I Like Arnold van Ruler

One of the nerdier things I've done since I've been in seminary has been reading A Broad Place, the autobiography of Jürgen Moltmann... not just reading the book, but stopping along the way to read other theologians mentioned as influences in Moltmann's life. It's taking me quite a long time to get through the book because of this. So far I've stopped to read works by Elisabeth Moltmann-Wendel (Jürgen's wife), Otto Weber (Jürgen and Elisabeth's teacher), and now I'm reading Arnold Albert van Ruler, the Dutch theologian who originally turned Moltmann onto the idea that Karl Barth hadn't already said everything that needed to be said in theology and encouraged him to write Theology of Hope. After it was published van Ruler said to Moltmann that they were "two hands on a single belly" (a Dutch expression for friendship). Though Moltmann articulates that while their ideas converged a bit around the theology of hope, van Ruler and he went different directions on several other points including that of the eschatological future of the sate (see A Broad Place, 65). Regardless, van Ruler was an important voice in the life of Moltmann and his thought.

It isn't easy to find stuff by van Ruler, especially in English, but thanks to the Princeton Seminary Library, I got my hands on a small book (almost a devotional) called God's Son and God's World. In it he writes reflections on Jesus' Johannine "I am" statements as well as theological reflections on God's created world. He writes, "God will be praised, and if He is to be praised by us, we must know both Him and His creation" (16). For van Ruler, much like Moltmann (see God in Creation), the physical world,  has deep spiritual significance, indispensable to Christian theology and discipleship.

And also like Moltmann, van Ruler has a deep appreciation for the person-to-person relationship. The "person-to-person encounter and the person-with-person union" is, for van Ruler, "the mystical heart of the Gospel" (13). And in this regard we are faced with a challenge. While our preoccupations are more manageable if they are concerned with Jesus' teachings or with some model for how to do ministry based on some doctrine about Jesus, van Ruler reminds us, "Jesus says that He is the bread of life. He offers Himself with the self-assured majesty of God. He offers, not His teaching, not His good life, not even His cross and His resurrection, but Himself. He alone is the bread that brings life to the world" (12).

I like Arnold van Ruler.