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The sea of galilee

Eberhard Arnold’s Unsettling Message

Jürgen Moltmann

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detail of Kollwitz pieta

Käthe Kollwitz’s Pietà

Also known as “Mother with Her Dead Son,” this sculpture gives expression to the mourning of mothers everywhere, from the Middle East to the Congo. In this way, it draws us into the heart of Jesus’ cryptic beatitude, “Blessed are those who mourn.”

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Eberhard Arnold’s voice is as authentically prophetic and as immediately compelling as it was ninety years ago. It is the voice of a Christian just as radical as Christoph Blumhardt before him and Dietrich Bonhoeffer after him. It is a wakeup call for the religiously sedated and socially domesticated Christendom of the Western world. I read and hear it as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” of today’s world. Eberhard Arnold lived, believed, and thought in the revolutionary situation of Germany after World War I – amidst Spartacus-style uprisings by Communists, assassinations by nationalists, soaring public debt, inflation, and general confusion. As a result of this, I believe, he saw down to the root of things, leading to uncompromising decisions in the discipleship of Jesus between the old, transient world and the future of God’s new world.

Especially impressive to me are his incorrigible hope in the kingdom of God and his wide-ranging love for this earth. He was no sectarian, but rather a universalist in his love for life. The Bruderhof communities which he founded serve, in the tradition of the Anabaptist communities of the Reformation period, as beacons of an alternative hope amid the lethal dangers of our time. They are not die Stillen im Lande [“the quiet people in the nation,” a term applied to Pietists]; rather, they are children of “God’s revolution,” the peaceful revolution to which Eberhard Arnold dedicated himself. His message to us today is anything but innocuous – it is thoroughly unsettling, expansive, and trailblazing.

From the foreword to Leben im Licht, ed. Daniel Hug (Plough, 2015). Translated by Peter Mommsen.

 

 

 

 

photo of Eberhard Arnold
Related Article The Jesus of the Four Gospels – by Eberhard Arnold Read
Contributed By Jürgen Moltmann

Jürgen Moltmann, pioneer of the “theology of hope,” is professor emeritus of systematic theology at Tübingen University. His students have included Miroslav Volf and Peter Zimmerling.

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