The redemption of nature : accounts of atonement in Jürgen Moltmann's theology
The aim of this study is to contribute to the task of Christian theology by exploring how accounts of the atonement might embrace all nature, human and non-human. Since Jürgen Moltmann's work has been ecologically oriented and has offered substantial discussion within the theological tradition, the heart of the study lies in its analysis of his underlying redemptive schema, which is tested for its adequacy as a model of atonement. The contribution of the study is fourfold. (i) It seeks to articulate what Moltmann has done in terms of the language and logic of atonement theory. (ii) It proposes that, although Moltmann himself does not make this clear, the key aspect of his underlying schema is the construal of a suffering God that functions as a working atonement metaphor, which he reiterates in other ways by analogous correspondence. (iii) It shows that he has neglected a necessary aspect of soteriological theory, namely, the atonement metaphor of sacrifice, and that a fundamental misunderstanding of sacrifice accounts for this. (iv) It proposes how this deficiency might be remedied, within his own theological framework, by developing a Christology of the cosmic suffering servant that is able to express the atonement metaphor of sacrifice in the context of the redemption of nature. The sequence of the argument is as follows. The first chapter sets out the broad context for this study within a Christian soteriological tradition where the non-human creation has not been a focus. It discusses a range of ways in which modern theology has responded to the ecological crisis, itself a part of the crisis of secularism, concluding that Moltmann's work is potentially helpful as a way forward. Chapter 2 narrows the context to an analysis of the language and logic of atonement theory, with particular application to their relation to the redemption of nature. The need for an objective account of atonement is shown and Moltmann provides again a helpful example. Chapter 3 depicts Moltmann's theologising as a whole as a response to secular modernity and indicates how his ecological theology grounds his soteriology and his call for a cosmic Christ. An exploration of the accounts of atonement within Moltmann's theology is provided in Chapter 4, which also establishes that he operates with an atonement metaphor of suffering related through categories of analogous correspondence to non-human nature. The final chapter highlights the deficiency of his redemptive schema in its neglect of the key atonement metaphor of sacrifice and proposes, as a further development of analogous correspondence, the atonement metaphor of sacrifice as expressed through the cosmic suffering servant.