Thursday, December 24, 2015

Moltmann The Trinity and the Kingdom

Theologian Jürgen Moltmann, in his autobiography In a Broad Place, has a reference to Pannenberg saying that Moltmann began a new regard for the doctrine of the Trinity. He viewed this as generous, saying that the two of them together have brought renewed interest and focus on the Trinity. This little reflection on The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God (Harper & Row: San Francisco, 1980, 1981) is an effort to explore the Trinity with Moltmann, but with special attention to the written dialogue we find between these two fine theologians.

On a brief personal note, Pannenberg has been teacher since the mid-1970s. I have the privilege of being in a reading group that is slowly working through his Systematic Theology. One of the many values of this relationship over the years is his bibliography. He keeps push me to read other philosophers, psychologists, sociologists, and theologians. Like any good systematic theologian, he is re-thinking Christian teaching for his time, but in light of the depth and richness of Christian tradition. One of the theologians to whom he regularly refers is Moltmann. In the autobiography already mentioned, Moltmann said that in their early careers people referred to them as “the hope boys,” in contrast to “the process boys.” I think this little essay will show that theologically, they are part of the same family. They take their que from tradition and from eschatology. Both focus on interpreting what they see in the biblical text. Of course, they will differ on some points, but they are differences that arise out of similarity.

What I will do is offer a few reflections on each chapter that strike me as important for discussions of the Trinity. I will bring Pannenberg into the conversation as I see it.

In the Preface, Moltmann points out that he wants to contribute to theology, in contrast to developing a systematic theology. He refers to the biblical testimonies that initiate theological contributions over the centuries. He stresses that there are unsettled theological problems for which every new generation has to find its solution. No concept within history is final or complete. The openness of such theological discourse shows the power of their eschatological hope for the future. Tradition is not a treasury of dead truths. He thinks theological reflection needs to occur in the context of ecumenical fellowship. Doing so will overcome schismatic thinking. In this case, he is bridging the gaps between Protestant and Catholic, East and West, Jewish and Christian. He invites us to ponder Andrei Rubley’s Russian icon of the Holy Trinity, which I have included here.

            In Chapter 1, Moltmann explores Trinitarian theology today. Through Schleiermacher and Kant, he thinks the modern devotion to the ethical and pragmatic has led to the disintegration of the doctrine of the Trinity in moral monotheism. He refers to the Greek philosophers and the patristic writers as focusing on knowing as wonder, through which one participates in life. Transformation occurs through participation. He refers to God as the absolute subject, a notion derived from philosophy. This led to thinking of God as absolute subject in three modes of being. His book starts with history of Jesus the Son, and from that to develop a historical doctrine of the Trinity, which he calls a social doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible is the testimony to the history of the relations of fellowship within the Trinity, which is a fellowship also open to the world. In a similarity with Karl Barth, Moltmann will want to work on his theology of the Trinity, and then work on ethical and political implications. He thinks this theology will lead us to think in terms of relationship and communities. He will also want to think ecologically about God. I would simply offer that this attempt is admirable in the sense that ethics and politics are important parts of our lives. Yet, the fact that Pannenberg and Moltmann are so close theologically and so far apart politically is a warning not to put too much emotional investment in such connections. Generally, our political agendas and perspective arise out of a different set of experiences than our theology.

            In Chapter 2, Moltmann discusses the passion of God. The crucifixion and the suffering of the Son have been an important part of theology and devotion from the beginning. This contrasts with the theological notion that God could not suffer. Origen did have a place for suffering in God. He wants to develop a doctrine of theopathy. He examines the writings of Abraham Heschel, C. E. Rolt in The World’s Redemption, J K. Mozley, The Impassibility of God: A Survey of Christian Thought , G. A. Studdert Kennedy, The Hardest Part. Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life, and Berdyaev. He says that no one can answer the theodicy question in this world. Nor could one rid oneself of it. Life in this world means living with this open question and seeking the future in which suffering will end and what people have lost God will restore. Rather than a speculative question, he wants to treat suffering as an eschatological question. Suffering is the open wound of life in this world. The basis of a theology of divine passion is I John 4:16, God is love. He states several theses. First, love is the self-communication of the good. Second, every self-communication presupposes the capacity for self-differentiation. Third, when God decides to communicate who God is, God discloses the being of God. He says that in this sense, God needs the world and humanity. If God is love, then God is not without the one who is the beloved. Fourth, in Trinitarian terms in eternity and out of the necessity of the divine being the Father loves the only begotten Son. The Son is other of the Father, but other in essence. The inner-Trinitarian love is therefore the love of like for like, not the love for one who is essentially different. Five, in the creation of the world, the self-humiliation of God begins. God takes time for that creation and allows it time.

            In Chapter 3, Moltmann discusses the history of the Son. He begins by admitting the difficulty. Harnack could say that the gospel Jesus preached was of the Father. Kant said there was no practical purpose in a discussion of the Trinity. Schleiermacher said it is not part of the devout personal consciousness. While the New Testament does not establish the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, he thinks it might be a way of interpreting what the Bible proclaims. He starts with Barth in the unity of the revealer, the revelation, and the being-revealed. The revelation of God as Lord has a Trinitarian structure. Yet, this is really a monotheistic conception of the Trinity. Pannenberg and Moltmann unite in this criticism of Barth. Anyone studying theology will want to explore both theologians and the way they differ from Barth on the Trinity. For Moltmann, the German Idealism of Barth shines through especially connected with Fichte. He thinks of God as absolute subject rather than substance. The difficulty Barth will get into is that his Idealistic reflection places the divine lordship before the Trinity and uses the Trinity to secure and interpret divine subjectivity. He will commend Barth for starting with Christ. Yet, in the end, as throughout Church Dogmatics, Barth will find that the Holy Spirit does not fit well into the structure of revelation he expresses.

Moltmann starts with the presupposition that the New Testament talks about God by proclaiming in narrative the relationship of the Father, Son, and Spirit as a fellowship that is open to the world. He begins with the sending of the Son. The Father sends the Son through the Spirit. The Son comes from the Father in the power of the Spirit. The Spirit brings people into the fellowship of the Son with the Father. He then discusses the surrender of the Son. He does so first with the passion of Jesus. We find here abandonment by God and the appalling silence of the Father to the prayer in Gethsemane. Martin Buber called it the eclipse of God. Mystics called it the dark night of the soul. The Father withdraws. God is silent. This is the experience of hell and judgment. The cry of the God-forsaken Son is at the center of the Christian faith. Its remembrance is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Paul can also talk of surrender and giving up. He refers to the will of the surrendered Son and the surrendering will of the Father. Paul interpreted the giving up of the Son as the love of God. John does as well. At this point, the Father gives up the Son to death, the Son gives up himself for us, and the common giving up of Father and Son comes about through the Holy Spirit. Thus, the Spirit joins the Son to the Father, even in forsakenness. He then discusses the exaltation of the Son. In this case, the Father raises the dead Son through the life-giving Spirit, the Father enthrones the Son as the Lord of the kingdom, and the risen Son sends the creative Spirit from the Father, to renew heaven and earth. He discusses the future of the Son as the primary eschatological event within the Trinity. The rule of Christ is hidden now and provisional, of course, but moves toward a time when the Son transfers the kingdom to the Father. At this stage, the Father subjects everything to the Son, the Son transfers the consummated kingdom to the Father, and the Son subjects himself to the Father. The lordship of Christ serves the purpose of glorifying the Father. Pannenberg will also make the point that the lordship goes hand in hand with the deity of God. It has its place already in the intra-Trinitarian life of God, in the reciprocity of the relation between the Son, who subjects himself to the lordship of the Father, and the Father, who hands over his lordship to the Son. Any thought that the Trinity precedes the lordship is misleading.[1] Lastly, Moltmann discusses transformations of the open Trinity. His point here is that the Trinitarian history of the reign of God is an eschatologically open history now.

