Pinnock, Alzheimer’s, and Open Theology

March 24th, 2010 / 44 Comments

I received sad news in an email recently: Clark Pinnock is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Clark sent John Sanders and me the following note:

Dear Tom and John:

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. I’ll meet you over Jordan if not before.

You are free to make this news known.

With love,

Clark

 

Clark Pinnock is a theological giant in our day. His influence has been great, especially in Evangelical circles. This news of Alzheimer’s disease indicates that his active contribution to theology will now diminish if not cease.

Pinnock’s personal theological journey has been intriguing. He moved from affirming a more or less conventional and/or fundamentalist view of God to the Open view he considers more faithful to the biblical witness.

In this journey, Pinnock consistently considered the Bible his primary source for theology. He gave particular weight to biblical narrative and the language of personal relationships found in Scripture. Although he rejected a Fundamentalist view of the Bible, he remained committed to honoring the Bible as his principal authority for theology.

Open theology offers a coherent doctrine of God, says Pinnock, in which each divine attribute “should be compatible with one another and with the vision of God as a whole.” For instance, Pinnock wishes to offer a vision of the God who “combines love and power perfectly.” Unless the portrait of God compels, he says, the “credibility of belief in God is bound to decline.”

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 genuinely 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.”

Open theology does affirm that God is all knowing. God knows all things knowable. Believers should not understand divine omniscience as the idea God possesses exhaustive foreknowledge of all future events, says Pinnock. After all, future possible events are not yet actual.

Biblical evidence for Open theology’s view of omniscience comes in many forms. Dozens of biblical passages, for instance, record God saying “perhaps.” This uncertainty on God’s part means the future remains open, not completely certain. The Bible also says God makes various covenants. These covenants suggest God does not know with certainty everything to occur in the future. God often asks Israel to choose one course of action over another.

For instance, Jeremiah records God offering two possible futures for Israel: “If you will indeed obey this word, then through the gates of this house shall enter kings who sit on the throne of David…. But if you will not heed these words, I will swear by myself, says the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation” (Jer. 22: 4-5). God’s particular course of future action depends in part upon Israel’s choice. God apparently does not know with certainty what Israel’s choice will be. Other Old Testament passages exhibit covenant language in which the future is yet to be decided, and God does not know with certainty what will actually occur.

God cannot be in all ways timeless, say Open theologians. We best conceive of God’s experience as temporally everlasting rather than timelessly eternal. To say God is in all ways timeless implies God is totally actualized, immutable, impassible, and outside of time and sequence. Such a God is static and aloof, says Pinnock, not relational and responsive. The temporally everlasting Lord is the Living God of the Bible.

Those who embrace conventional theology have difficulty accepting Open theology. This difficulty arises because Open theology challenges certain well-established traditions, argues Pinnock, not because it opposes the Bible. Open theology themes appear throughout the biblical witness: “the idea of God taking risks, of God’s will being thwarted, of God being flexible, of grace being resistible, of God having a temporal dimension, of God being impacted by the creature, and of God not knowing the entire future as certain.”

One of Open theology’s greatest assets is its fit with Christian experience. It addresses well the demands of ordinary life and practices of the saints. “It is no small point in favor of the openness model,” Pinnock argues, “that it is difficult to live life in any other way than the way it describes.”

Open theology releases people to live their lives meaningfully, says Pinnock. “As individuals we are significant in God’s eyes… the things we do and say, the decisions and choices we make, and our prayers all help shape the future.” Our lives and life-decisions really matter.

Open theology is preferable in other ways. It points to a friendship with God possible in cooperative relationship. Most conventional theologies implicitly or explicitly reject friendship with God. Open theology emphasizes the reality of freedom we all presuppose. Many conventional theologies directly or indirectly reject creaturely freedom vis-à-vis God.

Open theology corresponds with our intuition that love ought to be persuasive rather than coercive. It emphasizes sanctification in the sense of growth in grace and decisive moments. Open theology corresponds with the view that God calls and empowers growth in Christ-likeness.

Christians should especially prefer Open theology to conventional theology on the issue of petitionary prayer. Most Christians believe their prayers make a difference to God, including influencing at least sometimes how God acts. Pinnock argues that petitionary prayer does not genuinely influence now the God who foreordains and/or foreknows all things. Petitionary prayer cannot change an already settled future.

“People pray passionately when they see purpose in it, when they think prayer can make a difference and that God may act because of it,” argues Pinnock. “There would not be much urgency in our praying if we thought God’s decrees could not be changed and/or that the future is entirely settled.”

