Reason for Hope (Grenz)

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Grenz, Stanley. Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg.

Wolfhart Pannenberg was the most impressive and powerful theologian since Barth, and he was superior to Barth in every way. And while he was a better communicator than Barth, not everything he said is immediately clear. And not everything he wrote came across with equal power. His doctrine of God and defense of the resurrection will serve the theology student quite well for decades. His ecclesiology, by contrast, while not necessarily wrong, lacks that same power.

Pannenberg’s most baffling claim concerns the futurity of God. What I think he means, and this is what Grenz suggests, is that the demonstration of God in its finality can only occur at the end of history, making all previous claims provisional in character. Jesus’s resurrection and announcement of the kingdom is a proleptic moment of that futurity. In short, it is an epistemological, not an ontological claim.

On Truth

In the biblical understanding truth isn’t just a static realm of changeless ideas. “Rather, it is what shows itself throughout the movement of time climaxing in the end event, which is anticipated in the present” (Grenz loc. 207).

On God

Pannenberg’s trinitarianism is probably the most exciting locus in his project. He bypasses the debates on whether we should begin with the one essence or three persons. Neither position does full justice to God’s self-revelation. With the Cappadocian Fathers he understands that the conception of the three persons implies their relationships to each other. Unfortunately, the Fathers erred in formulating this model in terms of the Father’s monarchy (Grenz loc. 658).

If we begin with “one being” or a single subject or mind, then “every attempt to derive the plurality of the trinitarian persons from a concept of God as one being…leads to modalism or subordination, for in all such approaches God remains a single subject” (676). Maybe. The tradition said that God is three subjects in one mind, not one subject. That might not matter today, though, since we tend to equate mind and person. Pannenberg's critique of the tradition is slightly inaccurate on this point, as the Fathers didn't identify subject and mind. On the other hand, it is an accurate critique of today's theologians since we all, conservative, liberal, identify the two. Everyone does since Descartes.

Pannenberg thinks a better model is to see the relations as self-differentiations. “The essence of person lies in the act of giving oneself to one’s counterpart and thereby gaining identity from the other…person is a correlative term” (691).

While terms such as generation and procession are important, we shouldn’t let them crowd out New Testament terms on personhood: giving over and receiving back, obedience and glorification, and filling and glorifying.

Drawing upon his rich field theory, Pannenberg suggests it is more accurate to speak of God’s spirit in terms of “field” rather than reason and will (which, of course, he has). He correctly notes that the biblical material does not speak of “spirit” as “consciousness” but as moving air. This fits in with his field theory, and from this Pannenberg sees consciousness under spirit, not the other way around.

Further, he anchors the concept of essence in the sub-category of relation. This part needs more work. It has precedent within the tradition but we need more development.

Christology

Pannenberg does incorporate the logos concept from the tradition, but he notes that the tradition failed to use it in connection with Jesus as the New Adam and Israel’s hope. In other words, the way they used the Logos concept made Israel's history (and thus Jesus' humanity) irrelevant.

Pannenberg is famous (or notorious) for his “Christology from Below,” but several things are going on. He doesn’t hold to an adoptionist Christology where Jesus became God. His is more of method: we must begin with what our eyes have seen and hands handled.

Unlike the tradition, Pannenberg wants to anchor Jesus’s identity in his mission for Israel. This is the main strength in a Christology from below: it takes Jesus’s Jewishness quite seriously. If your Christology ignores Israel, you have a different god from the God of the Bible.

The first casualty is election. It is de-historicized. Strangely enough, Arminians and Pelagians are just as guilty as some Calvinists. I believe I am elect. Chosen before the foundation of the world, but my election can never be abstracted from Israel.

Pannenberg correctly notes with Luther that assurance is found, not on speculating on my election, but in hearing the word of forgiveness found in the gospel.

So if we reject supersessionism on one hand and two peoples of God on the other, where does that leave Israel today? Pannenberg answers with Paul: there is a remnant and that remnant is the people of God (anticipating, of course, a final ingathering of Jews).

Eschatology

His remarks on time and eternity are quite interesting. The end of time is not nothingness. Rather, God lifts “temporal history into the divine eternal presence” (2957). Time is when eternity is divided into moments. With Maximus the Confessor, Pannenberg argues that in the eschaton time will no longer be divided. Its different moments will become a unity.

