Archive for August, 2011

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part III)


This post will focus on §3 of chapter ten of the second volume of Pannenberg’s ST on God’s self-actualization in the world through the incarnation.

Pannenberg astutely notes that the incarnation is not irrelevant to Trinitarian doctrine as if it were some addendum to the doctrine, but is instead a natural corollary of the mutual self-distinction within the immanent trinity itself and also an outgrowth of the contingent creativity of God. Pannenberg differentiated between creation and lordship. God is, by the fact that he brought the world into being, the creator of the world. However, only insofar as he rules over the world is he Lord and also truly God in the fullest sense of the term. Certainly, God in the eternal mutual self-distinction of the intra-Trinitarian relations of the Trinity was God prior to and without the creation of the world; but the creation of the world and independent creatures necessitated for Pannenberg the fact that lordship over creation was a condition of proof of the deity of God. The rule of the Father is brought, as Pannenberg says, to acknowledgment through the incarnation and the work of the Son in Jesus Christ (390).

Pannenberg then orientates himself with his ontological eschatology; Jesus Christ is the eschaton proleptically instantiated, and brings the future of God to the present world through the death but especially the resurrection of Christ, where death has been abrogated and finitude no longer rules.  However, the presence of God in Christ also indicates God’s abiding absence in that God is only present through the Son, who in this way can be seen as a mediator between creation and the creator. This for Pannenberg is part of the independence of creation, whereby God allows creatures their own independence, which for Pannenberg forms the “inner goal of all creation” (ibid.). This divine absence reached its nadir at the cross in the cry of dereliction. But, again, for Pannenberg this absence or even abandonment “is itself a factor in [God] becoming present for the world through the son” (392). As this pertains to God’s self-actualization in the world, Pannenberg says:

Since we cannot separate the deity of God from his royal lordship, it follows that the irruption of the future of this lordship in the world of the Son has as its content the absolute reality of God in and for the world. Because, however, the sending of the Son and Spirit is from the Father, in relation to the fulfillment of the mission by the obedience of the Son the world of the Sprit, we thus may speak of a self-actualization of the Trinitarian God in the world (393).

This is not, as Pannenberg takes pains to illustrate in his excurses, an actual ontological self-actualization of God who no prior reality (393). Pannenberg cites with disapproval the idea that God is the cause of himself (causa sui). The self-actualization of which Pannenberg speaks is the self-actualizing of God through and to the world, not the self-actualization of God in and of himself.


Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part II)


Pannenberg’s second volume touches on three areas: creation, anthropology, and Christology. This 2nd part will treat of Pannenberg’s anthropological remarks, which are altogether much more briefly than in his own Anthropology in Theological Perspective.

– Pannenberg beings his eighth chapter on the dignity and misery of humankind. Pannenberg prefers to use the term “misery” in place of sin here because “it sums up our detachment from God, our autonomy, and all the resultant consequences” (179).  Sin is in this way seen in light of its relations or effects as opposed to merely its brute facticity, i.e. the alienation it produces from God. With Augustine, Pannenberg says, “we are not most miserable when we are not aware of our plight – i.e. not in misfortune, sickness, or closeness to death, but when the goods of this world cause us to forget God; we are miserable in the midst of prosperity and affluence because we find life empty and meaningless” (ibid.). There is, however, above this misery a dignity to humanity related not only to both our relation to God as his creatures and our future with God in the eschaton, but primarily in the incarnation. As Pannenberg writes, “The human destiny for fellowship with God, which finds definitive realization in the incarnation of the Son, means that humanity as such, and each individual within it, is lifted above the natural world and even also above the social relations in which we exist. The destiny of fellowship with God confers inviolability on human life in the person of each individual.” (176). For Pannenberg, these two facets form the presupposition of God’s redeeming work.

– Also in his section anthropology, Pannenberg deals with the unity between body and soul. Pannenberg notes that advances in neurological sciences and their correlative establishment of the complete interrelation between physical and psychological aspects of the human person have destroyed the traditional idea of the soul as a distinct substance that contains ethereally the irreducible locus of human personhood and could, as such, survive the ceaseation of bodily and cognitive function of the human organism that come in the state of death.  As Pannenberg notes, modern theological anthropology tends to more explicitly emphasise the complete corporality of the human person as well as the unity between the body and soul in so far as the soul is not reified but instead understood as the living and vitalizing force within the body itself that is not therefore hypostasized from its function within the human person as it constituent element. Personhood does not exist outside of embodiment. Though Pannenberg notes that the Fathers, in distinction from the prevailing Platonism of the 2nd century, defended the psychosomatic unity of personhood in contending that the soul was the form of the body and the resurrection was necessary insofar as the soul was incomplete without its body, they were not able to keep Platonism from excursing into Christian thought for they accepted the prevailing Hellenistic view of the soul as an independent entity from the body. In Gen. 2:7. Pannenberg notes that insofar as the bible speaks in a language relating to Hellenistic thought, “the soul is not merely the vital principle of the body but the ensouled body itself, the living being as a whole” (185). Pannenberg would, in the language mind-body philosophy, be a physicalist to the degree that soul is not some metaphysical centre to human personhood but rather the vitalizing force that is indicative of, and necessary for, life.

