I’m working my way through Horton’s new Systematic theology book, A Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. (For previous posts see here and here). In chapter six, God: The Incommunicable Attributes, Horton talks about the relationship between Christian thought and Hellenistic philosophy. He takes Clark Pinnock to task for suggesting that Christian theology is enslaved to Greek philosophical thought. Horton then says that Pinnock relies too much on modern thought, in particular he is dependent on the Hegelian thought and Process philosophical systems, and then in a footnote points the reader to the section of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover, where he talks about the good things these theologians have said about theology, specifically about the nature of God.
“This does not keep Pinnock, any more than Harnack, from reading Scripture through the lens of modern thought, especially Hegel, in addition to Teilhard de Chardin and Alfred North Whitehead, a debt that Pinnock readily acknowledges. In fact, he suggests that ‘modern culture…is closer to the biblical view than classical theism.’” (Horton, 228)
What Horton fails to mention is that Pinnock does not accept these theologians, and philosophical systems without criticism. Indeed, on the very page that Horton references in MMM, Pinnock says this:
“As an open theist, I am interested in authors such as Hegel, de Chardin and Whitehead because they make room in their thinking for ideas like change, incarnation and divine suffering, ideas which are central to the gospel but awkward for conventional theology influenced by ancient metaphysics. While they may not suit our purposes ideally – I do not want to be their disciple – at least they point in the direction of a more helpful orientation in which God’s becoming human is celebrated and not seen as a problem.” [emphasis mine] (MMM, 142).
Pinnock goes on to list those things that he finds attractive within Process thought. But more importantly, after praising some of the good, Pinnock is quick to point out problems within Process thought, in particular, he looks at where process theology and open theism diverge (MMM, 143-150). He concludes the section with this:
“I have read process theology and appreciate some of the things I find there. It is helpful to dialogue with it because it helps me see some issues more clearly. I appreciate it as a modern, dynamic metaphysic but reject important aspects of it as foreign to the gospel.” (MMM, 150).
All of this makes me wonder just how influenced we can be by a particular theological system without actually embracing it, or being accused of embracing it.
For example, I am greatly indebted to Reformed theology, but I am not Reformed. Likewise, I am greatly intrigued and influenced by theologians like Pinnock, but I am not an Open Theist.