Free to become who we are: Pannenberg’s Eschatology part 2

Here’s part 2 of my comprehensive exam answer on the topic of Pannenberg’s eschatology. Part one can be found here.

We are freed to become who we are, and that means we become people who are free to live in trust-oriented relationships with others who are freed to be who they fully are. This self-differentiated reciprocity that the Spirit enables within the life of the Trinity is extended to all the ecstatic instances of identity, including us within the relational ontology of God’s eternal presence.

This experience of God’s identity in our present is not entirely fulfilled, and so we still experience the contradictions and frustrations and evils of this present world, which is becoming fulfilled in light of God’s revelation but is still awaiting the fullness of God’s revelation in which the whole of history is fully revealed as being a universal revelation of God. Our experience of God is, as thus, an incomplete experience, which gives light to the possibility of discussing God as an incomplete God of sorts. However, while this is where Process theologians may wish to stop, Pannenberg insists that while God might be considered not yet fully revealed as God, the identity of God as God in light of eternity is assured. And so, there will be a point in history in which God’s revelation is made fully manifest as being the essence of identity, and at that point the ecstatic instances of self-differentiated identities experience the reality of the infinite.

For much traditional theology and philosophy, the idea of the infinite suggests perpetual time. Instead of approaching it this way, however, Pannenberg develops the idea of infinity not in terms of time or space, but as fullness of being. God is infinite in that God is entirely full in his self. Indeed, Pannenberg treats the topic of holiness within the topic of infinity, as holiness can be understood as God’s self, and God’s self is, in its fullness, the scope of infinity. The call to holiness then is a call to be oriented towards God’s self. Only in light of this orientation can our identities sustain the singularity of the infinite, in which all moments are gathered together.

This is the moment of judgment, which is not as much a penal oriented discussion of our rights and wrongs, and more the issue of our sustainability in light of eternity. Because sin is the attempt to define ourselves in a way other than God, and these ways are always incomplete and contradictory, as we face the infinite we are confronted in a moment with all the inconsistencies and incompleteness, no longer able to sustain the contradictions of being through the relatively dispersed experiences of time, but instead we become in fill that which we define ourselves as, and if these definitions are self-contradictory we experience absolute brokenness.

In light of the work of Christ, however, those who orient themselves in his obedience enter into eternity in light of the coherent identity building work of the Spirit, being transformed in full to trustworthy and whole people. Again, as this work cannot be an isolated experience of individuals but is by definition a salvation into exocentric relationality, the fullness of God’s work is both, at the same time, social and individual. Particular ecstatic instances of identity are given expression in eternal self-differentiation and reciprocity in the infinite scope of God’s triune relationality, being whole as selves and thus wholly integrated with each other self.

In this way, God’s being – his eternal relationality – is experienced as God’s rule, and likewise God’s rule-his expression of complete identity as the defining source of all reality-is experienced as God’s being. The Kingdom becomes revealed in full as the experience of individual wholeness, in which our former contradictions are brought into restoration by the integrating work of the Spirit. At the same time it is social wholeness – in which our former conflicts and self-isolating differentiations are resolved into open and wholly trusting mutuality with others.

This is the hope of the Kingdom, a hope which has been revealed through history, in its most complete testimony in the life and work of Christ, and awaits its completed revelation upon Christ’s return in glory, so that we know in part what we will then know in full, as we join with Christ in participating in his identity, becoming free to be ourselves in relationship with others even now.

And with that, I finished my second comprehensive exam. Not only finished. I “passed with distinction.”

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