Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 156:621 (Jan 99) p. 96
by the Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary
“Evangelical Theologians Facing the Future: An Ancient and a Future Paradigm,” Clark Pinnock, Wesleyan Theological Journal 33 (fall 1998): 7-28.
Pinnock, professor of theology at McMaster Divinity School in Hamilton, Ontario, provides a “state of the discipline” address, originally given at the 1997 meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society. He advocates an “evangelical big tent,” describing evangelicalism as a “movement in transition” from its Augustinian and Reformed rationalist orientation to a more Arminian and Wesleyan one. He calls for “reform in evangelical theology” (i.e., in theological method), including a “retrieval of revelation” in all its rich diversity and a corresponding end of the “disregard for context” which, he charges, has characterized evangelical theology. He also calls for a “reform in the doctrine of God,” abandoning the abstract, deterministic deity of Greek heritage in favor of the personal, risk-taking God who is open to the future.
Readers of Pinnock’s recent writings will find familiar themes here. Fundamental to all of them is his continued defense for abandoning classical theism, Calvinism, and Reformed theology in favor of “the Arminian tradition, which like the Reformed tradition, is an evolving one” (p. 26). He again laments his early advocacy of “a deterministic theology in which God was seen as all-controlling, the One who ordains all things” (p. 22). He writes, “I love the evangelical heritage, but have been burdened by its difficulties my whole life. They have set me off on tangents and prevented me from doing the quality of work that I would have wished” (p. 28).
On one hand Pinnock’s call for being increasingly faithful to Scripture in all its rich diversity should be endorsed by all who distinguish the inerrant Scriptures from fallible theologies of Christian theologians. A tent narrower than the Bible should likewise be rejected by all, as should an impersonal God who manipulates humans (p. 27).
On the other hand, however, Pinnock’s calls are problematic. As warnings against abuses or inconsistencies, the exhortations are valuable reminders. But if they are intended to represent actual evangelical theologies, many of them are false contrasts. Furthermore the indictments are asserted rather than argued and the offending theologians (e.g., Carl F. H. Henry, Gordon H. Clark, Cornelius Van Til, John Murray) are mentioned without specific documentation of their alleged faults. Given the generality and brevity of the paper, of course, readers should not expect detailed substantiation. Moreover, Pinnock likely would respond that other ...
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