Thursday 15 June 2006

For the love of God (15): Why I love Wolfhart Pannenberg

A guest-post by Sean du Toit

“True respect for the mystery [of the incarnation] can express itself, among other ways, just in the attempt to understand it fully.” —Wolfhart Pannenberg

As an undergraduate I delved into various theologies, hoping they could guide me in a quest better to understand the God of the Bible. But it was not until I picked up a used copy of Jesus: God and Man (1964) by Wolfhart Pannenberg that I made significant progress. Others had helped me to see the transcendence of God and the majesty of the creator, but Pannenberg brought me face to face with the manifestation of God’s glory on planet earth. It was here that the discovery of the historical Jesus became relevant to my expedition of fides quaerens intellectum.

Instead of assuming Jesus’ divinity, Pannenberg saw the task of Christology as offering reasons why one should embrace the divinity of Jesus. His commitment to Scripture as the defining source of theological reflection has encouraged me many times. In an age in which systematic theology and biblical studies have long been separated, Pannenberg has brought back together what none of us should ever have separated.

Pannenberg awakened in me a love for the historical Jesus and for careful study of Scripture, as well as an awareness of other issues in theology, such as the role of science, ethics, anthropology and metaphysics. This does not mean that I fully understand or appreciate all that Pannenberg has to offer. But I have found him to be a worthy friend who leads us to discover more and more about the world we live in, the God who is there, and the hope that will unite us all in the future.

It was this unknown German, in a random bookshop, who introduced me to my first love. He is thus my cupid, the one who lured me into a place of love and devotion. And that is why I love Wolfhart Pannenberg.


guanilo said...

Very good post. Pannenberg has been unjustly overshadowed by Moltmann's theology, but he is by far the more rigorous, the more compelling, and the more traditional (in the most positive sense) of the two.

I saw him speak at AAR last year. A suprisingly diminutive, soft-spoken little man.

Ben Myers said...

Pannenberg's Jesus—God and Man has been an important book for me too, and I think it's still one of the best books ever written on christology. Its engagement with tradition and its profound exegetical rigour make it a model for any serious theology.

Anonymous said...

I am enjoying and reading slowyly his Systematic Theology. And the best thing about Pannenberg is that he is not only a first-rate theologian, but also a rigurous philosopher in the tradition of the great thinkers of the Western Civilization. Too bad he is mostly ignored by most philosophers now because he carries the label of "theologian".

And the man is a humble man, very approachable, kind, and mild-mannered. I have a lot of his books authographed... while we briefly exchanged words under the menacing looks of the protective Frau Pannenberg!

Anonymous said...

I think that Pannenberg not only excels in Christology; I read him mostly because of his views on the Kingdom of God and fundamental theology. His Cuestiones Fundamentales de Teología Sistemática (English: Fundamental Questions of Systematic Theology) should be required reading for any serious philosophical theologian, despite being over 30 years old.

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