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“In the end, there is a beginning”
12 April 2017

An honorary doctorate degree was conferred on world-renowned theologian Prof Jürgen Moltmann, who formed part the Faculty of Theology’s centenary literary exhibition and acted as keynote speaker at a centenary conference, held on 5 April 2017.

Jürgen Moltmann is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen in Germany. He began to study theology as a prisoner of war in England (Norton Camp). Returning home in 1948 he continued his studies at Göttingen University, where he received his doctorate in 1952. He became a professor at the Seminary of the Confessing Church in Wuppertal 1958. In 1963, he accepted a call to a Chair of Systematic Theology and Social Ethics at the Protestant Faculty of Bonn University. In 1967 he became a Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Tübingen, where he retired in 1994.

Prof Moltmann is a major figure in modern theology and has made significant contributions to a number of areas of Christian theology, including systematic theology, eschatology, ecclesiology, political theology, Christology, pneumatology, and the theology of creation.

Prof Johan Buitendag, Dean of the Faculty of Theology, notes that Prof Moltmann’s theology opens a vista of hope and joy. “We have a lovely and bright future! The gates are open and God’s inclusive love prevails. I want to express my sincere gratitude to Prof Moltmann for accepting our Vice-Chancellor’s invitation that an honorary doctorate could be conferred on him by the University of Pretoria.”

In his speech at the graduation ceremony, Prof Moltmann spoke of endings, leading to new beginnings. He pointed out that a new beginning, as the Theology graduates are now experiencing, is certainly the most exciting event we can experience in life. “Our task is to begin something new, God's task is to complete ,  to set right, to heal what we humans – all too humanly – have begun. In this trust we can go over our limits –  think big. In this hope we can leave behind our traditions and try to create something greater.”

He emphasised that hope is a great power to leave the old behind, and to begin something new. “In the end, there is a beginning . Young men and women, let your hope arise. We have so much of sick and dying hope around us. There is resignation . There is the arrogance of the powerful, and there is the apathy of powerless. Drop  arrogance and learn to listen to others. Leave your apathy, lift up your head and raise your voice. Break out of indifference  and  get involved.  Life is so beautiful!”

Prof Klaus Nurnberger, a friend and colleague of Prof Moltmann, paid tribute to him by acknowledging him as a great theologian with whom he identifies and whom he celebrates. “The genuine way to celebrate a great example is to take over his legacy and run with it. It is like a relay race. Once the baton is in your hand, the outcome of the race depends on you. Jürgen Moltmann insisted that the power of hope is greater than the power of indifference and the power of despair. That is the legacy he leaves us and with which we now have to run.”

Read the paper that Prof Moltmann delivered at the public lecture on 5 April 2017.

- Author Petronel Fourie
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Last edited by Judith FourieEdit
Prof Jürgen Moltmann