The Price Of Internal Consistency? -- By: Daniel Strange

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 51:1 (NA 2000)
Article: The Price Of Internal Consistency?
Author: Daniel Strange

The Price Of Internal Consistency?

Daniel Strange


Clark Pinnock has attempted to reconcile divine sovereignty with human freedom by suggesting that any future based on human decisions is logically unknowable. God knows all that can be known, which does not include future human decisions, but he is omnicompetent and thus able to bring about his ultimate goals. This paper applies the three tests proposed by David Ciocchi to decide whether Pinnock’s solution is internally consistent, exegetically sound and intuitively acceptable.

The tension in affirming both divine sovereignty and human freedom has been a perennial first-order conundrum for theism, and it lies behind and impinges upon many fundamental areas of philosophy and theology. The fact that both divine sovereignty and human freedom are seen as parallel truths which pervade the biblical text with no explicit resolution, has made the tension a hermeneutical problem as well as an intellectual one. For Evangelical theology, the tension is particularly acute and can be seen at the heart of many of the great historical debates and schisms be they between Augustine and Pelagius, Calvin and Arminius, or Wesley and Whitefield. For this reason it is an emotive area of discussion which shows no sign of abating in the academic community.

David Ciocchi states that responses to the tension fall into two categories, either the appeal to epistemic paradox which states that reconciliation is humanly impossible, or the appeal to reason where attempts are made to reconcile the two concepts.1 In this paper I wish to concentrate on the reconciliation project attempted by the Canadian theologian Clark Pinnock, bringing out some of the implications projects like his have for philosophical and systematic theology. While Pinnock’s project is not particularly original or radical in the

context of theistic belief in general, what should be borne in mind is that Pinnock is an influential Evangelical scholar, and in the context of this community his project is to say the least controversial in what it implies for the nature and definition of Evangelical theology.

In describing one attempted reconciliation of the sovereignty/ freedom tension, I wish to follow the approach used by Ciocchi. Firstly, he uses the concept of human freedom to organise the reconciliation task because, ‘only the freedom concept offers a clear distinction between standard, established definitions. Any attempted reconciliation...must employ a version of libertarian free-will or compatibilist free-will, since these two accounts of free-will exhaust the possibilities for a rational expla...

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