Too soon? Bad taste? Perhaps but so is suggesting that God might have a body (see Most Moved Mover) and that the future is “genuinely open” to God. As soon as I read of Pinnock’s death in Christianity Today the first thing I thought is: I bet he’s glad that God wasn’t surprised.
Pinnock belonged to a class of who theologians, it might be said, were ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. From whatever he was he passed through a form of predestinarian theology (the original “Young, Restless, and Reformed” guy? Perhaps the YRR fellows need to take heed?) to neo-Pentecostalism, to Arminianism, to Open Theism. I don’t know where he landed. Along the way, however, he didn’t just call into question the Reformation but fundamental catholic, creedal (i.e., the Apostles’ Creed) doctrine. He’s a hero to those “evangelicals” who resist all boundaries (think Brian McLaren) but I think of him as a sort of theological virus that continued to mutate and who resisted all treatments. I guess that’s okay if you like that sort of thing but I doesn’t strike me as healthy.
I’m sorry for the physical struggles he endured in his last days. I’m sure he’s rejoicing in the love and mercy of God to foolish sinners as all believers shall one day. We should mark Clark Pinnock however and we should not celebrate him. It’s possible to be Arminian without calling into question the Reformation doctrine of justification or dispensing with catholic dogma. Here I’m thinking of Tom Oden. I disagree with Tom about all sorts of things but he’s not cavalier and even arrogant toward the past. Pinnock was and he gave precious little evidence that he had really wrestled with it. The adjective “blithe” comes to mind when I think of Pinnock. Did I say “arrogant”? Oh yes, I did. Well, “arrogant” comes to mind as well. If one is going to haul the entire catholic faith into court and indict it, as Pinnock did, then one should do the catholic faith the honor of at least saying “hello.”
Why this post? Well, as I close I remember that in American evangelicalism the impulse to “niceness” will drive evangelicals to publish sweetly sanitized eulogies of Pinnock. I doubt that will be helpful or true to fact. We should remember him as a fellow who was willing to quote Mormon theologians approvingly on the proposition that God has a body. Never mind the fact that we despatched the Anthropomorphite heresy more than a millennium ago. Never mind the fact that he called into question the proposition that God knows the future. If there’s anything that belongs to the biblical and catholic doctrine of God it is that God knows the future. Somebody should remember these things.
We should remember Pinnock as a the epitome of theologically rootless, confessionless American evangelical Christianity. He’s the poster child of what became of modern neo-evangelicalism. His radical version of neo-evangelicalism stopped just degrees from Socinianism (and arguably he verged into it). We should remember him the way we remember a child who wanders right to the edge of a busy roadway all the while counting on her daddy (the responsible, historically rooted, confessionally rooted folk) to save her at the last minute: ruefully.