Above all, Open theology emphasizes love as God’s chief attribute and priority for theological construction. “God created the world out of love and with the goal of acquiring a people who would, like a bride, freely participate in his love.” Love was God’s goal, and giving freedom the means to that goal. “God is inviting us to join in his own ongoing Trinitarian communion and conversation,” says Pinnock. God “wants us to join in and share the intimacy of his own divine life.”

God’s loving nature is unchanging, but God’s experience, knowledge, and action change in the divine give-and-take of interactive loving relationship. “The living God is . . . the God of the Bible,” says Pinnock, “the one who is genuinely related to the world, whose nature is the power of love, and whose relationship with the world is that of a most moved, not unmoved, Mover.”

Because of this, Open theology “is a model of love.”

 

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Comments

Jeremy D. Scott

Thanks for sharing this, Tom.  Clark Pinnock helped me immensely in the past.  I’m not sure I’d believe in God if not for some of the paths he started me on (at least not the living God in Christ).  Further up and further in!


Paul DeBaufer

I am sorry to hear of Dr.Pinnock’s having Alzheimer’s. This is such an insidious disease, devastating to both the sufferer and their family and friends. I will be adding Clark, his family and friends to my prayers.


Hans Deventer

Thanks for writing a worthy exposition of the theology of this good man of God. Though controversial, I believe he has also been a great source of inspiration to many, helping them to see God in a way that I believe is more personal and more true to the revelation we have received through the Scriptures.
We thank God for Clark Pinnock.


Larry Shelton

This is, sadly, the twilight of an inspiring career that was not afraid of change, but revered classical Christianity. His development over the years was and is a model for inquiring minds. We shall miss him greatly. Thanks also to Tom, for this concise and perceptive summary.


Bob Luhn

Even in his gracious announcement of Alzheimers, Dr.Pinnock is exhibiting the love that he has attributed to God for many years.I am saddened to think he will write no more but even in this struggle, Dr.Pinnock demonstrates his unwavering trust in the God who loves him and will walk with him through difficult and dark days. May God help him.


Brian Clark

Dear Tom,

Thanks so much for this tribute to Clark and the ideas he helped pioneer and champion.  Clark was very important to me as a pioneer of relational theism, but also as a Christ-follower who was able to weather fierce opposition and criticism without becoming bitter or becoming enraged.


Charles W. Christian

Tom,
Very moving.  Thanks so much.  Dr. Pinnock is indeed a theological giant.


Donald Minter

What an excellent summation of his views.  Thanks for the concise presentation of the early roots of the Open Movement.  Like so many, very much enjoyed his works, even when he made me nervous. 

Great job as usual Tom.

Don


brint montgomery

Hey, touching entry and very informative too.  Thanks for your work on this essay.


Karen Winslow

Because of the Bible’s witness to what is called Open Theology, I have had the chance to know Clark Pinnock. My developing perspective based on close readings of the biblical text were well articulated by Clark and Bill Haskers and the others who wrote the Openness of God. Twenty years later, I met Clark and his wife in Boston and the next year he came to our home and swam in our pool. I also credit Tom, Karl, and Templeton for bringing Clark into our lives in a more dynamic relational way than can be found in his many profound writings.


Marty Alan Michelson

It’s a testament to how he values you, Tom – that he sent this to you and John Sanders.  Pinnock (and many of us) believe in your work, Tom.

Thanks for sharing this.


Edward Pawlowski

Reading Clark’s books was like fresh air for me. Thank God for his theological work and very open heart to the Bible, God the Father, and people. Even now there such dignity in his words.


Dan Smitley

Reading Pinnock’s books helped me articulate a theology that I knew to be true in my heart for some time. It saddens me to hear of his illness.

Thanks for sharing Tom.


Steve Carroll

Tom, thank you for the update. Clark’s work and courage have been a frequent source of strength and encouragement to me.


Lennart

Clark Pinnock has been a tremendous encouragement to me and his work will continue to be a source of light to many for years to come. Great insight made even more valuable by a great heart.

// Lennart, Madison, WI


Curtis

Like many of the others, I too am indebted to Clark Pinnock for my theological shift and perhaps my faith as well. I had an undergraduate professor who was very keen on Pinnock’s move from biblical inerrancy to biblical trustworthiness. When I began grad school at Pepperdine (mid 90’s), at the suggestion of that professor, I decided to read all of Pinnock’s works, chronologically. It was an amazing journey. I was encouraged and excited that a theologian of Pinnock’s caliber could make such an honest changes and that a move towards question and critical thinking was not a move away from faith. I was so enthralled by Pinnock’s transformation that I wrote my masters thesis on his paradigm shift in his doctrine of God. I have had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Clark on a few occasions and he has always been very encouraging. A true gentleman scholar.