            On this Chapter, Pannenberg agrees as he says that the doctrine of the Trinity on the content of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The relation of Jesus to the Father is at the center of his message of divine rule. All statements in the New Testament about the deity of Jesus presuppose this relation. Thus, he says that Moltmann rightly bases the doctrine of the Trinity on the history of Jesus as the Son. The difference between them is one of emphasis. Pannenberg will want to focus on the proclamation by Jesus of the Father and the coming rule of God as the starting point. He also thinks one needs to distinguish such statements from those that concern the sending of the Son that it justifies, a theme with which Moltmann will begin. Pannenberg also wants to give attention to the broad judgment of exegetes that Jesus did not claim the title “Son,” while Moltmann links the title to the baptism of Jesus.[2] In general, in this Chapter, Pannenberg takes into account modern exegesis of the history of Jesus where Moltmann tends to take the text as it stands.

            In Chapter 4, Moltmann discusses the world of the Trinity. He wants to set the Son against the background of the history of the Triune God with the world. Such a Christology is open to the creation of the Father and the transfiguration of the world through the Spirit. The relationship is a reciprocal one because it is a living one. The world is significant to God, for the intent is that God would be at home in it and desires to dwell in it. He refers to the connection between the exodus covenant and the notion of creation in the Old Testament. II Isaiah in particular revitalized this message. He says that if Christ is the foundation for salvation of creation, he is the foundation of its existence. If Christ is the goal of creation, then he is the foundation of creation from eternity. This idea is behind the statements about Christ as the mediator of creation. As a resource here, he refers to the classic Christology discussion, Jesus – God and Man (1964, 1968), p. 390-7. He has summarized well the point of these pages. Moltmann refers to panentheism as providing the idea of creation flowing out of the divine life of love in the fellowship of the Trinity, in contrast to the stress on the freedom of God in creation. As he discusses the Son, he says that the Incarnation is a perfected form of self-communication to the world. The Son responds properly to the love of the Father. The Incarnation precedes creation. In discussing kenosis, it begins in creation and perfects itself in the Incarnation. Love means free response. Love must wait patiently. Love cannot compel by violence. He then discusses the transfiguration of the Spirit. The resurrection of Christ is the first eschatological work of the Spirit. Resurrection must mean the bodily metamorphosis of Jesus. The indwelling of the Spirit means that God comes home to the world God has made and has always intended to be at home. The consummation of creation is the glorification of the Father through the Son in the Spirit.

Pannenberg commends Moltmann in this chapter for drawing attention to the eschatological aspect of the history of Jesus and the doctrine of the Spirit as they might influence our understanding of the Trinity. He showed convincingly that the glorifying of the Son and the Father by the Spirit is the personal act that most decisively expresses the subjectivity of the Spirit over against the other two persons. We must regard this doxological activity of the Spirit as an intra-Trinitarian relation because it focuses on the Son and the Father. Therefore, the Spirit glorifying the Son and the Father brings about the union of the Son with the Father (John 17:21). In this way, Moltmann could link the consummation of salvation history in eschatology with the consummation of the Trinitarian life of God. When God is all in all, so to speak, the economic Trinity subsumes into the immanent Trinity.[3]

            In Chapter 5, Moltmann discusses the mystery of the Trinity. The Trinitarian doctrine arose out of reflection upon Christology and soteriology. He will criticize the historical notions in which we begin with monotheism and develop a notion of the Trinity from it. He sees Barth and Rahner in this tradition. In offering his criticism of Barth, he is in agreement with Pannenberg. Yet, he disagrees with the polemical note of Moltmann here. He is guilty of a wrong terminological decision. Pannenberg defends Moltmann from some criticism, stating that Moltmann has no wish to abandon the unity of God. He disagrees with those who think Moltmann exposes himself to tri-theism here. Rather, Moltmann rightly rejects an abstract monotheism found in the 1800s. As we shall see, Pannenberg does wonder if Moltmann succeeds in formulating properly the unity of the Trinitarian God.[4] We will see here, I think, a sense of a difference that arises out of their family resemblance.

 Moltmann wants to develop a doxological Trinity. He wonders if who God is for us (the economic Trinity, the revelatory Trinity) and who God is within the divine life (the immanent or substantial Trinity) is a speculative notion. He “finely”[5] says that the persons constitute their distinctions as well as their unity. The basis of this distinction is the platonic distinction between Idea and appearance. He affirms the thesis of Rahner that the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity. (Pannenberg will do so as well). The fatherhood of the Father arises out of the relationship to the Son. Yet, the Father is constituted as such only through the Father and not through the relationship to the Son. At this point, we need to pay some attention to a difference between Moltmann and Pannenberg. As Pannenberg points out, this appears to be a contradiction, for he demands that the unity of the persons have their basis in their reciprocal fellowship as well.[6]

Moltmann says the Father is the origin of the Trinity. The definition of the Father is through the Father, but also through the relation with the Son and the Father. The Spirit issues from the mutual love of the Father and the Son. The Spirit is the bond of love that unites Father and Son. He admits that the Spirit has anonymity. However, he agrees with Pannenberg that to say the Spirit is the “we” of the communication of Father and Son is, as the Orthodox Church would say, eliminates the “person” of the Spirit.[7] He favors the notion of perichoresis. Father, Son, and Spirit dwell in each other and communicate eternal life to each other. Pannenberg will offer that if the Trinitarian relations have the form of mutual self-distinction, we must understand them as living realizations of separate centers of action. He thinks Moltmann comes close to this idea. Moltmann does have the concern that we are not to see them as three persons entering into relation to each other.[8]

At this point, Moltmann and Pannenberg will have a substantive difference in their formulation of the role of the Father in Trinitarian relations. Moltmann will say that the monarchy of the Father applies only to the constitution of the Trinity. He wants to distinguish between the constitution of the Trinity on the one hand from the inner life of the Trinity, which are pure relation and community. Pannenberg will take a different approach. For him, the monarchy of the Father is the result of the common operation of the three persons and seals their unity. In terms of the immanent Trinity, he will not want to make the distinction Moltmann does here. For Pannenberg, the Trinitarian relations mediate the monarchy of the Father. He wonders how we can protect the unity of the divine life and the perichoresis if we do not accept the monarchy of the Father as the source of deity. He wants to emphasize, in contrast to Moltmann, that the monarchy of the Father arises out of the Trinitarian relations. The monarchy of the Father is not in competition with the life of the trinity, but has reality in the life of the Son and the Father.[9]

As Moltmann discusses the filioque clause, which caused a split between the Catholic and Orthodox churches, he proposes to interpret it as saying that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father of the Son and receives form from the Father and the Son. Pannenberg agrees with Moltmann that theologians have not yet clarified the theological issue. He does not think his reformulation is helpful here. His interpretation of the biblical testimony is that the Son receives the Spirit and the Spirit mediates the obedience of the Son to the Father. Pannenberg wants to stress that the Son is the first recipient of the Spirt and only in this way does the Son share in the sending of the Spirit to believers.[10]

