Saturday, October 15, 2016

Chapter 15



Eschatology is the study of “last things.” Popular literature on this theme is from the standpoint of some form of dispensationalism. One will focus upon Daniel, the Book of Revelation, and the letters to the Thessalonians. It will focus on events leading up to the end, especially the revelation of the Beast, 666, the millennial reign of Christ on earth, the New Jerusalem, the great white throne judgment, and the consummation of all things. In popular eschatology, an important sign of the end is the gathering of Israel and a final battle between good and evil at the battle of Armageddon. Other signs include false prophets and “the Lawless One (II Thessalonians 2:8). Such matters are also important for Muslims, although reversing the judgment envisioned in Revelation. To put it directly, if your schooling in such matters is The Late Great Planet Earth and Left Behind, Pannenberg will disappoint. For those looking for unorthodox belief in Pannenberg, he will offer some good reasons. At the same time, I would caution that, unlike the Trinity and Christology, Christian doctrine is not as specific here as one might like. Students of the end have arrived at positions of A-millennialism (or realized millennialism), postmillennialism, and premillennialism. One would have to infer from Pannenberg if he is in any of these schools of thought. He will not address this matter directly. Pannenberg will acknowledge that the images of Jewish apocalyptic are metaphors relating to the end of human time. References to “signs of the end” would not fit here. Thus, he would criticize the popular literature in its focus on the metaphor. They need greater theological and philosophical to perceive the reality behind the metaphor. The reality is not an apocalyptic interpretation of human history that involves the destruction of empires and the reign of Christ over the earth in Jerusalem. The reality to which apocalyptic points receives its definition and transformation by Christ. The historical Jesus undergoes a transformation through the resurrection of Jesus, in which God clarifies the ambiguity of the historical Jesus. The ambiguous nature of the historical Jesus was such that the disciples did not understand and deserted him. Further, those invested with the responsibility of preserving the Torah thought Jesus deserved death. The resurrection is the way God looked back upon the life of Jesus and offered a divine Yes. It was also a way to look forward to the destiny of humanity (the rest of creation as well) as a transformation that allows the finite things and moments of time to have a place in the presence of God in eternity. He is rejecting the dialectical notion of time and eternity again, adopting the Hegelian notion of the Eternity embracing time. As if have pondered this section, I find the reference to philosophy helpful. Philosophy can give the reader the impression that Pannenberg is engaging in pure speculation. Yet, behind the apocalyptic metaphors is not the speculative idea, but the life of Jesus in its fullness. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus become the basis for what he considers the major themes of eschatology. This will mean a thorough engagement with the relation between our finite experience of time and the notion of Eternity. He thinks that eschatology points to reality that involves transformation of creation and human history so that both can live in the eternal life of God. Eternity will come into time, revealing that Eternity has embraced time throughout. Therefore, the question of when and where this “happens” becomes inappropriate. If Eternity enters time, it will occur everywhere. This reality will resolve two issues Pannenberg has discussed in every chapter of his theology, namely, the debatable quality of the existence of God and the questions related to theodicy. Pannenberg has confidence in all of this because, as Paul put it in I Corinthians 15:12-23, God has raised Jesus from the dead, making the early preaching of the church full of meaning and purpose. The apostolic witness truly represents what God wants to say humanity about God, creation, humanity, and in particular the destiny of creation. Christ becomes the paradigm of the destiny of creation in his resurrection to live with God. It would stress the thoroughly Christ-centered nature of this eschatology.