Conclusion

This analysis is far heavier than Anthony Thiselton’s otherwise fine work on Pannenberg. Grenz interacts with all of the criticisms of Pannenberg and occasionally offers his own. The work is strong where Pannenberg’s own work is strong: the doctrine of God and Christology. His stuff on ecclesiology is okay but nothing to write home about. I do wish Grenz would have devoted more time to Pannenberg’s use of field theory. Other than that, a recommended title.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thank you for writing this.

Can I ask, what is field theory?

Utilized by Michael Faraday, it is the view that bodies themselves can be seen as forms offerees that for their part are no longer qualities of bodies but independent realities that are "givens" for bodily phenomena. He now viewed these forces as fields that occupy space in order to avoid the problems involved in the idea of force working at a distance, and he hoped that ultimately all these fields would be reducible to a single all-embracing field of force." (Pannenberg ST II: 80). Mass depends on the concentration of force at a given point. It manifests itself point by point. The material particle is a point of convergence of lines of force.

Of course, we aren't saying that spiritual life is a field of scientific force. However, this allows Pannenberg to break with the Greek view of spirit, which reduces "spirit" to mind. Such a view really can't make sense of many claims in the OT. Seeing spirit as manifestation of force can explain things like miracles et al in the Old Testament (and now).

The Holy Spirit, of course, is not a field but a unique manifestation (or singularity) of the field of the divine essentiality (Pannenberg 83).
 

CathH

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks. Interesting.

Is it convincing, do you think? Do we need this to break with the view that reduces "spirit" to mind?

As it happened I hit Letham's chapter on Pannenberg last night (as I slowly work through The Holy Trinity) and he didn't seem to mention his use of field theory (so perhaps he didn't regard it as that useful?)
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Is it convincing, do you think? Do we need this to break with the view that reduces "spirit" to mind?

To be clear, I affirm that mind is not reducible to body, so while I think Pannenberg is correct that is not what I am saying. I do think it is very difficult to simultaneously affirm one mind in the Trinity and a Covenant of Redemption.

As to Letham, he's strange. I've read his book about six times and some chapters are golden and some are just.....well. In any case, Pannenberg's use of field theory isn't central to his Trinitarianism, so that might be why Letham didn't deal with it.
 

CathH

Puritan Board Freshman
I do think it is very difficult to simultaneously affirm one mind in the Trinity and a Covenant of Redemption.

Yes, Letham's excursus on the covenant of redemption was very interesting. I was already familiar with objections by Boston, Gib, Dick et al to positing a covenant of redemption in addition to the covenant of grace, but I hadn't particularly registered them making objections on trinitarian grounds. (Maybe I should revisit.)

As to Letham, he's strange. I've read his book about six times and some chapters are golden and some are just.....well. In any case, Pannenberg's use of field theory isn't central to his Trinitarianism, so that might be why Letham didn't deal with it.

Yes, bits are very helpful. I did wish I hadn't read the chapter on Moltmann on the Lord's day as I didn't come away at all edified, but I wouldn't lay the blame for that on Letham to be fair.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
. I was already familiar with objections by Boston, Gib, Dick et al to positing a covenant of redemption in addition to the covenant of grace, but I hadn't particularly registered them making objections on trinitarian grounds. (Maybe I should revisit.)

I don't find the Bostonian desire to reduce the CoR to the CoG very persuasive. They should have made their argument on Trinitarian grounds.
I did wish I hadn't read the chapter on Moltmann on the Lord's day as I didn't come away at all edified

Avoid Moltmann like the plague.
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Grenz, Stanley. Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg.

Wolfhart Pannenberg was the most impressive and powerful theologian since Barth, and he was superior to Barth in every way. And while he was a better communicator than Barth, not everything he said is immediately clear. And not everything he wrote came across with equal power. His doctrine of God and defense of the resurrection will serve the theology student quite well for decades. His ecclesiology, by contrast, while not necessarily wrong, lacks that same power.

Pannenberg’s most baffling claim concerns the futurity of God. What I think he means, and this is what Grenz suggests, is that the demonstration of God in its finality can only occur at the end of history, making all previous claims provisional in character. Jesus’s resurrection and announcement of the kingdom is a proleptic moment of that futurity. In short, it is an epistemological, not an ontological claim.

On Truth

In the biblical understanding truth isn’t just a static realm of changeless ideas. “Rather, it is what shows itself throughout the movement of time climaxing in the end event, which is anticipated in the present” (Grenz loc. 207).

