Recently I posted these remarks about the theological developments in the thought of F. LeRon Shults and Philip Clayton — two gifted theologians who were also students of Wolfhart Pannenberg:
This also seems to signal the total collapse of Wolfhart Pannenberg’s theological program. In light of the developments in the thought of his students, Philip Clayton and F. LeRon Shults, it now appears that it eventuates in either a flaccid Christian neo-liberalism (see: The Predicament of Belief: Science, Philosophy, and Faith) or outright atheism (Theology after the Birth of God: Atheist Conceptions in Cognition and Culture). What Pannenberg intended as a call for Christians to engage in the realms of science and learning has become either a strategic retreat or a complete reversal.
I got a little push-back on this (which I appreciate) and I thought it might be good to say a little more about what I mean by this. (more…)
Wolfhart Pannenberg is one of the first theologians that made any sense to me — and I never really encountered his theological writings until after I graduated from Seminary. I came into Seminary out of a background in the physical sciences. My undergraduate degree was in Chemistry. I attended Asbury Theological Seminary, and I am thankful for the education I received there — and for many of the professors that were teaching there at the time.
But, theology didn’t make sense to me. Instead of appealing to common criterion for proof and rationality it seemed forever attempting to avoid them. If that was the case, how could Christians claim anything that they said was in any sense “true” — or more true or right than anything anyone else said? Furthermore, it appeared to me that the Christian faith did not pay sufficient attention to inductive forms of reasoning. (more…)
In the following paragraph from his book Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (1989) Stanley J. Grenz does a good job summarizing some themes in Pannenberg’s view of the final judgment:
On the basis of [the] function of Jesus’ message [as the criterion of God’s judgment] and the New Testament emphasis on the all-encompassing love of God (e.g., Matt. 8:11; John 10:16), Pannenberg asserts that correspondence with the will of God as reflected in Jesus’ proclamation — that is, the command to seek first God’s kingdom and the double command to love — rather than an actual encounter with the Christian message, is the basis of final judgment (Matt. 25:41ff.). The step in this direction is prepared by a thesis, developed in the Christology and ecclesiology sections, that love for others entails participation in God’s love for the world. This understanding of the criterion for judgment means that persons who live in accordance with Jesus’ message will be included in the divine salvation, whereas nominal Christians may find themselves excluded. To the resultant question, If an encounter with Jesus is not the sole condition for salvation, what is the Christian’s advantage? he replies that Christians have the advantage in that they know what the standard of judgment is. Although he emphasizes the universality of the possibility of salvation in this manner and even moves the concept of eternal condemnation to that of a border situation, Pannenberg is unwilling to embrace universalism.
This resonates very well with the sense I remember getting from my initial reading of Volume 3 of Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology.
And, there is so much here to like. (more…)
Coming into Seminary out of undergraduate studies in Chemistry was frustrating to me. I had learned a scientific way of looking at knowledge — and theology seemed to have little understanding of inductive method or the theory of knowledge. Many theologians — including highly admired ones like Karl Barth — seemed to me to be fideists — arguing that faith justified itself. Rudolf Bultmann also falls into this category — and for him, it’s not clear to me that this faith has any real-world implications. Only much later did I discover the theological writing of Wolfhart Pannenberg — the first theologian I read who addressed the questions I had been asking for a long time.
So, I owe a great debt to Pannenberg’s theology — though, of course (as with everyone else I read) I don’t agree with everything he ever wrote or said.
Well, I discovered some very fine videos over at YouTube that serve as a good introduction to the theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. (more…)