José Míguez Bonino,
Doing theology in a revolutionary situation
(Fortress: Philadelphia 1975, 1986)
In his first and epoch-making book, Theology of Hope, the Tübingen
theologian [Jürgen Moltmann] convincingly argued
that Christian hope, far from leading to easy acceptance of the status quo, is a
constant disturbance of reality as it is and a call to move ahead to the future.
José Míguez Bonino, Room to be people: an
interpretation of the message of the Bible for today's world
(World Council of Churches, Geneva; Fortress: Philadelphia 1979)
chapter 1. Only an atheist can be a good ChristianThis title is not merely
an attention-getting device. It came out of an exchange between the atheist
philosopher Ernst Bloch, who had a profound interest
in the influence of the biblical message on the history of hope, and the
Christian theologian Jürgen Moltmann, who was trying to uncover the core of
hope in biblical revelation. Bloch said, "Only an atheist can be a good
Christian," to which Moltmann replied, "But only a Christian can be a good
Neither belief in God nor the strength of that faith constitutes any guarantee.
In truth, the important thing is precisely in which God we believe, or the object
of that faith. It is also significant that the early
Christians were accused of being atheists and were judged and condemned
as such for refusing to believe in the ruling gods of their society.
Why are there atheists?In one sense, Bloch's statement is correct--only an
atheist can be a good Christian. That is, only the person who denies certain
"gods" can have faith in the real God. Therefore let us stop for a moment to
consider atheism. Why is someone an atheist? What arguments do we give to someone
who refuses to believe in God?
... When someone says, then, "I don't believe in God
because I believe in humanity" or "I don't believe in God because I believe in
justice," I must respond that I don't believe in that God either! Only a
passionate atheist to those gods can be a true Christian.