Ah, Pannenberg!

Back from vacation, back to work!

I never really got Pannenberg before. His scientism always seemed to depend on provisional results of the physical sciences at the time (like his field theory pneumatology -- I had as well use M-theory to develop a ToE doctrine of God). But coming back to him now, I get it. That stuff is end-product, and should be regarded as provisional in itself. It's quaint, but so is every decades-old state of the art. The real work is in theological epistemology, which has no basic reliance on product. Models are just snapshots of the state of the art, and we keep making them for the express purpose of having a working map which we can obsolesce. Theology, because it is a science, is not in the business of coming up with absolute answers, and Pannenberg says as much repeatedly. It is in the business of arguing from evidence.

ST vol. 1 opens with a discussion which really places Pannenberg's Anthropology in Theological Perspective. The question of appropriate evidence from which to argue is key to theology as a science. Pannenberg follows the tradition which Barth also takes, making clear that the only appropriate evidence for God comes from God. We don't reach outside of the proper object and noetic space of the science, or we are in fact doing something else, not theology. Replace "God" with the object of any other science, and the statement still stands. We may expand the territory appropriate to the science as our understanding of the relations of different fields grows and shifts, but appropriate evidence is always determined on the science's own grounds.

At which point Pannenberg brings up the distinction between theology and anthropology. It is proper theology to talk about God, but theology does other things. Theology also moves to human society and nature. And how do we get proper ground from which to speak about this? The ontic relationship between creator and creature only goes one direction. One might say that we bear the image of God, but God does not bear the image of us. Except! God has chosen to bear the image of the creature in Christ. This is the root of our knowledge of God: it is from the incarnation that we begin to derive the trinity.

I feel some qualms about this, because it could turn into a claim to supremacy of knowledge of the divine. It could turn into a thing we have. But it should not, and it does not (so far) in Pannenberg. It is reliance on revelation, on data given by the only source of primary knowledge of God. And while the incarnation is the root of our best knowledge of God, it is still one of God's self-revealing actions toward creation. I like the fact that Pannenberg takes Christianity as one religion among others, at least in part because at the moment I have become highly sceptical of claims to closure of revelation. Those claims seem too much like making revelation something we have, a possession, not a reliance upon God. And I don't see any legitimate grounding for them. Islam makes sense to me, at least in part because it recapitulates many of the claims used by Christianity over Judaism (and over Islam in the case of the Baha'i). And the parts about "neither your fancies, nor those of the peoples of the book" are warnings to remain reliant upon God. It's what Islam *means* as a word, and what the religions of God should be doing. And it's just good epistemology!

At any rate, coming out of Barth and into Pannenberg is keeping me going very nicely. I'm not so sure about Rahner, for all that I like his re-emphasis on fundamental theology over the reiteration of textbooks.


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