Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God's Openness (The Didsbury Lectures)
~Clark H. Pinnock
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ISBN/ASIN : 0801022908
Manufacturer : Baker Academic|
Release data : September, 2001
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Open Theism Coming of Age
This is, I think the most mature and articulate statement of Open Theism yet written. Clark Pinnock, the father of the movement responds to Open Theism's critics and provides a clear and persuasive case for his own perspective. There is much to admire in Pinnock's work, perhaps most of all it's rehetorical power and passionate voice. This book also, I think offers the most nuanced arguments for Open Theism and critiques of Classical Theism than any other book I have read. Pinnock, in four chapers explores the biblical support for Open Theism, critiques Classical Theism's indeptedness to pagan philosophy, examines the philosophical coherence of Open Theism and explores it's practical implications.
There are certainly some problems with the book. Pinnock does gloss over, or just not mention a number of Scriptures that are very much in tension with some of his claims. Also the book does tend to be quite repetative at points. I also found over half a dozen grammatical and spelling errors throughout the book.
However, there is also much to commend. Pinnock forces Classical Theists to examine so much of the biblical material that they tend to sweep under the rug or just ignore. Frankly, I was also quite compelled by Pinnock's arguments against compatiblism and determinism. It is hard to see how human life and history is significant if it is all run according to a blueprint that even God is not free to deviate from. Also, I think Pinnock is to be commended for grounding his understanding divine power in the cross and resurrection rather than pagan and medival conceptions of power as impersonal, brute force.
I do think, though that we must reform our understanding of God even more radically than Pinnock does. By this I don't mean process theology or something like that. Rather, we shouldn't talk of God limiting his power to make room for human freedom as Pinnock tends to do. Rather, we should contend that God's power is fully manifested in giving freedom, suffering with creation, becoming incarnate, dying and being raised from the dead. These are not things that limit God's power. They are God's power in action!
Pinnock is also to be commended for grouding his view of God and relationality in the inter-trinitarian communal life of God. This truth is, I am convinced, vitally important for the church today. I do think, though that Pinnock, in stressing God's relationality and openness toward us fails to consider that God is also able to distance himself from us as well. In the biblical narrative, this is often seen in response to the sins of God's people. God is not only intimately realted to us, he is also indescribably other than us and is not within our control. Rather, we come to realize that God, though infinitly faithful is also very surprising and dynamic, both in his being present and absent in relation to his people at times. I think Open Theism helpfully stresses one side of this dialectic, but also feel that we must honor the other side as well, thus living in the tension that is life before a God we cannot control, but who is intimately committed to us as his people.
This book is certainly not the last word in this discussion, but it does take the discussion to a new level. I hope that those on all sides of this issue will be able to read this, be challenged by it, and go on to serve God better because of it, regardless of where they come out on the issue. Highly recommended.
Most-Moved Misappropriation of God's Love
Since Mr. Oord felt compelled to offer multiple reviews (see July 14,2002 entry), though I wasn't so compelled, here goes my single review. *As a Wesleyan, this book is very disturbing.*
The False Premise of this book and much of Openism: God's Love is Paramount Attribute under which all other Divine Attributes are Subordinate. Or to use one of their illustrations: God's Love is like Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest stand-alone mountain on earth. While the Lord Himself is represented as the Continent of Africa with its many wonderful attributes and qualities, nothing can match the stature of the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro rising above the Tanzanian plain, dominating the otherwise flat terrain and adding Massive Contour to the topography.
While a nice sentiment, and without by any means downplaying the Wonder and Magnificence and Eternal, Omni-nature of Agape' as fully displayed on the Old Rugged Cross and the movie Passion of the Christ, sympathizers with this misguided view need to read the ENTIRE BIBLE to get its take on things.
What's the harm/danger in overemphasizing God's Love? Simply this. It subtly UNDER-emphasizes God's other equally inherent Attributes like HOLY, PERFECT, OMNIPRESCIENT, JUSTICE, GOOD,RIGHTEOUSNESS, and so on. God of course is portrayed in the Bible as Whole Being, not mere sum of Attributes or as the Deity Who is LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. What does Isaiah 6 and Rev. 4 say for emphasis? HOLY, HOLY, HOLY.
This tells us God is Love, yes. But HOLY-LOVE. GOOD-LOVE. JUST-LOVE. RIGHTEOUS-LOVE. And so on.
Ever wonder why many Open Theists like these authors are either Annihilationists or non-eternal Hell believers? It's because their unbiblical emphasis on Love excludes God's WRATH on Jesus-rejectors. They can't imagine their loving God enforcing a literal, conscious, bodily, tormentive ETERNAL existence of the lost (for some of these openists, Universal Salvation is the only logical outgrowth to their Love-theology: for them, none will be ultimately lost).
