In Chapter 11 of his Systematic Theology, Pannenberg, in the third part of his discussion of Christology, will explore the reconciliation of the world. He will discuss, within the context of anthropology and creation, what God has done to reconcile the world in Christ. The parallel in Karl Barth is Church Dogmatics, IV.1. Pannenberg is among the theologians who want to move away from the central place the crucifixion holds in other theological systems. Christ did fully accomplish our salvation at Golgotha. Yet, salvation has an orientation toward the Spirit and eschatology that such a cross-centered theology would not allow. Moltmann shares in this orientation, moving toward an eschatological Christology. I should also say that he finally discusses the gospel as the close of his discussion of Christology and reconciliation of the world. This contrasts with Barth, of course, who discusses the Word of God, especially its three-fold form, in Chapter I as part of his prolegomena.
In Section 1, Pannenberg will discuss salvation and reconciliation. He wants to clarify the systematic function of the Pauline concept of reconciliation. His point is that the way to the salvation of the world is through overcoming the opposition to God into which sin and death have plunged us. Thus, the sending of the Son by the Father and the Incarnation reveal their goal as the salvation of the world. The work of Jesus sought renewal of human society. Its fulfillment of Jewish messianic hope extended to the human race. Paul, in order to express these ideas, used the imagery of the eschatological human being in contrast to the first Adam. Jesus was a particular human being, but connected to the saving function of the person and work of Jesus. It has been natural in history to attract all different forms of the hope of salvation to the Son. Yet, as Christological reflection reshaped and qualified the Jewish messianic hope, the same must happen to other hopes that might attach themselves to Jesus. The point here is that the statement in theology that “Christology is a function of soteriology” is a mistake in the sense that the contents of Christology become a projection of various changeable expectations of salvation. Rather, our soteriology must submit to our understanding of Christology.
To clarify this point, he will identify some examples in the history of Christology. One is deification through Incarnation he finds in Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Cyril of Alexandria. Two is deification through assimilation to God, an ethical form he finds in Origen and Gregory of Nyssa. Three is a Christology of vicarious satisfaction he finds in Anselm, pointing to the penitential practice of the Middle Ages as its source. Four is the Christology of grace alone we find in Luther, Christ being the righteous representative of humanity before a God angry about the sin of humanity. Five is the prototype of the religious man he finds in Schleiermacher. Six is the ideal of moral perfection he finds in Kant and Ritschl. Seven is the Christology of pure personality he finds in Friedrich Gogarten, contrasting authentic humanity from the technical humanity of the modern and scientific world. Of course, he wonders if, starting with soteriological interests, we ever speak about Jesus.
The hope of participation in new life consists in table fellowship with Jesus and in fellowship with the Crucified. The Greek word swteria like the Hebrew word shalom refers to the wholeness of life that relies upon the future for its fulfillment. When human beings strive for self-fulfillment in this world, they shut themselves off to God and the future God has in store for humanity. Salvation in this sense is deliverance from the powers of sin and death. Paul and Jesus unite in anticipating a saving event that puts the present age to an end. In contrast to Jesus, Paul links salvation to pardon in the future judgment, which he calls justification or peace with God. In fact, reconciliation, justification, and deliverance in the coming judgment become a whole. Paul saw the cross and resurrection as the accomplishment of the reconciling of the world with God, the source of the different way he approached salvation from the preaching of the presence of the kingdom as we saw it in the preaching of Jesus. What he wants to do is reconstruct the teaching of Paul in these matters based upon the crucifixion of Jesus as an expression of the love of God in Romans 5:8 and 8:32. In some Pauline writings, salvation is present, as in Ephesians 2:5, 8 and Titus 3:4-5. The shift actually brings Pauline teaching closer to the teaching of Jesus. He wants to say that the proleptic presence of salvation is an important re-interpretation of the notion of salvation in Paul. Salvation in Paul links to the future of God already present in this world in Christ, even if its consummation is still ahead. The mediation of participation in salvation is through the death and resurrection of Christ.
