Volume 24 - Issue 2

‘God Does Not Play Dice’

By Tony Gray

‘God does not play dice’. Such was Albert Einstein’s objection to the quantum theory which proposed that physical events could only be known in terms of probabilities. Similarly, a number of theologians have recently been making the same objection to the resurgence of a particular view of God which may be likened to quantum theory. One of the figures at the centre of this debate is the Canadian evangelical theologian. Clark Pinnock. The questions that he and others raise are some of the most important facing theology and the Christian life.

Who, what, why, when?

The Openness of God was published in 1994 (Pinnock, C., et, al., The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (Downers Grove: IVP/Carlisle: Paternoster, 1994)) and brought to a wider audience the reflections of a number of North American theologians which were concerned specifically with the doctrine of God.2 Billed as ‘a biblical challenge to the traditional understanding of God’, the multi-authored volume attempted to swim against the tide of accepted orthodoxy. Traditional categories of immutability (that God does not change). impassibility (that God cannot suffer) and foreknowledge were reconsidered, in order to present a doctrine of God which was at root more relational. One of the authors. Clark Pinnock also co-authored, at the same time, a volume entitled Unbounded Love: A Good News Theology for the 21st Century with Robert Brow, producing a much more developed and theological exploration of the philosophical ideas that had been put forward in the first volume. Their catch-phrase was ‘creative love theism’, painting a picture of a loving and creative God.

In 1997 Clark Pinnock was the main contributor to a major conference in London. A Theology for Revival. Here he presented in full his ‘openness model’, a model of the doctrine of God which he wished the churches to embrace, and which had radical implications for most of our theology and church life. His presentation was given in the light of the recently published Flame of Love (Downers Grove; IVP, 1996), where Pinnock explores a theology of the Holy Spirit, integrating most of his previous thinking along the lines of the openness model.

Pinnock himself is noteworthy for his own specific pilgrimage in theology. Originally an ardent Calvinist. Pinnock made a name for himself in the arena of apologetics and evangelical Christian theology. However, a theological U-turn significantly altered his beliefs, and his ensuing Christian ministry.3 Yet the question for Christians in general, is why is this so important? What is significant about this academic debate?

Fundamental to the whole enterprise of Christian theology is our understanding of God. Evangelists fight against secular understandings of God, whether it be of an old man on a cloud, or some new age cosmic being. Pastors wrestle with situations where people have experienced bad and harmful father-figures, and so project this onto their understanding of God. And of course theologians, philosophers and ethicists all demand to know what sort of god God is, in order to make sense of the world. In particular, the field of the philosophy of religion, as well as systematic theology, has spent much energy in trying to explain the nature and activity of God. Yet for the ordinary Christian, understanding God is also crucial. Is God really there? How do I know God? Will God answer my prayers? Does God have a plan for my life, and if so, does he know what is going to happen? Am I really going to heaven?

Who is God?

It is because of these very real and practical questions that the issues Pinnock presents are important. Pinnock’s theology covers a huge spectrum of ideas. From the nature of God, the Trinity, the work and person of the Holy Spirit, to atonement, freewill, and sin, and perhaps most famously, issues concerning religions, hell, and salvation. It would be impossible to cover all of these matters here. Most crucial to the whole enterprise is his understanding of God. For that reason, this article will concentrate on Pinnock’s version of the openness doctrine of God, or creative love theism.

Creative love theism is a composite model with the following basic features. First, it celebrates the grace of God that abounds for all humanity. It embraces a wideness in God’s mercy and rejects the idea that God excludes any persons arbitrarily from saving help. Second, it celebrates Jesus’ category of father to express God’s openness and relationality with us. God seeks to restore relationships with estranged people and cannot be thought of primarily as a Judge seeking legal settlement.… Third it envisions God as a mutual and interrelating Trinity, not as an all-determining and manipulative transcendent (male) ego.4

Openness theology/creative love theism rejects most of the traditional labels attributed to God. According to these theologians, they are unhelpful (they distort our understanding of our relationship with God) and unbiblical (they are imported mainly from Greek Platonic philosophy, and so distort the true biblical picture of God). The charge is that traditional theology has been influenced by a system, rather than by the Bible. So, for example, the idea of transcendence, that God is different, altogether separate and removed from the created world, is perceived to have become the over-riding model, and hence we have lost an understanding of God as near, close, involved and loving towards us. Similarly the belief that God is eternal traditionally portrays God as not being bound by time, space, or anything else which he has created. He is present everywhere, and at all times (or perhaps, outside of time), and so often described as timeless. Openness theologians challenge the idea of God as timeless as unbiblical and Platonic.

