Wolfhart Pannenberg's use of the concept of the true infinite: A critical inquiry

Michael Maloney, Fordham University


The dissertation undertakes an investigation into two different approaches to rethinking God and the world-God relation in light of Hegel's insight into the nature of the infinite as the true infinite. The dissertation engages in conversation proponents of two different philosophical traditions, conceptualist and realist, and investigates their proposed solutions to resolving the tension between the God of the philosophers and the God of the Bible. Representing the conceptualist tradition of philosophy, which traces its roots back to Scotus and Occam, is Wolfhart Pannenberg. Representing the realist philosophical tradition as developed by Thomas Aquinas are the Transcendental Thomists. Both Pannenberg and the Thomists are looking for the “largest” horizon in which to think the infinite God and the world-God relation. Pannenberg accepts Kant's criticism of metaphysics and develops his philosophical theology in a hermeneutical form within the horizon of universal history. The starting point for his philosophical theology is the concrete historical data of revelation of the Christian God. Pannenberg argues that the Christian concept of God as Trinity demonstrates its validity by concretely resolving Hegel's paradox of the concept of the true infinite. Pannenberg argues that the philosophical attributes of God can be successfully sublated into the Christian concept of God, thus resolving the tension between philosophy and theology. However, the dissertation locates an unresolved tension in the heart of Pannenberg's project. The Thomists reject the conceptualist tradition of philosophy and respond to Kant by asserting that his transcendental method lands one in the heart of metaphysics. They engage in a radical turn to the subject and inquire into the conditions of possibility of consciousness itself. Their “transcendental” retrieval of Aquinas emphasizes an Augustinian metaphysics of participation. For them, being is the fundamental horizon of all thought. Their fundamental hermeneutic of the “unity of being” resolves the tension between philosophy and theology by understanding revelation as a moment and mode of the “transcendental experience” that constitutes the subject as subject. Thus, the tension between the philosophical and scriptural attributes of God is resolved by recognizing these different ways of speaking as two different and incommensurable “stages” of knowing.

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Recommended Citation

Maloney, Michael, "Wolfhart Pannenberg's use of the concept of the true infinite: A critical inquiry" (2009). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3377049.