Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg died on Friday in Munich. Prof. William G. Witt offers an appreciation.
Wolfhart Pannenberg has died. Pannenberg was the first “serious” theologian I read in detail. (Later I discovered Karl Barth and Thomas Aquinas and Thomas Torrance and Hans urs von Balthasar and numerous others, but it all started with Pannenberg.) By focusing on the resurrection of Jesus as the starting point of theology, he challenged both Bultmannian de-mythologization and Barthian Word theology at a time in which eschatology was either ignored or left to the fundamentalists. He also made a strong argument in favor of engaging contemporary culture head on rather than retreating to an intellectual ghetto, insisting that, above all, Christian theology is rational. Sorry to think that his work here is done, but, perhaps more than any modern theologian, he would have agreed with St. Paul that “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”