure he is as important a theologian as his sometimes made out to be.

Ok, I'm not a Lutheran, but obviously I have nothing against them, I married to one and I regularly go the the Lutheran church because I like the liturgy. And Tillich was a Lutheran, too. I have some problems with Lutheran anthropology, but then I have problems with, catholic, ortodox, calvinist, baptist, pentecostal, mennonite, anglican and seventh day adventist doctrine too...

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