Pannenberg tries to dehellenize Christian theology by rejecting the Greek understanding of God as nous (reason/mind) and rescuing the Hebrew idea of ruah as “wind/breath.” Although Pannenberg’s theology is innovative and brings significant insight into Christian theology, such insights regrettably have a cost: First, although many scholars consider that Pannenberg is not trying to promote a panentheistic understanding of God, his view of God sometimes seems to resemble Panentheism in several areas —his concept of time, history, and God (cf. Plotinus’ view of God as the One, Reason, and Spirit). Second, even more serious is the tension in Pannenberg’s theology between his notion of God as field force and the notion of God traditionally found in early Christian theology. This tension makes Pannenberg’s theological vision to be susceptible to a series of questions regarding the plausibility and coherence of his arguments and ideas. One of the areas of concern I find, for instance, is the downplay of the personhood of the God alongside his appropriation of the natural sciences –-the Field Force Theory— in theology. I ask, if the Spirit is both an impersonal field force and a personal manifestation of the Trinity, how can we know with certainty who the Spirit really is? It seems that Pannenberg collects divergent pieces from different areas of study in order to construct his theological view of the Spirit: He rejects the Greek notion of God as nous, but at the same time, he uses a lot of Plotinus’s Pantheistic material where the concept of nous is central. He tries to rescue the Hebrew notion of God as Spirit in Christian theology by discarding the Greek notion of God as reason/mind, but at the same time, there is a strong rationalization in his theology of the Spirit, which it is alien to the Hebrew thought. Besides, Pannenberg is oblivious that the Hebrew term ruah does not only mean “wind/breath,” but it also refers to “God, spirits, gods, and so on.”
Overall, Pannenberg’s exposition of his theology of the Spirit and the divine attributes does not reduce Christian theology to natural sciences, though Pannenberg does strongly rationalize the theistic understanding of God. If Pannenberg wanted to establish a notion of God that works simultaneously for both classical theism and science, he would have been better off focusing on a notion of God that might understand the Spirit as both pneuma (life-force) and nous (reason/mind).
*This is the conclusion of the exposition paper published in Stromata: The Graduate Journal of Calvin Theological Seminary 58, no.2 (2017): 26-34. If you’d like to read this paper in full, please click here to download it in pdf format.