Clark Pinnock tribute

I sent this out to the CETA-L email list this morning…


My personal acquaintance with Clark Pinnock was very limited. I once had lunch with him at the Orlando AAR/SBL meetings in the 1990’s after having finished a Master’s thesis on his theological methodology. (My proudest moment shortly thereafter was when Pinnock footnoted my thesis in a chapter he had contributed in a Festschrift in honour of Millard Erickson. Of course, I bought the book!). But other than this one meeting, my knowledge of Pinnock was entirely through his written work.

Over the years, I continued my theological education and read many more theologians. In retrospect, I now realize that Pinnock’s writing reveals much more of his heart and his spirit than many. No matter what the topic (whether evangelism, political theology, the doctrine of God, or something else) it seemed to me that his theological writing was an unusual combination of erudite scholarship and “indirect autobiography.” (I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when he flirted for a time with the whole concept of “narrative theology,” especially as revealed in his book Tracking the Maze.) For as I read his work, I felt that I was getting to know Clark Pinnock better “personally” than virtually any other theologian I had read.

When I had started my thesis as an eager young Master’s student, I was personally driven to “prove him wrong,” but the more I read, the more I realized that I couldn’t simply dismiss what he had to say. In the end, Pinnock did not convince me to follow his theological path, and since then I have moved even further from him in my own theological positions. However, I did learn that Pinnock continually invited you to explore with him, even if you disagreed with him. Furthermore, I learned that theology, to be good evangelical theology (that is, a theology centred on the grace given in the Gospel of Jesus Christ) had not only to address to the head, but needed to touch the heart and move the hand as well. Consequently, even though I disagree cognitively at many point with Pinnock’s conclusions, I nevertheless always counted him as a brother in Christ who cared about the Gospel, about the lost, and about biblical and theological education.

Thank you, Clark Pinnock, for modeling to a whole generation what it means to be “pilgrim theologians” who can paradoxically be utterly confident in the veracity and truthfulness of the Scriptures and the Gospel proclaimed therein while at the same time become increasingly aware that we have not yet figured it all out.

P.S. Christian Week has published a very good online tribute to Clark Pinnock as well.

P.S.S. Here is also a link from a 2002 series of articles on Pinnock (including one by yours truly!).