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Posts Tagged ‘World War 2’

 

Jurgen Moltmann’s eyes searched the German forest for a glimpse of his fellow soldiers’ Nazi gray uniforms. Somehow he’d gotten separated from his unit and was now alone near the front lines.

Not far ahead he detected movement in the trees, then spotted a brown army jacket and the unmistakable shape of the other soldier’s helmet: British.

Moltmann made a split-second decision. He put his hands on top of his head, and walked toward the enemy. After a year and half of war, after enduring nightly bombing raids in Hamburg and witnessing the horrific deaths of friends, Moltmann decided he’d endured enough.

It wasn’t a war he believed in anyway. Hitler had cut short his education in 1943 when Moltmann’s whole class was assigned to the anti-aircraft batteries in Hamburg. He’d been just sixteen years old.

As he approached the British soldier, Moltmann thought, Being a POW can’t be worse than the war itself. But behind the barbed wire of the camp in Belgium he suffered horrific nightmares, felt unrelenting guilt for what his country had done, and collapsed into deep depression and hopelessness.

 

German prisoners, February 1944

 

Later Moltmann was transferred to Kilmarmock, Scotland, assigned to a POW road crew. Relentless rain drummed on their backs day after day. To and from the work site he and fellow prisoners rode in trucks—silent, with heads down near their knees. “It was a picture of real forsakenness,” Moltmann later recounted (1).

While in Scotland, a U.S. Army chaplain gave Moltmann a Bible, and out of boredom he started to read. In the book of Mark he encountered another Man who also knew forsakenness, and soon the young soldier came to believe in Christ.

The war ended in April of 1945 but at least 400,000 German prisoners were kept in the British camps, to be repatriated to their homeland one boatload at a time. Germany had been decimated; there weren’t enough places to live nor enough food to eat if all the prisoners were returned en masse.

 

 

In 1946, Moltmann was transferred to Norton Camp in Nottinghamshire, England, which the YMCA helped to run. Though still prisoners, the men were allowed to study education or theology.

Moltmann chose the latter, anxious to understand more of his newfound Christian faith. He took advantage of the large library and proffered lectures. He learned Hebrew and Greek.

Frank and Nellie Baker, a young pastor and his wife, served several small churches in the area. God gave them the desire to minister to the POWs of Norton Camp. With the commander’s permission, the couple took a prisoner home for dinner each Sunday after worship.

Moltmann was one of them. “The seed of hope was planted in my heart around Frank and Nellie Baker’s Sunday dinner table,” he said (2).

In 1947, he attended a Student Christian Movement conference. There he experienced reconciliation with young men and women who had fought for the Allies.

As a result of the forgiveness and increasing hope in his spirit, Moltmann decided to continue his study of theology once he returned to Germany, to better understand “the power of hope that had saved his life” (3).

 

 

Since Moltmann had been one of the last Germans captured, he was one of the last to be sent home, in 1948. By 1952, he had earned a doctorate degree and become pastor of the Evangelical Church of Bremen-Wasserhorst.

In subsequent years he taught theology at an academy (1958-1963), then Bonn University (1963-1967), and finally the University of Tubingen (1967-1994).

Moltmann also wrote forty-three books. The first, published in 1964, carried a highly appropriate title: The Theology of Hope. And today he is regarded as “one of the most significant theologians of the age” (4).

 

Jurgen Moltmann, March, 2016

 

But if it weren’t for hope, we’d surely not know of Jurgen Moltmann because “without hope one cannot live,” he wrote. “To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: ‘Leave behind all hope, you who enter here’” (Theology Of Hope).

 

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/843177

 

Moltmann’s transcending hope prospered in the war’s aftermath, even amidst the decimation, grief, and uncertainty, because he embraced what Christ offered him: resurrection hope.

“Hope finds in Christ not only a consolation in suffering, but also the protest of the divine promise against suffering. If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15:26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death” (Theology of Hope) (5).

That gleam of resurrection hope has now been shining through Jurgen Moltmann for over seventy years, impacting for eternity countless others.

We would do well to remember him, consider his way of life, and imitate his faith (Hebrews 13:7).

 

 

 

Notes:

  1. https://highprofiles.info/interview/jurgen-moltman/
  2. http://www.jacoblupfer.com/blog/2015/2/28/where-jurgen-moltmann-found-hope
  3. https://scienceandbelief.org/tag/norton-camp/
  4. https://www.christiantoday.com/article/liberation-and-hope-10-of-the-best-jurgen-moltmann-quotes/83599.htm
  5. https://ryandueck.com/2007/06/19/moltmann-on-hope/

 

Sources:

https://highprofiles.info/interview/jurgen-moltman/

www.jacoblupfer.com/blog

https://scienceandbelief.org/tag/Norton-camp/

https://spu.edu/depts/uc/response/spring2k8/features/wartime-blessings.asp

Grace Notes by Phillip Yancey, Zondervan, 2009, p. 116.

Volume 10, Tome 1, Kierkegaard’s Influence on Theology: German Protestant Theology, edited by Jon Stewart.

 

Photo credits:  http://www.needpix.com; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.simple.m.wikimedia.org; http://www.az quotes.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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