A timeless being cannot deliberate, anticipate or remember. It cannot do anything or respond to anything. There cannot be any before or after. In short it cannot be the divine Agent we love and worship.5

Although affirming God’s eternal nature, they prefer to conceive of God as everlasting within time (as many other non-openness theologians also do). Of more interest are the remarks which Pinnock makes concerning immutability and impassibility. Of the latter, the idea that God is not subject to the whims, pains and sorrows of creatureliness (for example, God is not subject to or affected by our suffering), openness claims that God is grieved by human situations, that he does come down and identify with our sufferings. In fact, one of the most creative responses to the horrors of the holocaust was that God was suffering there with the victims. Of course, the supreme example of this is on the cross, where ‘God entered history so profoundly that not only was the world touched and affected by it, but God was touched and affected by it also.’6

Most significantly, openness theology reinterprets traditional categories of omniscience and foreknowledge. These together constitute the belief that God knows everything that there is to know, and therefore God knows what is going to happen in the future, and has always known what is going to happen in the future. Openness, and most explicitly the theology of Pinnock, claims that God has only past and present knowledge. That is, for a time-bound being to know things in the future is a logical impossibility. God can make an expert estimation of what is going to happen—after all, he is God, has all the resources of the world, and is pretty good at working out what you and I are going to do. The model most often used to illustrate this point is of a grand-master chess player. If you or I play Kasparov, we stand little chance, for he can work out from all the possibilities within the game of chess what you or I are probably going to do. He has all the experience, all the knowledge of all the possible game plans, and all the expertise, whereas I only know the basic moves. Similarly, God can predict what you or I would do tomorrow, but he does not know absolutely, for this would mean that your decision and my decision had been predetermined.

God knows everything that can be known, just as he can do whatever can be done. But he does not know what is unknowable, and cannot do what is undoable. Future choices made freely are not knowable by any being, for the simple reason that there is nothing yet to be known. Future decisions are future—they do not exist in any sense until they are made. Therefore, it is no deficiency in God’s omniscience that he does not know them … The Bible presents us with a God who faces the future as an open possibility. Some of it is determined by what has already happened, but much of it is open to God’s action and to human freedom. This means that we can be co-participants in shaping what will occur.7

The implications of this for God’s sovereignty are inescapable. Pinnock holds firmly to a very strong understanding of human freedom (libertarianism), such that God gives significant weight to human beings, and so respects their free choices. In fact, creaturely freedom is so significant that God may be surprised by our choices. This is a risk. This is a more personal and loving God, who is prepared to take risks with his creation. Thus God is sovereign in much the same way as the grand-master chess player—he will win ultimately, but it may take him a little longer to get there, if we surprise him and do or choose something that God had not anticipated.

History is not the playing out of a tirelessly fixed decree but a theater where the divine purposes are being worked out by the resourcefulness of God in dealing with the surprises of a significant creation. History is neither random nor predetermined.8

Openness theology is not meant to be a novel theology, arising out of thin air. Instead, it intends to be a biblical theology, and some of the challenges it offers to traditional theology come from biblical stories. For example, the OT paints several scenarios where God is portrayed as dynamic and free. In the story of Jonah. God intends to destroy Nineveh as a punishment for its sins. Yet, then the seemingly unexpected happens, Nineveh repents, Jonah is upset, God is pleased, and so in Jonah 3:10 God changed his mind. It seems that God did not know what was to happen, had not fixed it from the beginning of the world, and responded to the free decision of humans. Similarly, in Exodus 32 God decides not to punish Israel after Moses’ intercession, even though he had already intended to do so. Exodus 32:14 reads that ‘the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened’. Perhaps the most vivid picture of this compassionate, changeable and responsive God is seen in Hosea 11, where we hear God’s own conversation with himself, deciding not to punish and so desist from judgement as ‘my heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.’ (v. 8b).

