The anthropology of Pannenberg focuses on the dignity and misery of human existence. Here Pannenberg retrieves and develops an understanding of original sin and also human destiny in light of the work of the Son, so that sin and death do not eternally prohibit God’s gift of life found in the fellowship of God.
Important to Pannenberg’s anthropology is the personal unity of body and soul which comes as the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit of God gives life as a gift to all, but humans specifically are given the gift of divine likeness and the dominion associated with it. Pannenberg notes that humans have a high capacity for knowledge compared to other creatures, but the divine likeness is rooted in humanity’s destiny of fellowship with God. The activity of the Spirit in relation to the human creature is more than the gift of life, but also that of imagination which enables the human to have a unity of self-understanding. The Spirit serves as the ultimate basis for the interrelatedness of that which is distinct in the consciousness of the I and the world. When the human grasps the finite “there is always a nonthematic sense of the infinite as that which is other than the finite” and though the creature may or may not distinguish this reality as the Creator, it this work of the Spirit that enables the distance from the other and the definition of otherness to facilitate relatedness (II, 196). This particular work is grounded in the self-distinction of the Son from the Father. The Spirit that gives unity in the distinction does so too with human persons.
As a human one may have self-consciousness and can distinguish one’s own ego from others, but this does not contain within it one’s personality. Personality is grounded in the destiny that transcends our present and as such it is the Spirit who preserves our identity, because it is the Spirit who knows our future. One’s identity is inextricably tied to one’s future and, therefore, rests in work of the Spirit.