In Section 2, Pannenberg wants to discuss the concept and doctrine of reconciliation. He wants to show that the world needed reconciliation to God, but God did not need reconciliation to the world. The reconciliation took place in the passion of Christ, not only as a past event but also in the apostolic ministry of reconciliation. He will deal with the way Irenaeus thought that due to the sin of Adam God needed reconciliation with humanity. He wants to set aside the satisfaction theory of Anselm and the vicarious penal suffering of Christ in Luther. He thinks a merit of the liberal Protestant era of the 1800s was its focus on II Corinthians 5:19, where the reconciliation of the world by Christ is an outworking of the love of God in the face of the opposition of humans who are hostile to God. He views positively the work of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, and Kahler in this regard. This leads him to discuss death as expiation for human sins. Expiation removes the offense, the guilt, and the consequences. This notion ties in with the idea of a natural link between acts and their consequences. Expiation releases the doer from the damaging consequences of their acts. God is the one acting in this expiatory act. God is victory over sin and death in the reconciliation of the world, as Gustaf Aulen taught us in Christus Victor (1931). Of course, only in the form of anticipation can we say that the reconciliation of the world has already taken place in the cross. The proclaiming of the event is the history of the movement from anticipation to actualization. The event of reconciliation continues in the apostolic ministry of reconciliation. Even the rejection of the gospel by the Jewish people becomes the means through which God will reconcile the cosmos in Romans 11:15. The event of reconciliation includes the process we see in apostolic ministry of renewing our fellowship with God that sin and death had broken. Here is where he sees himself as departing from Karl Barth in CD IV.1, 76 where he called reconciliation a self-contained act. Pannenberg is siding with Kahler over Barth here. The question then arises that if reconciliation is the act of God in the cross, what is the role of the human recipients. Barth and Kahler saw an answer in the notion of representation. The question here relates to the fact that human beings are sinners in need of reconciliation. Does the self-contained act of reconciliation as Barth describes it actually influence human beings at the point of their admitted need? Further, does representation leave room for the independence of us, whom Christ represents, to reconcile themselves to the claim of God on their lives? The removal of our hostility to God is important if we are to experience reconciliation with God. Is it possible for the notion of representation to address such concerns?
In Section 3, Pannenberg will discuss representation as the form of the salvation event. His point here will be similar to the point made in Section 2. He will not want to restrict the significance of the death of Christ as a vicarious expiation to the crucifixion of Jesus as a past event. He proposes a dimension of implicit representation that one actualizes only with the bringing in of those for whom Christ died.
In subsection (a) of Section 3, Pannenberg discusses the first Christian interpretations of the death of Jesus and the fact of representation. He contrasts the variety he is about to explore with the singularity of the early Christian interpretation of the resurrection as an eschatological verification of the person and work of Jesus.
First, we find his death as a prophetic destiny in Luke 13:34, 11:49-51. The passion story seems to have a focus on the divine necessity of the innocent suffering and death of Jesus as fulfillment of prophecy. A similar view is in Luke 24:25-26 and Mark 8:31. He clarifies further that in Acts 2:23, 3:15, 4:10, 10:39-40 the Jewish leadership killed him but God raised him from the dead, the core idea being that Jesus must suffer the fate of all prophets in Mark 12:2ff.
Second, he considers the notion of the death of Jesus as a covenant sacrifice. He admits an early interpretation of the death of Jesus was that it was expiatory. He agrees that Jesus might have reckoned with the possibility of a violent end. However, the variety of interpretations of his death that we find in the New Testament would hardly be present if Jesus had already settled the issue. Thus, his point is only that theology needs to consider the various early Christian statements regarding the expiatory nature of the death of Jesus without the assumption that Jesus explained his death along these lines (Mark 10:45, the Lord’s Supper). The Lord’s Supper tradition includes the idea of “for us” and “shed for you.” The accent of such a saying is that of covenant sacrifice. Such a saying may well signify no more than “in our favor” or “on our behalf.” In I Corinthians 11:24, Jesus is simply “for” the recipients and present to them. Jensen may be right in suggesting that Pannenberg may build too much upon this theme.
