The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg w/ Philip Clayton

Bonn, CDU-Friedenskongress, PannenbergLet’s talk about Wolfhart Pannenberg!

The planet lost one of the greatest theologian this past week & in this episode Philip Clayton and I discuss his amazing career.  Philip Clayton is a professor of theology at Claremont School of Theology and former student of Pannenberg.  He recently wrote a beautiful tribute to his former mentor you can read here.  We thought it would be fun to remember Pannenberg by discussing his theology and we did.  We went through a bunch of different topics he covered and yet after 70 minutes we barely discussed a third of my list of ‘Pannenberg’s big ideas.’  I hope you enjoy this half as much as I did.

Check out this collection of Pannenberg remembrances and resources.

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Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Tony Jones posted Philip Clayton’s obituary of Wolfhart Pannenberg.  Pannenberg was my first nerd crush in undergrad. At Campbell University my religion professor Dr. Martin was disturbed by my ‘loosely Christian Jesus Seminar styled Tillichianism’ and insisted I read a real theology text –  Jesus: God & Man.  I stayed up two nights in a row to finish it.  I half understood it but was completely mesmerized by how thorough Pannenberg attended to the same historical Jesus conversation that was defaulting my Christology.  After that I knew I wanted to be a theologian. Three years later at Wake Forest University it was Pannenberg’s first American student, Frank Tupper who gave me an intense Pannenberg summer seminar in Pannenberg.  He said “I will make you work more in 2 months than your first two years of graduate school.  In the end you will know Pannenberg & you will know if you are really called to be a theologian.  It was intense. We read all 3 volumes of his Systematic Theology meeting each week to discuss 150 pages and my 15 page paper on each section.  At the end of the class I had two week to write a 50+ single space page final paper.  In the process of reading, writing, and avoiding sleep I came to love Pannenberg’s intellectual tenacity.   At Claremont School of Theology I got teach Pannenberg in my first Systematic Theology class w/ Philip Clayton.  He asked me to give the 45 minute intro to Pannenberg’s project and I was intimidated.  Afterward Philip gave me a few comments and then said ‘it was very clear you love Pannenberg for the best reasons. Too many evangelicals love him for his conclusions and fail to appreciate his true brilliance in the argument itself.’   Later I wrote an article on the conversation between Pannenberg and John Cobb.  After Cobb read it was had lunch to discuss it but all Cobb talked about was Pannenberg’s hospitality in Germany and his commitment to their friendship.  Then I Cobb showed me the Christmas card he received from Pannenberg.

Pannenberg has always been a part of my academic life and the story of my faith.  I always wished I would have had the chance to tell Pannenberg thank you. 

Below is Philip’s words.

Wolfhart Pannenberg—In Memoriam

by Philip Clayton

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg has often been called the greatest theologian of the second half of the 20th century. With his death Friday, the world has lost a brilliant interpreter of Christianity, and I have lost the mentor who molded me as a scholar, theologian, and person.

In the 1950s, when Pannenberg was a doctoral student in Heidelberg, Karl Barth dominated the theological stage. In order to counteract Barth’s overemphasis on salvation history (Heilsgeschichte), Pannenberg redefined revelation as “universal history” (Universalgeschichte). A few years later he published a major Christology (Jesus—God and Man) that established him as the world’s leading defender of “theology from below.”

Over the next 30 years, Pannenberg extended this program to philosophy, the religion/science debate, the dialogue across the world religions, and to every corner of theology. He had the most encyclopedic mind I have ever encountered. You need only to read around a bit in his multi-volume Basic Questions in Theology to be stunned by the range and depth of his scholarship. John Cobb once quipped, “I saw that Pannenberg was able to encompass the entire range of knowledge within his own mind. Realizing that I could never match this achievement, I decided it would take a lifetime of working with my doctoral students to cover as many topics.”

