I begin this post by calling attention again to a quote I posted on tbis blog previously. It is from the second volume of Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology.
But, I need to give it a little context. Pannenberg is saying that the idea that humans have a special place in the world because of their rationality has pre-Christian origin. He mentions Cicero’s statement of this idea. He goes on to say:
Yet, Cicero did not link this dignity, as modern usage does, to the idea of the inviolability of human life in each individual. This thought arose only with the idea that we are under a supreme authority that releases us from obligation to other powers, and especially from being controlled by other people or by society. Rightly, then, the Christian tradition sought the basis of personal dignity in our creation in the image of God. Our destiny of fellowship with God forms the indispensable premise of the function of human dignity as the content of a supreme legal principle and a basis for individual human rights, e.g., in modern declarations of such rights.
— Systematic Theology, Volume 2, Chapter 8, page 176, 177.
Let’s stop and look at some of the details of this quote for a minute. The wording is important. (more…)
In accord with the over-all future orientation of his theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg sees the dignity of the human race as being based on human destiny. It is less a matter of human status in the created world, than it is a matter of the destiny of the human race, which has been revealed in the Scriptures. I find this a very helpful perspective. He writes:
Only from the standpoint of the religiously and biblically grounded awareness of their destiny of fellowship with God, the author of the universe, can we say assuredly, however, that all creation culminates in humanity.
— Systematic Theology, Volume 2, Chapter 8, page 175.
This intellectual move saves the theologian from saying that the status of the human race in the created world is rooted in inherent abilities that set the human creation apart from the rest of the created world — especially the animal world. (more…)