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part I)


Some Thoughts:

1) Creation ex nihilo – Pannenberg is mistrustful of Barth’s use of the nothing that he outlines in CD III/3 as being an antagonism or resistance to God. Pannenberg (14) believes that this sort of reading of creation is not upheld exegetically and fails to do justice to Genesis 1. Ultimately, the decisive power of the Word will not permit any such idea of resistance. He is also critical of Moltmann’s notion of self-withdrawal or self-limitation which Moltmann appropriates from Jewish mysticism (15). This serves to help make sense of the independent existence of creature and Creator. However, Pannenberg is skeptical of this move by Moltmann because it is insufficiently Trinitarian. I’d be curious to hear Pannenberg’s opinion of Keller’s Face of the Deep, which argues, quite persuasively, that creation out of nothing does exegetical violence to the creation narrative.

2) Creation and the Self-Distinction of the Son – Pannenberg argues that the creation itself bears witness to the goodness of God. The Son of God is “the primary object of the Father’s love” (21). The love that the Father has for creation is ultimately mediated through the Son, and it is non-competitive with the Father’s love for creation. Readers will recall that Pannenberg places great theological and Christological significance in the Son’s self-distinction from the Father. Hence, the proof of Jesus’ divinity is manifested his submission to the Father’s will. The eternal Son predates the existence of Jesus and “is the basis of his creaturely existence” (23). Pannenberg puts it quite succinctly that the, “eternal Son is the ontic basis of the human existence Jesus in his relation to God as Father” (23). Later Pannenberg argues that the mediation of the Son in creation not only serves as a structure and the basis for fellowship with God, but also “as the origin of existence of creaturely reality” (29).

3) Theodicy/Creation – Pannenberg acknowledges that meaningless suffering is perhaps the greatest challenge to the belief in the goodness of God. He applauds Barth for arguing against that the natural theodicy of Leibniz that fails to take seriously the suffering in the world. Pannenberg believes that the fatal flaw of Lebinz’s argument is that it simply considers theodicy from creation and fails to consider “God’s saving action and the eschatological fulfillment that has dawned already in Jesus Christ” (165). This question is an open one that will only be fully revealed in the eschaton (164). Pannenberg recognizes that God bears responsibility for evil’s existence. However, for Pannenberg, “God did not shirk the responsibility but shouldered it by sending and giving up His [sic] Son to the cross” (169). Although this does not serve to explain away evil, it does suggest a God who involves Herself in the suffering and contingencies of this world.

Updated on MTP


I just wanted to drop a line to let the readers know that I apologize for being late on my post for Pannenberg ST Vol II (Part I). I have my comprehensive doctoral exams next weekend and don’t have time to post right now. Adam will be posting Part II some time next week, and I will have my post up the following week once I complete my exams. I’m sorry for the delay, but I don’t have time right now to post with all the studying that is required.

The Ideology of Happiness in Psychotherapy


There’s this amazing new group opening up at a place where I work that has this description on the flyer: It is not the problem that causes us to suffer…it is the THINKING about the problems that causes suffering. Change your thinking and experience more happiness and freedom.

Where should I begin? First off, sometimes life’s a bitch. Problems invariably arise that cause suffering and distress. If one were to pretend that there were no problems, that would actually be a sign of mental illness. Secondly, I don’t understand why there’s a collapsing of mental illness and misery. Being unhappy is a normal part of life. Also, major depression is infinitely different than normal anger and sadness. Psychoanalytic theory has never presupposed that humans are happy creatures. After all, it was Freud who brilliantly said that, “much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.” Freud was no idealist when it came to human nature. I’m so tired of people believing that psychotherapy is an attempt to make people feel better. Finally, since when did thinking become the problem? This is ideology at its purest. Let’s say you meet someone who has an objectively shitty life. Would it really be most useful to tell the person that s/he needs to think differently? Anyway she views her life, it’s going to be shitty because those are the actual material conditions of life. We come here to the crux of the matter, namely that the problem is the mind not the world. It’s completely meaningless to tell someone that her perception is what is causing her unhappiness when the problem might be the actual material conditions of the world the person inhabits. Now granted, sometimes people’s perceptions are responsible for their problems when the world they live in is not terrible. However, what good does it do to tell a battered partner that the real problem is perception? This is nothing but ideological bullshit. Also, the lesson of psychoanalysis is not that the problem with people is that they are not rational/optimistic enough. Rather, the problem is that they do not know why they do the things they do. Only by becoming more cognizant of the unconscious forces that determine her life can someone be truly liberated to have the freedom to be differently in the world.