First of Two Parts

Evangelicals need to hone their theological skills by sparring with such brilliant men as Pannenberg.

To dismiss Wolfhart Pannenberg as just another German theologian seeking fame through ingenuity and novelty would be a grave mistake. Pannenberg is a Lutheran theologian of rare brilliance, remarkably capable in philosophy, biblical studies, and theology. He has come out in strong defense of several major themes of classical theology, including the deity, vicarious death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is projecting the most rigorous and ambitious program of academically oriented theology since Barth, and like Barth (of whom he is sharply critical) is likely to be remembered as a towering giant in twentieth-century Christian thought.

Whether we like it or not, German theologians have played a leading role in the creative theology of modern times and will go on doing so, at least until others of us challenge their leadership with work of equal quality and power. Meanwhile, the best thing evangelicals can do, if we hope to mature in thought and reflection, is to engage theologians of Pannenberg’s stature in dialogue so as to sharpen our own tools and commitments. Pannenberg welcomes this interaction. He maintains an admirably open spirit toward criticism of his thought and an evident willingness to change in the interests of the truth.

Although he writes with clarity and force, Pannenberg is a formidable thinker for the average person to grasp. He often expresses his thought in long essays devoted to a single aspect of a question, subtle in argument and richly documented. Therefore we are deeply indebted to E. Frank Tupper, a professor at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, for giving ...

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