            In Chapter 6, Moltmann discusses the kingdom of freedom. Here is his application of his Trinitarian theology to ethical and political matters. For Moltmann, this chapter is relatively mild. Much of the chapter is a discussion of his rejection of monotheistic political theology and his favoring of a communal approach to political life. He lifts up Joachim of Fiore as one who discovered the significance of a Trinitarian view of history as progressive and growing liberty. He refers to a wonderful little book by Pannenberg, The Idea of God and Human Freedom, as a resource for pursuing his notion of the Trinitarian doctrine of freedom. The difficult case Pannenberg is making is that Western civilization and its valuing of freedom has theological roots. In particular, for the case Moltmann is making here, I would direct the reader to the essay on the significance of Christianity in the philosophy of Hegel. The essay is a tough read for one limited in philosophy. However, the effort is well worth it. In similarity with Moltmann here, Hegel will also make freedom the heart of the creativity that God as Spirit (Mind) shares with humanity. He also has an essay on Christianity as the legitimacy of the modern age and eschatology ant the experience of meaning. Pannenberg is going further than Moltmann does in his argument, but they have similar concerns that our secular age will not properly use the freedom they have as a gift of God apart from theological reflection. To return to Moltmann, he is in the process of further developing Joachim’s Trinitarian notion of history. The kingdom of the Father refers to the creation of the world and its preservation through the patience of God. The kingdom of the Son refers to the liberation of human beings through suffering love. The kingdom of the Spirit refers to the powers and energies of the new creation and participation in them. The aim is the gathering of all things into the eternal life of the Triune God, which he calls its deification. Human freedom takes corresponding forms of liberation from necessity that includes power over nature, the discernment to do good with that power, and subjection to a project of the future. His concern, of course, is the use of freedom to rule, which ultimately means the loss of freedom for others. Freedom is a creative initiative, which he sees as an experience of the Spirit. Freedom in the light of hope is the creative passion for the possible. The future is the kingdom of not yet defined potentialities. People want to realize new possibilities. As a function of property freedom means having, as the social function of community, freedom means being, and as a function of a passion for the future as a creative function, freedom means becoming. Of course, he rejects the idea that human beings need liberation from God. Freedom in the light of hope is the creative passion for the possible. Freedom has a direction to the future coming of God. God desires the freedom of what God has created. In fact, God is the inexhaustible freedom of those God has created. He summarizes by saying that the kingdom of the Father refers to the Creator and lord of those God has created who has servants, the kingdom of the Son refers to the freedom of being children of God, and the kingdom of the Spirit refers to being friends of God.

            If the reader wants a full explication of the Trinitarian doctrine of God from Pannenberg, Chapters 5 & 6 of his Systematic Theology will provide plenty of opportunity for reflection. If you want something shorter, you can read this blog for a discussion of Chapter 5 and Chapter 6.
            I am a learner. If you think I might have missed something, not properly understood a matter, or could be clearer, please say so. I suppose one application of the theology of Moltmann and Pannenberg is that every article has an open quality to it, as do all human endeavors. I enjoy the conversation.

[1] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I,
[2] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 304.
[3] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 330.
[4] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 335-6.
[5] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 325.
[6] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 334.
[7] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 316,
[8] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 319.
[9] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 325.
[10] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume I, 318-9.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Moltmann God in Creation

I would like to share a few reflections on Jürgen Moltmann, God in Creation (1985),
These reflections arise out of two reading groups in which I have the pleasure of participating. One is a second reading of Barth’s Church Dogmatics and the other is “I have forgotten how many” reading of Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology. In both groups, we are reading about the doctrine of creation. Of course, Pannenberg refers to this text in a generally positive way, a fact that encourages me to read the text. My approach will be to make a few comments on what is in each chapter. I will make comments along the way.
In Chapter 1, Moltmann explores God in creation. He offers some guidelines for an ecological view of creation. First, knowledge of nature as the creation of God is participating knowledge. This simply means that science tends to break down its study to the smallest particles to its smallest elements, while the theologian will need to focus upon the complex way the finite things of creation relate to each other. Second is creation for glory. A Christian view of creation is a view of creation in light of Jesus as the Messiah. It will focus on the liberation of human beings, peace with nature, and redemption of the community. He wants to view creation in light of the future for which God has made it. One can view that future as the kingdom of glory, which human beings experience provisionally here. If God dwells in creation, God is already home. Three is the Sabbath of creation. God rests and enjoys creation. God is in fellowship with creation. Four is the messianic preparation of creation to be the kingdom. He will want to discuss nature and grace, with glory completing both nature and grace. Five is creation in the Spirit. The Spirit preserves life and brings lift to its goal. The presence of the Spirit in creation means the self-transcendence of the world that will make it open to its future and achieve its goal. He thinks this aspect of his theological program will move us away from a domination theme to a communal theme. Six is God’s immanence in the world. He thinks the separation between God and world led to a notion of exploitation, while his view will lead us to relating in a communal way with creation. He wants to bring together the Jewish notion of Shekinah and the Christian notion of the Trinity in this project. Seven is the principle of mutual interpenetration. He will part company with Barth here, saying there is no antithetical relationship of God/World, heaven/earth, soul/body, man/woman, command/obedience, and master/servant. I should say that on this point, he conflicts directly with the approach of Barth is CD III.1. For Moltmann, the affirmation that God created the heavens and the earth means that earth has an upward thrust, an openness, to the divine. Here is also a place where Pannenberg and Moltmann are together. Eight is the cosmic Spirit and the human consciousness.
Chapter 2 explores the ecological crisis. I have read Moltmann on this before. Here is a place where his politics and mine differ. Even if I agreed, my solutions would be free market solutions rather than trust government machinery to get the job done. So, let us skip this. When I consider the theology of Moltmann, I need to bracket his politics and focus on his theology.                                                                                                    
Chapter 3 explores knowledge in creation. He notes that Barth does not give sufficient attention to the way in which creation is a sketch or design of the kingdom. Created things are promises of the kingdom and the kingdom is a fulfillment of both the historical and natural promise of God. He wants to restore the notion of vestiges or traces of God in creation. Natural experience is an anticipation that widens to a future or destiny of fellowship with God. In all of this, I would think Barth would be horrified, for it could lead down a path of natural theology.
Chapter 4 is an exploration of God the creator. He will disagree with process thought and preserve the distinction between Creator and creation. He will also disagree with Schleiermacher in his attempt to dissolve creation into preservation. He parts company with Barth in shifting the focus from the freedom of God to the loving expression of the nature of God. God is free to be who God is. God is creative, and therefore creates. He considers the notion of Tillich, that creation is identical with the divine life. He seems to abolish the self-differentiation of God from the world. He wonders if such a monistic conception is any different from pantheism. As he sees it, then, the eternal divine life is a life of “eternal, infinite love, which in the creative process issues in its overflowing rapture from its Trinitarian perfection and completeness, and comes to itself in the eternal rest of the Sabbath. It is the same love, but it operates in different ways in the divine life and in the divine creativity.” (p. 84) He will bring together the notions of the resolve we find in the divine decrees and the notion of emanation through these reflections. He will also engage in a discussion of nothingness, with which God creates by letting-be, by making room, and therefore withdrawing the divine presence. For him, God overcomes this nothingness in eschatology, where the creative life and love of God will end death and sin. God enters this nothingness in the cross. Yet, only in the resurrection can we have the hope that the intense suffering and violence of history will find their end. Eschatology is also faith in God as creator in the sense of bringing it to its fulfillment. Pannenberg will disagree with this notion of nothingness. The notion rests upon Jewish speculations that sought to explain the independence of creaturely existence alongside God.[1] It identifies it as the space that God gives creatures as God withdraws the divine presence. He finds in it a materially unfounded mystification of the subject. He wants to replace this notion with a thoroughly Trinitarian explication of the doctrine of creation. The specifically Christian contribution to a notion of creation is one we can find in the cosmic Christ and in the work of the Spirit. Here is a place where Barth is not as clear as Moltmann and Pannenberg concerning the involvement of the Trinity in creation. With Barth, although he writes of this involvement, his focus is on the Father as creator. For Moltmann, the emphasis upon transcendence of God led to deism and the emphasis upon immanence led to pantheism (Spinoza). The Trinitarian view leads to panentheism. Pannenberg will not use this term, to my knowledge. I am not sure why, for as Moltmann describes it, the word describes the position of Pannenberg as well. For Moltmann, the Creator Spirit suggests that each individual is part of the whole. Everything finite is a representative of the Infinite. The Word became flesh; the Spirit dwells in all things. Pantheism would make everything indifferent; panentheism makes differentiation possible. This view of creation makes of the universe an open system.
Chapter 5 discusses the time of creation. He discusses Eliade and the mythical experience of time. He also discusses Augustine and the disagreement Barth had with him. He then discusses the biblical notion of fulfilled time, the history of the promise, and the prophetic experience of eschatology. Jewish apocalyptic separated the past of sin and death from the future revelation of God. The New Testament focuses on messianic time. This means that believers do not experience the prison of sin, death, and Law, but rather, find their definition in the future. Pannenberg disagrees with the notion of Moltmann of interlaced modes of times. He connects Moltmann to another author, A. M. K. Muller, who developed this schema based upon the primacy of the future in the understanding of time. This option presupposes a view of the constant present that isolates one of the three of time, the present, from the other two. To understand the eternal present as a present that comprehends time is not to exclude past and future but to include them. It is possible only from the standpoint of a future, or its anticipation, upon which nothing can infringe.[2] I do not think I am smart enough or insightful enough at this point to understand the difference. I am open to some help from someone who does understand the difference.
Chapter 6 discusses the space of creation.
Chapter 7 discusses heaven and earth. He disagrees with Barth here in that heaven and earth are not dualities, but rather suggests the openness of creation to God.
Chapter 8 discusses the evolution of creation. He explores the theory of evolution in Darwin and others, noting that it became the basis for a materialistic view of the world. As he sees it, evolution suggests the interrelation of all things. It becomes participatory, anticipatory, and open. This openness makes it open to God. All of this suggests the continuing of creation, rather than its completion, as Genesis 1 might suggest. Here again, Moltmann and Pannenberg join in wanting to bring the church along in an interaction with the physics and biology of this time. They are recognizing the philosophical and theological issues involved in some writers who want to interpret the science in an atheistic way. They want to suggest that one does not have to read the science in that way. Now, the method of these two thinkers is quite different from that Barth, who will continue his exposition of the Word. He will not interact with philosophers like Whitehead and Bergson, or the contributors to Lux Mundi, who saw the challenge that the science of the time presented. My point is that CD III.1 is the first place that we see the impact of the method Barth stated in CD 1. For myself, here is where I decided that, with as much regard as I had for his exposition of doctrine and Scripture, which remain to this day, I could not go with Barth all the way.
Chapter 9 discusses the image of God in creation as human beings. Moltmann will offer his contribution to theological anthropology. He will look at it as the original designation of human beings as the image of God, the messianic designation of the messianic calling of human beings in the image of Christ, and as the eschatological glory of human beings. The image of God means human beings are the representatives of God on earth and therefore to rule. It also suggests fellowship with each other and with God. Yet, humanity is both the image of God and sinner. If we take the Trinity seriously here, we also see the social nature of the image of God as duplicated in humanity. In all of this, Pannenberg and Moltmann are in harmony.
Chapter 10 discusses embodiment as the end of all the works of God. He will argue against the priority of soul over body. Pannenberg refers to the ensouled body. He thinks Barth also gives priority of soul over body. What I find interesting here is that Pannenberg will part company with Moltmann and defend Barth. Pannenberg says that this rejection of the rule of soul over the body is due to his notion of rule as tyrannical perversion of rule. He describes Barth as affirming theological sovereignty corresponding to his notion of the intratrinitarian order of a ruling Father and obedience of the Son. He notes that Barth nowhere mentions any right of the misused body to resist, or any right to feeling to have a voice in the decisions of the rational soul, or any desirable agreement of the body with the soul that governs it. Nevertheless, his idea of a partnership of mutual influencing entails far too ideal a notion of harmony and agreement without any problems. The aim of all just government is to achieve such an agreement when it is not self-evident at the outset. He also does not want to reject out of hand the thought of the rule of the Father, to which the Son obediently subjects himself. He refers to the New Testament passages one would have to ignore. In contrast to Moltmann, Pannenberg will affirm the monarchy of the Father, mediated as it is through the free obedience of the Son.[3] After discussing the gestalt of the human self, Moltmann goes on to describe the Spirit as that which provides an anticipatory structure to human existence. The presence of the Spirit is an affirmation of life. One experiences the life-giving Spirit in this life as love.
Chapter 11 discusses the Sabbath as the feast of creation. Sabbath completes, sanctifies, and redeems creation.
I think I would just add that given my reaction to Barth in CD III.1, I was glad to have someone like Moltmann in my corner. As Pannenberg put it, theology needs to have the intellectual courage to affirm that God is the creator of the world that science describes. Yes, it may mean re-thinking the doctrine of creation, but this is not a bad thing. For 2000 years, theologians have been re-thinking doctrine in light of the challenges of their times. Such ability within the Christian tradition is a sign of its strength. The ability to adapt to new challenges is a sign of strength. In his autobiography In a Broad Place, (p. 244-5) Moltmann refers to a collection of essays in 1972 that for him is an example of how theology then engaged many disciplines, as over against today, as others leave theology in peace. Neither Pannenberg nor Moltmann want theology left in peace by other intellectual disciplines. I guess I do not as well.