For Pinnock and others, this alternative way of viewing God, a God who in a sense does play dice, has radical implications for Christian life. As some read through this presentation of Pinnock and others, questions and criticism may begin to arise. What sort of God is this? Can I really put my trust in this God? Yet Pinnock is adamant that such a God is shown to be more loving, more relational, and our relationship with him is therefore improved. How amazing a God who takes the risk to create human beings with significant free choices, such that he may well be surprised! How amazing, a God who can steer the world in the way he ultimately wishes, even though he never forces people to do his will! How amazing a God who lets me partake in his world, he lets me make real decisions which he respects, and who waits for me to get involved before things happen! For Pinnock this is not a down-sized God. Rather, this is a more personal, more relational and ultimately more trustworthy God than an all-knowing, all pre-determining God.

God creates for his own pleasure, and his pleasure as a triune lover is to admit new partners to the dance. For this reason God embarks on the risky adventure of creating a nondivine, significant created order and even pledges to be involved in it.9

A theological challenge to listen to

Pinnock’s re-assessment of our understanding of God, whilst causing great consternation to many, can be cautiously welcomed, for a number of reasons even if we do not agree with it. First, it must cause us to return to the biblical testimony, to check and see whether our interpretations are valid. Is our understanding of God one which grows out of the biblical story, or are we following patterns and systems laid down by theologians and philosophers? It can only be healthy when we say we know, love, serve someone, to come to them again and again, to check how much we really do know them, and based on that knowledge, how we love and serve them.

Second, Pinnock challenges unhealthy emphases in Western theology. At times there has been overemphasis on transcendence, playing down the immanence and nearness of God for fear of drawing God in our own image. Additionally, our understanding of God as impassible may be so static that we no longer see a God who loves and is involved in the sufferings of his people.

Third, Pinnock reminds us also of the great many things on which Christians, who are nevertheless united on many fronts, ultimately disagree. Is God timeless or eternal within time? Do we side with Calvin or with Arminius on God’s predestination? Does God predestine due to his eternal decision or on the basis of knowing whether we will respond to the gospel or not? It is these and many other complicated questions which the debate with Pinnock has brought up.

A theological challenge to respond to

Having been positive, it remains the case that much of Pinnock’s theology is not so digestible. One of the major issues concerns the whole nexus of arguments connected with omniscience, foreknowledge, divine sovereignty, and human freewill. If we argued that God is temporal, everlasting within time, and his omniscience means that he has complete knowledge of the future, many would conclude that God therefore foreordains all that is to happen in the future. The implication is then that human choices are not truly free. However, if we put a premium on human freedom, as openness theology does, we may therefore wish to conclude that God does not have knowledge of the future free choices of human beings, precisely because these are things that cannot be known. There are logical impossibilities in this world—a square cannot be both a square and a circle at the same time. God cannot himself perform things that are logically impossible. Since it is impossible to foreknow future free actions of human beings, God cannot be omniscient in the sense of knowing future free actions. This does not mean that his omniscience is restricted, for he still possesses all the knowledge that it is possible to know.

Foreknowledge and Freedom

The main contention of the openness view has to do with the relationship between foreknowledge and freedom. Is human freedom infringed because God knows what is going to happen? Some philosophers, for varying reasons, and based on various understandings of God’s eternity, deny this. Bruce Reichenbach, who is sympathetic to Pinnock’s model of God, strongly disagrees that foreknowledge and freedom are incompatible, as it confuses the fact that God knows what will happen with the fact that he knows this fact because I choose to do it:

