An Introduction to Systematic Theology Paperback – 19 Mar 1991
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In the first section, he goes through his reasoning about why theology, ST in particular, is importance to the life of the Church, and what the consequences are for not fulfilling the task properly.
He then goes through some issues on the method of systematic inquiry, critically evaluating methods used in the past for systematic presentations of Christian teaching. He also notes some new challenges which ST has to face with the rise of the modern period, and how poorly theologians have handled the challenge. The result, he argues, has been a retreat of theology from the public arena of critical discourse regarding truth claims to some sheltered corner of subjective commitment, the assurance of truth being simply supplied by 'personal experience and belief'. In Pannenberg's estimation, this did a great deal of damage to the claims of Christian teaching to be taken seriously as a candidate of rational discourse.
In the second section he illustrates why the idea of God cannot be exchanged with other ideas, noting that the claims of the tradition and of Jesus himself become incoherent if we do, but states that the idea of God as it was developed under classical metaphysics is in need of a serious revision. He encourages critical dialog with the tradition of philosophical theology, but not for the purposes of 'natural theology', but for critical examination of theological language.
'The less attention has been paid to this requirement, the more subjective and irrational theological language has become, even if the subjectivism simply consists in taking over traditional formulas and phrases without sufficient awareness of their implications.'
The third section deals with the Idea of God in relation to Scientific Cosmologies. He applies his doctrine of the Spirit to the phenomenon of life, and unfolds the Infinity and Eternity of God to account for space and time.
The final section is related to Christology. It contains some brief notes on the method by which Pannenberg proposes to inquire into it, as well as his thinking on it.
Overall, though, this little volume is worth it simply for the last ten pages of the third section, the ones on the Spirit's nature and activity as relates to the phenomenon of life. I don't dare to deface its beauty by trying to summarize what is already abbreviated in his work...
As far as complaints, they are few and far between. Already noted is the (unusual) sparcity, especially for Pannenberg, regarding footnotes and references, even to his own works. A Bibliography of Pannenberg's books and maybe even his journal articles up to the Systematics would have been nice for those wanting an index of that type (which, you would, I think, come to expect from an introductory work like this...) What I recommend in the stead of this absent bibliography, or summary of Pannenbergs works, are two books, both of which are the best Pannenberg summaries I have read: Stanley Grenz' "A Reason For Hope: The THeology of WOlfhart Pannenberg," which is a classic on Pannenberg written in the early 90's and giving a chapter-by-chapter analyses of Pannenberg. As far as a summary of the contents of Pannenberg's theology, this is the best book on Pannenberg you could buy. For a summary of Pannenberg's methodology however, F. LeRon Shult's "THe Postfoundationalist Task of Theology: Wolfhart Pannenberg and the New THeological Rationality," printed in 1999, is absolutely astounding in both its clarity and scope (and also provides a near-exhaustive bibliography of all of Pannenberg's works.) These two, in concert with Pannenberg's own introduction, should aid anyone who has set to themselves the task of delving into Pannenberg's corpus of works.
The three volumes of Pannenberg's Systematic Theology were published in 1988, 1991, and 1993, so this "Introduction" was actually published at the same time as the second volume. It is a short (69 pages) work, consisting of four lectures: "The Need for Systematic Theology"; "Problems of a Christian Doctrine of God"; "The Doctrine of Creation in an Age of Scientific Cosmology"; and "Christology within a Systematic Framework."
He states in the first lecture, "Here we are at the core of our subject, the need for systematic theology, because it all depends on the question of truth: If we suppose that the God of Israel and of Jesus is the one and only true God, then and only then is there a sufficient reason for believing in that God, even if one is not a Jew." He adds, "The task of theology is not only to investigate the origin and the original content of the Christian faith and of the doctrine of the church, or the changes they underwent in the course of history, but also to determine the truth which is contained in that tradition." (Pg. 6-7)
In the second lecture, he asserts that "the theologian should not rely too heavily on a particular philosophical system, but she or he should criticallly participate in the dialog of contemporary philosoophy with the metaphysical tradition ... The rejection of 'natural theology' has served as an excuse for not entering seriously at all into the dialog with philosophy." (Pgs. 24-25)
In the third lecture, he states, "The human mind, then, is a phenomenon of heightened life. In this sense, all intellectual life is in need of inspiration, an inspiration that in a certain sense lifts up the creature beyond the limitations of finite existence." (Pg. 44)
In the final lecture, he summarizes, "Before I conclude this chapter, it seems appropriate to offer some reflection on the systematic character of the argument presented thus far. It sketches out a systematic interpretation of Jesus' person and ministry as well as a reinterpretation of traditional christological categories. The key concept in the proposed scheme is the traditional category of eternal Sonship.... The Son of God is still considered the second person of the trinity, but while the Son became incarnate only in Jesus of Nazareth, he is conceived at the same time as being at work in the whole creation and especially in the life of human beings created in the image of God." (Pg. 65)
This book will certainly not take the place of reading the whole of Pannenberg's Systematic Theology; nor is it necessarily even the best "introduction" to it (the Prefaces to the individual volumes are perhaps better for that purpose). But it is certainly a worthy volume to be read in conjunction with the entire work.
The take on Creation was good.
The Christology section was a let down. He did a great job emphasing the Hebraic-ness of Jesus but conceded to much to neo-Protestantism and didn't deal with the potential tensions in Chalcedonian ontology.