In April this year the famous Prof Jurgen Moltmann visited South Africa to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Pretoria. For those of us who are not academics, Prof Moltmann is a German theologian who has written a few very famous books. One of these books is “The Crucified God”. It was published in 1973, 44 years ago, and is today still prescribed to students. In this
book Prof Moltmann explains his thoughts: when God became a human being, he entered into our suffering and our struggles.
I was fortunate to obtain the right to interview him for half an hour on April 4, 2017, in the Courtyard Hotel in Hatfield, Pretoria. Prof Moltmann is 91 years old, but speaks in a clear voice and with deep thoughts. I asked him about his theology. Why should students in South Africa read his work? Why should they not say, we read only African scholars because these German theologians are colonialists?
I asked him: “Prof Moltmann, are you a liberation theologian or are you a coloniser?” “My theology,” Moltmann said, “is based on the Bible. And the Bible is not a German book; it is a book that originated in the Middle East. I have to read it for the German context. I am not a liberation theologian, but I am a theologian of repentance. The Germans who had an Auschwitz had to learn to repent. I know my limitations as a German theologian. I cannot lead the way for Africans. Africans have different problems from that of the Germans. I have a great respect for the liberation theologians like Allan Boesak who liberated blacks and Gutierrez who liberated the Latin American peoples. For me, I am a German theologian who prays for forgiveness and new beginnings,” Prof
Moltmann said. “And that thought,” Prof Moltmann humbly said, “I can also extend to Africans. The cross of Christ binds us together.
“See the sunrise behind the cross,” he said. “What is this sunrise behind the cross?” he then asked. “Africans must work that out for themselves: what makes the sun rise in these difficult times? How
can we show the sunrise to each other and live the sunrise with and for each other when life is hard and people are poor?” What a privilege it was to speak to such a great theologian: The Theologian of the Sunrise behind the Cross.