Thank you Dr. Pinnock for showing me that I don’t have to make an “either-or” choice when it comes to God, the Bible, or any another matter of theology. There is always at least one more path one can take in faith.


Allan Anderson

Thank you for this moving tribute to a courageous servant of God and clear summary of his convincing theology. I met Clark twice, the last time in October 2008 when I sat next to him during lunch at McMaster at a seminar in which I was speaking. I am so sorry to hear this news. My mother died of Alzheimers in 2006 and it is not a future I would wish on anyone.


Matt Cairns

I’m still saddened by the news several days later. I was someone who had major struggles with my faith until one day i came across an online paper on Open Theism written by Clark Pinnock and the relief was immediate. So clearly and yet so humbly explained – thanks you Clark .


John Sanders

Tom, thank you for your comments. Here is one message I sent to Clark.
Dear Clark,

Thank you for letting us know about your present situation. Tom sent a wonderful message to you and I want to add a hearty “Amen” to his note. You, and not just your writings, have influenced so many lives including my own. I continue to tell the story of your magnanimous gesture to me when, at a conference at Wheaton, you read an unpublished paper of mine that was appreciative yet critical of some of your views on the destiny of the unevangelized. You encouraged me to publish it, something I had never considered doing. The following week you called me up to encourage me to develop the paper into a book. That pep talk led to No Other Name. Because you read the notes in that unpublished paper carefully you inferred something about my understanding of the divine nature and this led you to invite me to write a chapter for your book The Grace of God, The Will of Man. I remember telling you that I was still working on my master’s degree at the time and did not consider myself worthy to be included in a book with folks such as Billy Abraham and Steve Evans. You replied that you did not care what degree I had so long as I did good work. I was both tremendously excited and deeply humbled.

It has been a pleasure to learn so much from you, to enjoy your spirit and inquisitiveness, and to have collaborated with you on several projects. My prayers will continue for you and Dorothy.

Your friend,
John


Darren

As others mentioned, I too came to a major philosophical struggle/obstacle with my faith until my pastor suggested that I read The Openess of God.  Life changing.  Thanks to Clark Pinnock for such wonderful work and dedication to seeking Truth.


Michael Bauman

I think the world of Clark, as a man and as a courageous, faithful, purposeful thinker.  He has pursued the truth wherever it led, and has endured the consequences with poise and grace, even when they sometimes were harsh and came from the hand of friends.  Knowing Clark is an inspiration and an enlightenment, one for which I am enormously grateful.

He and his family are in my prayers.


Robert M. Price

I started reading Clark’s books back in, oh, I guess, 1972 or so. I always followed him with great interest and have praised his work ever since. I met him in California in 1979 and had an utterly fascinating conversation with him. This led to extensive correspondence and a couple of thoroughly fun visits, as he graciously hosted me for a theological conference or two in Toronto. In 1981 he served on my dissertation committee. Eventually I left evangelicalism, but ever since, I have always cited Clark as a genuine freethinker who freely thought his way into reasoned faith, to assure my atheist pals that it is possible. If Clark must now take a forced rest from his indefatigable writing, one can anticipate the verdict “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”


Dave Telling

As one who has had several relatives succumb to this miserable disease, I greatly sympathize with Mr. Pinnock. I can only imagine the desolation of thinking about the prospect of losing so much of what makes a person who he or she is.


Gabi Markusse

A dear friend of mine passed away last year, just a bit more than a year after his wife who had had Alzheimer’s for several years. This friend, we called him Doc, served his wife with amazing love and graciousness. He would speak of the privilege it was to serve her after she had served him for so many years. His love for her was an inspiration to so many of us. I pray that those close to Clark will discover the greatness of the love he so clearly had discovered in his life, as they continue to serve him in the coming years.


Andrea Hills

I think what I like the most about “open theology” is that it portrays God as a compassionate loving God, rather than just a “ruler” or as someone who is trying to control us.  Open theology it so much more relational.  It states that “God seeks relationship with free creatures.”  So God desires a relationship with us (which is amazing in itself), but in order for this to happen, we must respond.  This, in my opinion, is what makes this idea of open theology such a great model of love.


