Karl Barth’s Letter to Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg

In the next few weeks, I plan to begin reading Jesus: God and Man by Wolfhart Pannenberg. I’ve read a couple of Pannenberg’s shorter works, and would especially recommend his accessible An Introduction To Systematic Theology. I’ve also listened to a few of his lectures that are available via Asbury Seminary’s website (here is one on the doctrine of creation). Jesus: God and Man was his first major work and I am looking forward to engaging with it.

I remembered reading Pannenberg’s correspondence with Karl Barth in the collection of letters I read last year. Below is the letter that Barth wrote to Pannenebrg upon reading the original German edition of Jesus: God and Man in 1964 (Grundzuge der Christologie). Continue reading

Overcoming Schismatic Thinking


The Trinity and the Kingdom (TK) is the first book in Jürgen Moltmann’s six part “systematic contributions to theology” and was the also the first of his books that I personally read. Below are a couple paragraphs from the Preface to TK. I love the way he here sets the tone of ecumenical open dialogue that characterizes Moltmann’s entire project. Theology is an ongoing conversation between people, generations, and traditions. As he says here: “Truth is universal; only the lie is particularist”. So while Moltmann comes from the Reformed tradition (which comes out so wonderfully throughout his theology), he frequently utilizes the resources of other traditions, including Orthodox, Catholic, and (as I alluded to in my previous post) Jewish. This extended excerpt introduces this ecumenical approach, and why it extends beyond the limits of Christian traditions into conversation with Judaism (since for Moltmann the “first great schism” in the people of God was between Christian and Jew). Enjoy!

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God is not the “Unmoved Mover”

“God’s creative love is grounded in his humble, self-humiliating love. This self-restricting love is the beginning of that self-emptying of God which Philippians 2 sees as the divine mystery of the Messiah. Even in order to create heaven and earth, God emptied himself of his all-plenishing omnipotence, and as Creator took upon himself the form of a servant…. God does not create merely by calling something into existence, or by setting something afoot. In a more profound sense he ‘creates’ by letting-be, by making room, and by withdrawing himself.
(Moltmann, God in Creation, p. 88)

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Has the Church Forgotten How to Suffer?


Jesus suffered and died alone. But those who follow him suffer and die in fellowship with him. (Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 56)

This is a continuation of my ongoing blog series through The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann. To see previous posts on this topic visit here. Below Moltmann discusses the important role suffering and martyrdom played in the life of the early church:

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John Wesley’s Ecological Eschatology

I enjoyed reading the first volume of Thomas Oden’s series on John Wesley’s teachings. In some ways it wasn’t quite what I expected. The only book of Wesley’s I’ve read in its entirety is A Plain Account of Christian (which I appreciated more for its prayerful tone and pietism and less for its theology!). Perhaps because I hadn’t looked into the description of this series on Wesley very closely, I was expecting a systematic arrangement of Wesley’s teachings (i.e. quotations from primary sources); this was actually more of a systematic summary on Wesley (with plentiful footnotes and selective quotations). It’s like reading a popular multi-volume systematic theology that is oriented around the thinking of a specific figure. Most of Wesley’s written teachings are sermons, so this actually works very well! Since I hail from the Wesleyan tradition, I would like to one day engage Wesley more directly (perhaps via his major treatise on original sin?). But this was a good starting place for now.
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Nevertheless: universal hope

“Nevertheless: universal hope.” (G. Greshake, as quoted by Hans Urs von Balthasar)

I really appreciated Jürgen Moltmann’s thoughtful comments to me on the subject of universalism, especially this bit: “The destiny of unbelievers we should leave to God and hope and pray for them – There is for us a universalism of hope and prayer, I would say.” (to read the lest of the letter see this post).

I’ve read enough Moltmann to feel pretty comfortable calling him a Christian universalist (a fairly nuanced universalist within the Reformed tradition, but universalist nonetheless!). But what he offered to me in that letter was a toned-down hopeful (not dogmatic) universalism. We can (and perhaps must!) hold on to hope that all be saved, and pray that all be saved. But this is ultimately something that only God knows.
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Adventures in Theology

I’ve not yet read the final volume in Jürgen Moltmann’s “Systematic Contributions to Theology” series (Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology), but I recognized a reference to one of its themes in Moltmann’s letter to me, where he said that “For me personally theology is an adventure of ideas and insights into the divine mystery”. (I think I originally heard this via John Franke’s preamble to the Emergent conversation with Moltmann, but couldn’t say for sure). Here is an extended quote from the Preface to this book that unpacks that statement a bit:
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Identification with the Crucified One

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

“Christian identity can be understood only as an act of identification with the crucified Christ, to the extent to which one has accepted the proclamation that in him God has identified himself with the godless and those abandoned by God, to whom one belongs oneself. If Christian identity comes into being by this double process of identification, then it is clear that it cannot be described in terms of that faith alone, nor can it be protected against decay by correct doctrinal formulae, repeatable rituals and set patterns of moral behavior.” (Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 19) Continue reading

In the Beginning…. the Election of Jesus Christ


I’ve just started reading Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics II/2. § 33: The Election of Jesus Christ (hey, when Jürgen Moltmann gives you a reading assignment, you don’t waste any time!). As always, Barth is slow reading and difficult to digest; I may try to do a blog or two on it as I find time (or, if/when I find this segment of Barth to be comprehensible enough to publicly reflect on!), but for now I wanted to post this extended quotation, that basically lays out how (reflecting on John 1:1-2) Barth will attempt to tell the story of election as an event in God that takes place “in the beginning” and has Jesus Christ as its focal point. Enjoy!

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The Crucifixion of Religion

I’ve blogged before about Karl Barth’s critique of religion in his Church Dogmatics I/2. For Barth, religion is an unbelieving grasping for God, in contradiction to the revelation of God in Christ. Moltmann approaches the subject from a different angle, speaking of the cross as the irreligious or unreligious center of Christianity, which puts to death everything that religious man thinks about God and wants from God:

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