            The challenge for theology in the modern period has been to find the notion of “end,” a teaching on “last things,” in which it has its proper place. Is the proper place a rather useless appendix? Is the place at the core of Christian theology? Paul Tillich goes so far as to say that while theology traditionally places a discussion of eschatology at the end of its systematic presentation, eschatology could just as reasonably be the first discussion in a theological work. The reason is that the eschatological question is the question of the inner aim or telos of all that is.[1] Moltmann refers to eschatology as the doctrine of last things, but he thinks that to think apocalyptically means thinking things through to their end. The ambiguities of history must sometime become unambiguous. The time of transience must some time pass away. The unanswerable questions of existence must sometime cease. In fact, the “torment” and “intolerableness” of historical existence push us toward questions regarding “the end.” His point is that if eschatology deals only with the end, it would be better to turn one’s back on it, for the last things spoil one’s taste for the things that come before, dreamed of, or hoped for. The end can rob history of its freedom and possibilities. Eschatology could destroy the fragile beauty of this life. However, “in the end is the beginning.” The end of history is also the end of temporal history and the beginning of the eternal history of life. Christ is the pioneer of that life.[2]

            In this essay, I want to consider the role of the “end,” “telos” in Greek, and eschatology in Christian theology. Asking the reader to consider such things runs into many objections. As Gordon D. Kaufman frames the issue, matters related to eschatology are questionable and speculative. After all, the “end” is not something we can observe or experience. Would it not be wiser in such dubious matters to maintain a discreet silence?[3] Such is the question that we might have from within theology.

Further, the context of the modern world places in question the thought of an end of the world and that human history will have an end. As modern persons, we might visualize an end to the world, but this would be a natural end in accordance with the knowledge gleaned from science. It would have nothing to do with an action beyond history, a supernatural irruption within space-time. Given the scientific knowledge of the world in which we live, a cessation of time as we experience it implies death rather than life.

Further, from the perspective of modern notions of nature and history, it is not self-evident that the end of the world should have the character of fulfillment rather than a mere breaking off and a plunge into nothingness. Paul Ricoeur nicely points out that hope suggests an excess of meaning, a passion for the possible. Such is not just wishful thinking or utopian dreams. For him, it will need to have a reliable basis, which he rightly finds in the resurrection of Jesus. The drive that our human rationality has for wholeness and purpose, the drive to discover the meaning of things, our moral striving for better individual lives and political arrangements, all clearly have significance for our human life together. However, these drives do not mean that the universe as a whole will have whole, purposeful, meaningful, and moral end. In does not mean that human history will have such a worthy end. It may well be that beings such as us, wherever they may have formed, are the true “aliens.” We must live our lives as goal oriented, living with the end in mind, considering worthy ends for human behavior, and so on, knowing that we do so in a universe that is random and directionless. Living with feeling of separation between us and nature, even though nature produced us, will require courage, rather than hope.[4]

I hope that the following helps us understand the reality to which Jewish and Christian apocalyptic point, as Pannenberg sees it. One reason I have found this material difficult is that I am not sure I have come across in other theologians this way of putting eschatology together. He will go back to the early Alexandrian approach to many eschatological themes. Of course, my knowledge of historical theology may have a limit in recognizing other theologians who would embrace what Pannenberg says here. At the same time, Pannenberg may well be seeking something new, at least in the way he seeks to put together some of the traditional themes of eschatology.

The theme of eschatology is the affirmation of the lordship of God, thereby connecting it to every chapter of Christian theology. Christian hope directs itself toward eschatological salvation. This hope fulfills the deepest longing of humans and all creation, even when explicit awareness of the object of this longing is lacking. This longing transcends all our concepts. The reason is that this longing means participation in the eternal life of God. “Thy kingdom come” is the prayer of the Christian community in the Lord’s Prayer and the perfect example of this hope. When Christians discuss the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment, they have a relationship to the coming of God that consummates divine rule over creation. Pannenberg has wanted to make the coming rule of God a theme of every chapter of theology. In his view of eschatology, the eternity of God comes into time and is creatively present to the temporal things that precede this future. The future of God is the creative origin of all things in the contingency of their existence as well as the final horizon of the definitive meaning and nature of all things and events. A hint of this thought is in I John 3:2, “It does not yet appear what we shall be.” Existence in time is anticipation of that which they will be in the light of their final future, which Christian theology defines as the coming of God. He will summarize his teaching up to this point on this topic. The revelation of God in history has the form of anticipation of the eternal and omnipotent deity at the consummation of Christian hope. This means the truth of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ depends on the actual breaking in of the future of the rule of God. Christian proclamation rests upon this promise. The explorations of Johannes Weiss and Karl Barth in the early part of the 20th century find special commendation in their recovery of eschatology.

