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Evangelical Theological Society Moves Against Open Theists

Membership of Pinnock and Sanders challenged by due process

Members of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) voted last night to challenge the legitimacy of the membership of Clark Pinnock and John Sanders for violating the inerrancy clause of the ETS constitution.

"I present this motion with a heavy heart," said Roger Nicole, who initiated the charges. A founding member of the ETS in 1949, Nicole had surveyed other surviving charter members and found unanimous concern that Pinnock, Sanders, and Gregory Boyd were promoting proposals "incompatible with inerrancy."

The vote at the November 20-22 annual meeting in Toronto is the latest development in a five-year controversy over the concept of open theism, which critics believe diminishes the omniscience of God.

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.

In accordance with the ETS constitution, Nicole's motion referred the matter to the executive committee, which will examine the case carefully and determine whether the charges should be voted on next year, explained ETS president Millard J. Erickson.

After an hour of debate in a special meeting, members present voted 171 to 131 on the motion against Pinnock; 166 to 143 against Sanders. (Boyd, who left Bethel College at the end of the 2001-2002 school year to focus on his duties as senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, is not currently a member of the society.)

"It was a dramatic moment," said Pinnock shortly after the meeting. "I wasn't surprised ...

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