On God

Pannenberg’s trinitarianism is probably the most exciting locus in his project. He bypasses the debates on whether we should begin with the one essence or three persons. Neither position does full justice to God’s self-revelation. With the Cappadocian Fathers he understands that the conception of the three persons implies their relationships to each other. Unfortunately, the Fathers erred in formulating this model in terms of the Father’s monarchy (Grenz loc. 658).

If we begin with “one being” or a single subject or mind, then “every attempt to derive the plurality of the trinitarian persons from a concept of God as one being…leads to modalism or subordination, for in all such approaches God remains a single subject” (676). Maybe. The tradition said that God is three subjects in one mind, not one subject. That might not matter today, though, since we tend to equate mind and person. Pannenberg's critique of the tradition is slightly inaccurate on this point, as the Fathers didn't identify subject and mind. On the other hand, it is an accurate critique of today's theologians since we all, conservative, liberal, identify the two. Everyone does since Descartes.

Pannenberg thinks a better model is to see the relations as self-differentiations. “The essence of person lies in the act of giving oneself to one’s counterpart and thereby gaining identity from the other…person is a correlative term” (691).

While terms such as generation and procession are important, we shouldn’t let them crowd out New Testament terms on personhood: giving over and receiving back, obedience and glorification, and filling and glorifying.

Drawing upon his rich field theory, Pannenberg suggests it is more accurate to speak of God’s spirit in terms of “field” rather than reason and will (which, of course, he has). He correctly notes that the biblical material does not speak of “spirit” as “consciousness” but as moving air. This fits in with his field theory, and from this Pannenberg sees consciousness under spirit, not the other way around.

Further, he anchors the concept of essence in the sub-category of relation. This part needs more work. It has precedent within the tradition but we need more development.

Christology

Pannenberg does incorporate the logos concept from the tradition, but he notes that the tradition failed to use it in connection with Jesus as the New Adam and Israel’s hope. In other words, the way they used the Logos concept made Israel's history (and thus Jesus' humanity) irrelevant.

Pannenberg is famous (or notorious) for his “Christology from Below,” but several things are going on. He doesn’t hold to an adoptionist Christology where Jesus became God. His is more of method: we must begin with what our eyes have seen and hands handled.

Unlike the tradition, Pannenberg wants to anchor Jesus’s identity in his mission for Israel. This is the main strength in a Christology from below: it takes Jesus’s Jewishness quite seriously. If your Christology ignores Israel, you have a different god from the God of the Bible.

The first casualty is election. It is de-historicized. Strangely enough, Arminians and Pelagians are just as guilty as some Calvinists. I believe I am elect. Chosen before the foundation of the world, but my election can never be abstracted from Israel.

Pannenberg correctly notes with Luther that assurance is found, not on speculating on my election, but in hearing the word of forgiveness found in the gospel.

So if we reject supersessionism on one hand and two peoples of God on the other, where does that leave Israel today? Pannenberg answers with Paul: there is a remnant and that remnant is the people of God (anticipating, of course, a final ingathering of Jews).

Eschatology

His remarks on time and eternity are quite interesting. The end of time is not nothingness. Rather, God lifts “temporal history into the divine eternal presence” (2957). Time is when eternity is divided into moments. With Maximus the Confessor, Pannenberg argues that in the eschaton time will no longer be divided. Its different moments will become a unity.

Conclusion

This analysis is far heavier than Anthony Thiselton’s otherwise fine work on Pannenberg. Grenz interacts with all of the criticisms of Pannenberg and occasionally offers his own. The work is strong where Pannenberg’s own work is strong: the doctrine of God and Christology. His stuff on ecclesiology is okay but nothing to write home about. I do wish Grenz would have devoted more time to Pannenberg’s use of field theory. Other than that, a recommended title.
Interesting. What's his definition of supersessionism?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Interesting. What's his definition of supersessionism?

I have to be careful with this discussion. Some liberal critics of supersessionism believe that the Jews are still God's people and God has two covenants today. That's obviously not my position (and that position is diminishing among liberals, since liberals support terrorist groups that want to wipe Israel off the map).

I believe there is one vine and the church was grafted in. We are the remnant. Even though I don't believe that all promises made in the OT apply in exactly the same way, I reject any "spiritualization" of the promises because I hate Platonism.
 
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