Despising and rejecting God's Love, if left unpunished with no divinely imposed just consequence renders the notion of God's Holy-Love into little more than sappy sentiment. That's why the Cross and Blood of Christ is so graphic: not just Holy-Love for the sinner, but Holy-Hate/Wrath for sin. Jesus the Innocent got the Wrath so we the Guilty get the Wreath (by Grace via Repentant Faith alone). Those who forfeit the Wreath are left with the Wrath. See Wesley's commentary on Romans for insight.
Let Scripture settle the matter decisively and conclusively. If they're going to quote John 3:16, at least it should be in context of John 3:17-18 and 3:36
For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes is not condemned; but whoever doesn't believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the Name of the One and Only Son of God..Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains (just as eternal) on him.
Read Revelation about the tormentive, day & night, 'forever and ever' nature of the hell which Jesus-rejectors impose on themselves by God's Holy-Wrath (Holy-Love wilfully spurned/blasphemed).
If Hell is not eternal, neither is Heaven since the same Greek duration descriptor is used for both:
Matt.25:46 "these (goats) shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous (sheep) into life eternal."
A Relevant Theology of Love
Clark Pinnock offers this monograph as a full-scale explication and defense of the Open view of God. Pinnock and others publicly presented the view in a 1994 book titled, The Openness of God. For those unfamiliar with the basic outlines of this theological alternative, Pinnock provides ample definition and characterization of it in Most Moved Mover.
Openness theology envisions God as a self-sufficient, though relational, Trinitarian being who voluntarily created the world out of nothing. God graciously relates to the world as one self-limited out of respect for the genuine freedom of creatures. This relational, pantemporal God does not exhaustively foreknow future actual events. Above all, the open view of God emphasizes love as God's chief attribute and as the primary priority for theological construction. "The living God is . . . the God of the Bible," writes 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" (3).
The book's introductory chapter may be the most interesting part of the book to those already familiar with the general themes of openness theology. In it, Pinnock cites numerous objections to the Open view penned mostly by Evangelical theologians of a Calvinist bent. For instance, "I have to say, with regret," says Don Carson of The Openness of God, "that this book is the most consistently inadequate treatment of scripture and historical theology dealing with the doctrine of God that I've ever seen from the hands of serious Evangelical writers." Robert Morey criticizes the open view by calling the deity it envisions "the finite God of evangelical processianism." "We have here a different God," contends Bruce Ware, "not merely a different version of God. For the sake of the glory that is God's alone, we have no choice but to reject the openness model." R.C. Sproul reacts to Pinnock's theological proposal by stating: "Clark Pinnock is not a believer -- I would not have fellowship with him." Sproul writes elsewhere, "this fascination with the openness of God is an assault, not merely on Calvinism, or even on classical theism, but on Christianity itself."
While Reformed criticisms have been harsh, not all Evangelicals object to the Open view of God. Pinnock lists those found mostly in Wesleyan, Arminian, and Pentecostal circles as appreciative hearers and sympathizers. In addition, "there's a whole new large group called `Christians in Renewal' who enjoy a very relational and intimate spirituality and who, when they hear of it," notes Pinnock, "often resonate with the open view of God. Their presence on the scene may make this a truly new debate and more than a rehash of the old one" (18).
Following the lengthy introduction, the remaining chapters follow the four-fold approach of the Wesleyan quadrilateral. Because Pinnock looks to Scripture as the primary source for theology, he addresses how it corresponds with his proposed view. Pinnock admits that he gives particular weight to narrative and to the language of personal relationships in scripture. He also accepts diversity among the biblical witnesses and recognizes the dialogical character of the Bible. But "conventional theists have difficulty with open view of God because it challenges certain well-established traditions," suggests Pinnock, "not because it is unscriptural." He finds Open themes throughout the biblical witness: "for example, 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" (64).
Pinnock turns in chapter two to assess the authority of the Christian tradition. Just as Christians need to render the Word of God intelligible today, the tradition must continually be scrutinized for its soundness and relevance. Unfortunately, formal Christian theology has been less positive in terms of understanding God's dynamic activity than has the life of Christian piety. The tradition's theology has sometimes lost a biblical focus, such that the package of divine attributes presented by theologians leans in the direction of divine immobility and hyper-transcendence. This is due particularly because of the influence of Hellenistic categories of unchangeableness. After briefly considering figures in Christian history, including Aquinas, Augustine, and Philo, and after addressing evangelical responses to the concept of God, Pinnock concludes that the basic tenets in the open view, "grows out of ideological, if not the ecclesiastical, soil of Wesleyan-Arminianism" (106).