Pannenberg will then explore how one can establish eschatological statements. He emphasizes the role of Jewish apocalyptic in Jesus and Paul as the basis of Christian hope. Barth moved away from his emphasis on eschatology in his work on Romans and toward a Christological focus in Church Dogmatics. His letters to both Pannenberg and Moltmann suggest that he saw dangers he wanted to avoid in placing too much focus upon eschatology and the role of the future in a Christian view of the redemption of humanity and creation, as well as an approach to theodicy. He agrees with Moltmann concerning the importance of the promise. However, he will place more emphasis upon its fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus. The promise must also stand in a positive relation to the nature and the deepest yearnings of human beings and the world. Such a positive relation is the reason we can look upon the future of God as promise rather than threat. His point is that the themes of eschatology call for anthropological demonstration. Such a demonstration will make the promise credible to us. It will help the theologian argue for the universality of the eschatological hope. He thinks Karl Rahner has made some good suggestions in this effort. The primary concern of eschatology, though, is the rule of God and the fulfillment of the command to love God will all we are. The knowledge of possible wholeness, salvation, is the anthropological basis for Christian hope. The promise tells us how the future of God meets our need of salvation. The promise links our present need of salvation to the future of God while keeping them separate. Of course, he is pointing us to the distinctive tension between Already and Not Yet that is typical of Christian faith and community. Thus, the sending of Jesus was for both the Jewish people of God and for the human race. The completion of the sending of Jesus means the reconciliation of the human race to God.

Pannenberg will explore the relation between individual and universal eschatology. The tension here is between what happens at the death of the believer on the one hand when put into relation with the general resurrection of the dead at the end of time on the other. As he sees it, Philippians 1:23 and Luke 23:43 make it clear the believer is with Christ. The promise of a general resurrection of the dead, grounded in the resurrection of Jesus, is a completion of this oneness with Christ and with the rest of creation in the final redemption of all things. In other words, he finds here another example of the Already (with Christ upon death) and the Not Yet (universal redemption of creation). The Holy Spirit is the eschatological gift to believers now, the promise of the future redemption of all things. The Holy Spirit can be such as the life-giving presence of the Spirit in all creation. The Spirit completes the mission of the Son.

Pannenberg will now explore the relation between death and resurrection. He will begin with the development of a theology of death. He began this exploration of death earlier. His point there (Chapter 8.4) was that 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. 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, only participation in time means finite life will die. Eschatology points to the wholeness of finite life that cannot exist in time. 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. 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. His exploration of an anthropological understanding of death should help the reader understand the Christian hope of resurrection. To return to Chapter 15, he reminds us that a distinctive feature of human life, in contrast to other living beings, is our awareness of our impending death. He thinks the promise of resurrection connects body and soul in ways that other approaches, such as the immortality of the soul and reincarnation, will not do. He will disagree with Heidegger that death is the consummation of human existence. In contrast, he will find Sartre helpful here. However, in contrast to both philosophers, he will want to recover the notion that the fulfillment of our finite life requires participation in the Eternal, and therefore, in life with God. Awareness of our finitude includes awareness that death is ahead of us. Facing this end, we still have a feeling for life as we pursue the course of a human life to its end. Heidegger describes this process quite well. Our sin separates us from God, even as death separates us from God. Death seems to be a natural consequence of our finitude. When we live our lives independently of God, we know our finitude only as we know that death is ahead of us. Sinners deny the finitude of their existence in trying to be as God. The refusal to accept finitude delivers us to death. The typical human hope of life of eternal death, from the standpoint of apologetics, is a hint of our divine destiny. We can see the links of finitude, sin, and death when we see the proper relation between finitude and time. Life lived in in time did have to be broken by the separation of past, present, and future. We have our self and identity only in anticipation of the totality of our lives. The self forms in relation to that which is other than itself. Yet, its self-seeking is such that remains with itself. Our now goes with us through the changes of time. Our sense of time is participation in eternity and awareness of the division and opposition of the moments of time. The end of this tension in a human life is death. Our finitude becomes death for us. It did not have to be this way. To put it a little differently, we could live out of a self fully aware of the totality of our existence. However, the ego lives with the illusion of its infinity and divine likeness. He values the work of John Hick, Death and Eternal Life, at this point. The hope of resurrection involves the transformation of present life in way that means triumph over the wrongs, hurts, and failures of this life. This pitiable life will share in eternal salvation and therefore redeem it. The risen Jesus is the first one to rise from the dead. He is the captain of our salvation. His individual destiny anticipates the universal resurrection of the dead.