[1] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume II, 14-15.
[2] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume II, 92.
[3] (Pannenberg, Systematic Theology 1998, 1991), Volume II, 201.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Pannenberg and Moltmann

 My interest in Wolfhart Pannenberg and Jürgen Moltmann goes back to the mid-1970s. They were the theologians of hope, which was attractive to me. To focus on Moltmann for a moment, his Theology of Hope, Crucified God, Church and the Power of the Spirit, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God have been particularly helpful. However, his political theology was never something to which I could find agreement. Further, the broader range of the writings of Pannenberg, especially in philosophy and psychology, bring theology into conversations that I think are important. As I have gone through Systematic Theology by Pannenberg again, due to a book-reading group, I am looking at the connection between these two theologians. What I have noticed is that they track so closely in their theology, especially with their focus on eschatology, Christology, and the Trinity. Of course, there are some differences, but they are very close theologically. I am doing some re-reading of Moltmann and some new reading, and find myself impressed. For some persons, this will be disturbing, especially if you have a political orientation. However, what I find instructive here is that our politics comes from a different place than our theology. We make judgments about the role of government in our lives based upon many experiences and judgments that we have. In the case of both Pannenberg and Moltmann, their theology arises out of their interaction with scripture and the Christian tradition. Of course, their reflections will also interact with culture today, but the focus is different. My point is that we need to be careful how closely we tie our theology with our politics. Too often, binding them closely is our way of admitting that our political argument is weak, so we will bring God into the equation.

All of this is a way of sharing my reflections on Moltmann and his autobiography, A Broad Place (Minneapolis: FortressPress, 2006, 2008). On p. 49-50, he notes that some unfairly criticized Revelation as History as a nationally colored religious group in the Nazi era. He noted vigorous theological discussions that could make one forget time and place. On p. 91-2, he refers to a time when the two were waiting for a train to go to a conference in the late 1950s. They engaged in such an intense conversation that they lost track of time. Eventually, Pannenberg went to an employee, wondering why their train had not yet come. The man responded that the train had passed a half an hour ago. They arrived at the conference in Bonn after a tedious journey. As we can imagine, the conference was far more boring than their private conversation. Many of us as readers would much rather be part of that informal conversation as over against the conference! We get an insight on p. 105-7 into their conversations when Moltmann wrote Theology of Hope in 1964. Moltmann in that work criticized the theses in Revelation as History as a finalistic metaphysics of history. Pannenberg was not wounded. Rather, he was “taken over.” He would write in 1967 that they largely agreed, given what he had written in Theology of Hope. Moltmann withdrew his criticism if the renewed explanation of the views of Pannenberg were correct. He acknowledges that their theological discussions often became sharp disputes. In the public mind, however, the two united in restoring to Protestant theology an emphasis on eschatology. They would also largely unite over the years in their Trinitarian thinking. At the same time, the drift of Moltmann toward the Left and a version of Marxism in Theodor Adorno, Ernst Bloch, and Walter Jens, and the drift of Pannenberg to political conservatism brought a large gulf between them. He notes that Pannenberg thought of Ronald Reagan as the greatest of American presidents because he forced the Soviet Union to rearm in a way that destroyed its economy. While Moltmann united with liberation theology, Pannenberg united with Peter Berger, Richard Neuhaus, and Michael Nowak. Yet, he admits that in a strange way, their “old ties” have remained at a deeper level. He quotes an article entitled “Children of Protest” that included Moltmann and Pannenberg as offering Christian revolutionary hope. In October 1971 (p. 168), he was at a conference that contrasted the “hope boys” Moltmann and Pannenberg from the “process guys” that included John Cobb and Schubert Ogden. He notes that post-modern arbitrariness has set in and “everyone is content with his own truth.” He notes (p. 211) that they united in breaking out of the narrow confines of existentialist philosophy. He refers (p. 244-5) to a collection of essays in 1972 that for him is an example of how theology then engaged many disciplines, as over against today, as others leave theology in peace. Pannenberg referred to Moltmann’s The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (1981) generously as starting new reflections on the Trinity, for he thought they did so together (p. 292-3). The contrast was with the Trinitarian approaches of Karl Barth and Karl Rahner. He also refers (p. 359) to a comment from Pannenberg in 1996, in reflecting upon their relationship, that they hindered rather than encouraged each other through rivalry and dispute. He also (p. 360) refers to Pannenberg as being “so influential our generation.”
            Other things struck me about the autobiography that I will now share. I should say that lifting out these comments says more about my interests at this time than it says something about Moltmann.

