My meeting with Jürgen Moltmann
The date was January, 31, and I had the most important theological meeting of my life. It happened in Tübingen, Germany.
Jürgen Moltmann, one of the greatest theologians in the twentieth century, invited me to visit his place after I sent him a letter about my dissertation.
In the beginning of all this story, sending a letter was only an little idea gave to me by my doctoral promoter Stephan van Erp from KU Leuven. “As long as Moltmann live in Germany, why don´t you try to contact him?” he said. This idea sounded good and, then, I wrote a letter and sent to Moltmann. I didn´t expect any answer. I just took his address on internet, and I didn´t know if that address was his real one. Anyway, I sent him the letter and, after that I went to Bordeaux to visit my great friend Leah.
During my staying in Bordeaux, Wincy, my great friend from Leuven, sent me a message on Whatsapp, saying that Moltmann answered me with a letter. In that moment, I was in the Cité du Vin, and I just stopped the visit, sent a message to my wife Andréa and asked Wincy to open the letter and send me one picture to know what he had answered me. I was waiting some general answer, like “thanks for your letter and I really glad to hear that you are interesting in my pneumatology etc”.
Surprisingly, the letter came with a total different message, saying that I should call him at home to schedule a meeting with him at his house to talk.
Of course, the mix of afraid and joy invited me. The joy, of course, was related to the opportunity to meet him, the afraid was to don´t know what he would say about my dissertation ideas.
When I returned to Leuven, after visited Bordeaux and Paris (in Paris I was meeting my Brazilian promoter, Hurtado who also, just as Andréa, Leá and Wincy, was very happy for me), I tried to call Moltmann, but without success.
One day, while I was talking with my beautiful wife Andrea, I decided to try another call. This time, he answered and we scheduled the meeting on January, 31, at 15:00.
Since I the date was known, I bought the train ticket, reserved the Hotel and started to think what questions should I ask him. And, of course, I continued my readings about his theology.
The day arrived and I must confess I was a little nervous about this meeting. Anyway, as a good Brazilian guy, I went there and knocked on his door.
When he opened the door, I felt a great rejoice. It was a dream that became true, and something that I could never imagine that would happen someday in my life.
Moltmann is 90 years-old, but looks like a 70 years-old man. Of course, one can notice his deep breath and his difficult to talk, but just looking on his face, he looks younger than many elders in our days.
The first thing he asked was “who are you?” and, then we started the conversation.
I asked him to record our talk and he kindly agreed. After that, I spoke about my life, how I was happy to have that opportunity, how the project started and what was my idea in use his pneumatology as a contribution for an inter-religious dialogue.
He listened patiently, gave me some advices, and answered two questions I prepared for him in a amazing kindly way.
One thing that gave so much joy was when I asked him to read a comment I made regarded to the accusation that some theologians make about him, calling Moltmann a Christian panentheist. I was talking with Wincy about that in the week before, trying to justify why Moltmann didn´t consider himself as a panentheistic and I wrote this in my dissertation.
When I showed to him, and asked if I had understood him rightly, he said it was right. Despite this can sound like a foolish thing, to me is a very important matter to know that he agreed with my interpretation about this topic.
Almost in the end, I remembered that Wincy asked me to ask him what he considered as a task for a theologian today. I added another question about those who want to become a professor of theology as well.
His answer was: “I started my carrier as a pastor in the city of Bremen. You must work with the people and understand the people. If you are able to talk to them and make them understand you, then you will be a good professor of theology”. For me, it was a wise advice that I will always remember.
After one hour meeting, in which we talked about his life, my family, his family and theology, he said to me he was tired, what was totally understandable. At last, I asked him to take a picture with him and to sign my Portuguese version of his book “Des Geist des Lebens: eine ganzheitilich Pneumatologie”
He agreed, signed the book, took a picture and, beside that, gave me his last book “The living God” where he wrote: “to Fabrício, in a great hope”.
This was my meeting with Jürgen Moltmann, an amazing man, a great theologian, a kind person.
This is an experience that I will never forget and I myself consider as another blessing received from God in my life.
08.02.2017 – Leuven