Via Moltmanniac (which is fast becoming one of my favorite new blogs), comes this video and transcript of a conversation between Jürgen Moltmann and Mirosalv Volf on the question of joy. It's wonderful to see Moltmann addressing these issues, and to see how he relates it to the problem of pain and suffering in the midst of a fallen world.
Here I think is a key moment in their conversation, distinguishing joy from mere fun:
Jürgen Moltmann: Fun is a superficial feeling which must be repeated again and again to last. While joy is a deeper feeling of the whole existence. You can have fun at the side, but you can experience joy only with your whole heart, your whole soul, and all your energies. And therefore, Schiller thought that joy is divine. It comes from outside into our life in a surprise, in a turning from sadness to goodness, from sickness to health, from loneliness to communion. And this turning point awakens joy.
Miroslav Volf: So joy isn’t then, simply a feeling. Joy is a response to a certain states of affairs that have been changed, created, to which there is a particular way of responding. Would that be a way to express it?
Jürgen Moltmann: Well, you cannot make yourself joyful. This would be self-satisfaction. But you are always outside of yourself, watching yourself. “Am I being happy or not?” And this will never lead to joy. Something unexpected must happen. So, falling in love for example (to take it from natural life), or sudden success. Or in political life: the unification of Germany. Or the coming of Nelson Mendela out of 30 years of prison Robben Island. And he came and everybody expected civil war and nothing happened; Nelson Mendela came. This is a reason for surprise and joy.
Moltmann's own theology is deeply concerned with that dialectic of joy and suffering -- life versus death, resurrection as the overcoming of the crucifixion. It is, in many ways, a theology of joy, and he represents it as such very well here.