Clark Pinnock Denies and Affirms Inerrancy

November 2003

This past Wednesday, November 19, the Evangelical Theological Society voted to retain Professors Clark Pinnock and John Sanders as members in good standing, despite their published views on God and Scripture.

Every year, members of the Evangelical Theological Society must swear an oath re-affirming their continued belief in the inerrancy of Scripture and the Tri-unity of God. While swearing this oath, Dr. Clark Pinnock published two books, The Scripture Principle and Most Moved Mover, in which he denied inerrancy and the omniscience of God.

In defending the views of Sanders and Pinnock,one past president of ETS warned that the Society would lose its "academic respectability" if it voted to oust the two men. Another past president said that we really do not know what "inerrancy" means and cannot judge anyone to be denying it unless we do.

Following are dozens of quotations from Clark Pinnock on inerrancy and God. They show that neither his theology nor his scholarship is respectable, and that ETS, by voting to retain him as a member in good standing, is flying false colors. Those ETS members who do not know what the word "inerrancy" means are committing perjury by swearing annually that they believe in it, and they should have the intellectual honesty to resign from the Society immediately.

John Robbins
The Trinity Foundation
November 22, 2003

Open Theism and Inerrancy Quotes from Clark Pinnock

The Bible Is Not Completely Inerrant

“This leaves us with the question, Does the New Testament, did Jesus, teach the perfect errorlessness of the Scriptures? No, not in plain terms” (The Scripture Principle, 57, emphasis in all quotes is added).

“Although the New Testament does not teach a strict doctrine of inerrancy, it might be said to encourage a trusting attitude, which inerrancy in a more lenient definition does signify. The fact is that inerrancy is a very flexible term in and of itself” (SP, 77).

“Why, then, do scholars insist that the Bible does claim total inerrancy? I can only answer for myself, as one who argued in this way a few years ago. I claimed that the Bible taught total inerrancy because I hoped that it did – I wanted it to” (SP, 58).

“For my part, to go beyond the biblical requirements to a strict position of total errorlessness only brings to the forefront the perplexing features of the Bible that no one can completely explain and overshadows those wonderful certainties of salvation in Christ that ought to be front and center” (SP, 59).

“Inerrancy” of Intent, Not Fact, Is Accepted

“All this means is that inerrancy is relative to the intention of the text. If it could be shown that the chronicler inflates some of the numbers he uses for his didactic purpose, he would be completely within his rights and not at variance with inerrancy” (SP, 78).

“The wisest course to take would be to get on with defining inerrancy in relation to the purpose of the Bible and the phenomena it displays. When we do that, we will be surprised how open and permissive a term it is” (SP, 225).

“We will not have to panic when we meet some intractable difficulty. The Bible will seem reliable enough in terms of its soteric [saving] purpose...” (SP, 104-105).

“Inerrancy is relative to the intent of the Scriptures, and this has to be hermeneutically determined” (SP, 225).

The Bible Not the Word of God

“Barth was right to speak about a distance between the Word of God and the text of the Bible” (SP, 99).

“The Bible does not attempt to give the impression that it is flawless in historical or scientific ways. God uses writers with weaknesses and still teaches the truth of revelation through them” (SP, 99).

“What God aims to do through inspiration is to stir up faith in the gospel through the Word of Scripture, which remains a human text beset by normal weaknesses [which includes errors]” (SP, 99-100).

The Bible Is Not Completely Infallible

“The Bible is not a book like the Koran, consisting of nothing but perfectly infallible propositions.... The Bible did not fall from heaven.... We place our trust ultimately in Jesus Christ, not in the Bible.... What the Scriptures do is to present a sound and reliable testimony [not an inerrant one] to who he is and what God has done for us” (SP, 100).

Warfield’s View of Inerrancy Rejected

“Inerrancy as Warfield understood it was a good deal more precise than the sort of reliability the Bible proposes. The Bible’s emphasis tends to be upon the saving truth of its message and its supreme profitability in the life of faith and discipleship” (SP, 75).

International Council on Biblical Inerrancy’s View of Inerrancy Rejected

“Therefore, there are a large number of evangelicals in North America appearing to defend the total inerrancy of the Bible. The language they use seems absolute and uncompromising: `The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own’ (Chicago Statement, preamble). It sounds as if the slightest slip or flaw would bring down the whole house of authority. It seems as though we ought to defend the errorlessness of the Bible down to the last jot and tittle in order for it to be a viable religious authority” (SP, 127).

Inspiration Is Dynamic, Not Plenary or Verbal

“In relation to Scripture, we want to avoid both the idea that the Bible is the product of mere human genius and the idea it came about through mechanical dictation. The via media lies in the direction of a dynamic personal model that upholds both the divine initiative and the human response” (SP, 103).

“Inspiration should be seen as a dynamic work of God. In it, God does not decide every word that is used, one by one, but works in the writers in such a way that they make full use of their own skills and vocabulary while giving expression to the divinely inspired message being communicated to them and through them” (SP, 105).

Prophetic Model Is Rejected

“At times I have felt like rejecting biblical inerrancy because of the narrowness of definition and the crudity of polemics that have accompanied the term. But in the end, I have had to bow to the wisdom that says we need to be unmistakably clear in our convictions about biblical authority, and in the North American context, at least, that means to employ strong language” (SP, 225).

“Paul J. Achtemeier has called attention to the inadequacy of the prophetic model for representing the biblical category of inspiration in its fullness – The Inspiration of Scripture: Problems and Proposals” (SP, 232, n. 8).

