A special session of AAR/SBL paid tribute to the late theologian Clark Pinnock. Pinnock is one of my favorite theologians-- he was thought-provoking, delightfully controversial, and he posed and answered questions that others preferred to ignore. Scot McKnight was one of the persons who paid tribute to Clark. I quote only a portion of his remarks, but they are worth reading in full here:
...Clark Pinnock’s approach to the Bible was courageous. Evangelicalism is a wonderful group as long as you are safe, but the moment you wander outside that safety, which is protected by alarmists positioned everywhere, made even worse by the internet and blogs … once you wander outside you are susceptible to alarms and charges and trials, some of them apocalyptic. Clark somehow managed to sustain sanity while setting off alarms in all directions. Like Aslan, Clark was not a tame theologian. In A Wideness in God’s Mercy, when Clark explored the “Bible’s view of other religions,” he transgressed the boundaries the missionary movement had established, convinced as it was of a strong exclusivist posture toward all things religious. Having read Jean Daniélou’s Holy Pagans of the Old Testament, Clark feasted on the generosity of God at work in the world outside Israel, and then was willing to probe into the implications of those holy pagans for religions today. Thus, he can say, “Some [outside the church today] intend the same reality Christians intend when they believe in God (as personal, good, knowing, kind, strong etc.)” (96). And then this: “People fear God all over the world, and God accepts them, even where the gospel of Jesus Christ has not yet been proclaimed” (97). And he digs: “One can make a faith response to God in the form of actions of love and justice” (97). He then pokes evangelicalism in the eye: “We have tended to ignore this line of teaching in Scripture because of a control belief which blocks it out” (99). He pushes further: “World religions reflect to some degree general revelation and prevenient grace” (104). Yet, religions are part of a fallen human culture, but God uses them – and thus the Bible, Pinnock is claiming, opens up a more generous approach to the religions of the world.
Clark Pinnock’s approach to the Bible was comprehensive. In a Wideness in God’s Mercy, where Clark was examining the hopefulness of the Bible, we are treated not to a verse here and there and not to some theological deduction, as one finds in some less-than-biblical-focused theologians, but instead we are treated to a wonderful sketch in fifteen pages of the expansiveness of God’s vision and what Clark calls a “hermeneutic of hopefulness” (20-35). The election of Israel is not a soteriologically-obsessed election but an election unto mission, as Chris Wright has recently articulated in his magnum opus, The Mission of God. For Clark, “this election is for the sake of all peoples” (24). It is a “corporate election… and a call to service” (24). Then this: “This is the election of a people to a ministry of redemptive servanthood. Election does bring privileges, but primarily it carries responsibilities” (24).
One might be tempted to think Clark Pinnock was also creative, but as I read him he doesn’t offer brand new ideas, but he takes the old message of the Bible and gives it life for a new day when people are struggling with potent problems in a modern and postmodern context.... Clark had both an objective dimension and at the same time was unafraid of the subjective, which goes all the way back to his dissertation on the Holy Spirit in the New Testament in 1963. This subjective side made some nervous. I sort of think Clark liked that others were nervous about what he might say next, and in part this was because Clark was not afraid of pneumatology in his hermeneutics. Many are.
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