Third, he will focus on the interpretation of expiation. Thus, while Jesus may have intended a simple action in their favor, the notion of “for us” links easily to the notion of expiation, especially when the writer adds “for our sins,” as in I Corinthians 15:3. He refers to Romans 4:25, Romans 8:22, 4:25, Galatians 2:20, I Peter 2:21, 24, Mark 10:45, I Timothy 2:6, Titus 2:14. The point here is that reflection upon Isaiah 53 provided a context for understanding his death. He thinks this notion of the image of the just man suffering vicariously for his people may be the most easily accessible for us today. It avoids the problem of the cultic substitution. Jesus would have been familiar with such ideas of prophetic and apocalyptic theology of suffering. Jesus may have approached his fate with such thoughts in mind.
Fourth, he then refers to the idea of a change of places that we find in II Corinthians 5:21, Romans 8:3, Galatians 3:13. The thought of representation may simply be at the level of doing something “for others” that they could not do. One might do it because one is not under the limitations that put needy people in a position in which they can no longer help themselves. What we have in this case is a co-human solidarity in which some represent others. An example is I Corinthians 12. Giving one’s life to save others or society represents a special case of representation. To sacrifice one’s life is to offer up one’s existence, as others would lose theirs without the sacrifice. One might interpret the death of Jesus as expiatory in the sense of preserving others for eternal life in the judgment of God. He returns to II Corinthians 5:14-21, which suggests a simple exchange of places. His further point is the inclusive significance and effect of the death of Jesus. He brings this notion into a discussion of Romans 5:17ff and 8:3. He finds here the vicarious expiatory death of Jesus Christ is the purpose of the sending by the Father. The entering of the preexistent Son into the conditions of earthly existence governed by sin acquires the meaning that he took the place of sinners in order that he might suffer their fate. The Incarnation becomes an act of representation. In the Son, God took the place of sinners and took within the divine self the judgment of their sin. He will clarify that expiatory sacrifice in the cultic sense may be behind Romans 3:25 and in Hebrews.
In subsection (b) of Section 3, Pannenberg will discuss expiation as vicarious penal suffering. The variety of early interpretations of the death of Jesus may give us some freedom in dispensing with the human presuppositions involved and that we can develop our talk of this death in our way and with our presuppositions. For example, we may think of Jesus as the author and initiator of salvation in Hebrews 2:10 or as the prince of life in Acts 3:15, since such thoughts are intelligible today. We are not free to do so. However, we can adopt a new interpretive model that includes the elements of understanding expressed in the traditional terms. In focusing on the traditional terms of expiation and representation or substitution, he makes it clear that if this secular age does not easily understand them, it places responsibility upon a forceful and competent presentation today. He uses Rene Girard in Violence and the Sacred as an example. The nature of the event is normative for the interpretive models we may develop. The fact that an interpretation found a place in early Christianity is not a guarantee of its truth. Thus, the interpretive model of the fate of a prophet may be the earliest, but it may be neither the most profound nor true. He agrees that Isaiah 53:4-5 had great influence on ideas of vicarious expiatory models, but we still need to seek a material basis for this view in light of the event.
Pannenberg will stress that the thesis of the expiatory significance of the death of Jesus for humanity has truth based upon the anthropological situation of humanity in relation to sin and death.
First, the expiatory function of the death of Jesus presupposes that he did not die for his own sins. This thought gets into the notion of the sinless quality of the life of Jesus, which we know only through the resurrection. He could only have died for the sins of others.
Second, the resurrection also vindicates Jesus from the charges that he was a political agitator or arrogant.