Jeff Keuss

thanks for posting this – only tracked the news down recently.  When I was on faculty at University of Glasgow we had Clark over for a series of lectures that were during all the ETS firestorm.  He was never bitter nor spiteful and always gracious… embodied the “flame of love” in the truest sense with our students.  I will be praying actively for him and their family during this challenging chapter.


Curt Huber

Tom, thank you for the excellent essay.  I read Flame of Love in the summer of 2002.  At the time, I was in the middle of serving a three term as an elder at our church and I was particularly frustrated and discouraged.  Flame of Love was on my bookshelf and I rather randomly picked it among others for my reading at that time.  It truly changed my life.  His teaching led me into a relationship with the Spirit that I had not experienced in the previous thirty years of my Christian walk.  Clearly, he did theology in the power of the Spirit.

I’ll be praying for Dr. Pinnock and his family.


Dick Leppky

I am saddened by this news and yet full of joy for his work. I just now am reading The Openess of God and believe it is a powerful validation of ‘Relational Christianity’  Thank you Mr Pinnock. Your rewards await!


David Steeves

I’m sorry to tell you that Clark passed away yesterday. He will be missed by our little congregation. His Child like wonder around the things of God was wonderful.
Such a mind but so humble
Blessings
Dave S


Linda Mercadante

I met Clark at Regent College when I was a brand new Christian.  Not only did Clark and Dorothy help confirm and mature my faith, they were also friends, mentors and amazing role models.  I would not be a theologian today were it not for them.  I would not have been able to last as a Christian and a feminist, had it not been for them. I am devastated by this news, but I know Clark is waiting for all of us to get there and we will party!! Save a seat for us at the table, Clark!


Rich Shockey

That Pinnock moves the conversation from conventional theologies that have more in common with Athens than with Jerusalem toward a more love-centric theology is praiseworthy. For too long our theologies have been bound to concepts of God that focus too heavily on God’s immutability, impassibility and God’s general aloofness from creation. Instead, Pinnock help us to remember that God is very relational, is moved by creation, and, perhaps most importantly invites us to help create the future with God through our prayers and our God-given creative abilities. While God may not be changed in essence, it is important to consider that God is changed and moved by the creation that God so lovingly interacts with.


Carol Valdivia

You can appreciate the concept of open theology and the way it portrays God as relational to free creatures. You can see the concept of Pinnock’s importance of a God being sensitive. God may be all-powerful, but when it comes to human interaction He changes His attitude and behavior.

But I’m a little confuse in respects to the all-knowing God. If open theology says, “while God knows all possibilities, God does not know with certainty what free creatures will actually do until creatures act”. Then that means that God is not all knowing. He just knows a portion of the future, and then will He really be called God? But later it mentions, “Open theology does affirm that God is all knowing. God knows all things knowable.” Then all knowable is up to the part where free creatures make a decision.  But wouldn’t God know it, since He is God. It is an area that is unclear in this concept. Or I might just be missing the concept.


B Dockum

Dr. Oord does a marvelous job of introducing and then summarizing the main points of openness theology, as well he should, having himself been involved in the development of the movement. This theology emphasizes openness – of God and the future, relationality with God, and mutual love (though God’s is first). These ideas about God run an alternative course to what many consider conventional theology. In proposing these ideas, Dr. Pinnock finds a God-concept that is more compelling to the culture of the present day, as well as arguably a better fit to the Biblical narrative. While no theology, including this one, seems to perfectly satisfy, we are better off for having considered this relatively fresh theology.


Jeff Martin

A lot of Christians do have a way of how God works in the world, but as Dr. Pinnock says elsewhere it has not been thought out as carefully as it needs to be.  The good thing, he says and I agree, is that most Christians act as if they do believe in Openness theology.  The classic Arminian view is that all time is present to God, though he only interacts in the present.  In one way this makes sense of things, but in another it does not.  Some of the questions that immediately arise are: Are we talking about space-time or some other time?  If God always had our time in view then how can it be said He decides to do anything?  Wouldn’t our existence be like God as well?  We would have never never not existed.  If God then created space time at one point, then how is it that he could see the future the same as he could see the present without him having to cause it?  Overall, with all that confusing mess just said, God being in the present with us seems the most probable and I agree with Dr. Pinnock.


margaret tyler

Dr. Oord, thanks for sharing a glimpse into Pinnock’s view of his Alzheimer’s journey as well as helping to further clarify his writings on Open Theology.

My mom suffered the same wretched disease—a journey she feared and never wanted yet, one she walked with unending grace.

