Robert Tees

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies


Peter Widdicombe




Wolfhart Pannenberg has established himself as a leading voice in the renewed discussion of trinitarian doctrine. Little has been written in English, however, to assess critically Pannenberg's doctrine of the Trinity. By examining a key point in Pannenberg's trinitarian theology, this thesis is intended to contribute toward meeting this need. The aim of this thesis is to explain the reasons for, and to assess the coherence of Pannenberg's revision of the traditional understanding of the trinitarian relations of origin. Patristic trinitarian theology regarded God the Father as the fount of divinity, from whom the Son and Spirit receive their existence; the Father eternally begets the Son and breathes the Spirit. Pannenberg rejects this view, declaring it to be logically inconsistent and without biblical basis. He proposes in its place an alternative conception of relations of "reciprocal self-distinction". The source of Pannenberg's revision can be traced back to his views of reason, revelation, and the God-world relation. An examination of the first four books of Augustine's The Trinity strongly suggests that the traditional view is not subject to the weaknesses Pannenberg indicates. As well, the comparison with Augustine reveals significant tensions within Pannenberg's trinitarian doctrine. Specifically, I contend that (1) Pannenberg's assessment of Augustine's trinitarian doctrine is inaccurate; (2) Pannenberg, in his rejection of the biblical basis of the classical view, does not correctly identify the patristic understanding of the biblical basis of relations of origin; (3) Augustine's distinction between what divine revelation signifies concerning God-in-eternity, on the one side, and God's relation to creation, on the other, provides a possible solution to the logical conflict Pannenberg sees in the traditional view; and (4) unresolved tensions in Pannenberg's interpretation of the relation of the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity undermine the coherence of his critique and revision of the classical model.

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