Essence, action and anticipation in Wolfhart Pannenberg's doctrine of the Trinity

Todd Shane LaBute, Marquette University


Wolfhart Pannenberg has convincingly shown himself to be one of the most important theologians of this century. Pannenberg's assessment of the deficiencies in the classical Christian doctrine of God has resulted in his own creative move from classical metaphysics and the traditional doctrine of God to an eschatological ontology. Accordingly, it is the ontological motif of anticipation, most notable as the retroactive power of the future, which permeates his theology. In that he has demonstrated his to be a thoroughly Trinitarian theology, the doctrine of the Trinity becomes the most logical selection for the concrete demonstration of how Pannenberg's eschatological ontology works. In this dissertation I, therefore, explicate the nature of this ontological motif of anticipation and its impact on the Trinitarian relations and Trinitarian actions. I show that this motif is the crux of Pannenberg's system and as such has important implications for the Trinitarian actions, both immanently and economically. Following the introduction which outlines the history of the problem, I give a detailed explication of the background influences on Pannenberg's thinking as well as his concept of anticipation. This entails careful attention to Pannenberg's understanding of history, the nature of truth and reality, contingency and time. I proceed to argue that Pannenberg's concept of anticipation is indeed ontological as opposed to epistemological. Having explicated Pannenberg's notion of anticipation, I go on to show its implications for the doctrine of God. This, by the very nature of Pannenberg's system will entail treatment of Pannenberg's doctrine of the Trinity. After careful reflection on the Trinitarian actions in light of the motif of anticipation, I discuss and evaluate the implications of this motif with respect to the nature and character of God as well as the ramifications it may contain for the concept of human freedom. In conclusion, I argue that Pannenberg's system as detailed in his Systematic Theology falls short of its intended mark and may be closer to the classical doctrine of God than his earlier writings indicated.

Recommended Citation

LaBute, Todd Shane, "Essence, action and anticipation in Wolfhart Pannenberg's doctrine of the Trinity" (1999). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9929162.