Christianity Today reports that Clark Pinnock has died at 73. Pinnock was one of those scholars who could always be counted on for a thought provoking, radical quote. When I taught Systematic Theology, I often used his statements on Hell or the knowledge of God to stir up discussion in class. One of my students referred to Pinnock as “my whipping boy” since assigned the students to respond on exams to some radical statement he made. For a while, the Open Theism question burned rather hot (although not too bright) and I needed to deal with the issue in several classes. Pinnock naturally came up often as my straw man.
Some time later I met Clark Pinnock at the national ETS meeting in Colorado Springs. After a plenary session which saw John Sanders affably defense of Open Theism against Bruce Ware’s Nuclear Assault defending the traditional view, I boarded a shuttle bus for parallel sessions. The bus was packed, only the seat next to me was open as Pinnock boarded the bus. He sat next to me and we chatted about the weather in Colorado Springs. He then asked me what I thought of the session. I simply said that both papers were excellent but they probably didn’t change any minds. I opined that since both sides subscribed fully to inerrancy so there was nothing that ETS could really do about Open Theism. He smiled and agreed, which was encouraging to me since I was very much a “junior scholar” at the time. He was quite gracious and appreciative of my comments. We returned to chatting about the weather and went our separate ways.
As for me, when I returned home I removed the radical Pinnock quotes from my quizzes and promised myself not to use people like I had in the past. Pinnock really was a man who was seeking God and the truth of scripture. Even though we disagreed on the details, we were still brothers in Christ and I have no business treating anyone harshly in an academic setting.