Monday, September 8, 2014

Death and Resurrection of a Theologian

"the literature on this topic is uferlos, unbounded. I have been reading 500 pages-a-day, now I have switched to reading 1000 pages-a-day in order to master all of it.".

Wolfhart Pannenburg has died. A theological giant of the 20th century, he will rise to glory because he was a theologian who believed and taught that Jesus rose from the dead. (God may not wish to disturb the fragile mental state of theologians who taught otherwise by raising them from the dead).

A fulsome obituary is here by one of his former students.


Father Ron Smith said...

A very poignant extract from Pannenburg's illustrious student/panegyrist:

"Pannenberg’s success had much to do with his indomitable wife, who guided his days and decisions better than any executive coach you’ve ever met. I have watched her disperse a group of intensely debating professors as if they were bowling pins: “Excuse me, you must all go home now. My husband needs some rest; he has a busy day tomorrow.”

Every theologian needs a 'minder', who is capable of assessing their need of time-out from their responsibilities.

Pannenburg's insistence on the veracity of Christ's resurrection is undoubtedly a key to his inspirational teaching. He now will 'know as he is known'.

Bryden Black said...

Not wishing to cool your ardour at all Ron, but are you aware of Pannenberg’s staunch opposition to same sex relationships? He grounded this every bit as much on the sheer material transformatory power of the resurrection of Jesus as anything else (like his Metaphysics and the Idea of God). It was all an integrated deal for him! Deny one aspect and the whole became incoherent; affirming one aspect was on account of the whole.

For this too was a vital feature of Pannenberg’s life’s work: his search for an integrated whole, which nonetheless paid respect to the anticipatory nature of reality revealed in Jesus.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks,. Bryden, for your note here. However, very few theologians are right about everything. I was commenting only on his resurrection theology. He. like you, is entitled to his own opinion about gender and sexuality. It doesn't mean he's right about them.

I guess we might all be surprised with how wrong/right we were when we meet God face to face! That's why it is important that we get our basic idea of our human diversity in perspective, before we judge the existential reality of other people.

By the way, I did not exactly say I was unreservedly enamoured of Panneburg. I merely affirmed his theology of the resurrection - which does not have very much to do with our human biological sex functionality. (No sex in heaven!)

Bryden Black said...

... but I too am concerned Ron with affirming the significance of the material, bodily resurrection of Jesus - and the consequences thereafter of a universal understanding of human being as bodily creatures through and through, both in their perishable condition and their renewed, transformed and imperishable ‘end’ state. The fact that Luke 20:34-38 spells out one reason for there being no need for human marriage in the new creation, given there is no more death and so no need for human reproduction, generation after generation, does not contradict the specifically gendered nature of human being, now or in the new creation, and how this nature is properly to interact.

I quote WP: “The reality of homophile inclinations, therefore, need not be denied and must not be condemned. The question, however, is how to handle such inclinations within the human task of responsibly directing our behavior. This is the real problem; and it is here that we must deal with the conclusion that homosexual activity is a departure from the norm for sexual behavior that has been given to men and women as creatures of God. For the church, this is the case not only for homosexual, but for any sexual activity that does not intend the goal of marriage between man and wife—in particular, adultery.

The church has to live with the fact that, in this area of life as in others, departures from the norm are not exceptional but rather common and widespread. The church must encounter all those concerned with tolerance and understanding but also call them to repentance. It cannot surrender the distinction between the norm and behavior that departs from that norm.”

The specifics of the material body then at the Resurrection, and of the material body now, both including our sexed nature, created as per Gen 1 & 2, govern the ‘what’ or the form of authentic human interaction/behaviour - and departures from authenticity. As I said before, it’s all of a piece. WP seeks preeminently the sense of an integrated whole, of reality viewed whole and entire. And the Resurrection of Jesus offers us exactly the position from which we may begin to view things whole, according to Pannenberg’s anticipatory metaphysic. For with his return to the Father, he offers thereby each particular redeemed feature of the created world back unto the Father’s eternal glory, including our sexed selves, in his own transformed material Body ... But surely I shld not have to say this to one who extols the Eucharist as you do!

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm not convinced by your arguments, Bryden. Still you are entitled to your own opinion - as are we all. Blessings!

Bryden Black said...

Herr Professor; Entschuldigung/apologies that a colleague has rendered key features of your hard won labours these past many years mere “opinions”. Es tut mir leid ... But that, as you well know, is the state of our opinionated and emotively driven dying western culture, with which you strove most diligently to dialogue. May you now better intercede before the Throne of Grace that our waxen ears and stoney hearts, let alone befuddled minds, become open to your Universal Reality, as brought to us in the mission of your Son, Jesus. Vielen Dank!