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Pannenberg: The Cross & Resurrection

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg

The resurrection effectively reversed the charges against Jesus and confirmed his mission. We thus see that if he had saved his life at the cost of his proclaiming the divine lordship, he would have actually made himself independent of God and put himself in equality with him. ‘Whoever would save his life will lose it’ (Mark 8:35 par.). This was true of Jesus himself. He could not be the Son of God by an unlimited duration of his finite existence. No finite being can be one with God in infinite reality. Only as he let his creaturely existence be consumed in service to his mission could Jesus as a creature be one with God. As he did not cling to his life but chose to accept the ambivalence that his mission meant for his person, with all its consequences, he showed himself, from the standpoint of he Easter event, to be obedient to his mission (Rom. 5:19, Heb. 5:8). This obedience led him into the situation of extreme separation from God and His immortality, into the dereliction of the cross. The remoteness from God on the cross was the climax of his self-distinction from the Father. Rightly then, we may say that the crucifixion was integral to his earthly existence.

— Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, Volume 2. (1991) pp. 374, 375.

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5 Responses

  1. Gary Bebop April 18, 2014 / 4:16 pm

    Yeah? Or, as Mike Royko would say, “Ubi est mea?” (What’s in it for me?) The hookup generation isn’t pausing long enough between selfies to do the long division. So how does this preach?

    • Craig L. Adams April 19, 2014 / 8:47 am

      The cross gives meaning to the resurrection, the resurrection gives meaning to the cross. Each is incomplete without the other. When we say Jesus was one with God we say this on the basis that Jesus fulfilled his whole mission — including death and resurrection. It is in this sense alone that Jesus was truly both fully human and fully God. Without the Cross we cannot make such a claim about Jesus. The Cross is integral to the message.

      “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him….” (Heb 5:8,9 NRSV)

      I think this fact reminds us that preaching the Gospel has to emphasize actually telling the story of Jesus more than teaching ideas derived from the story. It is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that constitutes the Gospel. If part of it is left out, other parts lose their true significance as well. And, the theological claims that Christians make can only be asserted on the basis of the whole story.

      So, the preacher needs to ask: am I telling the whole story or just parts of it? Or: am I just giving advice, teaching some ideas, venting my frustrations, and never telling the story at all?

      The fact that people are in a hook-up culture or taking selfie pictures does not mean that they are vacuous, ignorant, or unspiritual. Sexual promiscuity and high intelligence often go together. Sexual searching and spiritual searching are not totally unrelated — one can substitute for the other. People in the hook-up culture may well be more intellectually demanding than either of us. Yes, some young people are not satisfied with traditional answers. But, they are asking questions. And some may want serious and well-considered answers. Prevenient grace means that God’s Spirit is striving with even the most apparently unlikely people.

      I am far less concerned with the Scandal of the Secular Mind (for which I feel no responsibility) than I am with the Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.

  2. Gary Bebop April 19, 2014 / 1:46 pm

    Hookups and selfies and wearing your phone to bed may only indicate “continuous partial attention” syndrome, they say. Okay. But I’m still curious what you will say to the scalawags (with “continuous partial attention syndrome”) that wander into worship this Easter. What you seem to have done here is to explain what you are NOT doing, without revealing what you are…actually…offering. A form of apophasis, perhaps?

    • Craig L. Adams April 19, 2014 / 3:00 pm

      People need to hear about Jesus. And, that story has power to change lives.

  3. Gary Bebop April 19, 2014 / 4:26 pm

    That’s the One Story they want to hear. Have a blessed Easter!

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