A Theology of God’s Openness: Clark Pinnock
On January 13, 2005, Believing Minds, a radio journal exploring the academic disciplines in pursuit of informed discipleship, interviewed Clark H. Pinnock, Professor of Christian Interpretation at McMaster Divinity College in Ontario, Canada, about Openness Theology. Dr. Pinnock was interviewed by John S. Tanner, professor of English and Academic Vice President at Brigham Young University and host of Believing Minds. Professor Tanner specializes in the work of John Milton and is the author of “Anxiety in Eden: A Kierkegaardian Reading of Paradise Lost” published by Oxford University Press (1992). As a result, Professor Tanner is well suited to discussing the intersection between religion and literature.
Listen to the program (audio). (Total run time: 00:28:22). If you are new to Openness Theology this is a concise introduction to the basic ideas. Tanner does a great job inquiring into Pinnock’s thought. Even if you are familiar with Openness thinking, it’s great to hear Dr. Pinnock elucidate his views.
When asked to explain the term Openness, Dr. Pinnock stated:
We picked up the term openness because it wasn’t in use in theology, and also because it expressed for us God’s openness to his creation, that God has a dynamic creation which he interacts with and God hears our prayers and responds to our needs. So, it was a theology of God’s interactivity with human beings. So it’s not unique to us, but it seems to be something that people are really wanting to know about and are finding to be true in their own experience of life.
The Most Moved Mover
Clark Pinnock is perhaps most well-known for his contribution to the book “The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God” (Intervarsity Press, 1994) co-authored with Richard Rice, William Hasker and John Sanders.
Pinnock more recently authored “Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness” (Baker Academic, 2001). Those familiar with philosophy recognize that Pinnock’s title is a play on Aristotle’s description of God as the “Unmoved Mover.” Pinnock believes that the God of the bible is not the God of Aristotle.
Most Moved Mover was reviewed by David Paulsen and Matthew G. Fisher. See Paulsen and Fisher, “A New Evangelical Vision of God: Openness and Mormon Thought” FARMS Review of Books 15, no. 2 (2003): 415-42. According to Paulsen, Pinnock
offers an “open” view of God that emphasizes his profound passibility and his genuine interpersonal relationships with other moral agents. The “open” God enters into authentic give-and-take relationships with human beings and leaves the future partly undetermined, allowing human beings to have an active role as agents within the unfolding of his purposes. (416).
Paulsen, writing in a Latter-day Saint publication, notes:
Pinnock’s work should warrant the attention of a Latter-day Saint audience for at least three reasons. First, many aspects of openness theology resonate with Latter-day Saint understandings of God. . . . Latter-day Saints may find that careful contemplation of Pinnock’s theological and philosophical reflections may reinforce some of their own convictions. . . . Second, Pinnock has opened the door for Latter-day Saints and openness thinkers to engage in cooperative work. . . .Third, the openness movement is gaining significant attention throughout the contemporary religious landscape. (416-417).
For more information, Dr. Pinnock’s interview with Homelitics Online is available here, titled “Does Prayer Change Things? Yes, if you’re an Open Theist.” Indeed, one of the attractive features of openness theology, according to Pinnock, is that it reflects how people actually understand God in their daily worship.
Believing Minds as Model for Interreligious Dialogue
As an aside, I want to highlight the mission of Believing Minds as I find it a great example of interfaith dialogue. The following is a brief portion from Believing Minds Statement of Purpose:
The First Commandment sanctions the mind as a means of worship. It implies that devotion is incomplete unless the mind is integrated with heart, might, and strength. At the same time, it obligates believers to engage the disciplines as disciples. Love of God claims precedence as the first and highest love. As such, it orders and subordinates all other loves.
The Second Commandment calls believers to love their neighbors as themselves. This implies an obligation to understand neighbors-their culture, history, language, science, and so forth. It also implies a responsibility to care about neighborhoods, for these shape the soul for good and ill. Neighbor-love thus requires thoughtful engagement with the world, including serious reflection on the academic disciplines, which serve as the repository of worldly wisdom.
Many of our guests are drawn from distinguished campus visitors. Most are not Latter-day Saints; few address uniquely LDS topics. Rather, we seek guests who can help our listeners seek wisdom “out of the best books“; guests whose own work illuminates timely and timeless topics, which we explore in light of LDS conviction.
This is a statement of purpose I can heartily affirm. Listen to more interviews at Believing Minds.