Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pannenberg for Laity

Faith and Reality By Wolfhart Pannenberg This book is a collection of essays and lectures that were prepared separately from each other, and yet come together remarkably well to provide a unified whole. The essays, one buy one, roll out Pannenberg’s theological project, in remarkably easy fashion. This is Pannenberg for laity, written with stunning clarity, and profound insight. I have to say, I’m becoming somewhat a cheer leader for this man’s work. I’m enamored with it, intrigued by it. The book is a crushing blow to the prevailing dichotomy of faith vs. reality. Pannenberg argues so well against fideism, belief in faith, he crushes the notion that faith can be divorced from reality. Some say he is a Barthian, but I don’t see how that can be maintained, sure he throws Barth a couple pats on the back for having a couple things right, but the book undermines Barth completely. He argues forcefully that faith must be grounded in reality, in the history of Christ, and the events that give shape to Christianity, especially the Death and Resurrection of Christ must be open to historical inquiry, they can not be hidden in “supra history” as the neo-orthodox would like. And he is certain that the inquiry will favor the resurrection every time where it is done honestly. The book really gets rolling at chapter 3, “the Spirit of life. The next several chapters build on each other in such a way one hardly wants to put the book down to go to bed. His discussion of man in the image of God is brilliant and should be read by those wanting to discuss Christ with Mormons. His discussions on revelation, history and the divinity of Christ are brilliant. After that though, the book begins to fade as Wolfhart takes up topics of politics and ecumenicism. These are areas where I have a harder time connecting with Wolfhart Pannenberg, though even here I have an affinity. His concept of the kingdom of God as an Ideal or template for man to reach for here on earth is a bit hard to digest. I have to say he has delivered here the best intellectual critique of Luther’s Two Kingdom’s theory that manages to avoid the cliché’s of the Shirer myth, but yet, I find myself disagreeing with him. Perhaps this has much to do with not having grown up with the same nationalistic angst of stability dependent on foreign forces, with soviets looking over the Elb. Yet even as I disagree with him here, I find myself wishing more people read what he had to say concerning this. His utopia does seem to be a one world order.

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