Pannenberg’s staunch defense of the historicity of the resurrection made him a champion among American evangelicals. His extensive involvement in the ecumenical movement and his unsurpassed knowledge of the history of theology were crucial to the most important ecumenical breakthroughs in the World Council of Churches. Taken together, Pannenberg’s extensive writings, including his three-volume systematic theology, offer a theological program unrivaled its comprehensiveness, depth, and rigor.

Yet Pannenberg’s influence extended far beyond the evangelical and ecumenical worlds. His early statement that “in a restricted but important sense, God does not yet exist”caught the attention of process theologians and involved him in a multi-year dialogue with John Cobb (who studied with Pannenberg in Mainz in 1963), Lewis Ford, and others. He met regularly with scientists, stressing contingency and natural law as openings for constructive engagement between science and theology. Pannenberg traveled widely around the world, was guest professor at Harvard and Claremont, and hosted many professors and doctoral students from the United States and elsewhere during his decades of teaching at the University of Munich.

I was one of those students. While still at Fuller Seminary, I met Pannenberg (at Claremont, ironically) and asked him for his permission to begin my doctorate work under his guidance. A two-year scholarship from DAAD funded the stay in Munich, and I wrote the first 200 pages of the dissertation under his direction. Although I completed my doctoral studies at Yale, I always considered Pannenberg the true mentor of the dissertation. From him I learned the importance of Gründlichkeit, rigorousness — a virtue that I have sought to impart to my classes and doctoral students throughout my career.

Thanks to Fulbright and Humboldt professorships, I returned for two further years of study under him; our relationship, and his influence on me, deepened in those years. I remember, for example, a birthday celebration at our small apartment that lasted (in good old-German fashion) for five hours of eating and conversation. As all who knew him will attest, 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.”

Pannenberg set unimaginable standards for himself and others. Each workday he would write from 5-10 am. On Tuesdays and Fridays he would catch the commuter train to the University of Munich and present the new material in that day’s lecture. If you asked him a question on virtually any theological topic, you would be treated to an extemporaneous five-minute answer, running from biblical texts to biblical theology to Patristics, Scholastics, Reformation thinkers, and modern theology, with detailed treatments of what secular philosophers, historians, and scientists had written on the subject. Once, when he was writing his anthropology, I asked him why he looked so tired. “Herr Clayton,” he said, “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.”

What many people don’t realize is that Pannenberg modified his “theology from below” stance early in his career. By the time of the “Afterword” to Jesus—God and Man (1970), he had already developed a method that combined theology from below and theology from above. The brilliant debates on the nature of the Trinity in the 1970s—especially the back-and-forths with Jürgen Moltmann—show this method in action. Miroslav Volf and I were both studying in Germany in the 1980s, he under Moltmann in Tübingen and I under Pannenberg in München. We and our wives would meet multiple times each year, taking long walks in the forest and debating the merits of our respective Doktorväter until late into the night. (It is no coincidence that in the German system your dissertation advisor is your “doctor-father”; the relationship is close, life-long, and affects every fiber of your being.)

Pannenberg’s conservativism on political and social issues—for example, on feminism and gay rights—set him at odds with many theologians. He wrote a demanding and uncompromising form of theology in the very years when pastors and the public began to prefer more informal, journalistic, and experience-based theologies. Pannenberg was no popularist.

Yet without question he has had a profound influence on some of the greatest theological minds of our generation: John Cobb and Carl Braaten and Robert Jenson in the early years, the famous fiery debates with Moltmann and Jüngel, the religion-and-science discussions with John Polkinghorne and Arthur Peacocke and others, and my fellow students in Munich, such as Stan Grenz and Roger Olson and E. Frank Tupper and Ted Peters. In the dozens and dozens of lectures in the United States over some 40 years, Pannenberg engaged in intense exchanges with virtually every great intellectual personality of our age. In this fiery furnace— or in direct opposition to it!—many of the greatest theological breakthroughs of the last decades were forged.