We will have no answers to questions regarding last things so long as we do not clarify the relation of time and eternity. John Wesley, in a sermon “On Eternity,” puzzles about time and eternity.

But what is time? It is not easy to say, as frequently as we have had the word in our mouth. We know not what it properly is. We cannot well tell how to define it. But is it not, in some sense, a fragment of eternity, broken off at both ends? — that portion of duration which commenced when the world began, which will continue as long as this world endures, and then expire forever? — that portion of it, which is at present measured by the revolution of the sun and planets; lying (so to speak) between two eternities, that which is past, and that which is to come.  

His suggestion that the time we experience is part of eternity is quite suggestive. What we do with our time will have an influence upon eternity. Further, whatever eternity is, it influences our time. One of the ways he sees this influence occurring is that only God everlastingly endures, but God shares limited endurance with the things God has made.

Pannenberg will next explore the relation between the rule of God and the end of time. The rule of God is not obvious in the course of our personal or communal histories. If the affirmation of the providential care of God for the world is true, it demands eschatological verification. However, traces of that rule show up in Jesus and therefore in the history of Israel. The election of a people is a sign of the future, when human beings will give proper recognition and respect to each other, to the created order, and to God. The rule of God will bring peace and reconciliation. Sin and its alienation will give way to communal peace. The rule of God is the end of history, as we know it, while also becoming the completion and fulfillment of human history, and with it, the acts of God in creation and redemption. His argument here is that individual meaning depends upon the totality of meaning that we find in all experience. As he puts it in another work, each individual experience presupposes a totality of reality as a condition of the specific nature of the individual experience even though the contours of the totality are still indistinct. Individual experience presupposes the total process of the history of the universe and the history of humanity. Yet, we need to remember that the decisive criterion of the truth or falsehood of assertions in these matters is their ability to prove their worth in the context of present and future experience. The crucial question of Christian theology is the present reality of the Christian faith. It must have power to persuade in the present. This faith rests upon the reality of God as the one who is the all-determining reality.[5] With Kant, he thinks our rationality demands the concept of the complete synthesis of all the parts in a whole. Individual events point beyond the boundaries contained in them to a totality only dimly felt or intuited. He is arguing against what science indicates, namely, that the end of our time is nothingness. Rather, the end of human time is participation in eternity. Eternity embraces time. A positive estimation of eschatology presupposes a revision of the understanding of eternity. Eternity must include time or leave a place for what is distinct in time. The importance of the future for the theme of eschatology has to rest on the understanding of eternity in relation to time. Pannenberg is now ready to discuss the rule of God as the coming of eternity into time. He will point to the valuable contribution of Barth in CD II.1, 608-11. He thinks that both Plotinus and Boethius have made some valuable contributions here. He thinks of our limited duration in time as a sign of our participation in Eternity. Our limited duration is decisive for our independent existence. Life is present for us as we sense duration in its indefinite totality. He agrees with Barth in arguing against the self-constitution of time. The “I” cannot constitute the duration of our existence, for each Now replaces another in the flux of time. The changing “I” cannot be the basis of our sense of duration. The time God gives us is a quite different experience. The multiplicity of times and events is a prerequisite of the richness of reality. They are also a prerequisite of independence. They are constituent parts of the good creation by God. Yet, independence comes into being as the reintegration of what is distinct. We have new types of duration in this reintegrating. This new form of duration is also a form of partial participation in the divine eternity. This limited duration points ahead to new and higher stages of participation in the eternal life of God. In all living things, a desire is present for the totality of life that they do not yet possess. Human beings experience this desire as a thematic knowledge that we do not possess the totality of our lives. In the march of time, we can only seek and hope for the totality of life from a future that will integrate this multiplicity of times and events. We can acknowledge that death breaks off the drive toward totality. Thus, any hope of completion of our time is beyond death and participation in the life of God. Participation in the eternal life of God overcome overcomes the disintegration of our time. We participate in eternity through acknowledging deity, thank God for creation, and offer worship and praise to God. Overcoming our ego and desire to be as God, we find the Son of the Father shown. Overcoming separation from God and from each other is a matter of the Spirit lifting the ego about itself to see the Son and share in his family relation to the Father. Time constitutes the essence of things. The presence of the essence of all things is already in the process of their history. They are now what they will be in the end, even if only in anticipation of their end. As he argues in another work, He argues for a close connection between and time, as being is an anticipation of its future essence. The wholeness of human existence is not death, as Heidegger proposed, because it isolates in the individual question of existence from its social context.[6] We can think of duration as the proleptic presence of their future identity or essence. Individuals will show this identity only at the end of history. Thus, in time allotted by God, this duration is participation in eternity.

