Introducing Pannenberg

Here is a good introduction to Wolfhart Pannenberg from a series of videos from St. John’s College, Nottingham (HT: Chris Tilling).



  1. My dogmatics lecturer at seminary, Mark W. Worthing, was an American who did his doctorate, published as ‘Foundations and Functions of Theology as Universal Science: Theological Method and Apologetic Praxis in Wolfhart Pannenberg and Karl Rahner’ (European University Studies), under Hans Schwarz. Apparently after reading it, Panneberg said that Worthing was one of only a few theologians who really understood his thought. I’ve always wondered if this didn’t say more about Pannenberg than Dr Worthing!

    • I must confess whenever I’ve delved into Pannenberg I haven’t really been inspired to continue. I find someone like Oswald Bayer much more grounded in scripture and theological tradition, and therefore more beneficial to read. Not that there’s much reason to compare Bayer & Pannenberg, other than that they are both German.

      • Yeah, for me it was very hard to go from the excitement and enthusiasm of Brunner, Forsyth, and Barth (=those who first got me interested in systematic theology) to the detachment of Pannenberg. With the former, you can sense the sweat at their pen (or typewriter). P. T. Forsyth, when he would write, would actually exhaust himself into fits of illness.

  2. Mr. Davis, what sources would you recommend most for understanding Protestant teachings on Revelation? I’m interested in both classical and modern Protestant understandings of Revelation. Thanks in advance.

  3. Kepha,

    I’ve been greatly influenced by P. T. Forsyth’s The Principle of Authority. You can buy it from Wipf & Stock or download it for free here:

    Forsyth is representative of the “theology of the Word” movement in early 20th century Protestant theology, including Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Oscar Cullmann, and T. F. Torrance. There are differences between these men (famously, the debate between Barth and Brunner on natural theology), but there is a great amount of unity as well and their common characteristics are easy to discern. They all:

    – rejected scholastic proofs
    – denied the strict inerrancy of the Bible
    – pitted “Greek” speculation versus “Hebraic” revelation
    – emphasized the intrusion of grace over-against nature
    – emphasized the miraculous “otherness” of faith
    – emphasized the free agency of God as he chooses to reveal himself through Scripture’s witness to Christ (thus, Scripture “becomes” the Word of God, in faith, not as a static attribute)
    – critically appropriated the Reformers

    This movement was labeled “neo-orthodox,” but most of the associated theologians strenuously objected to this label (and all labels, for that matter). They preferred to be considered as churchmen and were devoted to their respective churches and the broader Church.

    A more classical alternative to Forsyth would be something representative of confessional theology, beginning with Calvin’s Institutes. You can then read representatives of the confessional Reformed tradition, like Francis Turretin and Herman Bavinck, but it can get pretty expensive (buying their dogmatics) and Calvin is masterful on the issue of revelation. Calvin is also surprisingly contemporary.

    Of course, there is the liberal Protestant tradition. Adolf von Harnack represents the historical-critical approach and Paul Tillich represents the existential approach. Tillich’s The Dynamics of Faith is a great example of his thoroughgoing de-mythological, de-ontological filtering of Christian revelation. Not surprisingly, I don’t think this is a serious alternative as a “Christian” or “Protestant” theology, but it is highly interesting nonetheless.

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