06 Review: Clark Pinnock, Most Moved Mover.

Stephen Fogarty, , Alphacrucis College

Book Review:

Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001.

In his Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (originally the 2000 Didsbury Lectures), Clark Pinnock applies social Trinitarian ideas to God’s relationship with the world. Rather than the aloof and absolutely sovereign ruler of the universe (Aristotle’s ‘unmoved mover’), we are presented with a picture of God as relationally intertwined with a morally autonomous world (Pinnock’s ‘most moved mover’). He calls this the "open" view of God.

Such a concept isn’t totally new to Pentecostals, who have generally inherited an Arminian perspective, which sees humankind as exercising free will in determining their own temporal and eternal destinies. We believe that human fate is not sealed in the will of God, and that prayer, repentance, and evangelism can be effective in shaping the future for individuals and nations. Creation, then, is an open project! God does not pre-define everything that happens, and some things that he desires may not happen. For instance, he desires that everyone should respond to his love, but apparently not all do so.

Pinnock is reacting to conventional theism as he has received it through the Reformed tradition. Essentially this view sees God as being the solitary decision-maker and effective cause in creation. On the other hand, Pinnock aligns openness theology with freewill theism as represented by the Arminian tradition, which sought to retreat from the position that saw God predestining humankind to both heaven and hell by positing that God’s foreknowledge is conditioned by our actions and decisions. Of course, openness theology goes further in suggesting that the future is still open and, therefore, even God does not know everything that is still to occur.

Most Moved Mover is structured around Pinnock’s theological method, which he describes as "the rule of Scripture within a trilateral hermeneutic" (tradition, reason, and experience). In particular, theology should have an existential fit. Pinnock believes openness theology has a "high degree of relevance to real life situations, confirming as it does deep human intuitions that our choices are not predetermined and the future is not altogether settled" (23).

I think we can welcome Pinnock’s willingness to think about such things, though we may not want to go all the way with him. Pinnock’s views regarding the openness of God and of the future have created a significant backlash within the evangelical scholarly community, even to the extent that the "H" word ("heretic") has been used. The problem for Pentecostals is to distinguish between genuine theological engagement with Pinnock’s ideas and denominational/ institutional reactions from a North American theological evangelicalism dominated by the very reformed-evangelical worldview Pinnock is challenging. As Donald Dayton has shown, this dominance has created problems for the reception of Arminian theological positions for over a century. A far more creative response from the North American evangelical establishment would be to reconsider and possibly reconceptualise such terms as perfection, sovereignty, impassibility, immutability, and omniscience. Certainly, we should consider the reality of human experience of the divine as we contemplate God’s nature.

There is no doubt that current theological ideas (such as the social trinity and the openness of God) reflect our current cultural milieu, just as many reformed-evangelical views reflect the milieux of previous periods. This is unavoidable on both sides: but just as there is a need for caution amongst reformed evangelical scholars against over-reacting, there is also need for caution that we don’t simply jump on the openness bandwagon.

Stephen Fogarty