[NOTE: This was originally written in 2008, and several studies have since been published. Let me mention two. At the cost of shameless self-promotion, I published a book on Pannenberg’s doctrine of reconciliation last fall, Faithful to Save: Pannenberg on God’s Reconciling Action (T&T Clark, 2011). The book is an exposition and analysis of the central place and comprehensive character of the doctrine of reconciliation in Pannenberg’s mature theology. I also discuss at some length his doctrine of God, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology. Given the high price, I should mention that a paperback edition will be published later this year. Another book of note is Timothy Bradshaw’s contribution to the Guide for the Perplexed Series by T&T Clark, Pannenberg: A Guide for the Perplexed (2009). I recommend it highly.]
I am often asked, “What should I read on Pannenberg’s theology?” Toward making some gestures in that direction, here are five short reviews of recent studies in English.
Iain Taylor, Pannenberg on the Triune God (T&T Clark, 2007), 225 pp., $130.00.
If you owned just one book on Pannenberg’s three volume Systematic Theology (ST), Iain Taylor’s Pannenberg on the Triune God would be a good choice (at this price you might only afford one). Covering the doctrinal loci in the order in which they appear in ST, the work advances as a detailed exposition and evaluation of Pannenberg’s mature trinitarian theology. Both carefully researched and lucidly written, Taylor makes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on Pannenberg’s theology.
On the whole, Taylor demonstrates a consistently generous reading of Pannenberg’s theology without hesitating to articulate carefully formed critiques. While all readers of Pannenberg may not concur with those appraisals, Taylor’s grasp of his dogmatics makes this a highly valuable addition to those hoping to explore Pannenberg’s trinitarian theology. A unique contribution (and the best that I have seen) is Taylor’s convincing refutation of persistent assumptions of Hegelianism in Pannenberg’s trinitarian thought.
Stanley Grenz, Reason for Hope: The Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg, 2nd Edition (Eerdmans, 2005), 318 pp., $23.00.
A more affordable introduction to Pannenberg’s dogmatics is Grenz’s second edition of Reason for Hope. The overall tone of this piece is exposition rather than evaluation and those looking for an introduction to Pannenberg’s themes and major moves in Systematic Theology will not be disappointed. Grenz also provides extensive references that helpfully direct the reader to Pannenberg’s many other works for further study. On the other hand, oddly enough, Grenz provides few direct references to Systematic Theology (likely because the first edition was largely composed from Pannenberg’s lecture notes).
In light of that limitation, readers need to keep in mind that unlike Taylor’s exposition (his PhD thesis at King’s College, London), Grenz’s style is more of a flowing overview. Pannenberg’s concepts and reasoning are present but one doesn’t always know exactly where to track them down for further reading. Still, for those with no exposure to Pannenberg this is a particularly helpful introduction to his theological method and major themes.
Christian Mostert, God and the Future: Wolfhart Pannenberg’s Eschatological Doctrine of God (T&T Clark: 2002), 262 pp., $40.00.
For those wanting to explore Pannenberg’s eschatological theology and unique ontology of the future, there is no better study than Christian Mostert’s God and the Future. Mostert confesses to having spent decades following Pannenberg’s theological development and this shows itself often in the analysis. Drawing both from his earlier works and his dogmatics (well referenced in both cases) Mostert demonstrates the progression in Pannenberg’s thought and the subtle contours of his unique program.
Of specific interest is Mostert’s meticulously researched and ably reasoned exposition of Pannenberg’s eschatological theology and ontology – two of Pannenberg’s most significant and difficult concepts. Additionally, I know of no other published work that discusses Pannenberg’s theology of the Kingdom as extensively as Mostert. Readers will be pleasantly surprised by Mostert’s inviting writing prose as well. Considering the complexity of the issues he takes up, that is a worthy achievement in itself.
Charles Gutenson, Reconsidering the Doctrine of God (T&T Clark, 2005), 260 pp., $20.00.
While the purpose of Gutenson’s study is limited to Pannenberg’s doctrine of God he covers a great deal more ground here. One example of such expansion is his overview of Pannenberg’s theological method which readers who are new to his theology will find illuminating. Readers will find his discussion of the importance of the “Infinite” in his ST to be productive as well. For those new to Pannenberg and interested most in the details of his doctrine of God, alongside either Mostert’s and Taylor’s works who range a little more widely into the secondary material than Gutenson, this would be a good purchase.
Although I often felt Gutenson was going out of his way to defend Pannenberg when some well-reasoned critique may have been in order, I would still recommend this as a decidedly smooth piece on Pannenberg’s ST and most specifically on his doctrine of God.
Kam Ming Wong, Wolfhart Pannenberg on Human Destiny (Ashgate, 2008), 177 pp., $100.00.
Like Taylor’s Triune God this began as Wong’s PhD thesis (Oxford) so the writing is far more condensed than one will find in either Grenz, Mostert, or Gutenson (it is what it is). Additionally, Wong does not extend his analysis far beyond Pannenberg’s theological anthropology so this would not serve well as an introduction to his thought.
However, unlike the other works discussed here, Wong’s interests are not only in exposition. Though Pannenberg is his constant companion, On Human Destiny is a constructive work to develop a “comprehensive theological anthropology” within the context of humanity’s movement toward its “common destiny, God” (p. 1). Toward this end, he unpacks Pannenberg’s theological anthropology with a larger goal in mind. Thus, readers whose interests lie more directly in theological anthropology than with Pannenberg specifically will benefit from Wong’s study as well. Though there are moments in which I would have liked to see a slightly closer reading of Pannenberg, you will not find a more extensive discussion of Pannenberg’s view of the Image of God.