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Theology Thursday: An Opening for Open Theism?

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Posted by John Percival, 29 Dec 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, many are reeling from the turbulence of the year in politics, international conflicts, and celebrity deaths, not to mention a whole host of far more personal experiences. What will 2017 hold? And does God know?

For many of us, the natural reflex answer is, “Of course he does!” On this stands our confidence in his almighty power and ability to bring about the glorious hope of Christ’s return. Our biblically-rooted assurance is that God knows what 2017 will bring, and it is all part of his good and loving plan to rescue his people and glorify his name.

And yet there is a theological movement that risks unsettling these longstanding biblical beliefs, namely Open Theism. In our featured Theology Thursday article from the Churchman archive, Carl Chambers surveys and critiques this movement’s lead proponent, Clark Pinnock. Of particular interest is how Pinnock interprets the Bible.

Chambers argues that Pinnock has a ‘control belief’, a notion of God’s love, that affects – or, often, distorts – his reading of the biblical text. The article explores the important areas of the doctrine of God, Christology, Mission, Pneumatology, Annihilationism, and Sin to demonstrate that this way of reading the Bible, i.e. Pinnock’s hermeneutic, is “systematically defective.”

The result is that Chambers has effectively removed the foundation for Pinnock’s theological edifice. He reaches the rightly cautious conclusion that the Pinnock’s case is now “unproven, not disproved.” Texts are “misunderstood and misapplied,” leaving the Open Theism position without biblical grounding.

This is not the final word on Open Theism, but for those who want to understand better why this position is biblically, systematically and historically questionable then this would be a good place to start. What becomes clear is that the claim that Open Theism is orthodox and evangelical is highly tendentious and that its answers to questions of theodicy are in the realm of wishful thinking rather than divinely-revealed truths.

Chambers, Carl. “The Doctrines of Clark Pinnock: An Outline and Hermeneutical Assessment.Churchman 126.4 (2002): 327–52.

Rev John Percival is a student at the University of Cambridge

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