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In the End--The Beginning: The Life of Hope.

In the End--The Beginning: The Life of Hope. By Jurgen Moltmann. Translated by Margaret Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004. xii and 180 pages. Paper. $17.00.

Jurgen Moltmann continues to do us the favor of offering popular, more accessible versions of his larger tomes. This short eschatology resounds themes that Moltmann treated more academically in The Coming of God (Augsburg Fortress, [1996] 2004), though here he focuses primarily on "the personal experiences of life" (p. x). The book's odd title, after a line from T. S. Eliot, points to Moltmann's fundamental claim: that eschatology is not about 'the end," but rather is the good news that in every seeming end God makes a new beginning.

Moltmann organizes the book around three beginnings--birth, new birth, and resurrection. Individual chapters vary in length, tone, and quality, in part because they began as lectures in quite diverse contexts. Part One illustrates this point. Chapter 1 is a profound exploration of "the promise of the child." It shows how the evangel of messiah's birth frees us from binding hope to male sons, to procreation and to marriage, but also frees us for seeing in each child the promise of hope. On the other hand, chapter 2 gives an abbreviated cultural history of "youth," from which not even perfunctory theological conclusions are drawn.

Part Two offers an excellent chapter (4) on the relation of justice and salvation. It includes a detailed critique of the tradition of justification, and a suggestive discussion of how "justice must be done on both sides" (p. 53)--God setting right both victims and perpetrators. In the end, by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, "God is justified too" (p. 78).

Part Three includes accessible discussions of such traditional eschatological themes as death, purgatory, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, and atypical themes such as reincarnation, modem antipathy toward mourning, and the relation of the living to the dead.

I recommend this book for Moltmann fans, pastors who want to review eschatology from a new perspective, and bright laypersons. Given the superiority of Part Three, I might recommend beginning in the end.

D. Brent Laytham

North Park Theological Seminary

Chicago, Illinois
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Author:Laytham, D. Brent
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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