Eternity entering time means the future of consummation. The eschatological future is the basis for the lasting essence of each individual. The insight of I John 3:2, that it does not yet appear what we shall be, is true of all of who are still on the way to becoming who we are, even though we are already “in some sense” the persons we shall be. As he put it another work, we are an ego at every moment of our existence. We are still becoming because we are on the way to the wholeness of our existence. We are “person” in the midst of an incomplete life. We are “person” in the anticipatory consciousness of our identity.[7] This eschatological future, and with it the eternity of God, arrived in the history of Jesus of Nazareth. Accepting the message of Jesus and opening oneself to his work allows one to participate in this coming of the rule of God, for which see Luke 11:20 and John 5:24, the latter referring to passing from death to life. We find the structure of the Already and the Not Yet in Paul as well. Christological statements reflect upon the same tension. Faith makes the hidden present salvation. Yet, the truth of things, their essence, already defines the present. He grants that he needs a general ontology of the present reality of being as constituted by the eschatological future in order to make such theological statements plausible. In essence, eschatological truth is present in hidden form. Such statements call for the reversal of our understanding of eschatological statements. Clearly, in the scenario Pannenberg has described, the future cannot meet the present as an entirely different reality. The entrance of eternity into time will mean the purging of the perversions and woundings of earthly existence as traces and consequences of evil in seeking autonomy from God. We can now understand the resurrection of the dead in terms of the notion that in the eternity of God, God loses nothing that takes place in time. We may also see the resurrection of the dead and the renewal of creation as the act by which the Spirit restores to individuals their form of being-for-themselves that their future had determined. They do not lose their existence in the eternal present of God. On another issue, all individuals go into eternity as judgment as well as salvation and transfiguration. However, only at the end of the ages will all receive the totality of their existence that God has preserved. On another issue, the end of time dissolves time into eternity. Times and events are no longer apart. God is the future that receives finites forms and creates a space for them alongside God in eternity. This will mean that multiplicity will find reconciliation. Former antagonism is gone. This will mean the full actualization of individual identity and social relations. Only the breathing of the eternity of God can constitute human society in a way that embraces individuals as well. Such participation by individuals in the eternity of God occurs only after a radical change. The reason is the sin, understood as separation from God and antagonism between living things, accompanies our being in time. The question remaining is how individuals, dominated by sin, can participate in the eternal life of God.