To argue in this way is to confuse the order of causes (what brings something about) with the order of knowledge (the basis on which we know something). What God knows is the event itself. Thus God will know the event if and only if the event occurs. That is, God will have a certain belief about an event occurring if and only if that event occurs. It is because (in a non-causal sense of having to do with our knowledge) the event occurs that God believes it occurs. But then one cannot turn around and make the event depend on God’s knowledge of the event, as the objector does when he says that God’s foreknowledge determines, for the foreknowledge depends upon the event, and not vice versa.10

Here is one attempt to understand foreknowledge with a strong concept of human freedom. Others reply to this dilemma supposing that God can know what you or I would do in any given situation. If God had this knowledge (called Middle Knowledge), then he would know the future not by determining it, but by the fact that he knew what we would freely choose in any given situation.11

A more common and traditional response has been labelled compatabilism. That is, that there is a sense in which the omniscience and omnipotence of God are compatible with human freedom of a certain kind. Compatabilism lies in a particular understanding of human freedom.

According to this view, people perform free acts when they do what they want to do, not when they have the power of self-causation, or some other version of indeterminism. That is, they are not constrained or compelled in their actions, but what they do flows unimpededly from their wants, desires, preferences, goals and the like.12

This then picks up the key issue to much of the openness debate—what we mean by human freedom. As has been observed in the discussion on omniscience, the limiting of God’s foreknowledge is driven not only by a particular understanding of what can or cannot be known of the future, but by a particular understanding of human freedom. A compatibilist would wish to assert that the openness view of libertarian freedom, the sort of freedom that is utterly without constraints, is neither biblically not logically accurate. Rather, a compatibilist would argue that human freedom involves two levels of causality—that is, causes on an action which constrain the agent, and causes that do not. An action can therefore be free, even if causally determined, as longs as the causes are non-constraining. For example, God could cause me to choose Weetabix for breakfast and as long as this causing was not constraining, that is it was in line with my desires and tastes and appetite, my action would remain free. Under this model, ‘genuinely free human action is seen as compatible with non-constraining sufficient conditions which incline the will decisively in one way or another.’13

A Victorious God?

In addition to these issues, Pinnock admits that God may be surprised. Although God will ultimately achieve his plans of victory, it may take him a little longer due to our lack of co-operation or our choosing to do something he had not expected. God neither knows all that will happen, nor ordains it. If God has such limitations, then a number of questions come to mind immediately. How did God ensure that Christ came into the world? If Mary had freely objected to being used as God’s servant, another servant would have to have been found. And if that servant objected, then another; and if not that one, then another. Although it may be unlikely, on the openness model, that all possible Marys would have refused, it is still possible, and thus it is possible that God’s plans will ultimately have been thwarted.

Consider another important aspect of theology, the end times. Although it may take longer than God expected to reach the end times, the openness God is confident in his victory. Yet, on the grand master chess theory, it is possible that Kasparov can be surprised, and even though he is the most resourceful and knowledgeable player in the world, someone could come up with an unexpected move, and throw him off beam. His victory is not assured. Similarly, it is possible on the openness model (and it must be possible, otherwise something is set and determined about the future before it has happened, and that conflicts with human freedom) that God’s creation would end up in ultimate revolt and never be conquered. Pinnock may reply that God has got eternity to work all this out, so there are no worries. Fine, but it is possible that for eternity, God would be frustrated. No victory, no final homecoming.

A Revealing God

A similar line of questioning faces Pinnock’s doctrine of revelation. Given the possibility that God can be frustrated, our grounds for believing that the Scriptures we have are those which God intended us to have are brought into question. Pinnock remains committed to a form of infallibilism, such that the Scriptures are trustworthy in all that they intend to do.14 However, if it remains possible that human freedom can work against God’s plans, then our ability to trust the Scriptures for these purposes must at least be open to doubt. Such a question may lead in two directions. Either our reliance on Scripture becomes merely an irrational act, whereby the words of Scripture become revelation because of a fideistic decision. Or, on the other hand, we begin to lack confidence that Scripture is in fact revelation from God, thus undermining any attempt at theology we wish to make.