As I read through your blog I am thinking how much of this would have been good news for her. For she held to an understanding of God that she wrestled with for much of her life. The God of judgement took up residence in her thinking and could not be diminished. Until, through the open door of Alzheimer’s we watched our mom become a showcase for Peace that passes all understanding.


Vincent Chiu

Dr Oord,
It is such a moving way to start a blog with the news about Dr Pinnock. I found out his death when accidentally I watched the memorial service about him in youtube. I lament the fall of the humble theological giant who pioneer the open view of God that changes so many lives. I have the feeling that the open theology movement has already gathererd momentum and is a rolling snowball in US. As far as I am concerned, I very much bend toward open theism, though I may not say I am an open theist. Unfortunately down in Australia, classical theists still have the strongholds and bridgeheads. The beauty of open theology is that it portrays God as a personal and relational being, as distinct from a distant Judge, an image that makes intimate relationship with God difficult.

I believe children of God needs a paradigm shift in their perception of God. Thus there are still enormous needs to carry on the unfinished work of Dr Pinnock by scholars to help make the shift possible. I believe the ongoing research on open theism is not for its own sake, but for pursuing better understanding of the true nature of God.


David W. Ching

The more I read about Pinnock and his view on open theology I believe I follow along well with his thought process and agree with the openness expressed.  Sorry for such as great loss.
 
“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” (Blog paragraph four (4)).

I agree with Pinnock in every area in the fore mentioned paragraph.  I believe God to be self-sufficient, relational and Trinitarian.  I also believe God to be a rational God when it comes to God’s creation.  I like Pinnocks view (Open Theology) because it is Biblically founded and expresses a logical reasoning and I for one operate more so on logical reasoning and openness of thought.  I also agree that the future is bright but that the future is not set in stone either.  Our freedom of thought, action and choice enables us to write in thought, action and choice (a new script) each new day and that there is no absolute in this script until the script is played out. 

Open Theology allows us to openly express ourselves and enables us to have revealed and relational experience with God through God’s expression of love for us and through us, which allows us to seek meaning and purpose in our lives.

Pinnock states, “Open theology releases people to live their lives meaningfully” (Pinnock).  “The greatest desire of the human heart is – ‘I want a life that matters’” (DWChing 2004).  Open Theology allows us to seek a meaningful life without fear of a closed God.


Kim Hersey

I am honored, and humbled, to have read this essay and the comments that follow.  I feel as if I have just been invited in to an extended family’s celebration of a life too soon lost from us.  It is an awkward, but sacred place, to feel “outside” the news and yet invited to be included in the impact of Clark Pinnock’s life.

Indeed, I’ve been included in his sphere of influence for much longer than I’ve known to give him credit.  “God knows what’s knowable” has been my definition of God’s foreknowledge for a long time.  Stolen from a friend’s theology notes in college, that phrase has served me well. 

Similarly, considering the Bible as the principal authority for theology while separating it from Fundamentalism has been important to me.  Whether or not the professors who first showed me that path were all in agreement with Pinnock, they certainly paralleled his work and furthered Pinnock’s impact on my life.


Anthony Phillips

I believe that Dr. Pinnock portrayed through his writings a humble receptivity to all of life which enabled him develop a balanced, integrated, existential, and holistic theology. Pinnock’s model of open theology resonates with me in that it holds a high view of the bible as realistic narrative, and allows for the scriptures to shed light on the issues and circumstances that face the contemporary Christian. Pinnock offers us a vision of God whose attributes may appear to be paradoxical, yet are intelligibly and coherently depicted by the open theist view.
The biblical God as revealed in scripture is essentially relational. I feel that the open theist understanding of God is very compatible with that of the biblical revelation. It uses philosophy and contemporary thought to serve the biblical vision, that is as tools to aid in unpacking the depth and significance of universal love. It is the open theist’s notion of God’s unchanging love for all creation that defines creaturely freedom, friendship, responsibility, and meaning. God has created the world with a capacity to engage in influential interactions with its Creator. God so honors creation, that God offers all to participate in the divine life, a life characterized by an I-thou love relationship.


Amy Rice

Diseases like Alzheimers and cancer, in which the person and the person’s nearest and dearest suffer, make open theology all the more coherent. Can you imagine serving a God who had the power to stop a degenerative disease and refused to do so? The God of open theology would not, indeed could not, do such a thing. But what the God of open theology will do and can do is weep alongside us, participating in our grief. Open theology’s God takes our prayers seriously. And open theology’s God invites us to follow God’s example: to do whatever is in our power to stand alongside those suffering and in need, and manifest God’s grace to them.