Pannenberg will now discuss the notion of divine judgment and the return of Christ. The return of Christ is the arrival of the rule of God, even as Jesus of Nazareth proclaimed the coming rule of God. The entrance of the Eternal into time is judgment, for it also means confrontation of our destructive drive toward autonomy from God and therefore alienation from each other and from creation. We must also face the conflict we have with ourselves. We have made shipwreck of the opportunity God has given. Our moments of time and events as separate moments make suppressing, disguising and masking possible. Eternity brings our identity to light, disclosing the truth of earthly life. Such truth will bring shrill dissonance. To bring earthly life into eternity is first a picture of hell. Pannenberg has provided the basis for a strong and terrifying conception of judgment and hell. Divine judgment executes that which is the nature of case, delivering us to the consequences of our own conduct, as Paul put it in Romans 1:24, 28, their lives perishing due to the inner contradictions of their existence. However, God is also creator. God will not allow creatures to make shipwreck on the dissonance of their existence as eternity discloses it. God has gone after us in order to move us to reconciliation. For those reconciled with God, judgment will mean purifying from the discord of sin, as in Isaiah 1:24 and Malachi 3:2ff. Fire purges that which is incompatible with participation in the eternal life of God, as in Isaiah 66:15ff, I Corinthians 3:12-15, I Peter 1:7. The person and word of Jesus is the standard of judgment in John 12:48. The word of Christ is the offer of salvation. He focuses on Luke 12:8-9 and Mark 8:38. The last judgment will confirm the word of Jesus, which we also see in Matthew 25:31-46 and Luke 13:25-27, Matthew 7:22-23. The message of Jesus is the standard of judgment, while who executes judgment is a subordinate matter. For this reason, he escapes the charge of unfair particularism in that salvation depends on our fellowship with Jesus Christ. Such a notion contradicts the love of God for the world. For those who have not heard the proclamation of the gospel, judgment based upon such a contingent and historical factor is not decisive for salvation. The question for them in judgment is whether their lives agree with the will of God. The beatitudes themselves could apply to many persons who have not heard the gospel. This idea is consistent with Matthew 8:11-12 as well as I Peter 3:19-20. Christians know the standard of judgment and receive assurance of future participation in salvation. They have already received justification and pardon. Judgment is in the hands of the one who died for us. Judgment will mean the purifying fire. The returning Christ is the transformation of our human existence into the image of the Son. He admits that we cannot rule out the possibility of the eternal damnation of some. For some, nothing may remain after the purging fire. Such a possibility is not constitutive to the notion of divine judgment. Rather, we are dealing with borderline cases from which Christians find protection. The work of the Holy Spirit at this point is that of the glorification of God in creation and the gathering and transforming of creation into offering this glory to God. The Spirit will transform creation to make it possible for it to participate in the eternal glory of God. Thus, the Son and Spirit work together in judgment by completing the work of reconciliation so that creation may participate in divine life. Such a future transforms creation into union with Christ in such a way that it becomes the Body of Christ. As eternity enters time, all that happens in creation becomes a revelation of the love of the Creator and Reconciler of the world. The power of the divine Spirit transforms the dissonance of judgment into the peace of the rule of God and the many-voiced harmony of the praise of God that will sound out from the mouth of renewed creation.