Theological Language

Much of Pinnock’s argument is carried forward on two fronts—the theological and philosophical discussion of God and God’s attributes, and the biblical evidence for such a case. All philosophers and theologians must remember the nature of theological language. All our talk of God is approximate. This does not mean that we can never know God, yet the very idea of saying something about God is fraught with difficulty. We can either talk of anthropomorphisms—in his actions God speaks, talks, walks, etc. and in his being God is like a father, a shepherd, an eagle, etc. and so we use human language of a divine being. These are not descriptions of what God is, but rather what God is like. God does not have a mouth, feet, or a crook like a shepherd’s. On the other hand we can talk of God negatively. God is never evil, God is not like us, God is not capricious. Yet, when we come to say what God really is, things become more difficult. The Bible uses some terms—God is Spirit, God is love—but neither spirit nor love in the ways we would commonly understand them. This important discussion must be kept in mind when we consider the doctrine of God. In all our attempts to understand God and to talk about him. we are only ever getting part of the way there.

Of course, such discussions therefore determine how we are to understand the biblical language about God. Some language talks about God as a being who does not change, who is like a rock, etc. Other language describes God as having reactions, such as those Pinnock uses which indicate God changing his mind. The theologian therefore has to make a decision concerning which language is central and which controls our theological framework. Calvin’s position was that Scripture uses the language of reaction so that God can accommodate himself to human capacities. It may in fact prove too revisionist if Pinnock and others were to re-interpret all of the biblical images of God along the lines of the reactionary language.15

Connected with the issue of language, is the meaning that theologians give to certain words. Of primary importance to Pinnock and other openness theologians is the category of love. Yet although all Christians would agree on love being a prime attribute of God, surely it is necessary to fill this word with content. In our context, love can mean many things depending on the circumstances. A father can love his child by discipline, a young teenage couple talk of love and may end their relationship in days, people fall in and out of love. Christian theologians must make every effort to fill the category ‘love’ with biblical content. This lack within Pinnock’s theology can be highlighted by the fact that he and Brow are bold enough to make the controversial claim that ‘Religions can be viewed as alternative accounts of love’.16

Finally, the issues of language about God, and definitions of words, bring us to one of Pinnock’s major charges—that traditional views of God are contaminated by Platonic thought, and theologians use non-biblical categories to describe God rather than biblical ones. In response we may say a number of things. First, Platonism itself was and is an extremely complex phenomenon. Following Plato were his disciples, neo-platonists and more. There are important historical and methodological differences to be made, and we must be careful. Second, all interpreters of Scripture, whether in the fourth or the twentieth century are influenced by the thought forms of the day. We cannot speak of the Bible without in some way importing modern categories. For example, when we try to discuss the ‘persons’ of the Trinity which we believe to be revealed in Scripture, you and I mean something very different by ‘person’ than what the church fathers meant. The preface of the openness of God is rather unhelpful, seemingly indicating that their authors escape the ‘virus’ of Greek philosophy.17 Clark Pinnock admits that openness is also tied to a world-view, a thought-form, but in contrast to a traditional model of God, openness theologians want to remove the early western philosophy and introduce a more modern context. Thirdly then, if this is the case, the question remains as to which metaphysical system used to understand God measures up in the best possible way to Scripture. For example, if traditional views import categories of immutability which are alien to Scripture (and this author would be happy to admit this to an extent), do not openness theologians import views of radical human freedom which are also alien to Scripture?

It seems that Pinnock’s accusation against Platonic philosophy is reminiscent of the biblical theology movement 40 years ago, when sharp contrasts were being made between Hebrew and Greek world-views. James Barr made it clear how misleading and unhelpful this distinction was, and since then biblical scholars have adopted a much more nuanced approach to understanding biblical terms.18 Similarly, scholars must be careful in their use and understanding of non-biblical terms, and take care in laying too much blame at the foot of a particular world-view in which that term may have been used.


This article has only begun to scratch the surface. Any Christian must take seriously how God actually speaks of himself through Scripture and we have not even begun to do this. There remain questions concerning the way the Bible speaks of God, the relationship between revelation and reason and so on. Yet the discussion concerning Pinnock’s theology does not stop with remote debates concerning the nature of God. It radically affects many of the following—how we view prophecy, the nature of assurance, the role and operation of prayer. God’s guidance and whether he has a plan for our lives, for example. In all these matters let us make sure that we avoid making God in our own image, or even in an image which we would like God to be.