Nancy Tullis

For those who hold tightly to conventional theology, the freedom of relationship with God Open theology espouses is seen as heresy. It is as if its freedoms that offer an intimate, loving relationship with a loving God are somehow sinful. But as Pinnock argues, I see nothing that is in Open theology that is contrary to scripture.

Key for me in this blog is your statement: “Those who embrace conventional theology have trouble embracing Open theology. This difficulty arises because Open theology challenges certain well-established traditions, argues Pinnock, not because it opposes the Bible.”

For those who follow holiness traditions, the most important message needed today is that holiness is about love not legalism. Open theology is very relevant today and I believe it is greatly needed. For years, especially as a teen-ager, I believed following the rules was more important than following Jesus. So, of most importance to me is that the very essence of Open theology is love. If God is that loving and asks for that relationship, our part is returning that love to him, and extending it to others. Perhaps it is easier to hold onto the notion that God is aloof and too holy to be within our reach than it is to love.

I believe Open theology follows scripture with its ideas about friendship with God, the problem of evil and the value and significance of creatures. But love is the key.

You offer a straightforward summation of Pinnock’s view in your conclusion: “God’s loving nature is unchanging, but God’s experience, knowledge, and action change in the divine give-and-take of interactive loving relationship. “The living God is . . . the God of the Bible,” says Pinnock, “the one who is genuinely related to the world, whose nature is the power of love, and whose relationship with the world is that of a most moved, not unmoved, Mover.”

Because of this, Open theology “is a model of love.”

I had not heard of Clark Pinnock before this class, but I want to learn more about his views and read more of his books. I was saddened to learn that he was stricken with Alzheimer’s. It is a diabolical disease, and seems all the more sinister when it attacks and ultimately destroys a great mind.


Kevin Guderjahn

“Open theology releases people to live their lives meaningfully, says Pinnock.  “As individuals we are significant in God’s eyes….”  Our lives and life-decisions really matter.”

While very few Christians would dispute the idea that we “need” God in order to become whole and live a fulfilling life, it is more difficult for them to accept the idea that God “needs” us as well. 

For God to be “relational” as revealed in scripture and as Open Theology contends then He must also receive benefit from being in relationship with human beings.  Certainly God provides us with our basic human need for significance and security (his being moved/affected by our prayers and actions provide significance while his unconditional love provides security) but what could humanity and the rest of creation provide God?  This is where I think we can learn something from Jewish thought.

The Jewish mystical tradition (kabbalah) explains the creation of the world in its concept of tzimtzum or “contraction” in which the God (the ein sof or “infinite”) contracted within himself to make a space for creation of the universe.  This is certainly in keeping with the panentheistic position of process theolgy.  However, the Jewish tradition goes on to say that in order for the ein sof to be truly infinite He “had” to create the finite.  To put things in more conventional, non-mystical terms – in order to “love” and be “relational” God needed relational beings to express his nature.

We “need” God, but God also “needs” us.  As Martin Buber points out – there is no “I” without “thou”


T. Friberg

Open theology creates an intuitive and graceful solution to many of the difficult theological issues. It also speaks volumes into passages of narrative that describe God’s mind being changed or heading in a new direction. However it’s power is not in the solving of theological problems or matching the Biblical narrative. It’s power is in it’s view of God. It’s beauty is found in a consistent view of a God of love.

One of the issues that I never knew quite how to deal with was the fact that if God knew everything anyway (God is sovereign, right?), then why did it matter if I tried to live a good life? Why put forth the effort when it’s already decided? It always came back to you have to live your best life anyway, because God knows what choices you are going to make. It was like you had to pretend it WASN’T decided in order to live like you should. With open theology, you can live like you believe it to be, that your choices and your beliefs and your responses make a difference and have an impact. I love the integrity and consistency of this way of living!

Thank you, Dr. Pinnock, for the ministry you had and the thoughts you shared with us while you were with us. I am a late-comer, no doubt, but have been blessed by you. Thanks, Dr. Oord, for this concise overview. smile


dan chapman

Clark Pinnock’s Open Theology puts the emphasis on the love of God when describing who God is.  This theology of love brings about it many advantages to today’s Christian.  I believe open theology’s biggest contribution is the way in which it deals with the problem of evil.  I appreciate how Pinnock sees all that God does and who He is as inter-connected with one another. In the case of evil, because God is love, there must be freedom on part of the created.  It is this freedom that allows the possibility of evil which Pinnock argues releases God from being the author of evil.


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