He refers to Bornkamm and Jeremias, he says, because close church ties and a broader education are no longer requirements of academic theology (p. 43). He refers (p. 50) to hearing Bultmann deliver a lecture in 1951 in which the scholar opposed social legislation because it deprived the rich of the virtue of giving and the poor of the virtue of gratitude. That ended his initial interest in existentialist theology. He says that unless theology becomes a theology of the people it will become abstract and irrelevant (59). He was content with the confessing church in Germany (64). He refers to a lecture that began, “I smell a rose, I smell the kingdom,” a thought that would not occur to Barth, but a saying to which Moltmann responded positively (65). He refers to his ideas as “post-Barthian” (78) and a “post-Barthian kingdom-of-God theology” (97). He says Barth was critical of his Theology of Hope because it represented to him another phase of the liberal Protestant view of progress in the 1800s (109-11). On page 131, he engages in praise of America. He refers to it as formed out of “unnumbered human dreams.” It was the dream of immigrants from Europe, Asia, and Latin America. It had messianic and biblical covenant themes of a free people. The Declaration and the Constitution embody that dream. America has a mission to the world, to the oppressed, persecuted, and lovers of freedom. America has become an experiment made by humanity as a whole. He also says (p. 144) that whether God blesses America will become apparent when it emerges whether America is a blessing for the peoples of the world, or their burden and curse. One receives blessing only in order to be a blessing. He offers an account (198-200) of some criticism of his Crucified God that came from “patripassionism” angle and from the thought that God is sadistic in Moltmann. He also refers to Eberhard Jungel, God as the Mystery of the Word (1977) as valuable in being close to him and in being far away. He refers (261) to theological society of which he was a member that he helped move politically to the Left, for which he was glad, but it forced some people to leave the organization. With the death of his parents, he offers (p. 322) a reflection that the dead are not far away. They are beside us and in us. Our lives are continual dialogue with them. We live in their past, which is now present, and they exist in our present. We live with what the dead owe us and with what we owe them. We exist in the space of their blessing, their unforgotten suffering, and their unforgiven gilt. Their light and their shadow are part of their lives. He rejects (327) the archaic structures of superiority and subordination he finds in Church Dogmatics, both in his notion of the Trinity and the relation of man and woman. He contrasts his “from below” approach to the “from above” perspective of subordination. He notes (347) his shift in focus to a culture of life, referring to Albert Camus, “It is Europe’s mystery that life is no longer loved.” He notes (356) that his retirement in 1994 was not an end, but a transition. The move is from the compulsory style in ice-skating to free skating. He now does what he feels like doing.

 My introduction to German theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg was a class at Asbury Seminary in 1975. His Basic Questions (1967, 1971) was a series of essays that I found challenging. I read his Jesus: God and Man (1964, 1968) as I got into being pastor of churches. He did not write his Systematic Theology 1988 and Geoffrey W. Bromiley did not complete the English translation until 1991. I was excited, devouring the book.  Although I did not have the pleasure of meeting him, he has been my teacher through the years. He wrote Theology and the Philosophy of Science in 1973 and Anthropology in a Theological Perspective in 1985. Given his approach to theology, these were two books he needed to write before he could he write his Systematic Theology. In my case, these books were formative. They also led me to other books. Pannenberg has a reputation for his small print and footnote references and discussions. The serious student in theology will want to pay attention. If Pannenberg regularly mentioned an early church author, a theologian, a philosopher, a psychologist, or a political theorist, I wanted to read the author. In many cases, I have been able to do so. I suppose if I were to teach a systematic theology course, his Systematic Theology would be the text, not so much because of the positions he takes, but because of his references.

One obituary notice I read on Pannenberg said that he died with no disciples. Well, in a sense, I have been one. In another sense, I doubt he would want a disciple, for he kept bringing me back to Jesus Christ.

I have reason for his lack of disciples, although the reason saddens me. Unlike Jürgen Moltmann, he did not travel the path of “political theology,” a path that ultimately involved a critique of Western Civilization that included Marxist analysis and liberation theology.  Such analysis leads to viewing the West through the eyes colonial expansion and the presumed lack of regard for the culture and religions it encountered. For this reason, of course, Christianity, which is a deeply woven religion in the West, receives harsh critique as well. In contrast, Pannenberg maintained a profound respect for the Enlightenment philosophical tradition. This fact has led to a political label of “conservative.” His basic point will be that “modernity” is a cultural, intellectual, political, and economic system with which Christianity can engage in dialogue. Reading the Moltmann autobiography made me think of my political journey with William F. Buckley, George Will, Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell, and Walter Williams. Of course, Pannenberg also hurts his ability to have disciples because he is not fully within the conservative theological camp. The most notable departure is his departure from the tradition regarding the emphasis on the Virgin Birth in developing one’s belief regarding the Incarnation, but one will find many places where he charts a unique course. Such departures mean that conservative or evangelical scholars will not carry the torch either. In some of my social media theological discussions, I would recommend reading Pannenberg, and on the evangelical side, the virgin birth was enough to dismiss him. Granted he did not seem too concerned with being part of an identifiable group. He did not seem to have the desire of developing a new group defined by adherence to his teaching or methods. In some ways, we witness a beautiful thing when we read Pannenberg. He is not trying to please any group or develop a group. He wants to engage an honest pursuit of the truth. If others want to join him in the journey, fine, but he finds the journey a worthy investment of his life. The reason all of this saddens me is that because he did not bow to the university crowd in their politics, to the mainline Protestant leadership in their politics, or to a strict reading of the creeds, many people miss the excellent theological insight he possessed.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Chapter 8