This reviewer found chapter three, "The Metaphysics of Love," the most exciting of the book. In it Pinnock explains his preference for dynamic, relational philosophy as opposed to substantive philosophy of classical thought. He believes that addressing philosophical suppositions is important, because "theological integrity and the credibility of the concept of God in our time are both at stake" (118). Pinnock argues that the open view adopts a "biblical philosophy" -- rather than currently available philosophical propositions -- as the basis for itself. He contrasts his biblical philosophy with process philosophy because, as he understands it, process thought places priority on identifying a contemporary conceptuality and looks secondly to biblical teaching. With regard to arguments for the existence of God, Pinnock opts for the cumulative case for God's existence. He supposes that all people have an intuition that deity exists; the philosopher must provide a coherent and consistent conceptuality of the One whom so many intuit.
The Metaphysics of Love chapter provides Pinnock with the opportunity to address how the open view relates with process philosophy. "Process thought is an impressive modern conceptuality with a lot to offer," Pinnock acknowledges (141). The open view shares with process thought the desire to overcome an emphasis upon the metaphysic of being and to emphasize, instead, a metaphysics of becoming. Pinnock believes process theologians are correct to conceive of God as affecting everything and being affected by everything. He agrees with the process notion that God is temporally everlasting rather than timelessly eternal. He also agrees that God should be understood as passable, not impassable, and omniscient in the sense of exhaustively knowing all that can be known. In fact, says Pinnock, "I appreciate Whitehead and Hartshorne much the way the conventional theists appreciate Plato and Aristotle" (143). Pinnock provides a helpful list of convictions that process and open theists hold in common. "We:
*make the love of God a priority;
*hold to libertarian human freedom;
*are both critical of conventional theism;
*seek a more dynamic model of God;
*contend that God has real, not merely rational, relationships with the world;
*believe that God is affected by what happens in the world;
*say that God knows what can be known, which does not amount to exhaustive foreknowledge;
*appreciate the value of philosophy in helping to shape theological convictions;
*connect positively to Wesleyan/Arminian traditions. (142-143)"
Open theism is not process theism, however. "Process philosophy can be helpful," admits Pinnock, "but [it] must be refashioned and cannot be adopted wholesale" (148). Process thought is based upon the metaphysics of Whitehead, whereas openness is a biblical theology not obligated to any philosophical scheme.
The way in which open theists characterize God's relationship with the world receives much of Pinnock's attention as he distinguishes between process and open theisms. "Like process [theism], we want to preserve the transcendence of God while denying the separation of God in the world," explains Pinnock. "But unlike process, we want to conceive the relationship as a voluntary, not a necessary, one" (144). Pinnock argues elsewhere that "the self-sufficiency of the triune God underlines the fact that the world exists by grace, not by necessity" (125). Pinnock continues his criticism of process thought by saying that "we [Open theists] hold that God is ontologically other than the world and in a certain sense `requires' no world. God does not have to relate to some other reality because he is internally social, loving and self-sufficient" (145). The Open vision of the Trinity-world relation provides a way to conceive that God is essentially loving, while also conceiving of creation as a free gift, not a necessity.
The last chapter of the book, "The Existential Fit," addresses theology's adequacy to the demands of life. Pinnock believes that the openness model is more relevant than conventional theologies to real life situations, and open theism confirms deep human intuitions about choice and the future. "It is no small point in favor of the openness model," contends Pinnock, "that it is difficult to live life in any other way than the way it describes" (23). Among the assets Pinnock believes the open view provides are the following: open theism (1) emphasizes that life and our life-decisions really do matter, (2) points to a friendship with the Lord that is possible in cooperative relationship, (3) emphasizes the reality of freedom that we all presuppose, (4) corresponds with our intuition that love ought to be persuasive rather than coercive, (5) emphasizes sanctification in the sense of growth in grace, (6) focuses upon genuine responsibility in discipleship, (7) meshes well with what we commonly believe that prayer is about, i.e., influencing God, (8) corresponds with how we understand God guiding us in new life situations, (9) helps to understand the problem of evil by emphasizing that God does not entirely control all things.
I heartily recommend Most Moved Mover. It is accessible reading for undergraduates, and Pinnock gets at the heart of many perplexing theological issues. Openness theology provides windows for dialogue with both conservative evangelicals and the Christian progressive left. I see the book as a major step forward in the open view adventure to provide Christians with an adequate, consistent, and biblically faithful theological alternative.
Thomas Jay Oord