Scripture in the Theologies of W. Pannenberg and D.G. Bloesch

Written by Frank Hasel Reviewed By Stephen N. Williams

This is the publication of its author’s Ph.D. thesis and is published in the ‘European University’ series. Comparing and contrasting two thinkers is frequently done in systematic theology doctorates; it helps both to narrow down a significant field of study (like ‘Scripture’ in this volume) and to contribute something novel, as required at doctoral level, by taking two figures who have not been juxtaposed before.

Much has already been written about Wolfhart Pannenberg, a leading theologian for over 30 years now. Donald Bloesch is in the midst of a projected seven-volume systematic theology and he has for some time been influential, particularly on evangelical or neo-evangelical thinking in the United States. Hasel spends some time on a typological overview of ‘Scripture in theology’ before giving a scrupulously equal hearing to Pannenberg and Bloesch, and weighing their strengths and weaknesses. The author concludes that, despite general and especially methodological differences, there are surprising similarities. ‘Particularly noteworthy is their common rejection of any identification of revelation with the words of Scripture and emphasis on the centrality of Christ as focal point of revelation. For both, Scripture is not understood as being the Word of God, and both do not see Scripture to be authoritative in a direct sense. Instead, a functional use of sufficiency of Scripture needs to be supplemented by other sources’ (p. 256). Hasel urges that the task before us now is to develop ‘a consistent view of Scripture where the questions of its origin, nature, and use are developed from Scripture alone’ (p. 259). The whole is obviously very thorough and substantially footnoted.

Stephen N. Williams

Stephen Williams is professor of systematic theology at Union Theological College in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and served as general editor of Themelios from 1995 to 1999.