Pannenberg, in Chapter 8 of his Systematic Theology, discusses the dignity and misery of humanity. This will be his way of re-thinking another doctrine of Christianity. For him, Christianity will need to re-think the doctrine of original sin. He wrote What is Man? (1962), brief book representing his first explorations into theological anthropology. He wrote Anthropology in a Theological Perspective (1985) as his full reflections on the topic. At various points in this chapter, he will summarize his thoughts in these two works. In both books, his focus is on the openness of humanity to its world. Such openness involves the growth of identity throughout the course of life. The idea that our identity is one we discover as we engage the world is a hint that our openness relates us to God. Such openness leads him to reflect upon the dignity of humanity in this light. Of course, as human beings close themselves from this openness, it leads him to reflect upon the misery of humanity. It makes sense, of course, to follow a discussion of creation in Chapter 7 with a discussion of the unique place humanity has within creation. Karl Barth will do the same, following his discussion of creation in Church Dogmatics III.1 with a discussion of the creature in III.2 (1948). Here is, in my judgment, is the best volume in CD, incorporating deep reflections on the unity of soul and body and temporality. Paul Tillich will explore similar authors, biblical texts, and themes in Volume II of his Systematic Theology, pages 17-78. Peter Hodgson will discuss similar themes in Winds of the Spirit: A Constructive Christian Theology (1994) in Chapter 14 (pages 197-230). Robert W. Jensen will discuss these topics in a quite different way in Volume 2 of his Systematic Theology (1999) in Chapters 18-20, 22, (pages 53-111, 133-152). Moltmann (God in Creation, Chapters 9-11) will arrive at similar conclusions as does Pannenberg here.
            Pannenberg begins connecting Chapters 7 and 8. From an evolutionary perspective, for example, we could imagine an advance beyond humanity. From a theological perspective, creation culminates in humanity and the destiny of fellowship with God. He will want to look at the world as a whole (God as Creator), in spite of the openness of nature, showing that humanity has a unique relation to the origin of the universe, and that in humanity we find the purpose of finite life (Incarnation). The destiny of humanity for fellowship with God lifts the individual above the natural and social order. It becomes the basis for inalienable dignity of each individual person. To use the terminology of John Keats (April 21, 1810) the world God has made is not so much a vale of tears as a place of making souls. Pannenberg stresses that the concept of human dignity has Christian roots. The actual course of sin, suffering and injustice in human history cannot erase the destiny of humanity. The plight of our human condition shown in its misery is the result of human beings who do not treat each other with this dignity. The root of this misery is that death place itself in opposition to our destiny for fellowship with God. Misery is the result of a human life deprived of fellowship with God. Augustine would say that we are most miserable when we are not aware of our plight and forget God. Misery refers to our detachment from God, autonomy, and alienation (as in a foreign country). The modern cultural setting reveals misery in its art and literature. In the Christian setting, reflections on creation in the divine image and human sin are the presupposition of the redeeming work of God in Jesus Christ. He stresses that presentation of this doctrine needs a general anthropological basis. For a brief accounting of his views here, read his What is Man? For his full exploration in this field, you can read among the best books he has written, Anthropology in Theological Perspective to have a thorough grasp of his philosophical anthropology. In these works, he pursues the biological foundation of human life as its basis as well as the social relation in which human beings live.
            In Section 1, Pannenberg discusses the personal unity of body and soul.  This section summarizes large portions of his Anthropology. He will write favorably of Bergson, William James, M. Merlau-Ponty, M. Scheler, K. Rahner, Barth, T. Nagel (The View from Nowhere), and J. Moltmann (God in Creation).
Pannenberg says a basic fact of human life is consciousness, self-consciousness, and bodily life. Soul and body are constitutive elements of the unity of human life. Soul and consciousness have deep roots in bodily life. Thus, when the dualism of soul and body entered Christianity, it did so from a Hellenistic philosophical life. Jewish biblical reflections (Genesis 2:7 receives much attention) united soul and body, thereby making sense of the eschatological hope of bodily resurrection. It opposed Platonism at this point in making it clear that the soul is not divine and that there is no preexistence of souls. These reflections could only mean that the re-discovery of Aristotle would lead to a proper philosophical grounding of Christian theology. The ensouled body has an orientation to things that might meet its desires and is in fact searching for such things. Moltmann (God in Creation, Chapter 10) finds Gestalt psychology a helpful model here. “Spirit” refers to the vital creative force. The working of the Spirit in creatures gives human life its eccentric character. Thus, he thinks it unfortunate that the patristic era developed the notion of a human spirit-soul in that it contrasts with the biblical notion of soul and spirit. As important as language and rationality are to human life, the distinct advantage of humans over all other creatures is its destiny of fellowship with God and its consequent position of rule. He refers to the life of imagination in the activity of reason. He refers to consciousness relating to the infinite basis of life, even pointing to the early symbiotic relation of self and world. Feelings of pleasure and pain, the development of an explicit self-consciousness, and perception leading to the basic relation of I and world, suggest the infinite ground of being. He thus opposes the Kantian transcendental philosophy of the I as the basis for the unity of experience. We start with an awareness of unity and slowly develop distinctions. The ego, for example, arises slowly in the process of objective experience by learning distinctions. The social nexus precedes the “I.” What he argues here is that if we focus on the isolated self, we focus upon an abstraction. The emergence of individual identity out of social relations means that our “center” is actually outside of us! We see this social nexus in the family, the interaction of male and female (sexuality), and in the character of the political order, as both Peter Hodgson and Robert W. Jensen identify clearly in a way that Pannenberg does not. We also see it in the use of language that we do not create. Thus, the divine Spirit is the basis for the interrelatedness of that which is distinct, rather than some metaphysical notion of the “I.” Awareness of the infinite is always “ecstatic” in relation to the other. He sees a rational distinction of each finite thing from the infinite as a manifestation of the divine Logos. The biblical view is that the Spirit of God is the creative principle of everything. He wants to explain this for our setting in terms of the varied nature of the consciousness and the activity of reason. Consciousness “stands outside” itself in its worldly interactions and thus involves an increasingly intense participation in the Spirit as the creative origin of all life. The Spirit expands the experience of soul. The Spirit runs through all social relations. Personality has its ground in the destiny that transcends our empirical reality, especially in our experience of the other. The ground of our existence meets us in the person of the other. The concept of person arose from the sacredness of human life (Genesis 9:6), in the message of Jesus in seeking the lost, and in reflection upon the “persons” of the Trinity. Selfhood means the growth of individual identity personhood draws upon the relation to God as the source of the integrity of the person. The person is the result of the integration of the individual moments of life that results in an identity of authentic selfhood. The philosophical and theological tradition, which Moltmann (God in Creation, Chapter 9) seems to argue against, discussed the leadership role of the rational consciousness from the standpoint of the governing of the body by the soul. One can have no unity or integrity of the person apart from self-rule. Yet, action presupposes the identity of those who act.
I have been interested in the similarity and difference between Pannenberg and Moltmann. What I want to explore is the way in which they reflect upon Karl Barth and his notion of the ruling of the soul over the body. Moltmann (God in Creation, Chapter 10) will stress that Barth is wrong to give priority of soul over the body. What I find interesting here is that Pannenberg will part company with Moltmann and defend Barth. Given some of my previous comments, and the impression of many devoted followers of Barth, this will feel strange. Pannenberg is hardly shy about his disagreement with Barth, but in several places, he will largely agree. Pannenberg says that this rejection by Moltmann of the rule of soul over the body is due to his notion of rule as tyrannical perversion of rule. He describes Barth as affirming theological sovereignty corresponding to his notion of the intra-Trinitarian order of a ruling Father and obedience of the Son. He notes that Barth nowhere mentions any right of the misused body to resist, or any right to feeling to have a voice in the decisions of the rational soul, or any desirable agreement of the body with the soul that governs it. Nevertheless, his idea of a partnership of mutual influencing entails far too ideal a notion of harmony and agreement without any problems. The aim of all just government is to achieve such an agreement when it is not self-evident at the outset. He also does not want to reject out of hand the thought of the rule of the Father, to which the Son obediently subjects himself. He refers to the New Testament passages one would have to ignore. In contrast to Moltmann, Pannenberg will affirm the monarchy of the Father, mediated as it is through the free obedience of the Son.
            In Section 2, Pannenberg discusses human destiny. He will again refer to his Anthropology regularly. He has already referred to the importance of this notion, and he will now give further content to it.
