World renowned theologian Jürgen Moltmann has agreed to serve as co-advisor with womanist theologian and anthropologist Dr. Linda E. Thomas for Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) Ph.D. student Brach Jennings. Moltmann will serve on Jennings’s qualifying exam panel in February. Then Jennings will travel to Tübingen, Germany, to do an independent study with Moltmann from April through July related to Jennings’s upper-level field exams and doctoral dissertation.
Jennings and his advisor, Dr. Linda E. Thomas, phoned Moltmann together to make the request. “There was a long pause after Dr. Thomas invited Dr. Moltmann to be my co-advisor and I was sure that he’d say no,” Jennings said. “But then he said, ‘If this is what you want me to do, I say, yes!’ Dr. Thomas and I both cheered.”
Moltmann is professor emeritus of systematic theology at the University of Tübingen. His wide-ranging scholarship includes eschatology, ecclesiology, Christology, the theology of creation, and a political re-interpretation of Martin Luther’s theology of the cross. He states that God suffers with humanity in our catastrophe because of Golgotha while also promising a better future through the hope of Christ’s resurrection. He is the author of many books, including Theology of Hope (1967), The Crucified God (1974), The Trinity and the Kingdom (1981), and, most recently, The Living God and the Fullness of Life (2015).
Jennings sent Moltmann his master of theology thesis in June 2017 at the encouragement of his thesis panel at Luther Seminary. It is a study on Martin Luther’s theology of the cross in relation to critiquing consumerism and capitalism using Luther, Paul Tillich, and Jürgen Moltmann. Moltmann responded supportively to the thesis, encouraging Jennings to develop the thesis into a doctoral dissertation and a book.
Jennings visited his “favorite living theologian” in Tübingen in July 2018, expecting to talk about Luther’s theology and Moltmann’s evolution as a systematic theologian. Moltmann surprised Jennings with a list of questions and recommendations about expanding Jennings’s M.Th. thesis for the Ph.D. dissertation. One of Moltmann’s recommendations was that Jennings use James Cone in his work instead of Paul Tillich. Moltmann’s suggestion coincided with Jennings’s studies with Dr. Thomas, in light of taking Thomas’s #BlackLivesMatter course in Fall 2017 and discussing with her James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree in relation to Martin Luther.
"I invited Dr. Moltmann to be co-advisor with me for Brach’s dissertation in recognition of Moltmann being my senior and an eminent scholar. This gesture on my part is culturally appropriate from the African American perspective. I am excited Brach is expanding his work with Martin Luther's theology to include the body of work written by my late mentor, Dr. James H. Cone. I am doubly excited that Dr. Jürgen Moltmann encouraged this dialogue with James Cone, and moreover, that Moltmann will supervise (co-advise) Brach's dissertation work with me. I predict that Brach’s engagement of Luther and Cone will lead to the production of a seminal work that will change the landscape of Lutheran theology,” Thomas said.
Moltmann, who is 92, told Jennings, “You don’t know what you’re getting into studying with me.”
Jennings said, “The work I will do with Dr. Moltmann will shape me profoundly. I never could have expected he would be my co-advisor. I just wanted to hear from him when I sent him my M.Th. thesis.”
Jennings anticipates his dissertation will be a dialog between Martin Luther and James Cone.
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