Annotated Bibliography

Basinger and Basinger, (eds.), Predestination and Free Will (Downers Grove: IVP, 1986).

Four theologians, including Pinnock, present different views on this important discussion and then get the chance to reply to each other. A helpful but inconclusive introduction to the issues.

Bauckham, R., The Theology of Jūrgen Moltmann (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1995).

Moltmann introduces the idea of the suffering God, challenging impassibility, and the Greek origins of that doctrine. Bauckham provides a helpful survey.

Bloesch, D., God the Almighty; Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love (Downers Grove: IVP/Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995).

A very helpful discussion of the nature of God, with an appendix responding charitably but critically to the openness views.

Bray, G., The Doctrine of God (Leicester: IVP, 1993).

A solid and historical introduction to the Christian understanding of God, dealing with the issues that faced the early church in understanding God.

Bray, G., The Personal God (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1998).

A popular response to the openness position, although not a point-by-point philosophical refutation. Helpful for the beginner. See review in next issue of Themelios.

Brown, C., Christianity and Western Thought (Leicester: Apollos, 1990).

A very helpful historical survey of Christian theology and its interaction with philosophy.

Brummer, V., Speaking of a Personal God (Cambridge: CUP, 1992).

A philosopher who, whilst not associated with the openness theologians, is largely sympathetic, and has some influence in non-evangelical circles.

Cameron, N.M. de S., (ed.), The Power and the Weakness of God (Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 1990).

A collection of essays discussing the impassibility and immutability of God. See especially the articles by H. Blocher and P. Helm. In addition, there is a helpful exploration of J. Moltmann’s ideas, who is largely responsible for re-introducing the idea of a suffering God into theology. On Moltmann, see Bauckham, R., above.

Carson, D., Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (London: Harper Collins, 1981).

A detailed study of how the sovereignty/freewill issue manifests itself in the gospel of John. A fine place to start examining the biblical data.

Carson, D., How Long O Lord? (Leicester: IVP, 1991).

A biblical discussion of theodicy, encompassing discussion of the nature of God and human freedom.

Craig, W. Lane, The Only Wise God (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987).

Lane Craig attempts to illustrate the compatibility of divine foreknowledge and human freedom using the concept of Middle Knowledge. A collection of essays discussing this thorny issue.

Davies, B., An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford: OUP, 1982).

Small but helpful introduction for those new to these issues.

Forster, R., and Marston, V., God’s Strategy in Human History (Crowborough: Highland, 1989).

Word and subject studies, aiming to convince of an Arminian position. This would be close to some of Pinnock’s thought, but Pinnock has in fact gone beyond Arminianism by denying that God has foreknowledge which is not based on probabilities.

Hasker, W., Metaphysics: Constructing a World View (Downers Grove: IVP, 1983).

A guide to thinking about philosophy, and a helpful discussion of freedom in chapter 2.

Helm, P., The Providence of God (Leicester: IVP, 1993).

An excellent and fair appraisal of the risk-taking (openness) versus the non-risk taking (Calvinist) views of God, by a leading professor of philosophy.

Morris, T.V., Our Idea of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Theology (Downers Grove: IVP, 1991).

An excellent introduction to thinking philosophically about God, a good place to go to pursue further thoughts on the chapters above.

Packer, J., Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Leicester: IVP, 1961).

A classic attempt to wrestle with the issues, particularly related to the need for evangelism. Still has value.

Packer, J., Knowing God (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1973).

Want to know what God is like and how he relates to you through Scripture? A classic theological and devotional approach.

Pinnock, C., (ed.), The Grace of God, The Will of Man (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989).

A collection of essays arguing for an Arminian understanding of God. Some essays well worth consulting to discover a fair presentation of Arminianism.

Pinnock, C., and Brow. R., Unbounded Love (Downers’ Grove: IVP/Carlisle: Paternoster, 1994).