In subsection (a) of Section 2, he discusses the image of God in Adam and Christ. The biblical texts are Psalm 8 and Genesis 1:26-27. He observes that exegesis suggests no discernible difference between “image” and “likeness.” He rejects the notion popularized by Lynn White that the biblical notion of dominion let to an ecological crisis. Human beings exercise dominion because they reflect the image of God. It excludes arbitrary control or exploitation. In fact, Genesis 2:15 suggests the dominion is more like that of a gardener. Moltmann (God in Creation, Chapter 9) will also write of the ruling implication of the image of God in the sense that human beings are representatives of God on earth. Yet, the image of God, understood in a Trinitarian way as dwelling in fellowship with one another, is the other side of the image of God. Are Moltmann and Pannenberg being simply European males in emphasizing the ruling quality of the image of God? My defense of both is that the rule both envision has the pattern of the mutual fellowship of the Trinity rather than a hierarchy of command and subjection. For Pannenberg, the modern era with its emancipation from accountability to God has made possible a notion of human dominion without limits, opening the door to the ecological crisis. Of course, Christians must read such Old Testament statements in light of what Paul says of Jesus being the image of God in II Corinthians 4:4, as well as Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3. He also writes of the transforming of believers into this image in Romans 8:29, I Corinthians 15:49, and II Corinthians 3:18. He also refers to the notion of Irenaeus that Christ restores the image of God in Adam and that humanity lost, only to regain it in Christ. He will argue against this notion. In a similar way, Moltmann (God in Creation, Chapter 9) will look upon the image of God as the original designation of human beings, the image of Christ as the messianic calling of human beings, and the eschatological glory of human beings.
In subsection (b) of Section 2, Pannenberg discusses the image of God and our first estate. His point the image of God is a “copy” that is in the process of forming in the course of human life and in the course of human history. Thus, the image of God is not “perfect” or “immortal.” When we understand the image of God in the context of Jesus Christ, then we see that it refers to the destiny toward fellowship with God. He sees no basis for a paradise of perfection and the integrity of human life before the Fall. He sees no biblical basis that the first parents possessed perfect knowledge before the Fall. He also sees no basis in biblical writings for the notion of a loss of the divine image. As an aside, John Wesley may argue against this in his sermon “Original Sin.” He focuses upon Genesis 6:5 when it says that God the imagination of human beings was evil continually. He concludes that God saw no good in humanity, in contrast to being “very good” in Genesis 1. He concludes that humanity has no knowledge, love, or fear of God. The result is setting up idols within the heart. Yet, Pannenberg refers to Genesis 5:1ff repeating the notion of the image of God in Genesis 1:26. Genesis 9:6 protects human beings from murder because of the divine likeness. He connects the ongoing reality of creation he discussed in Chapter 7 to the divine image in Christ as defining our destiny as human beings. While human beings in varying degrees reflect the image of God, Jesus Christ clarifies what that image means. Humanity did not have the image of God fully. In fact, that image is still in process. The full actualization of the image is in Christ. We participate in that image through personal transformation. John Wesley, in his sermon on the New Birth, stresses that the image of God refers to the moral image, which could go a moralistic direction, but instead he identifies righteousness and holiness as love. In this view of transformation, Wesley and Pannenberg agree. The transformation of which Pannenberg writes is a shift from excessive love of self and the things one makes to the love of God and therefore life and fellowship with God.
In subsection (c) of Section 2, he discusses the divine likeness as human destiny. His point is that divine likeness has an actual effect on human life toward God that Jesus Christ anticipates. The thought of destiny has a link to our creation in the divine image in both the notion of dominion and above all to our destiny in fellowship with God. Eschatology is informing here. He points to Kant and Fichte as encouraging a moral interpretation of the divine likeness. The point of creation in the divine image is fellowship with God. Such a destiny is not for the abstracted individual, but the incorporation of humanity into the reign of God. Fellowship with God underlies and governs human relations. Such a destiny resists the disintegrating trends of human caprice. This means that religion is indispensable in the search for a proper understanding of human reality and the God of the Bible is the definitive revelation of the reality of God that the world of nature and human life otherwise hides. He is critical of the notion of “co-humanity” that Barth expounds in CD III.2. In contrast, Pannenberg thinks that humanity has a disposition to seek God, no matter how little we see of it in a given case. Our destiny toward fellowship with God is internal to the actual living of our lives. If not, the purpose of God would become impotent. Human life is inwardly moved by its divine destiny, and therefore by its divine likeness. The theology of Wesley would refer to this as the working of prevenient grace. We see the goal is not clear to us. It begins as an indefinite trust that opens us to the horizon of the world and in the restless overcoming of the finite. Unrest and dissatisfaction is an expression of human weakness, but it also gives evidence of a knowledge that the final horizon will unveil. He will again refer to the unthematic awareness of the infinite and openness beyond everything finite as important here. The destiny for fellowship with God is also our temptation as humanity seeks it on its own conditions and snatch it as if our prey (see Genesis 3:5 and Philippians 2:6.) Religion can be such a temptation, as can be our emancipation from religious ties. The independence of human life and its resulting summons to live in accord with our own choices can lead to crossing every boundary in self-assertion. When we accept our finitude as given by God we attain to the fellowship with God implied in our destiny. He sees the relation between Father and Son as an anticipatory fulfillment of this destiny of human beings.
            In Section 3, Pannenberg discusses sin and original sin. This powerful exposition will explore moralism, pietism and revivalism. It will explore the unmasking involved in Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Freud. He will discuss solidarity with evildoers. He will discuss the danger of localizing evil in particular groups. Of course, he will refer to his Anthropology extensively. He will also refer to Augustine, Kant, and Hegel in their discussions of sin and evil.
            In subsection (a) of Section 3, he discusses the difficulty of the topic. Pannenberg thinks that no other theme in Christian anthropology is as obscure to us who live in a modern context than that of sin and our approach to it. He will expose us to his attempt to re-think this notion. He notes that the emphasis placed upon sin in the Reformation and in evangelical piety has become problematic. The reason is inauthentic guilt feelings as the result of such preaching and teaching. John Wesley, in his sermon “The New Birth,” stresses that we must first conceive of the wrath of God turned away in justification. Only then can we conceive of the work of the Spirit in us in new birth. As Pannenberg sees it, an emotional taboo surrounds the theme of sin in the public consciousness of secular societies. Historically, Socinians rejected the teaching on original sin as unbiblical because it was morally unacceptable for God to impute the sin of Adam on future generations. It went against the growing awareness of responsibility for one’s actions. The biblical basis in Romans 5:12 is doubtful on exegetical grounds. The decay of the teaching led to a focus on acts of sin. Christian moralism became a sign of life-denying rigidity and extended guilt feelings that became neurotic, as examined by Nietzsche and Freud. Their projects of unmasking of the neurotic character of the Christian sense of guilt demonstrated the oppressive nature of Christian belief in God. He says we need to understand this movement toward marginalizing the term “sin” to church usage. The formal use of the term involves a moralizing of the concept. Its lighthearted use in the public sphere is also a sign of the liberation from traditional morality. Christian theology must not take this decline lightly. The credibility of the Christian notion of sin is at stake. Theology must not withdraw into itself and lament the decline. Rather, theology must draw from this process self-critical inferences that will lead to re-thinking of the notion of sin. He admits that such re-thinking is difficult. He begins by saying that the Christian faith presupposes the fact of sin. Sin refers to the corruption in the structure of human conduct. What Christians say about sin is something one must know apart from revelation, even if revelation will deepen this knowledge. He links himself to those who say that the loss of meaning is often where the modern consciousness begins. In his continuing effort to show modernity that theology has something important to say to it, he notes that awareness of evil remains part of the modern discussion. I would point to movies and television series, as well as the attempts to define Islamic fundamentalism, as evidence of this interest. Yet, his corrective notes that in turning away from God, as secularity will do, it deepens the problem of facing evil and its destructive effects. The turn from God means we are now responsible for evil and for the victory over it. At this point, I wonder if behind this subsection is the political debate he had with Moltmann. At the same time, in an interview with Patrick Oden, he indicated that he had nothing to add to what Pannenberg and others have written on sin.[1] My wonderment here is whether Moltmann would consider this portion of the discussion an expression of middle class (bourgeois) ideas. I will say that in God in Creation Moltmann and Pannenberg agree that humanity as the image of God and humanity as sinner constitute the core of theological anthropology. In any case, Pannenberg says that typically, we now place the blame for evil on others, especially on anonymous structures and pressures in the social system. We localize evil in others or in groups. In the process, we exonerate the group to which we belong. In contrast, Christianity locates sin and its resultant evil as residing in each of us. If evil could find its localization in a group (the rich, the capitalist, a race, a gender) then all one has to do is single out, isolate, or destroy the group. Of course, if we step back, even if we could destroy the group, evil would remain. As I see it, George Orwell told his parable in Animal Farm, and it remains a powerful reminder of this truth. The concern of Pannenberg with moralism at this point is that it will not accept the fact that one thing that unites human beings is their sinfulness. The doctrine of original sin preserved the notion of the solidarity of us all with evildoers. He thinks the anti-moralistic function of the doctrine is one too often underrated.
