Tag Archives: Wolfhart Pannenberg


“Baptism” into Messiah signifies immersion into his death and burial, but this was not intended in a “substitutionary” sense, obviously, because we all still die. This means that Jesus did not die “instead of us” or “in our place” in order that we would not have to die. That’s not how it all works. Rather, the Master died for our sakes and on our behalf and for us so that in spite of the fact that we all still have to die (because of sin still dwelling in our mortal bodies, and as its consequence, as God warned Adam) YET WE WILL LIVE AGAIN by the vivifying power of the Wholesome Spirit that brought back our Master via resurrection! Thus the mechanism is participatory, not substitutionary. [8/01/06]

It should not be puzzling to us (although it continues to be for some theologians) why only Jesus was raised from the dead and not all the rest of us, too. (See, e.g., Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 184.) Part of Messiah’s just award for his unjust suffering of abuse is “seed.” God promised him a vast progeny, numerous descendants, fruitfulness! But it takes time and many trials to raise kids! Moreover, the task is impossible in the bland absence of evils in the environment, because our right response to them is what “builds character,” which, if it is to mean anything, must mean the character of God that Jesus displayed as our model and example in person! He made visible what we are to become like—his likeness. This is the goal of our adoption or sonship. Without sufficient…abundant opportunities to act in trust of what God revealed supremely in His only-born Son by his teaching and conduct, and in resistance to Satan’s alternative, contradictory suggestions, we would lack character, depth, strength, determination, consistency, worthy identity. [8/01/06]

“[T]he destruction of death (and thus the resurrection of the dead) is in fact what the reign of Christ is fundamentally all about. That and nothing else.” Martinus de Boer, The Defeat of Death: Apocalyptic Eschatology in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 (Sheffield Academic Press, 1988), p. 126. Quoted in Alexander LaBrecque, “The Resurrection Faith: Paul’s Somatic Soteriology Apart from the Circumcision Controversy” (University of Sheffield dissertation, 1995), p. 111, note 339. [8/02/06]

In the trial and crucifying of Jesus, the Messiah, the only-born Son of God, the Explanation by Whom the universe was created, the Owner of all things, every one of the ten commandments was broken! Not mere blasphemy therefore (à la Pannenberg), but a MANIFOLD CRIME OF STAGGERING MAGNITUDE WAS PERPETRATED. [8/02/06]

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Jesus’ passion was not “penal” or “in place of man” but “suffering from and under man”

Some years before Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology was published and translated into English, Herbert Neie wrote a dissertation on his thought up to his own time, entitled, The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (Berlin, New York:  Walter De Gruyter 1978; reprinted 2012).  There he makes the following thoughtful comment (emphasis added).

[I]f, on account of God’s self-definition as love through Jesus’ proclamation and resurrection, Jesus’ passion is no longer intelligible as penal or in place of man, then it must be interpreted so as to be compatible with this novel self-definition of God. That is, then it may, and must, be understood as the suffering of God who suffers because he loves man. Because he loves man, he shares1 man’s suffering from and under man. God bears and endures what man does to him and what man does to and endures from one another.2

1 Similarly Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. ii: Existence and the Christ (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 976. Substitutional suffering is “a rather unfortunate term and should not be used in theology. God participates in the suffering of existential estrangement, but his suffering is not a substitute for the suffering of the creature. Neither is the suffering of the Christ a substitute for the suffering of man. But the suffering of God, universally and in the Christ, is the power which overcomes creaturely self-destruction by participation and transformation. Not substitution, but free participation, is the character of the divine suffering.”—One would take issue with Tillich only on the “free.” For love necessarily participates in the suffering of the other.

2 For the history of this idea in theology and philosophy of religion, beginning with the Biblical prophets, cf. J. Moltmann, The Crucified God. The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology (NY, Evanston, San Francisco, London: Harper & Row, 1974), pp. 267-278, and the literature cited there. Especially important for the development and use of this idea is Jewish religious philosophy and theology and process theology. M. does not inform about the latter’s achievement.

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