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.


One Response to “Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part III)”

  1. Jeremy Says:

    I don’t have a lot to say, but I think this is an excellent summary of Pannenberg’s view of incarnation. It really brings to light his powerful use of self-actualization, and I think you’ve teased out the ontological implications quite nicely.

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