Thank you, Wolfhart Pannenberg

September 9, 2014

Bonn, CDU-Friedenskongress, Pannenberg

Just a couple of weeks ago, I credited the work of German Lutheran theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg—by way of my systematic theology professor, Steffen Lösel—for contributing to my journey home to evangelicalism. We got word this week that Pannenberg died, (perhaps) the last in a long line of influential (and long-living) German theologians who powerfully influenced Christian thought in the 20th century.

Somehow, Pannenberg’s death hasn’t rated an obituary in the New York Times or at Christianity Today (yet), but the Baptist Press has an appreciative essay. Keep in mind: Pannenberg was no evangelical, but the article highlights what many evangelicals found compelling about him: the way he brought his fierce intellect to bear on defending the bodily resurrection of Christ (not to mention, as well, a defense of traditional marriage). To say the least, Pannenberg was deeply skeptical of advances claimed by modernity.

Even though I read only a tiny fraction of his work, I’m grateful to God for his influence on my thinking.

Pannenberg came to prominence in the 1960s when many theologians believed Christianity could only be accepted by faith but not studied or defended using rational thought processes. In defiance of that trend, Pannenberg insisted that Christian truth was rational and that reasonable investigation leads to belief that Jesus rose from the grave bodily…

Timothy George, founding dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, told BP he encountered Pannenberg personally as a student at Harvard in the 1970s when Pannenberg delivered lectures there. George remembers Pannenberg’s skillful answers when questioned by liberal critics of Christianity.

“I was just so amazed at how he refuted completely and with great conviction and convincing power his hostile questioners,” George said. “He was an amazingly brilliant person, probably one of the most widely read theologians of the 20th century.”

8 Responses to “Thank you, Wolfhart Pannenberg”

    • Craig L. Adams Says:

      P.S. But you didn’t link to the Baptist Press article.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Were you at Asbury when Pannenberg gave a guest lecture there some years ago? Yes, for me, his insistence on the historicity of the resurrection, and his willingness to take on all comers in terms of defending it, was inspiring. He didn’t go nearly far enough—for that, I owe Wright credit for Resurrection of the Son of God, but still… I honestly believed that my systematic theology prof at Candler would argue that the resurrection was some kind of spiritual experience within the hearts of the disciples—or some such nonsense. Like Pannenberg, I’m deeply suspicious of paradox and personal experience.

      • Craig L. Adams Says:

        I was not at Asbury when Pannenberg lectured (sorry to say).

      • Chuck Says:

        Pannenberg’s theology grew out of a personal conversion experience. I kinda doubt he was suspicious of personal experience as a way to discover/worship God.

      • craigadams49 Says:

        True. But I think it is fair to say that Pannenberg was suspicious of personal experience alone as a way of discovering God.


  1. […] Brent L. White: Thank you, Wolfhart Pannenberg. […]


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