Archives For Clark Pinnock

When my friend first told me about Open Theism my reactions were mixed. On the one hand I eerily wondered all the things one might wonder in reaction to unfamiliar ideas. Is it heresy? Does it deny God’s omniscience? What about Bible prophecy? On the other hand I found myself drawn to a way of understanding God which helped answer deep and abiding questions about the nature of prayer, about who God is and about how he interacts with his creation in history.

My curiosity had been piqued. My next step was to look into Open Theism, to see what it was all about and to see what those who disagree with it have to say. Continue Reading…

Approximately 9 minutes worth in his small church in Hamilton Ontario.

It is difficult to overstate the influence Clark Pinnock has had on me and many others. I knew my chances of taking a class at McMaster in Hamilton Ontario (only three hours from where I live) under his tutelage were unlikely, but I hoped.

Clark is like the forefather of Post-conservative theology. The head runner to forward thinking, always accompanied by the humility required to admit a wayward path if only to somehow attain the truth. You might say he plowed the way for many of us to follow. He writes:

Not only am I often not listened to, I am also made to feel stranded theologically: being too much of a free thinker to be accepted by the evangelical establishment and too much of a conservative to be accepted by the liberal mainline.

I feel the same way. I want to cry out, “That’s me! That’s me too!” A quote I endeavor to model my faith after comes from Clement of Alexandria:

If our faith is such that it is destroyed by force of argument, then let it be destroyed for it would be proved that we do not possess the truth.

If Clement laid out the philosophy, Clark lived out the philosophy as a model to follow. From liberal Baptist to conservative Evangelical. From biblical inerrantist to biblical infallibilism. From exclusivist to inclusionist. From an orthodox theology of hell to a heterodox theology of anniliationism. From staunch cessationist to charismatic renewalist. From established Calvinist to forerunner and defender of Open Theism (or neo-Arminianism).

No one is going to follow all of Clark’s theological shifts. No one should. But I wish more Christians followed Clark’s openness, willingness and embrace of free-thinking and his post-conservative approach to life and theology.

Clark Pinnock passed away August 15th, 2010 from a heart attack. (ct. reports it here.) More on Clark Pinnock and how his theology has influenced me personally to come.

I suggest that if we put the question of Calvinism and Arminianism aside for a time and study God as he has revealed himself in the scriptures we will not discover Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover as Calvinism has always espoused; in fact we may not even discover God as the Arminian understands him. It may be, after seeking to discover the God of the scriptures on their own terms, that we may discover the God of Open Theism quite by accident! Not of Calvin’s Unmoved Mover, but of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover.We will, in all probability, discover as John Sanders said, a God Who Risks. This – I believe – is the truth we all must wrestle with whether or not we embrace Open Theism.

Walter Brueggemann, one of the foremost Old Testament scholars, seems quite disinterested in questions of determinism and foreknowledge – except when specific texts’ call attention to such speculation – and in the debates between Calvinism and Arminianism (and Open Theism). But in his studies of the God of the Old Testament, the “Hebrew testimony” and portrayal of YWHW, he writes: “the defining category for faith in the Old Testament is dialogue, whereby all parties – including God – are changed in a dialogic exchange that is potentially transformative for all parties… including God.” And again, “The Old Testament is an invitation to reimagine our life and our faith as an on-going dialogic transaction in which all parties are variously summoned to risk and change.” He goes on:

“When we are freed of static categories of interpretation that are widely utilized among us, we are able to see that the articulation of God in the Old Testament partakes exactly of the quality of complexity, dynamism, and fluidity that belong to the post-modern world… such an open and thick articulation of faith may be threatening to some and may require unlearning by us all”. An Unsettling God; 2009, p.xii; italics added.

What a powerful statement from a man who is not interested in sustaining “static categories of interpretation” such as Calvinism or Arminianism; neither, it is prudent to add, is he interested in Open Theism. When Brueggemann approaches the scriptures he does not ask, is the God of Calvin here or the God of Arminius or the God of Pinnock? When Brueggemann approaches the Old Testament he asks the question to the ancient Hebrews, “Who do you say that He is?” Sometimes we see the categories of Calvin and sometimes we see the categories of Arminius, this is partly what makes God “unsettling”, because YWHW cannot be made to easily fit into our “static categories of interpretation” – He is too big, and we are too fallible.

Yet it is a fearful road Brueggemann offers, it is a road of discomfort; because in asking the Hebrews and not the Greeks “Who is YWHW?” he finds himself immediately at odds with classical Christian theology.

“In… much classical Christian theology, ‘God’ can be understood in terms of quite settled categories that are, for the most part, inimical to the biblical tradition. The casting of the classical tradition… is primarily informed by the Unmoved Mover of Hellenistic thought… a Being completely apart from and unaffected by the reality of the world” [p.1]

We have come to a point – or perhaps we have always been there – where the God revealed by the Hebrew testimony is rather embarrassing to our sensibilities. The Hebrews speak of a God affected by the passing of time; a God emotionally invested in his creation and sometimes those emotions are even mixed. They speak of a God whose mind is not settled and what’s worse, they don’t seem to mind this God at all! This God repents, He laughs, He tests, He changes His mind and what’s more, He allows his creation to move Him to action and at other times, they have the power to stay His wrathful hand.

“It is common to be embarrassed about the anthropomorphic aspects of this God, so embarrassed as to want to explain away such a characterization or at least to transpose it into a form that better serves a generic notion of God…. All such embarrassments, however, fail to do justice to the scriptural tradition.” [p.2]

Again, Walter Brueggemann has called us out on the carpet; all of us! Classical Christianity cannot escape the ugly reality that we have since near the beginning been embarrassed of the Hebrew testimony of God and so silenced it. It does not jive well with our sensibilities, our Hellenistic sensibilities. But who is the guilty one; are they or are we? It is not they who are being unfaithful to the scriptures; indeed they wrote them! And instead of being embarrassed of the Hebrew testimony of YWHW we ought to be embarrassed of our selves. It will no longer do, in my mind, to dismiss the challenge of the Old Testament as embarrassing “anthropomorphic” ramblings of ancient people. Christianity needs – to some extent – to put Classical Christian Theology on trial and the judge ought not to be Aristotle, but Abraham. Classical Christian Theology is in need of purification, and its filter ought to be the scriptures.