The Self-Revelation of God and Religion
In the contemporary west, as Rahner notes, the concept of God is as enigmatic today as a blank face with a doubted existence and content. The non-thematic but innate awareness of God is important for Pannenberg to establish, although this God-given knowledge is only recognized in the light of God’s self-revelation. Doing so brings all humans into his audience and relationship to the self-revelation of God. From the context of natural knowledge Pannenberg reexamines the phenomena of religion in search of a positive affirmation within religion for the reality of God. Through his examination of the function of revelation as a concept in theology, Pannenberg asserts the primacy of God without relegating religion as idolatry. In the end, religion is understood as a response to the awareness of God that is necessarily experienced and responded to in the context of finite history. In our modern situation there has been a reversal so that knowledge of God is subordinate to anthropologically located and analyzed religion. If this is true then knowledge of God is subordinate to religion, a human phenomenon. By understanding Christianity as one of the many responses or manifestations of anthropocentric religion, differentiating or making value judgments about their truth became as subjective as their grounding. Pannenberg, like Barth, wanted to give priority to the revelation of God over those to whom it is given, but in contrast recognized that religion is the medium of human reception to divine revelation. He argues that “divine revelation may take priority over those who receive it, but it is manifest only where they do receive it, i.e., in the medium of religion” (I, 178). It is, therefore, through the medium of religion, the history of religions, that the appearance of the unity of God is made known. Through the historical unfolding of religion the non-thematic awareness of God is given theme in both its history and our interpretation of it. The history of religions can then be interpreted within the context of salvation’s history since religion is the medium of human awareness of God and the location of human response to God’s revelation. What is normative and determinative for Christianity and differentiates it and Judaism from the other world religions is its transition from centering upon myth to the history of God, the movement from self-awareness to event of revelation. The non-thematic awareness of God, which is the ground of religion, receives definitive shape by the self-revelation of God. The self-revelation of God continues to the end of history but the ultimate purpose of history is anticipated in Jesus Christ.