Further, the notion of an expiatory death on the intellectual soil of Judaism would be a natural one. He wants to avoid an interpretive model that views the death of Jesus “for us” as a special instance of solidarity with others, the man for others, or the epitome of co-humanity (Bonhoeffer). Such a notion leads to a secular humanism that has little connection to the actual life and work of Jesus. He was first the man for God. The early model of such an expiatory notion of the death of Jesus would have had a primary relation to the Jewish people, as Isaiah 53 makes clear. The Jewish people rejected him, but God justified him through the resurrection. Jesus died in the place of those who condemned him, who, by rejecting him, deserved death. Galatians 3:13, II Corinthians 5:21, and Romans 8:3 have such a notion in their background. Jesus came under the curse of the law. He became sin and bore that sin in our place the penalty for the punishment of death as the consequence of separation from God. Expiation for the people of God means access to salvation, in spite of participation in the crucifixion and other sins. They have access through accepting the message of Jesus and confession of Jesus. Roman participation in the crucifixion opens the door for involvement of humanity in the crucifixion and their possibility of participation in salvation. The condemnation and execution of Jesus becomes representation in the form of a change of place between the innocent and the guilty. This means vicarious penal suffering in the sense of the wrath of God at sin. However, it rests on the fellowship that Jesus Christ accepted with all of us as sinners and with our fate. His death becomes expiation for us all.
The expiatory function of the death of Jesus is unintelligible without the vicarious penal suffering. He contrasts this notion with the satisfaction theory of Anselm. Representation and expiation means that those whom Jesus represents in their death have the possibility of attaining to the hope of new life that Jesus has provisionally revealed in his resurrection. Specifically, representation and expiation relate to the eschatological judgment of God, before which those linked to Jesus can have confidence. Representation and expiation reveal that the will of God for the creatures God has made is life. To this extent, we can think of an exchange of places between the innocent Jesus and sinners who connect with Jesus in baptism, as shown in Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12.
If the links Pannenberg is making with representation and expiation is true, we must raise the question of the relation between vicarious expiation and reconciliation. He points out that reconciliation arises out of the diplomatic process of bringing peace between enemies, which we see in II Corinthians 5:20. We return to the point with which he began. The event of the death of Jesus is not a self-enclosed event. It becomes fruitful for individuals as a link occurs between their death and the death of Jesus. Expiation needs appropriation by confession, baptism, and faith. The inclusive sense of representation has an anticipatory function. Representation occurs in the process of propagating the gospel by apostolic proclamation and appropriation through faith, confession, and baptism.
In subsection (c) of Section 3, Pannenberg discusses representation and liberation. He rejects the exclusive notion of representation or substitution, in which Jesus does something others ought to have done or suffered. He sees this as the view of Anselm. He wants to move toward an inclusive representation in that the death of Christ represents before God the death of us all, based on II Corinthians 5:14. He refers to P. K. Marheineke, who proposes that Christ represents in himself what is the same in all individuals. For Paul, the death of Christ includes our death in such a way as to change its character. By the linking of our death to that of Christ in baptism, our death takes on a new sense that it occurs in hope. In that sense, the death of the one God raised from the dead is the reconciliation of the world. Inclusive representation means that Christ becomes the paradigm of all humanity in its relation to God. He wants to avoid the danger of thinking Christ alone is the human being before God, for such a notion would violate the independence of persons those represented. To state this clearly, representation in Pannenberg leaves room for others to appropriate what Christ is representing. He will contrast his notion with the idea of representation as replacement. Therefore, he will part company with Barth here in CD IV.1, 77. Barth has received criticism from several quarters for being “objectivist” and engaging in “theological liquidation,” and “totalitarian.” As Pannenberg sees it, true representation temporarily takes the place of others and thus leaves open a place for those represented. In contrast, Barth proposed a form of representation that means replacement. He will refer to Dorothy Soelle, Christ the Representative in this discussion. Jesus is the actualization of our destiny as the likeness of God. Yet, this leaves room for the individuality of others. In accepting the particularity of his death, Jesus made room for others. In his suffering obedience, Jesus showed himself as the Son. God gives us room alongside Jesus even after death. His death does not crowd out our death, so to speak. His death means that others no longer have to see themselves as excluded from fellowship with God or as enemies of God. Christ opens up access for them so that they come to share in life from God and can already live this earthly life assured of the eternal fellowship with God that overcomes the limitation of death. Such persons accept their finitude and live in fellowship with Christ. The expiatory character of the death of Jesus actualizes itself in baptism. We may live our lives and vocations in the certainty of sharing in the life that has overcome death in the resurrection of Jesus. Freedom characterizes the lives of those who link themselves to the death of Jesus. They are free from the tyranny of sin and death. They are free from the dominion of the Law. Fellowship with God gives individuals independence of the world and its powers. They have the freedom of a new immediacy with God as children of God.
