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The Evangelical Theological Society has voted to challenge the membership of theologians Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. The development at the November 20-22 annual meeting in Toronto is the latest in a five-year controversy over open theism.

"I present this motion with a heavy heart," said Roger Nicole, a founding member of the ETS in 1949, who initiated the charges. Nicole, of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, had surveyed other surviving charter members and found unanimous concern that Pinnock, Sanders, and Minnesota pastor Gregory Boyd were promoting proposals "incompatible with inerrancy." Inerrancy and the Trinity constitute the doctrinal basis of the society.

Open theists emphasize God's self-limitation in dealing with humans.

Because God desires people's free response, openness theologians say, he neither predetermines nor foreknows their moral choices. In the Bible, they say, God changes his mind, or "repents," in response to human actions.

Action next year


In accordance with the ETS constitution, Nicole's motion referred the matter to the executive committee. It will examine the case and determine whether ETS will vote on the charges next year, according to ETS president Millard J. Erickson.

Members present voted 171 to 137 on the motion against Pinnock, and 166 to 143 against Sanders. (Boyd left Bethel College in May 2002 to devote more time to pastoring Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is not currently a society member.)

"I wasn't surprised with the result," Pinnock said. "I'm concerned that it will divide the society, whatever happens to me. I just hope that this process will work, and that next year it won't ...

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In the Magazine

January 2003

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