Pannenberg Responds to Moltmann’s Critique of Christology “from Below”

Wolfhart Pannenberg

I previously shared Moltmann’s observation regarding the divide between christology “from above” vs “from below”, where he observed that “The difference between a ‘christology from below’ and a ‘christology from above’ is only apparent.” (CG, p. 91) This is in stark contrast to Pannenberg’s strong rejection of christology from above. In an afterward to the second edition of Jesus – God and Man, Pannenberg briefly responds to many criticisms to his approach,  including this one. Here is the relevant paragraph:

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Moltmann on Christology “From Above” vs “From Below”

I haven’t forgotten about my plan to blog through the Crucified God (CG). I’m re-reading the book with a small group of friends and have found it to be a bit heavy for casual coffee shop conversation. We are still plugging through but it has been slow going! (Apparently we missed Kevin Brown’s warning that this “succulent dark meat of Moltmann” is not for the faint of heart!) Continue reading Moltmann on Christology “From Above” vs “From Below”

Pannenberg on why christology “from above” is not feasible for us

At the center of Barth’s harsh critique of Pannenberg’s Grundzuge der Christologie (the original German edition of Jesus- God and Man) was his christology “from below”. I’m only a couple chapters into the book, but I can see how Pannenberg’s method (and its inherent critique of Barth’s “christology from above to below” would make the great Karl Barth bristle!
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Finding our political/religious (non)identity

Nowhere is the church’s “christological identity crisis” more evident than in the political arena. I thought this particular section of Moltmann’s famous book, The Crucified God, was thought-provoking on this issue. Is it possible that with much of our “God and politics” talk (from both the “Christian right” and the “Christian left”), we have lost sight of our identity with the Crucified one? 

Bonhoeffer’s ‘existence for others’, which so much appeal has been made, becomes meaningless if one is no longer any different from others, but merely a hanger on. Only someone who finds the courage to be different from others can ultimately exist for ‘others’, for otherwise he exists only with those who are like him. And this is not much help to them. Thus we must say that, ‘as the result of the debate about [political] organization, these communities are faced with the theological question of their Christian identity as churches’. Because this question is posed not merely by the ancient traditions and institutions from which they have separated themselves, but also by those others with whom they have associated themselves in solidarity, it must be taken seriously and answered.  The identity in question here is the identity of the object of faith, for the sake of which individuals and whole groups have accepted self-emptying and non-identity and a solidarity which allows no distinction. When a Christian community feels obliged to empty itself in certain social and political actions, it must take care that its traditional religious and political identity is not exchanged for a new religious and political identity, but must sustain its non-identity. Otherwise a church which, seeking for an identity and not preserving its distinctiveness, plunges into a social and political movement, once again becomes the ‘religion of society’. It is of course no longer a conservative religion of society, but the progressive religion of what may perhaps be a better future society. It then follows those who criticize the old religion from a political point of view, only to make a religion of their new politics. But can a Christian community become the ‘political religion’ of its existing or future society, without forgetting the man from Nazareth who was crucified, and losing the identity it has in his cross?

~Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (p. 16-17, my emphasis)