These are the opening paragraphs from my book on Wolfhart Pannenberg and his doctrine of reconciliation, Faithful to Save. The manuscript isn’t due at T&T Clark for a couple weeks yet, and I am still fussing over these first words. I would be quite happy for your interaction, so feel free to offer your thoughts.
The experience of preparing to send away a manuscript is a strange one. My girls are still young, but I imagine the experience of their inevitable departure from home will be similar. You have done all you can do, and having labored valiantly you release them to go out into the harsh world (of critical readers in this case!).
Christian theology variously names the difference between God and everything else: Creator and creation, holy and profane, uncaused and caused, infinite and finite, and so on. If nothing else, attentiveness to such distinctions has kept Christian theology mindful of the singular uniqueness of its object, God. ‘Let your imagination range to what you may suppose is God’s utmost limit and you will find him present there,’ Hilary of Poitiers says. He continues,
Strain as you will there is always a further horizon towards which to strain. Infinity is His property, just as the power of making such effort is yours. Words will fail you, but His being will not be circumscribed. . . . Gird up your intellect to comprehend Him as a whole; He eludes you. God, as a whole, has left something within your grasp, but this something is inextricably involved in His entirety. . . . Reason, therefore, cannot cope with Him, since no point of contemplation can be found outside Himself and since eternity is eternally His (On the Trinity, II.6.)
And yet, reason’s incapacity to cope with the infinite God does not signal reason’s demise, but rather its dependence upon God’s own communicative self-presence. “Reason is foiled, not by God’s distance, but by the character of his unfathomable proximity.” We call that proximity Emmanuel, God with us.
Wolfhart Pannenberg’s entire theological program has been an attempt to navigate between this dynamic of God’s qualitative difference and his proximity. As Pannenberg describes it, to ‘witness to the glory of Jesus Christ’ while remaining ever mindful of the ‘inconceivable majesty of God which transcends all our concepts’. Pannenberg names God’s difference from everything else in terms of God’s infinity, or holiness. God’s holiness, however, does not sequester him from intimate involvement with the world, but describes his own deep investment in reconciling all creation to himself in Jesus Christ. Importantly for Pannenberg, God’s communicative self-presence—his revelation—is found in the particulars of history; God’s proximity is found through his acts in time and space, most dramatically in Emmanuel. In the closing pages of his three-volume Systematic Theology, Pannenberg summarizes his dogmatic vision for God’s reconciling action: ‘God holds fast to his creation through his acts of reconciliation, and does so indeed in a way that respects the independence of his creatures.’