Friday, December 20, 2013

Writing on Jesus

I'm embarking on the next book--a study of Jesus in light of the life of Christian community and in the context of a scientific-technological age. For that reason, I've been reading a number of volumes on Jesus. Two that could hardly be more different are the second volume of Wolfhart Pannenberg's Systematic Theology and Jay Parini, Jesus--the Human Face of God. The latter is winsome and engaging, setting the scene in Palestine for Jesus's ministry, where we hear the sounds of goat's bells and smell the dust and the grit of Galilee. Pannenberg's hefty volume reveals the extreme erudition of a brilliant German systematic theologian. Replete with footnotes and complex philosophical distinctions, it's brilliant in its own way (though abysmal in its English translation). Both--and many more like them--truly help as I sort out the complexities and wonder of studying Jesus of Nazareth. They all bring me to ponder what of use I'll contribute to "Jesus studies" and what angle of approach I want (or are able) to take. More in future posts I'm sure...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing Pannenberg's book to my attention. Just a note I hope will encourage more interest. I skimmed the first chapter. I can see why you are interested...I like how he outlines his theology of creation and his expression of the impact and importance of a Trinitarian view. I thought some of what he wrote concerning God's non-capricious act of Creation, Ric Machuga has succinctly stated in his book "Life, The Universe And Everything."

I was a bit puzzled by his statement, "It is inappropriate to use teleological language of God's love, language that subjects God's action to a goal that is not yet present for his omnipotent will but must be reached by employing means.." (p. 57). Ric might agree with this...I think it's a bit over-wrought with unnecessary presumption...Of course Ric and I differ in that I tend to an "Open Theistic" view.

I am back on track with him however when he states, "Theology must make this claim [about creation] in dialogue with the sciences [I'd say "other sciences"]. It may prove to be vulnerable in this regard...A failure...easily becomes insincere, and uncertain confession of God as Creator becomes an empty formula..." [p.60]

In an essay I read on line, Pannenberg essentially states that modern culture (secularization) arose, not primarily as an ideological process...or "emancipation", but arose by Christian disunity. In other words, secularization was the unintended consequence (that few wanted) of Christians fighting. He concludes,

"The absolutely worst way to respond to the challenge of secularism is to adapt to secular standards in language, thought, and way of life. If members of a secularist society turn to religion at all, they do so because they are looking for something other than what that culture already provides. It is counterproductive to offer them religion in a secular mode that is carefully trimmed in order not to offend their secular sensibilities...Christians who lay claim to reason, however, must be ready to accept criticism, and to cultivate an ethos of self-criticism within their own communities...My argument is that, if we think it is necessary to protect divinely revealed truth from critical inquiry, we are in fact displaying our unbelief.."-Pannenberg

While I've yet to read his suggested approaches, I think the Typological approach of Athanasius (he mentions on p. 2) and expounded by Peter Leithart in "Deep Exegesis" provides some common ground. Leithart summarized the related historical philosophical problems, and I think lays good hermeneutical ground.

-Bill Jackson, Oroville CA

Greg Cootsona said...

Thanks, Bill, you always have thoughtful reflections on my posts. Keeps me on my toes! I respect Pannenberg's work because he is a prominent theologian who takes science seriously (and actually understands it), as well as the resurrection and scripture and a host of other things. Quite a mind that man possesses!