The Ontological Motif Of Anticipation In The Theology Of Wolfhart Pannenberg -- By: Todd S. Labute

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 37:2 (Jun 1994)
Article: The Ontological Motif Of Anticipation In The Theology Of Wolfhart Pannenberg
Author: Todd S. Labute

The Ontological Motif Of Anticipation
In The Theology Of Wolfhart Pannenberg

Todd S. Labute*

* Todd LaBute, a doctoral candidate in systematic theology at Marquette University, lives at 6625 West Lisbon Avenue, Number 3, Milwaukee, WI 53210.

The intriguing theological system of Wolfhart Pannenberg has prompted critical examination and evaluation from nearly every spectrum of the theological arena. His insights have won him varying degrees of both acceptance and rejection from communities as diverse as conservative and liberal Catholics and Protestants, process theologians and philosophers of religion. Carl Braaten has appropriately echoed this diversity:

The neo-fundamentalists would enjoy his position on the historical verifiability of the resurrection as a datable event of past history. The orthodox would like the sound of notitia, assensus, and fiducia but wouldn’t know what to do about his anti-supernaturalism. Heilsgeschichte theologians would endorse his stress on history but would generally not approve of eliminating the prophetic word from the definition of revelation. Historians would applaud his devotion to the facts, but few would succeed in reading revelation right off the facts of history. Those who see Pannenberg’s theology as a revival of conservatism need only to meet his doctrine of scripture and of the confessions to be disabused of any illusions. Pannenberg’s theology obviously escapes ready-made labels.1

An analysis of the particular facets of a theologian’s system will no doubt expose points of similarity and disagreement between said theologian and the analyst. But these points of unity and diversity are most often the result of deeper, all-pervading notions that govern the entirety of the theologian’s program. Thus as one studies the entirety of the work of any major theologian certain patterns or motifs begin to surface.

In a careful investigation of Pannenberg’s theological program the central motif of anticipation emerges as the foundation on which his entire system is built. Hence a proper grasp of Pannenberg’s theology can only be obtained through an understanding of this central motif of anticipation, a metaphysical motif that will be seen to possess not only epistemological but also ontological significance. In reference to Karl Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery Pannenberg writes: “This immediate claim to a truth which is nevertheless still open to dispute, so that the most that can be done is to ‘approximate’ to it, might be described as anticipation.”2

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