I am just back from a 24-hour break in one of Malawi’s most spectacular locations – the Liwonde National Park, an area round the upper stretch of the Shire River that has been maintained as a game reserve. It has long been a favourite spot and rarely disappoints. The aching beauty and tranquillity of the environment make it a good place for long thoughts.
I took a screen break while I was there, but I did allow myself the company of a good book – Jürgen Moltmann’s The Spirit of Hope, with its subtitle speaking to our moment: Theology for a World in Peril. If this was relevant when Moltmann published his book in 2019, how much more so now after we have come face to face with war, pandemic, famine and ecological catastrophe?
This year has brought the war in Ukraine, which must seem like a re-run of the First World War to those caught up on the frontlines. So much for “never again.” Yet if the slaughter taking place daily is reminiscent of World War I, the situation is significantly worse in that the threat of a nuclear attack is now part of the equation. A world in peril indeed.
Looking from a distance at the contest to select a new leader of the British Conservative Party, who will automatically become Prime Minister, it is striking how wide is the gap between the kind of political leadership that is needed and the kind that is available. A world in peril indeed.
What can theology offer in such a moment? Moltmann resists glib answers and does not underestimate the danger in which we find ourselves. But he does offer three affirmations:
- In the eternal yes of the living God, we affirm our fragile and vulnerable humanity in spite of death.
- In the eternal love of God, we love life and resist its devastations.
- In the ungraspable nearness of God, we trust in what is saving, even if the dangers are growing.
Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Hope: Theology for a World in Peril (Geneva: WCC, 2019), 14.