Pannenberg will conclude with his final exploration into theodicy. Every part of Christian doctrine is dealing with the single, even if differentiated, action of the Triune God. Everything said about the action of God, especially the saving event of Christ, anticipated the eschatological consummation. He thinks it essential that the eschatological consummation occurs already in this earthly life, in the midst of human history. He finds this element in the history of Jesus Christ, which will find completion in the end. Creation sighs under the dominion of corruptibility and death. Individuals may well persist in accusing the Creator and demonstrate their unwillingness for reconciliation with God. One can understand this as focusing on the misery we find in the world and individual life. Eschatological consummation will bring definitive proof of the existence of God and final clarification of the nature and work of God. Before then, of course, the absurdity of suffering and wickedness provide material enough for atheism when it comes to the postulate of a loving and wise Creator. He refers to David Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779, section 10-11. Pannenberg has throughout maintained the debatable quality of the affirmation of the reality of God. The Christian concept of God is an anticipation of the reality whose concept it claims to be. He is making an argument similar to one he makes in another work, where concepts are anticipations in that they depend upon verification through the thing that it grasps. Such verification transcends the mere concept. He points out that Kant affirmed the anticipatory essence of the concepts of the understanding. The understanding can do no more than anticipate the form of possible experience in general. The same is true of perception. The structure of anticipation is its dependence upon the validity claims upon what it anticipates. This temporal structure brings anticipation into its proper significance in human reason.[8] While the debatable quality of belief in God is present in the discussion of creation and reconciliation, the consummation of the world will end this process. The eschatological perfecting of the world for participation in the glory of God will show unbelief and doubt its wrong basis. It will prove the love of the Creator for the world. In this light, every rational theodicy has, at best, provisional significance. It may already be an expression of unbelief. He will discuss the value and short-coming of the proposals of Leibniz, Hegel, and Schelling. If we are to have reconciliation, it will be transformation as well. He wants to explore the notion that if we think of transformation, can we think at all of identity with our present life at all? He goes back to the notion that we already are, in some sense, what we shall be. Identity involves integrating the facts of present life into what we can be and shall be. Our present situation anticipates this future and defines our lasting identity. The eyes of love see in us the potential of our destiny that we can realize here only in a fragmentary way. Of course, God sees us with these eyes of love. What we accomplish in this life points beyond the fragmentary way we have actually lived our lives. Our successes and failures experience change in the eschatological transformation of our lives. The reconciliation already embraced in the cross is a foretaste of the future consummation. Thus, the end of our time is the revelation of the love of God shown in the consummation of creation. God permitted evil and its consequences in permitting independence. It was all too easy for the “impossible transition” (Barth) to take place toward autonomy. The ability to choose among varying possibilities is a necessary condition of freedom and is a high form of independence. God took a risk in that such autonomous creatures would consider God non-essential and non-existent. Evil strengthens this possibility. Ingratitude, failure to accept finitude, and moral failure become reason for protest against God. Yet, the reconciling action of God shows that God stands by what God has created in a way that protects their independence. Eschatology fulfills independence rather than negates it. In the end, divine love declares itself. Creation is already an expression of the divine love that grants existence. We see this love most clearly in the reconciling work of the cross. The coming of divine love into time culminates in the Incarnation, God with us. The eschatological future will consummate this revelation of love for participation in the eternal life of God. The gift of the Spirit is a pledge for this participation, allowing believers to experience peace with God. Such a revelation will remove all doubts. The “very good” pronounced in Genesis 1 is true throughout history, since God is present in its history, leading us through the hazards and sufferings of finitude to participate in divine glory. Pannenberg will stress that creaturely reality has an orientation toward its future consummation. Further, if the end reveals the righteousness of God, then this righteousness has an ambiguous presence in history. The praise of creatures anticipates the eschatological praise of God. In any case, as Pannenberg sees it, in light of this future of salvation, history is a manifestation of divine love. We find here the basis for the immanent Trinity calling itself out of itself and becoming the economic Trinity. The distinction and unity of the immanent and economic Trinity constitute the heartbeat of the divine love. With a single such heartbeat, this love encompasses the whole world of creatures.


[1] Systematic Theology, Volume III, 298.
[2] The Coming of God (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1995, 1996, x-xi.
[3] (Systematic Theology: A Historicist Perspective, 1968, p. 314)
[4] (“Freedom in the Light of Hope,” 1968)
[5] (Theology and the Philosophy of Science, p. 286-96.
[6] [See Concept and Anticipation, in his Metaphysics and the Idea of God, 91-109, but especially 104-9.]
[7] See Anthropology, p. 240.
[8] He refers to his discussion in Metaphysics, p. 91-109, but especially 99-100.