Two hundred years from now, historians of theology will describe the work of Karl Barth and Wolfhart Pannenberg as the two theological giants of the mid-20thcentury. But I want to make sure that the record also includes Pannenberg’s warmth as a person—his quick smile, the way his eyes sparkled when he told a joke, his enduring friendships, and his deep commitment to mentoring and supporting his students.

Pannenberg has been called a rationalist. Before you accept this epitaph, you should read his theological autobiography in the American Festschrift that Carl Braaten and I co-edited,The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg: Twelve American Critiques In fact, his theology grew out of a dramatic conversion experience and a continual sense of the real presence of God’s Spirit.

For all his wrestling with philosophy and science, Pannenberg was in the end a man of deep, abiding faith. He believed that the richness and immensity of God call for the most profound study and reflection that our minds are capable of
…that theology should meet and exceed the highest standards that philosophers set for themselves
…and that we never need to compromise as we wrestle to understand as much of the divine nature as we can grasp through every source available to us.

Philip Clayton studied under Wolfhart Pannenberg for four years and continued to work with him for most of his career. Clayton is Ingraham Professor at Claremont School of Theology. He has held visiting professorships at Harvard, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Munich, and has written or edited 25 books and some 250 articles in theology, philosophy, religion-and-science, and comparative religious thought.

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Let Sleeping Gods Die w/ Kester Brewin

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Kester Brewin is back on the podcast.  He was part of a live podcast experience at Monkish Brewing company with his partners Peter Rollins & Barry Taylor.  This triumvirate of Radical Theology is always a blast to hear and this time time is no exception.

During the live event they explored the way in which Radical theology opens up possibilities for political activism.  Ohh Kester also talks about technology, space exploration, and hippies.

Enjoy the Brew!

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The Gospel of John & Empire w/ Warren Carter

Warren_MarchWarren Carter is a Professor of New Testament at Brite Divinity School.  He is a mega-Bible scholar that pays close attention to the historical situation of first century Judaism and the themes of Empire explored in the New Testament.  In this episode, first released in 2008, I discuss his then recent work on the Gospel of John and Empire.  You can check out all of his books here.

At the end of the interview I mention a very accessible book he wrote that intros the conversation of Empire and the New Testament.  If you are looking for a place to start then get The Roman Empire and the New Testament: An Essential Guide.  

Barrel Aged Graphic_crop2_rev1On the Homebrewed Barrel Aged podcasts we pull out some of the best interviews from the first 5 years of the podcast.  These gems get an audio facelift and then released from your enjoyment.

Barrel Aged on Feedburner

Barrel Aged on Stitcher.

Barrel Aged in iTunes (drop a 5 star review if you want to be awesome)

Browse the episodes here.

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Homebrewed Wet & Wild at the Goose

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Micky Getting Animated

Wild Goose 2014 was a seriously wet podcast. Despite the rain we had a blast thanks to Phillips Theological Seminary who sponsored the beer steins for brews & John Vest who smoked some yummy BBQ pork.  This is just a 55 minute sample of the 2 hours of excitement.

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Tripp & Amy’s Hair Looks Rained on… but Christian’s

Tripp, Amy, Micky, & Christian spend some talking with Everyday Sunday’s Trey Pearson.  Last year at the Goose he not only visited the podcast but began his year long conversation with Tripp & Christian about progressive Christianity.  While he definitely resonates with a lot of it he has some lingering questions hours of podcast listening has not cleared up. So hear comes Amy and Micky to the rescue. Hopefully they will be able to lure Trey over to team awesome.  You shall see.

 

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Peter Rollins & Kester Brewin LIVE 7/30

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It is time for another live event at Monkish Brewing Company!  On Wednesday July 30th join Homebrewed Christianity as we welcome Kester Brewin & Peter Rollins back to the brewery for a live podcast.  Get ready for a night of nerdy excitement with tunes, brews, & full on theo-political #GeekOut.  Over the course of 5 mini-TED style talks, a podcast interview, musical interludes, Q/A, and a couple pints we will explore how Radical Theology transforms and turns the individual toward the world for embodied engagement.  In other words, we are going to talk about radical religion and politics while drinking… what could go wrong? 