In Section 4, Pannenberg discusses the Triune God as reconciler of the world. He wants to deal with the way the Father, Son, and Spirit participates in reconciliation. This exploration ought not to surprise us. He has said that he wants to clarify the Trinitarian involvement in each of the doctrines, having already done so dramatically and at length in his view of creation in Chapters 7 and 8. Now, as he concludes the Christology discussions in Chapters 9, 10, and 11, he wants to do the same with reconciling work of God in Christ. Throughout this section, he will refer to Scripture. I will not do so in general.
In subsection (a) of Section 4, Pannenberg discusses the action of the Father and the Son in the event of reconciliation. The sending of the Son by the Father aims at the vicarious expiatory death on the cross. The Son is self-giving to death. The Father gives up the Son to death. Who is the subject of the giving up? Jesus seems to have increasingly reckoned with the probability of a violent death. His last meal stood under the sign of this expectation. Yet, it would be a big leap to the idea of the self-offering of the Son prepared for a long time beforehand. The history of Jesus becomes present event in the work of the exalted Christ through apostolic proclamation. He sees three levels in this regard. The first is the human historical level of the work and fate of Jesus. Second, we have the same history as the medium of the Son. Third, we have the same history as the medium of the active presence of the exalted Lord through the apostolic proclamation that explains to the world at large the saving significance of this history. The interrelation of the three levels is basic for a proper understanding and evaluation of the doctrine of the church concerning the reconciling office of Christ.
In subsection (b) of Section 4, Pannenberg deals with the reconciling office of Christ. In the question of the divine subject of the event of reconciliation in the crucifixion, we return to the connection between Christology and soteriology. Christology needs to ask whether and how far we can understand and justify its statements as an expression of the historical uniqueness of Jesus in connection with his work and destiny. We cannot identify the salvation of the world as an aim that Jesus set himself. Yet, the atoning function of his death may still have a view to the salvation of the world as its object and goal as the Son, who is at work in the history of Jesus. Such a statement has a prophetic structure in that it anticipates the outcome of human history. The truth of the content of such statements depends on the work of the Spirit, who will glorify Jesus in human hearts as the Son. Titles like Messiah, Kyrios, or Son of God relates Jesus to the future of humanity, and is therefore soteriological. Therefore, the future of God is already breaking in with Christ for the salvation of the world. The correlate to the office of reconciler, then, would be a saved and reconciled humanity. The lessons of world history remind us that humanity is not now reconciled and saved from sin and death. Such statements can be true only if they anticipate something that is still open to question in the course of history. Further titles, like second Adam, image of God, are anticipatory. The reconciling of humanity is an incomplete process. The work of Christ as mediator became a theme in the Latin Middle Ages, focusing on Christ as priest, king, and prophet. Only in the latter do we have even an approximation of the actual life of Jesus. His sole concern was with God and the future of God. To express this further, he says that the office of Jesus was to call people into the rule of God that had appeared with him. Thus, he offers criticism of the Reformation three-fold office of Christ, in particular as Barth developed it CD, IV. Yet, he re-considers the possibility that the resurrection of Jesus may well make of the notion of the three-fold office of Christ a typological and poetic significance. In a sense, then, the concept of office has the special advantage of showing Christ as the fulfillment of the old covenant. It also expands the notion of the reconciling work of Christ beyond his sacrificial death. The proclamation of the church becomes a work of the exalted Christ in its proclamation of the Word of God. This proclamation takes place in the power of the Spirit, who bears witness in human hearts to the truth of God in the gospel, and who therefore bears witness to the glory and lordship of the exalted Christ.
