Over against the divine likeness within humanity there is also our misery. For Pannenberg, the misery of humanity is when we have separated ourselves from the dignity given to God’s creatures. In giving his description Pannenberg explicitly eliminates oppression, mistreatment, and miserable outward conditions as a primary part of the misery of humanity for the sole definition of “human conduct that contradicts our human destiny” bringing separation from God (II, 178).
Despite Pannenberg’s dramatic oversight of those who lack the basic necessities that make possible the recognition of one’s separation from God, Pannenberg does face the difficult task in modernity of affirming both the universality of sin and the personal responsibility at the same time. What he is able to do is deny the ability to scapegoat one’s sin onto a social structure or Adam (and Eve). In his attempt to uncover the root of sin he begins by examining the biblical witness and concludes that the perverted nature of sin is an evil desire that demonstrates itself in acts and desires against the law of God.
Primarily Pannenberg emphasizes that for there to be a perverted desire there must be a previously perverted will. When a human makes a decision it has already put itself in the center of its own autonomous will and then uses everything else as a means to the self as an end and this is pride, which makes the self the principle of all things and thus sets itself in the place of God. Pride is then the core of perverted desire.
This pride is rooted in the attempt of the finite self to seek self-fulfillment on its own, because we are by creation in relation to the infinite. The sin of finitude is anxiety, a fixation on the self and its limited duration and power, excessive self-love. The unity of desire, pride, and anxiety is rooted in unbelief, which is present in all three expressions of universal sin. When one makes a decision, the decision in human experience exists in distinction between good and evil. This distinction assumes one’s removal from commitment to the good and, therefore, as an implication of our human willing we sin in turning away from God by putting the self in the place that is properly God’s. Any act of willing without existential self-differentiation from God, patterned in Jesus Christ is a sin, making sin bound up with the conditions of human existence that dwells within us.
Pannenberg then interprets the fall as Adam’s story and as the story of the whole race repeated in individuals. Pannenberg states that “God’s omniscience must have foreseen the fall prior to creation,” but also the destiny of humanity in Jesus Christ (II, 264). In God’s permission to sin there is the creaturely independence necessary for God’s aims to be achieved and so Pannenberg turns to Christology.