Doors will open at 7 & the show starts at 715.  It’s 20 bucks a ticket and seating is limited so get your tickets ASAP.

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10 Not-So-Shocking Things You Learn in Religion 101

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Greg & Tripp Chatting

CEM47354539_129436297782Tons of people that are ‘religious’  would be shocked if they just took a religion 101 class.  The divide between the academic study of religion is so huge that the experience of many students in their first religion class is disorientating.  I don’t think this is because religion professors hate religion and want to ruin people of faith’s confidence.  Largely it is evidence of just how poor our religious communities educate their members.  In this episode I am joined by Greg Horton, ex-pastor and undergrad religion professor in Oklahoma to look of  a list of 10 Not-So-Shocking Things You Learn in Religion 101.  Well we get through half of it in this episode.  Next week we will finish

Greg Horton was one of the inspirations behind starting the podcast.  I have stalked him online for a long time and then we got to have some fun in person on my visit to Oklahoma.  It was turned into this popular episode of the podcast.  Then he came back on the podcast to share 10 Dirty Secrets About Being a Minister.  Way back when he had a podcast called ‘the Parish’ on the wired parish podcast network. Back then he was an emergent Christian and has since left the building. Throughout his journey I have loved following his blog,hearing about his undergrad religion and ethics students, and thinking through some of the serious criticisms he has leveled against the church. Plus he also does some wine reviews.

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Womanist Theology w/ Emilie Townes [Barrel Aged]

Emilie-TownesThe Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, a distinguished scholar and leader in theological education, is dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is also the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society.  When she first visited the podcast we discussed the origins of

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Womanist theology and her book Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evi& now we are bringing that interview back out for all our new listeners.  

This book contains the essay she was working on and mentions during the conversation.  Here’s the Divinity School Application for Liberals we discuss.

If you want to keep up with the other Barrel Aged interviews make sure you go subscribe (and rate) the new show.  It will continue to feature the best interviews from our first 4 years.

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From Jesus’ Parables to Parables of God with John Dominic Crossan

That's Elgin & I over 5 years ago! It was his 1st hangout w/ a legendary nerd.

That’s Elgin & I over 5 years ago! It was his 1st hangout w/ a legendary nerd.

John Dominic Crossan is back on the podcast.  Crossan is a legendary New Testament scholar, Jesus Seminar provocateur, and popular lecturer all across the progressive church. We will discuss the last 30 years of historical Jesus research, its role in the academy, the growing audience in the public square, changes in the church and his two most recent books The Power of ParableThe Greatest Prayer.

We recently re-published Crossan’s first visit to the podcast over 5 plus years ago on the new Barrel Aged podcast stream.  Go check out his discussion of God and Empire which remains my favorite book of his.

 

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Bonhoeffer’s Religionless Christianity

51d4zjpl9bl_sl500_aa240_This Barrel Aged podcast was originally released in 2009.  It was a quick hit that many of the more recent subscribers won’t have heard. So get ready to enjoy Dr. Jeffrey C. Pugh is Professor and Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Elon University. We discuss his book Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer In Troubled Times. Dr. Pugh & I talk about the life of Bonhoeffer, shares some of the famous words from his Letters & Papers from Prison, and leaves us with how Bonhoeffer can inspire us today. He is definitely the podcast’s favorite member of the Hauerwasian Mafia.

You can also check out the most recent visit from Dr. Pugh Conjuring Satan and Doing Theology discussing his collection of Satan’s blog posts.

*** If you enjoy all the Homebrewed Christianity Podcasts then consider sending us a donation via paypal. We got bandwidth to buy & audiological goodness to dispense. We will also get a percentage of your Amazon purchase through this link OR you can send us a few and get us a pint!***


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