Pannenberg grounds his understanding of creation in the biblical witness. Most unique is his conclusion that the history of salvation gave a historical narrative from which the claim for Creation out of nothing can be made, because the God of the exodus is the sole deity and creator. The affirmation of God’s free act of creation is foundational for the biblical witness and without it Pannenberg believes the creatures could depend on something other than God alone and so he would rather have evil and suffering belong within the power of God than have God remain subject to another force. This thought proves important for understanding the nature of human sinfulness in the discussion on anthropology and also God’s acceptance of responsibility for it in the death of the Son.
God, then did not create the world out of an inner necessity of his own nature because if God did he would be dependent in his very essence on the existence of world. The freedom and love of God, from the essence of God, are inseparably related in the act of creation requiring a trinitarian explanation. In the immanent Trinity the eternal Son is understood to have the possibility of his moving out of the unity of the divine life into existence in the form of creature, although it is precisely because of his self-distinction the Son remains bound to the Father in the unity of the divine life. The work of the Son gives existence, while the work of the Spirit gives duration of existence.
As creatures come to participate in God they simultaneously demonstrate their self-distinction from God. Though the act of creation is not contingent, after creation all acts are contingent. This being true makes contingency an attribute of historical existence, part of the reality in which God operates. The philosophical difficulty Pannenberg has is the simultaneous affirmation of the freedom of God, the integrity of creation, and the eschatological coming of God. The development of how God operates in the contingency of finite existence and history occurs in Pannenberg’s explanation of divine preservation, concurrence, and overruling.
Divine preservation is the responsibility of God as creation is a free act of God, making preservation a necessary assumption for human action and giving a sense of divine cooperation necessary for creaturely action, although the creature’s action may not cooperate with the governance of God that weaves all actions into the providence of God recognizable at the end of history. This concept is developed again in the section on anthropology, in which God is described as the giver of each moment of life, each breath, while not being the determined sustainer of evil.
The overruling of God in history is grounded in the fact that creation is an eternal act and as such, God’s creative action embraces the whole cosmic process and permeates all phases of the divine action in history. With God actively preserving creation at each moment the question arises to how God relates to the process of each event’s outcome and each outcome to total process.
Preservation witnesses to the fact that creatures are not left alone, but the presence of God cannot lead to an “omnicausality that excludes the autonomy of creatures and their possible deviation from God’s purposes” (II, 48). Pannenberg recognizes that the divine cooperation in history with creaturely participants makes the act of creation a risk necessary for creaturely independence, without which God’s creative action could not come to fulfillment in his work. God’s work of preservation is in service to the independent existence of creatures and his cooperation with their development is in the service of their independence in action and not a disguised form of determinism. Pannenberg does, however, give priority to the freedom of God, but in doing so God makes God’s action of creation determine the creative relationship between God and World. To understand this dynamic, God’s relationship to the world with eschatological confidence and contingency of event, one must understand Pannenberg’s ontological priority of the future.
The ontological priority of the future is next time, so prepare yourself for one sweet post of philosophical and theological reflection that , should I effectively communicate the idea , will change your life. Well it did mine.