A more theological and systematic presentation of openness theology.

Pinnock, C., et. al., The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God(Downers Grove: IVP/Carlisle: Paternoster, 1994).

The classic philosophical and theological statement of openness theology.

Pinnock, C., Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: IVP, 1996).

Pinnock’s development of openness into Trinity and pneumatology.

Swinburne, R., The Christian God (Oxford: OUP, 1994).

The UK’s leading Christian philosopher of religion explores the metaphysics behind the traditional Christian God. Swinburne has probably unconsciously influenced a number of openness theologians.

Wright, R.K. McGregor, No Place for Sovereignty: What’s Wrong with Freewill Theism (Downers Grove: IVP, 1996).

A trenchant attack on the openness model, written from a Calvinist position.

There is a mountain of material on the philosophical issues, particularly in two journals, Religious Studiesand Faith and Philosophy. The growing number of Christian philosophers of religion has led to the extended discussion of these issues, whereas 20 years ago this would not have been considered. These journals are available in most theological libraries.

Most theological dictionaries provide introductory material on the key issues.

Themelios has a number of helpful articles in past issues. Of particular relevance are Volume 9:3, ‘ “Only the suffering God can help”; divine passibility in modern theology’, 6–12, by Richard Bauckham, and two articles in Volume 12:1 ‘Asking God’, 22–24 by Paul Helm, and ‘Process theology: a survey and an appraisal’, by N. Geisler and W. Watkins, 15–22.

Robert Johnson provides an interesting article in Evangelical Quarterly 69:1 (1997), where he considers ‘Orthodoxy and Heresy: A Problem for Modern Evangelicalism’. Pinnock is put in the category of a ‘centred’ set theologian, who is indulging in theological creativity. Robert Brow has labelled his own position as a ‘megashift’ in theology (Christianity Today, 37 (Feb. 19, 1990)), and has been criticised for such in the journal Modern Reformation.

2 Of the many reviews of The Openness of God see Frederick S. Leahy in Evangelicals Now (April 1997). Paul Helm in Foundations (No. 38. Spring 1997). 35–38, and Michael Williams, in JETS 40:3, 498–502.

3 Pinnock charts his own theological pilgrimage in ‘From Augustine to Arminius: A Pilgrimage in Theology’, in The Grace of God. The Will of Man (Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1989), 15–30.

4 Pinnock and R. Brow, Unbounded Love (Downers Grove IVP/Carlisle: Paternoster, 1994). 8.

5 Pinnock in Basinger and Basinger, (eds.). Predestination and Free Will (Downers Grove: IVP, 1986). 96.

6 Unbounded Love, 106.

7 Predestination and Free Will, 97.

8 C. Pinnock, Flame of Love (Downers Grove: IVP, 1996), 56.

9 Flame of Love, 56.

10 Predestination and Free Will, 110.

11 For an exposition of middle knowledge, see William Lane Craig. The Only Wise God: The Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987).

12 P. Helm, The Providence of God, 67.

13 Felnberg, Predestination in Free Will, 24–5.

14 See Unbounded Love, 167, and Pinnock’s earlier work. The Scripture Principle (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1985), where he affirms the trustworthiness of Scripture in bringing people to a knowledge of God, ‘even though the Bible is not inerrant at this present moment’ 224.

15 See the helpful comments made on this in a review of Openness by Paul Helm in Foundations (No. 38, Spring 1997). 35–6.

16 Unbounded Love, 23.

17 Openness, 9.

18 James Barr, The Semantics of Biblical Language (Oxford: OUP, 1961). Commonly known as the root fallacy. Don Carson comments in Exegetical Fallacies (Carlisle: Paternoster. 1996), 44, that ‘the heart of this fallacy is the assumption that any language so constrains the thinking processes of the people who use it that they are forced into certain patterns of thought and shielded from others … one should be suspicious of all statements about the nature of ‘the Hebrew mind’ or ‘the Greek mind’ if those statements are based on observations about the semantic limitations of words of the language in question.’

Tony Gray