Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part II)

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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.

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