My (short) Review of Theology of Play

[Here's the little review I wrote on Goodreads for Moltmann's Theology of Play. Sign the petition to get it back in print!]

 Theology of PlayTheology of Play by Jürgen Moltmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of Moltmann's greatest works, I believe, and yet it remains among the most difficult to acquire (since it is, as of now, out of print). In following with the spirit of its subject this book is written with a playful and experimental (even curious) posture.It may, therefore, frustrate the extremely careful and scientific dogmatic theologians among us, but it exemplifies Moltmann's more doxological approach to theology--"We study theology properly because we are curious and find pleasure in the subject" (66). Thus, Theology of Play is as perplexing as it is profound and mysterious as it is illuminating.

Moltmann wants to see a paradigm shift--from work to play, from necessity and outcome to freedom and spontaneity, from adult notions of purpose and goal to childlike enjoyment of God for its own sake, from law to gospel. For Moltmann, the whole of the Christian life is at stake. For as the Christian life itself is awareness of God in Jesus Christ, and ultimately, delight in God " confuse the enjoyment of God and our existence with goals and purposes" (19) sacrifices the freedom of liberation that is the good news of Jesus Christ. "Life as rejoicing in liberation, as solidarity with those in bondage, as play with reconciled existence, and as pain at unreconciled existence demonstrates the Easter event in the world" (31). We are to learn from children and learn to play, to play without any "purpose" as such. Indeed the very question of purpose is the "question of the adult in the child who does't want to play anymore but needs goals in order to make something respectable of himself" (18). The Christian life, according to Moltmann, is not to be envisioned as a 'purpose driven life' but, perhaps, as a game of delight in the God who creates and redeems the world for nothing.

Find this book and read it!

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Pete B said…
Haven't read the book yet but glad to find someone who has (I found your blog from the review). I've just started an MA and with new access to theological libraries and all those online journals I've begun exploring the role of play and games both as tools for mission and as simply an important part of life.
Hope this is an area you'll continue to dig into.

"Rather than ground their discussion in biblical reflection and careful observation of play itself, Christians have most often been content to allow Western culture to shape their understanding of the human at play." Robert K Johnston