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The Term «Person» in the Trinitarian Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg


Theodore James Whapham

The term «person» has been important in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Modern uses of the word, however, have changed drastically its meaning and have raised serious questions about the lasting significance of the definition of the Trinity produced by the controversies of the patristic era. For this reason, some modern theologians have argued in favor of rephrasing traditional formulas, particularly the Trinitarian formula of one God in three persons. Others have contended that the term «person» should be retained in Trinitarian theology, because the modern notion of an individual center of consciousness and action helps to express the relationships among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This book analyzes and evaluates the Trinitarian theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928–) and the importance that he attributes to the term «person.» In addition, this study provides an overview of key themes in the systematic expression of his theology in general and summarizes his treatment of the term’s use throughout the history of Trinitarian theology. The crucial discussion in the present work takes the form of an analysis of Pannenberg’s Trinitarian theology and his use of the term «person» with particular emphasis on the way this material is developed in his systematic theology. The final chapter evaluates the contribution, importance, and influence as well as strengths and weaknesses of Pannenberg’s thoughts on the debate over the use of the term «person» in Trinitarian theology.