SEMPER REFORMANDUM—STUDIES IN HONOUR OF CLARK H. PINNOCKWritten by Stanley E. Porter and Anthony R. Crow (eds) Reviewed By Carl Chambers
Semper Reformandum is a compendium of twenty-two chapter length articles, engaging with the life and work of Clark Pinnock. It is offered in honour of his work, given his retirement from twenty-five years of active teaching at McMaster Divinity College, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
The book is a treat for all who enjoy reading Pinnock’s work, whether or not they adhere to the ‘openness’ theological position for which Pinnock is most well known. Whilst most of the articles broadly concur with Pinnock’s thinking, by no means all of them are in whole-hearted agreement. Rather, each author seems to use the opportunity typically to affirm areas of agreement with Pinnock, but then highlight areas of difference—either through theological disagreement with Pinnock, or through wanting to encourage him further along the path he has already taken.
Pinnock has readily admitted that his theological study is a journey, and those who appreciate his work will be looking forward to his retirement, and perhaps his engaging with some of themes raised in this book.
For instance, Greg Boyd, another well known open theist, affirms much of Pinnock’s work, but asks him to consider God’s omniscience and infallible anticipation further. Similarly, the chapter on ‘Clark Pinnock and process Theology by John Cobb Jr works at identifying many similarities in their thinking, with the suggestion even of convergence.
Whilst there is arguably no single ‘must buy for this alone’ chapter, there are a number which are especially noteworthy (writing, as l am, from a conservative evangelical perspective). Howard Marshall engages with Daniel Strange’s book on salvation for the unevangelised, and whilst perhaps better at critiquing others than defending his own position, he raises good questions for those committed to limited atonement. The chapter by Archibald Spencer addresses thoroughly and clearly the issue of sensus divinitatis (a universal sense of the divine religious awareness), and raises challenges from Calvin and Barth that are highly contemporary.
The sheer breadth of topics covered is testimony to how much influence Pinnock has had in evangelical thinking, including pneumatology, the filioque (with an excellent historical introduction), theodicy, prayer, pluralism and inclusivism, baptism and apologetics.
It was frustrating not to see Pinnock’s ‘hermeneutic of hopefulness’ addressed properly Stanley Porter exposes ‘the relative lack of substantive and explicit New Testament evidence for the open theism position’, but doesn’t mention Pinnock’s hermeneutic from 1 John of ‘God is love’. The chapter specifically on hermeneutics take Pinnock’s ‘hermeneutic of hopefulness’ as given, and barely even argues for it.
Given the insistence of open theists that they remain firmly within the evangelical fold, the book as a whole is most interesting for what it doesn’t say about evangelicalism at the turn of the twentieth century.
Archibald Spencer comments, almost in passing, that sin is ‘not really accounted for adequately in … Pinnock’ (315); there is barely any other direct reference to sin in the book. Despite Pinnock’s substantial writings on hell and judgement, there is no mention of these. There is just one chapter on the extent of cross (Marshall) but none on the activity of Jesus on the cross—even though Pinnock has challenged penal substitution (Flame of Love, 106)
The book begins with a defence of the new post-conservative position. In spite of the merits of the book, we need to learn from history that a generation which abandons the cross, the seriousness of sin, and the centrality of penal substitution—even if it maintains a strong christology and commitment to biblical authority—is a generation which is in danger of spiritual drift from the heart of the gospel.