Sunday, September 14, 2014

Wolfhart Pannenberg on a Root Cause of Church Decline

In the wake of Wolfhart Pannenberg's recent death, a clergy colleague shared a brief excerpt from the great theologian's 1991 book An Introduction to Systematic Theology:

If theology does not properly face its particular task regarding the truth claims of the Christian tradition, then it easily happens that the clergy of the church are the first to become insecure and evasive about the message they are supposed to preach. When they become doubtful about the truth of the gospel, they will tend to replace it by other ‘causes,’ and the believers will be disturbed, because they no longer get to hear in church what they rightfully expect to be taught here.

Replacing the Gospel with "other 'causes'" - sadly, that could end up being an epitaph for mainline denominations.

I agree with my clergy colleague who said that Pannenberg here gives both a reason and an antidote to church decline.  

For more, check out Philip Clayton's obituary for Pannenberg.  See also Michael Root's 2012 essay for First Things entitled "The Achievement of Wolfhart Pannenberg."

1 comment:

Doug Simmons said...

I had the opportunity to hear Pannenberg when he spoke at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the late 70's. One of my theology professors had written his dissertation and published a book on the theology of Pannenberg, and had arranged for his visit. Like most of my contemporaries, I was blown away listening to him, but walked away also like most, asking myself, "What???" It was a lot like trying to snatch a bird or two from a huge flock flying past somewhere above the reach of my hands. I've always hoped that at least a few of the droppings from that flock managed to soak in at least by osmosis.