A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Clark Pinnock, Alzheimer's, and Open Theology

Word is now public that theologian Clark Pinnock has Alzheimer's and that his theology writing days appear done.

Pinnock is perhaps the most well known proponent of open theology, which is not, as it has often been misinterpreted, process theology.

A wonderful summary of open theology is given by Thomas Jay Oord:

Open theology as Pinnock presents it depicts God as a self-sufficient, though relational, Trinitarian being. God graciously relates to the world as one self-limited out of respect for the genuine freedom of creatures. Creatures genuine influence God. God is transcendent and immanent, has changing and unchanging aspects, gives to and receives from others, is present to all things, and has supreme power. God’s love, says Pinnock, includes responsiveness, generosity, sensitivity, openness, and vulnerability.

Open theology rejects traditional theologies that portray God as an aloof monarch. Influential theologians of yesteryear often portrayed God as completely unchangeable, ultimately all determining, and irresistible. By contrast, Pinnock says the biblical vision presents a loving God who seeks relationship with free creatures. "The Christian life involves a genuine interaction between God and human beings," he says. "We respond to God’s gracious initiatives and God responds to our responses . . . and on it goes."

The future is not entirely settled, according to Open theology. This means that while God knows all possibilities, God does not know with certainty what free creatures will actually do until creatures act. Classic views of God's foreknowledge are incompatible with creaturely freedom, says Pinnock. "If choices are real and freedom significant," he argues, "future decisions cannot be exhaustively known."

Pinnock says of his current situation, "I want to inform you that I am now middle stage Alzheimer's. I will not be able to do my writing etc. I am 73 years now, and I've enjoyed my biblical three score and ten. I am not bitter. I have had a good life."

May God bless Clark Pinnock.

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Ted M. Gossard said...

Sorry to read this. I connect with some of what he says, and not with others. And sometimes I think Open theists put classical orthodox theology in a light which fails to take it all in well, though of course I don't pretend to be as knowledgeable as Pinnock. I too have played around in my mind that God may not know what is not knowable yet, as to what we will do precisely. God knows all there is to know and not what is not possible to know. I don't hold to that, but have thought about it.

Sharp said...

Although not a fan, I'm sorry to hear this. I'm sure it's atypical but my experience with Open Theists has been limited but uniformly unpleasant (obsessive, argumentative separatists is the kindest way to describe the people who left our church to form a home church of about six members). Which is unfortunate, because it is at least an interesting position to ponder, if nothing else.

Allan R. Bevere said...


It is too bad... like so many theologians I have read over the years, I am so impressed with his intellect.

Sharp, thanks for your thoughts. As one who finds myself quite "open" to open theism, I feel confident in saying the group you encountered is atypical.

DCox said...

I saw first hand the pastoral implications of "Openness Theology" (something the Wesleyan Arminian Theologian Thomas Oden deeded "heretical" from the vantage of the classical consensual voice). While we certainly grieve the death of any brother in Christ, this theological perspective has more to do with philosophical sentiments than it does the actual revelation of Scripture. It is a mess.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Dr. Pinnock passed away Sunday night, 15 August 2010.