Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Wolfhart Pannenberg—In Memoriam

by Philip Clayton

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg in 1983

Wolfhart Pannenberg has often been called the greatest theologian of the second half of the 20th century. With his death Friday, the world has lost a brilliant interpreter of Christianity, and I have lost the mentor who molded me as a scholar, theologian, and person.

In the 1950s, when Pannenberg was a doctoral student in Heidelberg, Karl Barth dominated the theological stage. In order to counteract Barth’s overemphasis on salvation history (Heilsgeschichte), Pannenberg redefined revelation as “universal history” (Universalgeschichte). A few years later he published a major Christology (Jesus—God and Man) that established him as the world’s leading defender of “theology from below.”

Over the next 30 years, Pannenberg extended this program to philosophy, the religion/science debate, the dialogue across the world religions, and to every corner of theology. He had the most encyclopedic mind I have ever encountered. You need only to read around a bit in his multi-volume Basic Questions in Theology to be stunned by the range and depth of his scholarship. John Cobb once quipped, “I saw that Pannenberg was able to encompass the entire range of knowledge within his own mind. Realizing that I could never match this achievement, I decided it would take a lifetime of working with my doctoral students to cover as many topics.”

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Philip Clayton [Hearts] Emergent

Phil published an Op-Ed in the LA Times over the weekend:

Although a recent bumper crop of pundits likes to proclaim that we’d all be better off with no religion, I suspect that the majority of us believe that religion, in spite of its flaws, offers individuals the inspiration to be better people and to create a better nation. Seminary and church leaders, in particular, are highly motivated to staunch the decline. Unfortunately, many of them believe that what’s really needed is a return to the “faith of our fathers,” stricter adherence to creeds and (this is America, after all) better marketing methods.

I advocate a radically different solution: the Emerging Church. It’s a movement based on understanding the reasons for mainstream religion’s dramatic decline: improved scientific understanding, changing social norms, an increasingly pluralistic religious culture and more freedom to doubt and question — a freedom that until the last three centuries was mostly absent or suppressed and that is still resisted, sometimes violently, in much of the world today.

READ THE REST: Religion and the ‘rise of the nones’ – latimes.com.

Would You Go to Seminary with Muslims and Jews?

My friend, Philip Clayton, is part of a grand experiment in theological education, covered this week by Inside Higher Ed:

Two Schools, Three Religions (So Far)

Claremont Lincoln University is a collaboration between two established schools: the Claremont School of Theology and the Academy for Jewish Religion, California, which trains future rabbis, cantors and chaplains from all branches of Judaism, although Orthodox Jews do not accept the academy’s ordination. A Muslim institution, Bayan College, is in the works: it will be part of Claremont Lincoln, established through a partnership between the Islamic Center of Southern California. Administrators say it will be one of the first schools to train Sunni and Shiite imams entirely within the United States.

Claremont Lincoln also offers a master’s degree in religious leadership in Muslim contexts, a course of study for both men and women that it says is the first graduate program of its kind in the United States.

While many theological schools are adding programs to familiarize students with world religions — whether to increase interfaith understanding or make students more effective proselytizers — the students are usually of one faith. Bringing Christian, Muslim and Jewish students together creates a different, and richer, learning experience, says Najeeba Syeed-Miller, an assistant professor of interreligious education.

via Claremont Lincoln aims to train Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy | Inside Higher Ed.

Evangelicalism and Fuller Seminary

I spent a few days this week at my alma mater, Fuller Theological Seminary, promoting a Doctor of Ministry cohort that I’m leading/teaching over the next three years.  Of course, the visit was full of nostalgia for me, including trips to some of my favorite restaurants, and drive-bys of my old residence (the Bresee House) and my employer (Pasadena Covenant Church).  I visited Knox Presbyterian to see my Fuller housemate, Matt Colwell, preach, and I had coffee with another classmate and feminist/evangelical theologian, Linda Peacore.

It was amazing to me how much Fuller has grown since my last visit, which must be at least ten years ago.  There’s a new library, and Fuller has expanded into several new buildings, including a sleek, modern space that houses Student Services and the D.Min. offices, among other things.

I was also honored to give a talk in Travis Auditorium, a spot that hold memories both sublime (the lectures of my late friend and mentor, Bob Guelich) and ridiculous (playing Captain Kirk in the Fuller Follies, alongside Carla Grover Barnhill (Uhura), Matt Colwell (Spock), and Craig Detweiler (expendable Star Trek guy in the red shirt)).

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