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Fireworks was the metaphor du jour Wednesday as I greeted old friends on the opening morning of this year's Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) meeting: "Have you come for the fireworks?" "Have you come to watch our fireworks?" "Are you here for the fireworks?"

One after another, theologians and biblical scholars expressed their expectation of the pyrotechnic politics at the special business meeting scheduled for 8:30 Wednesday night. The extraordinary meeting was called for members to vote whether to expel two high-profile proponents of Open Theism from the society.

Open Theism claims that God created human beings with complete free will, that in doing so he took on genuine risks, that because of human freedom the future is indeterminate, and that God cannot know the future precisely, but only with varying degrees of probability. Most members of the ETS believe such teaching not only departs from the overwhelming testimony of Christian thinkers through the ages, but also calls into question God's own accuracy in biblical prophecy. And if God can't be counted on to be accurate as he speaks through his prophets, how can such beliefs be reconciled with the ETS's commitment to biblical inerrancy?

In the event, the membership voted not to expel retired McMaster Divinity School theologian Clark Pinnock and Huntington College theologian John Sanders. The proposal to expel Pinnock received 212 yes votes and 432 no votes, thus failing to reach the necessary two-thirds majority by a wide margin. Sanders squeaked by. The proposal to expel him received 388 yes votes and 231 no votes, barely missing the required 66 2/3 percent by less than four percentage points.

Painful memories There were good reasons to expect an explosion. Painful ...

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November 2003

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