The Bible Has Errors

“The authority of the Bible in faith and practice does not rule out the possibility of an occasionally uncertain text, differences in details as between the Gospels, a lack of precision in the chronology of events recorded in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, a prescientific description of the world, and the like” (SP, 104).

“What could truly falsify the Bible would have to be something that could falsify the gospel and Christianity as well. It would have to be a difficulty that would radically call into question the truth of Jesus and His message of good news. Discovering some point of chronology in Matthew that could not be reconciled with a parallel in Luke would certainly not be any such thing” (SP, 129).

“I recognize that the Bible does not make a technical inerrancy claim or go into the kind of detail associated with the term in the contemporary discussion. But I also see a solid basis for trusting the Scriptures in a more general sense in all that they teach and affirm, and I see real danger in giving the impression that the Bible errs in a significant way. Inerrancy is a metaphor for the determination to trust God’s Word completely” (SP, 224-225).

The Bible Contains Myth and Legend

“In the narrative of the fall of Adam, there are numerous symbolic features (God molding man from dirt, the talking snake, God molding woman from Adam’s rib, symbolic trees, four major rivers from one garden, etc.), so that it is natural to ask whether this is not a meaningful narration that does not stick only to factual matters” (SP, 119).

“On the one hand, we cannot rule legend out a priori. It is, after all, a perfectly valid literary form, and we have to admit that it turns up in the Bible in at least some form. We referred already to Job’s reference to Leviathan and can mention also Jotham’s fable” (SP, 121-122).

“Thus we are in a bind. Legends are possible in theory – there are apparent legends in the Bible – but we fear actually naming them as such lest we seem to deny the miraculous” (SP, 122).

“When we look at the Bible, it is clear that it is not radically mythical. The influence of myth is there in the Old Testament. The stories of creation and fall, of flood and the tower of Babel, are there in pagan texts and are worked over in Genesis from the angle of Israel’s knowledge of God, but the framework is no longer mythical” (SP, 123).

“We read of a coin turning up in a fish’s mouth and of the origin of the different languages of humankind. We hear about the magnificent exploits of Sampson and Elisha. We even see evidence of the duplication of miracle stories in the gospels. All of them are things that if we read them in some other book we would surely identify as legends” (SP, 123).

Pinnock Accepts Robert Gundry’s View of Midrash in Matthew

“There is no mythology to speak of in the New Testament. At most, there are fragments and suggestions of myth: for example, the strange allusion to the bodies of the saints being raised on Good Friday (Matt. 27:52) and the sick being healed through contact with pieces of cloth that had touched Paul’s body (Acts 19:11-12)” (SP, 124).

“There are cases in which the possibility of legend seems quite real. I mentioned the incident of the coin in the fish’s mouth (Matt. 17:24-27).... The event is recorded only by Matthew and has the feel of a legendary feature” (SP, 125).

The Bible Has False Prophecy

“Second, some prophecies are conditional, leaving the future open, and, presumably, God’s knowledge of it” (Pinnock, Most Moved Mover, 50).

“Third, there are imprecise prophetic forecasts based on present situations, as when Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem” (MMM, 50).

“Despite Ezekiel, Nebuchadnezzar did not conquer the city of Tyre; despite the Baptist, Jesus did not cast the wicked into the fire; contrary to Paul, the second coming was not just around the corner (1 Thes. 4:17)” (MMM, 51).

Our Lord Made a False Prophecy

“Despite Jesus, in the destruction of the temple, some stones were left one on the other” (Mt. 24:2)” (MMM, 51).

God Is Not Bound to His Own Word

“God is free in the manner of fulfilling prophecy and is not bound to a script, even his own” (MMM, 51).

“We may not want to admit it but prophecies often go unfulfilled....” (MMM, 51, n.66).

God Is in Space and Corporeal

“The Bible speaks of God having living space in the heavens.... Let’s not tilt overly to transcendence lest we miss the truth that God is with us in space” (MMM, 32).

“ God in some way embodied? Critics will be quick to say that, although there are expressions of this idea in the Bible, they are not to be taken literally. But I do not believe that the idea is as foreign to the Bible’s view of God as we have assumed” (MMM, 33).

“...if God is not embodied, it may prove difficult to understand how God is a person....Perhaps God uses the created order as a kind of body and exercise top-down causation upon it” (MMM, 34-35).

God’s Foreknowledge Is Limited

“It is unsound to think of exhaustive foreknowledge, implying that every detail of the future is already decided” (MMM, 8).

“... there are aspects about the future that even God does not know” (MMM, 32).

“God is certain about some aspects of it [the future] and uncertain about other aspects” (MMM, 47).

“But no being, not even God, can know in advance precisely what free agents will do, even though he may predict it with great accuracy” (MMM, 100).

“God, in order to be omniscient, need not know the future in complete detail” (MMM, 100).

God Changes His Mind

“Divine repentance is an important biblical theme” (MMM, 43).

“Nevertheless, it appears that God is willing to change course...” (MMM, 43).

“Prayer is an activity that brings new possibilities into existence for God and us” ( MMM, 46).

Pinnock Admits Affinity with Process Theology

“The conventional package of attributes is tightly drawn. Tinkering with one or two of them will not help much” (MMM, 78).

“Candidly, I believe that conventional theists are more influenced by Plato, who was a pagan, than I am by Whitehead, who was a Christian” (MMM, 143). [Alfred North Whitehead denied virtually all of the attributes of the God of the Bible, including inerrancy, and all the fundamentals of the faith.]

Quotations compiled by Norman Geisler

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