Creation to Consummation: The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg

By McCulloh, Gerald W. | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2001 | Go to article overview

Creation to Consummation: The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg


McCulloh, Gerald W., Anglican Theological Review


Systematic Theology, Vol. 3. By Wolfhart Pannenberg. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1998. xvi + 713 pp. $49.00 (cloth). English translation by Geoffrey W Bromiley of Systematische Theologie, Vol. 3. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1993.

What can the pastor find in this weighty volume which otherwise might seem to be the final block in a great wall of formal theological discourse, far removed in time and place from everyday concerns of the troubled spirit? Powerful words of hope in an age that is dealing with the loss of hope and the destruction of innocence, a uniting of the quest for an individual identity with the affirmation of common humanity. An ecumenical vision of Christianity in a world of religious diversity without recourse to a paralyzing relativism or surrender of authentic Christian heritage in faith. A history of reconciliation rather than a history of retaliation calling for retribution. An informed and intellectually challenging account of the Christian faith as a rich and continuing endeavor, positioned to incorporate closer dialogue and fellowship among Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, historic Protestant, and Evangelical Christians. A presentation of Christianity that is able to look to the future, sharing the excitement and challenge of science and history as the arena of God's creative and reconciling love while preserving the treasures of two millennia of the life of the Church.

Volume 3 of Pannenberg's Systematic Theology is a careful study of the Church and the Holy Spirit for Christian thinkers who are aware of the past but not encapsulated by it, concerned with the present but not limited to it, and engaged with the future as the consummation of what has been and promises to be.

Wolfhart Pannenberg (b. 1928), emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of Munich and Director of the Institute for Fundamental Theology and Ecumenics, has contributed to the tradition of academic theology with a major life's work including what has been traditionally known as biblical theology, historical and systematic theology, ethics and moral theology. Beyond that he has entered creatively into theological anthropology, philosophy of religion and science and personally involved himself with the cultural and social setting of liberation theology in the context of the Third World away from the centers of European and North American culture and economies.

His own personal journey to faith in post-World War II Europe adds a concrete and individual dimension to his formal theological work. Today as the world struggles to find new political and social orders while holding tightly to religious and ethnic identities in the midst of open hostility, terrifying chaos and chilling indifference, Pannenberg leads us to an informed discussion of the past linked to a fulfilling notion of the future which makes use of the difficulties of the past and present to ground our appreciation for God's future for us and our brothers and sisters in the world.

Systematic Theology, Volume 3, translated into English by Geoffrey W Bromiley, completes the systematic treatment of the Christian faith begun in 1988 with the study of the concept of God, and continued in 1991 with consideration of the creation of the world, the dignity and misery of humanity, anthropology and Christology, the deity of Jesus Christ and the reconciliation of the world. The last installment, published in German in 1993 and available in English in 1998 through Willliam B. Eerdmans Publishing Company in the U.S.A. and T & T Clark in the United Kingdom, covers the outpouring of the Spirit, the Kingdom of God, and the Church.

Of the fifteen chapters that encompass the three volumes, chapter 13, "The Messianic Community and Individuals," rates as the longest and most developed and dominates the discussion in Volume 3. Five principal sections cover in turn the fellowship of individuals with Jesus Christ and the Church as the fellowship of believers; the basic works of the spirit in individual Christians; the significatory form of the presence of Christ's salvation in the life of the Church; the ministry as sign and instrument of the unity of the Church; and the Church and the people of God. …

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