Clark H. Pinnock's life journey is over. The influential and often controversial evangelical theologian died unexpectedly August 15 of a heart attack. He was 73. In March, the long-time professor of systematic theology at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, had announced he was withdrawing from public life and revealed that he was battling Alzheimer's disease.
It was a difficult admission for a man whose mercurial mind and openness to the Holy Spirit led him to stake out theological positions that challenged evangelical orthodoxies. Renowned for exploring the frontiers of biblical truth, he was reputed to study carefully, think precisely, argue forcefully, and shift his positions willingly if he discovered a more fruitful pathway of understanding. He said he preferred to be known, "not as one who has the courage of his convictions, but one who has the courage to question them and to change old opinions which need changing."
Born in Toronto in 1937, Pinnock's mind was changing from his youth: His parents were liberal Baptists, but at age 12 converted to the more conservative evangelical faith of his grandmother and Sunday school teacher. After years of involvement in Youth for Christ, the Canadian Keswick Bible Conference, and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Pinnock graduated from the University of Toronto. He went on to study under F. F. Bruce at Manchester University, where he earned his Ph.D.
"My early interest on scholarship came about from an interest in foreign missions, specifically the Wycliffe Bible Translators and therefore the biblical languages being translated into new tongues," he said. "That led me into Hebrew and Greek."
He also came under the influence of Francis Schaeffer and worked for a time ...