In subsection (c) of Section 4, Pannenberg discusses the completion of reconciliation in the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who takes up others into fellowship with the Father of the Son, and thus enables them to share in the reconciliation achieved in the Incarnation and death of the Son. The work of the exalted Christ and the work of the Spirit in us are different aspects of the same divine action for the reconciliation of the world. The Spirit lifts us above our finitude. In faith, we share in Jesus Christ, who is outside of us, and in the event of reconciliation that God accomplished in his death. Believers are outside themselves as they are in Christ. Being “outside” ourselves could be estrangement from who we are, such as in fury or frenzy, bondage and addiction. Yet, self-forgetfulness may also be the supreme form of self-fulfillment. One who is with Jesus, one is with God, who is the origin of the life and destiny of each individual, and thus we are truly with ourselves. It means liberation from the bondage of the world, sin, and the devil for a life in the world in the power of the Spirit. United with Christ, believers know well their difference from Christ. Participation in the filial relation of Jesus to the Father frees believers for immediacy in relation to God as their Father. The Spirit enables us to rejoice in the distinction between the individual and God and thus have peace with God.
In Section 5, Pannenberg discusses the Gospel. The Spirit is with himself in the other, a statement that Hegel makes possible. In a similar way, awareness of reconciliation to God is through faith in Christ. Such faith arises as the Spirit teaches them to know the Father in the Son. The Son is the destiny of believers and the source of their freedom. Such participation occurs through the missionary message of the apostles and the church (II Corinthians 5:18-20). The term “gospel” comes from Nahum 1:15 and Isaiah 52:7. Jesus may well have understood his ministry in these terms. The concept of gospel in Paul would then derive from Jesus and the usage of the term in the early church. The gospel the apostles preach speaks of an event that has already taken place. That event contains the eschatological future of the rule of God. The proclamation involves the life-giving power emanating from it. The future of God lays hold of hearers through the content of the message. The Lord speaks and acts through the word of the gospel. The power of the gospel connects with the presence of the future of God in the coming of Jesus and in the power of the Spirit. The power of the gospel is not oriented to the notion of the Word of God in the Old Testament. The gospel deals with the dawning of the reign of God that brings salvation. He wants to revise the notion of the Reformation scripture principle. The apostolic gospel includes the missionary activity that aims at the founding of congregations. The message of the reconciliation of the world in the death of Jesus Christ defines the gospel. The gospel shares a love that saves. The gospel leads the founding of congregations that have a fellowship that provisionally and symbolically represents the world-embracing fellowship of the rule of God that is the goal of reconciliation. The gospel establishes the fellowship of the church. The gospel takes precedence over the church and represents the authority of Jesus Christ. The gospel is not a product of the church. The gospel is the source of the existence of the church. The apostolic gospel has its origin in the good news that Jesus proclaimed concerning the rule of God that appears in his life and work. Scripture represents the origin of the church in the gospel. The authority of scripture rests on the gospel. Only insofar as they witness to the content of the gospel do the words and sayings of scripture have authority in the church. The church endorses the Bible for the sake of the gospel. The inspiration and authority of the Bible arises out of the prior faith commitment to Christ. Faith is the presupposition for special regard for the Bible (Schleiermacher, Christian Faith, par. 128). For that reason, he wants to discuss the inspiration and scripture here, rather than in a prolegomena (Barth) or in the doctrine of the church (Schleiermacher). He thinks we must measure scriptural statements by the gospel to which they bear witness. The gospel is accessible through these statements, but differs from them. Any discussion of the authority of scripture does not restrict the freedom of individual judgment regarding the content and truth of the scriptural witness. In fact, he wants to leave room for this. The reason is that only in the free recognition and acknowledgement of the truth of God in the history of Jesus can the reconciliation of God to the world reach its goal.
(Jenson 1997) Volume I, 179.
(Pannenberg, Jesus -- God and Man 1964, 1968), 38-49.
(Pannenberg, Jesus -- God and Man 1964, 1968), 246.
(Jenson 1997), Volume I, 185.
(Pannenberg, Jesus -- God and Man 1964, 1968), 247-8.
(Pannenberg, Jesus -- God and Man 1964, 1968), 250-1.
(Pannenberg, Jesus -- God and Man 1964, 1968), 354-64.
(Pannenberg, Jesus -- God and Man 1964, 1968), 259-60.
(Pannenberg, Jesus -- God and Man 1964, 1968), 208-25.