Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part I)

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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.

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6 Responses to “Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part I)”

  1. Rod of Alexandria Says:

    “The love that the Father has for creation is ultimately mediated through the Son, and it is non-competitive.”

    Could you give an example of this, or perhaps clarify what it means for creation to be non-competitive with God?

    “Pannenberg recognizes that God bears responsibility for evil’s existence.”

    Hummm. I struggle with that proposition.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Sorry, that thought got cut off a bit. It should read that the Father’s love for the Son is not competitive with the Father’s love for creation.

    “Pannenberg recognizes that God bears responsibility for evil’s existence.”

    I do as well. I’ll talk more about his eschatological orientation and its relationship to theodicy in Vol 3 of his dogmatics.

  3. A.J. Smith Says:

    “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.”

    We know Pannenberg would not, in all likelihood, like Keller’s work, he had a distaste for feminist theology.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    Yet isn’t he somewhat of a fan of process thought?

  5. Derrick Peterson Says:

    Pannenberg was certainly sympathetic to some basic tendencies in process thought (and incidentally was good friends with John Cobb for example) but I personally wouldn’t say he was a fan per se. In fact in his systematics and elsewhere like his essay in Metaphysics and the idea of God he sees serious weaknesses in it.

    As to the idea that God bears responsibility for evil I think the explanation is rightly deferred until P’s eschatology but I think it also has a lot to do with what Ted Peters and Carl Braaten call The Pannenberg Principle, namely that in the Trinitarian reciprocity P takes very seriously the handing back and forth of the kingdom and power between father and son in the holy spirit. Pannenberg argues that if indeed the father has handed over all power and authority to the incarnate son that in a very specific sense outlined by P God is reliant upon the course of history, and thus in that specific sense too Gods being assumes the burden of the course of the history of the world and of sin

  6. Jeremy Says:

    I realize he has his disagreements, which I was I would consider him a ‘quasi-fan’ of process theology.

    Also, thanks for fleshing out a bit more the question of theodicy and its relationship to eschatology.

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