In subsection (b) of Section 3, Pannenberg deals with the forms of sin and the question of their root. The argument here is powerful in the sense that he sees successive deepening of the notion of sin, beginning with the Old Testament and continuing through various philosophers and psychologists. His argument reflects his notion that the Bible, while the original witness to revelation, is not the end of the discussion. “Sin” will move from focusing upon what one does to focusing upon the structure of human existence. Let us see if we can trace his argument. In the Old Testament, for example, sin is missing the mark, which suggests carelessness. The various words used suggest transgression of norms. In Paul, by way of contrast, sin precedes the commands of the law, even if the law discloses sin (Romans 7). Concupiscence or desire is a manifestation of sin, a fact that Augustine teased out of Paul. For Augustine, the perversion of sinful desire rests on a perversion of will. In assessing priorities, the will sets lesser good above the supreme good. The autonomy of the will puts the self in the center and uses everything else as a means to the self as an end. He defined this as pride. Pride is the core of perverted desire. At this point, Augustine improved on Paul, for he directs us to the structural principle of perverted desire. He points to a notion of sin that has greater universality and psychological validity. Thus, Paul equates desire and sin by referring to the striving against the law of God. Augustine relates desire to an anthropological phenomenon. He brings to light the opposition to God in the general structure of desire rooted in the overvaluation of the self that wills. Unfortunately, Augustine tied these insights to his notion of the inheritance of sin and sexuality, something no longer needed, given his psychological analysis that linked concupiscence and the love of self. In fact, Kant also deepened this notion of sin in his exposition of radical evil. Locating evil in subjectivity, Kant opened the possibility of treating sin as a failure of the self. However, Kant also weakened his argument theologically by focusing upon the moral law that speaks to us rather than to a proper human relation to God. I would add that John Wesley, in his sermon “The New Birth,” pointed to sin as the turning from the rule of God in order to seek happiness in the world and in human projects rather than in God. Such sin is a matter of leaving the home of the love of God (alienation) and making a home for oneself. True fellowship or life with God is in the future, for the structure of human life is one of alienation. Hegel deepened our understanding in that desire characterizes human will. We are not what we ought to be. We ought to lift ourselves above specificity to the universal or Infinite. Yet, the self can make infinite the finite contents of its consciousness, thereby becoming evil. The I places itself in the place of the true Infinite and Absolute. Kierkegaard deepened Hegel at this point by saying that self-fulfillment based on our subjectivity and finitude is a perversion of the basic relation to the Infinite and Eternal. The result is the desperate character of our strivings for self-fulfillment, resulting in anxiety and despair. We can see here a radical criticism of all faith in the power of selfhood. Excessive focusing on our own identity is a deformation of the theme of human life. Anxiety becomes the source of despair, care, and aggressiveness. Need and desire characterize human life. However, the step to excessive desire that sins takes in anxiety leads to attempts to ensure the self by possession of what we desire. Anxiety and the related fixation on the self also are behind the search for confirmation from others. We want recognition by others. When we seek it at any price to secure own identity, the search springs from an anxiety about the self that expresses a self-fixation along the lines of self-love in Augustine. Uncertainty of the future and the incomplete nature of our identity feed the anxiety. Anxiety makes us cling to the self. The alternative is confidence in the future. Our lives are a gift for which we can be thankful and with which we can move confidently into the future. Anxiety keeps us from this confidence. Such everyday manifestations of sin are its true nature, which remains concealed for the most part from us. Here is the basis of its seduction.
In subsection (c) of Section 3, Pannenberg discusses the universality of sin and the problem of guilt. He will want to show the social nexus of sin while maintaining human choice. He will also stress that God accepts the responsibility for the possibility of sin. He thinks his discussion in the previous subsections intensifies the problem of responsibility for sin. He focuses on the social nexus of sin as the mediator of sin through the social relations between individuals. This means the social nexus has a deformation that we can hardly deny. Sin, as Robert W. Jensen helpfully clarifies, (Volume 2, p. 134-48) will show itself in the idolatry we see in the excess of self-affirmation, in lust as a refusal to mature our love, in injustice as we make others serve us and in the despair that leads us to the failure to risk creative action. Yet, we cannot separate ourselves from sin. Thus, the roots of sin are not in society. Sin has its root in the heart, as Romans 7 makes clear, and thus, the social nexus fails to explain the universality of sin. The matter of choice is difficult, for many things that are part of our lives are not the result of choices made. For most people, for example, our choice of self over God is not explicit. We naturally choose, out of our anxiety, the priority of self. We normally attach guilt to specific acts that transgress some norm. As Paul sees it Romans 7, sin precedes all human acts a power that dwells in us. It represents alienation from God. Yet, this alienation comes through our cooperation with it. We engage in sin because of its deceptive character. He thinks Christian theology ought to find in the permission of sin the cost of the creaturely independence at which the creative action of God aims. We humans must develop and become what we are and ought to be.
            In Section 4, Pannenberg discusses sin, death, and life. He will engage some of the philosophical themes proposed by existentialism and offer his theological criticism of them. He will want to link sin to death. He will stress that sin is a life and death matter. Yet, all living things die. He points the way toward a psychology of living with death. He will again refer to various parts of his Anthropology. Sin promises a richer and fuller life. The command of God had a view to life. The desire oriented to the forbidden thinks it has better knowledge that will promote life. Romans 7, even after 2000 years, needs no commentary as an example to a greediness for life that in all cases ends in death. The link of sin and death arises from the presupposition that all life comes from God. The consequence of turning from the source of life, God, is death. He will explore the notion that death, far from being a punishment for sin, is a result of our finitude. The problem he sees here is that such psychologizing led to the loss of the sense that our relation to God is a life-and-death matter. Nietzsche developed his psychologizing to the validity of moral norms in his Genealogy of Morals. He points out that Paul could look upon death positively due to the resurrection of Jesus, especially in Philippians 1:21 and Romans 14:8. The theological argument against the notion of linking finitude and death is that Christian eschatology looks to finite life without death. Such participation in Eternity will lead to the preservation of fellowship with God for finite life. Thus, participation in time means finite life will die. Eschatology reminds us that that the wholeness of finite life cannot exist in time. The end yet to come casts its shadow in advance and defines the whole path of life as a being for death in the sense that we cannot integrate our end into our existence. Rather, our end threatens each moment of our living self-affirmation with nothingness. We lead our temporal lives under the shadow of death (Luke 1:79 and Matthew 4:16). Yet, our self-affirmation of life is an antithesis to our end in death. Fear of death pierces deep into life. It motivates us to unrestricted self-affirmation. It robs us of the power to accept life. We see a close link between sin and death. The link has its root in sin in that sin is does not accept our finitude, making us see it as a threat of nothingness. Fear of death pushes us deeply into sin. Acceptance of our finitude is hard for us because of the self-affirmation of our lives and projects. Our end, and with it our wholeness, is still ahead of us. Our unrestricted self-affirmation (we might call it idolatry) is the origin of apostasy from God and implies death as the end of our existence. He will refer to the discussions of Karl Rahner and M Heidegger here. He will stress that God, rather than death, brings our lives to the wholeness we desire. We can see the patience of God, however, in repeatedly bringing good out of evil. In spite of sin and its consequences, we repeatedly know the original joy in life, joy in the richness, breadth, and beauty of creation and in each new day, joy in the illuminations of the life of the spirit, power from action within the order of community life, and a turning to others and participation in their joys and sorrows. We have achieved astonishing things and known periods of high cultural blossoming. Yet, even in the best of times, dark forces have been at work through anxiety and desire that have brought death and destruction. 

[1] @moltmanniac conversation on this matter.