Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 11:1 (Spring 1990) p. 125
Wolfhart Pannenberg. Metaphysics and the Idea of God, trans. Philip Clayton. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990. xiv + 170 pages. $21.95.
It is significant that Pannenberg should have chosen Eerdmans as his English publisher. He writes that this book’s goal — to confront metaphysical reflection on the idea of God from a Christian theological standpoint — stemmed originally from the challenge of one of Germany’s leading Hegelians, Dieter Henrich: let theologians either show how Christian God-talk makes sense metaphysically or cease claiming rational justification for it. Pannenberg here accepts his colleague’s challenge and presents in compact form his best philosophical defense of a concept of God that is compatible with Christian theology. At the same time, by publishing the results not with Yale or Harvard Press but with Eerdmans — which is also publishing Geoffrey Bromiley’s translation of his three-volume systematic theology — Pannenberg is issuing a deliberate challenge to American evangelicals to know and to employ their metaphysical heritage when they speak of God.
Though ostensibly a book on the concept of God, this is also an apolo-g/a for an intimate working relationship between theology and philosophy. It is rare to find a theologian who not only claims but shows that theology can emerge from such a dialogue enriched and unscathed. The book offers some brilliant incisive summaries of centuries-old debates concerning, for example, the doctrine of substance, the infinity of God, the relationship between God and time. The final result is an integrated position on the areas of intersection between theology and philosophy, a view that stresses the dependence of each on the other while maintaining their dis-tinctiveness.
The English translation is divided into two parts,”Fhe Idea of God” and”Metaphysics and Theology.” The chapter titles in Part I reflect the book’s central concerns: The End of Metaphysics and the Idea of God; The Problem of the Absolute; Self-Consciousness and Subjectivity; Being and Time; Concept and Anticipation. The discussions usually open with a modern attack on God-talk (Kant, Feuerbach, Heidegger) and then move back through history to make use of the resources of classical metaphysics. The first chapter, for example, shows why Heidegger’s proclamation of the end of metaphysics would mean abandoning the concept of God required by Christian theology. But Pannenberg then challenges Heidegger’s presupposition of the ultimacy of the question of Being and the difference between Being and beings. If we remove the hindrances that have forced theologians (and not just liberals!) away from the theory of God, the natural allegiance between metaphysics and theology can be reestablished.
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