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Moltmann reflects on spirit of truth in a post-truth era

Moltmann reflects on spirit of truth in a post-truth era

Prof. Dr Jürgen Moltmann during his presentation at the WCC. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

02 December 2019

“Nationalist power politics is no longer interested in truth. They wage war under the guise of peace, a hybrid form of war with economic sanctions and cyber wars, fake news and lies,” affirmed Prof. Dr Jürgen Moltmann at the opening of his public lecture at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, 2 December.

Moltmann, one of the most widely read theologians of our time, reflected on the theme of “the spirit of truth” in a post-truth era, a time “in which objective truth no longer exists, in which any given claim can be substantiated and in which it is no longer possible to tell falsehood and truth apart.”

“Truth creates trust and trust creates peace, and without peace, life is not possible. The fight for truth against falsehood is a matter of life and death. It is the struggle for the survival of humankind.” he said.

The public lecture in Geneva was part of the launch of Moltmann’s most recent book Hope in These Troubled Times, published by  WCC Publications and, in North America, by Westminster John Knox Press.

Moltmann’s threefold reflection on truth in transformation in our times focused on the objectivity of science, the humanity of truth and the spirit of truth revealed by divinity.

Describing scientific knowledge as part of the scientific-technical civilization which has established itself worldwide, he noted that “every ten years, our scientific knowledge doubles, but we have no power over this power. Our research instinct and competition force us to progress. We are damned to progress!”

The way out of such self-destructive system is, for Moltmann, adoption of “a humane and ecological wisdom in order to deal with our immense knowledge in a way that is conducive to life, in order to not optimize humans in a ‘transhuman’ way and to not make the earth uninhabitable,” he said.

Truth creates trust, trust creates freedom

“Trust is the habitat of freedom. Social cohabitation of free persons is always an intricate web of promises and reliabilities. Reliability and faithfulness are the hallmarks of the truth of persons. In this sense, ‘personality’ is truth,” he affirmed.

“We know more and we want to know more than we humans need to survive.” For Moltmann, such an unstoppable quest for truth must be undertaken from a perspective that “the secret of human truth is placed in our truthful spirit and our honest hearts. The secret of divine, that is to say pure, full Truth, must be ‘revealed’ to us.

“In faith, we are grasped by the self-revelation of the eternal Truth, and then the Spirit of Truth drives us onward to search for Truth and chase after peace.”

Moltmann, a leading thinker in Christian theology, political and ecological theology, and the theology of hope, closed his reflection with the words of the Psalm 36:10: “In your light we see the light” of Truth.

Expressing appreciation to Moltmann for raising such questions, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said: “We were given the opportunity to go into a very deep issue of human life, and life with God and one another.”

“You bring us into a very deep reflection about ourselves, in the way you raised this multidimensional theme. You not only give us a theological and philosophical but also a political analysis of the theme by helping us at the same time to ask these questions to ourselves,” added Tveit.

As part of his visit to the WCC, Moltmann will hold a seminar with students from the Ecumenical Institute Bossey and the University of Geneva on the topic of "The Ecumenical Church and Nationalism" on 3 December.

Moltmann’s book “Hope in These Troubled Times”

Video streaming of Moltmann’s presentation at the WCC

More photos of the public lecture and book launch in Geneva