Appendix 2:     Hezekiah—Nicole vs. Pinnock and
God’s Sovereign Ability to Respond
   by M.G. Maness

Preface         

Introduction

A.  How God Related to Hezekiah 

1.  Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-11 Pivotal to Classical Theists

2.  Difference Between Fidelity and Interpolation

3.  Nicole’s Violation of ETS Larger than Pinnock’s

4.  Pinnock Closer to the Text

5.  Nicole Crushed by His Own Standard

B.  Fidelity to the Text is THE Issue

C.  Nicole’s Missed the Main Theme of Open Theism
—like So Many Other Classical Theists
 

D.  Classical Theists Want a Title Belt, But They Do Not Like Earning It

E.  Unscientific Post Script on Radical Fundamentalism

Epilogue:  Final Heartfelt Plea for Reconciliation & Upward Scholarly Mobility,
Indeed, for Nicole and Party to Take Up the Challenge of True Contenders in the Great ETS

Conclusion:  Personally, Our God Is ALIVE

Nicole & Pinnock ETS Documents:

Nicole-Pinnock Primary Document

Nicole-Pinnock Document 1

Nicole-Pinnock Document 2

Nicole-Pinnock Document 3

Nicole-Pinnock Document 4

Nicole-Pinnock Document 5

Pinnock Response to Nicole

Nicole & Sanders Documents

Nicole-Sanders Primary Document

Nicole-Sanders Document 1

Nicole-Sanders Document 2

Nicole-Sanders Document 3

Nicole-Sanders Document 4

Nicole-Sanders Document 5

Sanders FULL Response to Nicole

Sanders SUMMARY to Nicole

Appendix 3.  Timothy George’s “What God Knows”:  A Counterpoint Challenge

Appendix 4.  L. Russ Bush’s Two Letters to ETS Members on the
Absolute Openness of God in Open Theism:  A Counterpoint Challenge

Heart of the Living God – Home Page ~ www.preciousheart.net

I sent copies of this to Nicole and the ETS executive committee and others 9-2003

Preface    ~    Top

Continuing to relate to you as well as reason, I am also going to have some fun and include some humor. The ironies accumulate so fast that one gets dizzy in the tracking. A few times I shall be rough, too, for this is a very serious topic—but I shall be far more specific when a make a rough call than anything approaching “cancer” that Nicole’s has used to describe another’s life work. This is another challenge to Classical Theists to get in shape and take the genuineness of God’s relationship with His with children as the most definitive element in biblical theology.

Classical Theists should quit running from it.

The following takes you on a personal journey through a series of interpretations about how God related to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20. How God related to Hezekiah became pivotal to Professor Roger Nicole’s challenge of Professors Clark Pinnock and John Sanders in the mighty Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). I challenge Nicole’s documents and defend Pinnock’s integrity, and I also take Nicole to task as one who allowed his fire to burn to the point of self-incrimination.

Herein is also revealed the larger misconception of Open Theism by most Classical Theists as well as how Nicole’s own arguments backfire upon himself. The end product becomes a challenge to all Classical Theists, most especially its best scholars to come into the ring and truly clarify the main theme of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover. Truly, Classical Theists need to step up, put on the gloves, and honorably defend Classical Theism in the same league of scholarship and erudition (as Pinnock did): they direly need to explain how a fixed-settled God of exhaustive foreknowledge can fit into the larger and more prominent theme of God’s genuine real time relationship with His children.

This is a challenge that has not been taken seriously to date by Classical Theists (except Molinist William Craig in the Arminian tradition). Moreover, some in the mighty ETS want to run away rather than truly test their mettle face-to-face and pen-to-pen with true champions. I challenge them.

In Appendices 3 and 4, that dovetail with the above, I offer counterpoint challenges to both Timothy George’s and L. Russ Bush’s interpretations of Open Theism in their most recent writings.

These titans of the ETS have great influence. Some portions of Open Theism are hard to follow, other portions easy, but one thing is clearly amiss: these titans believe Open Theism is contrary to the ETS’s doctrinal belief in the inerrancy of Scripture based upon a mistaken understanding of Open Theism. Nicole clearly maligned Pinnock and avoided the deeper issues. George and Bush have attempted clarification, but they actually contribute to the misunderstanding in their influential pieces, most especially in their mistaken understanding that Open Theism believes in an absolutely open future like Process Theism.


Introduction   ~  Top

When I surfed the net to see what others had done on Open Theism, I stumbled upon a controversy in the great Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). I thought to myself, “Wow … now there should be the best biblically based arguments by the most learned Christian men and women in the world.”

When I went to the web site www.etsjets.org, at first I was excited to see that charter member Roger Nicole[1] had brought charges against Clark Pinnock[2] and John Sanders[3] that they had violated the doctrinal basis of the ETS.[4] Excited—not for the controversy, but that surely here at the ETS was a place where the best of the best had come together to deal with the genuineness issue.

I had read Pinnock and Sanders and their opponents Ware and Frame. But if the ETS was involved and a charter-founding member Professor Emeritus Roger Nicole was bringing charges against Pinnock and Sanders—well, I thought, “then Nicole just had to have brought some resoundingly clear and convincing arguments against Open Theism.” Latent in my brain, I thought and hummed that just maybe a classical theist had truly and finally begun to deal with the genuineness problem within the Classical Theist framework.

Straightaway, I downloaded Nicole’s Primary Document and his other five documents that had kicked the ETS in gear against Pinnock, and I dived into them to find myself shocked at how far below standard the documents were (even at times completely off the subject).[5] With these documents and Nicole’s favored status, Nicole was goading the ETS to move against Pinnock and Sanders, and Nicole’s actions will culminate in November of 2003, about the time this book will be published.

I was amazed to see how the esteemed Nicole had presented documents with data totally off of the subject. I had thought—sincerely—that I was going to see a coherently cohesive allegation with clear proofs. But not so. One point of incomprehensibility is how Nicole charged that Pinnock in his Most Moved Mover[6] did not give adequate coverage.[7] How Nicole deigned to belittle Pinnock’s erudition in such a scholarly society as ETS befuddles the imagination.

With such misguided firepower as Nicole’s, it is no wonder so few people have an adequate understanding of Open Theism.

What actually happens in the following is a round-about way of addressing the issue of God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, though you will not see the term. Open Theism does not believe in God’s exhaustive foreknowledge, and Classical Theism does (both Calvinist and Arminian); furthermore, the odd man out is Process Theism, readily denied by both Classical and Open Theists as outside the biblical framework, as Process Theism believes in the absolute openness of the future.

I suspect that Nicole and party have not seen or read much of philosophy’s skill in addressing the issues of free-will versus determinism. If the mighty ETS is to continue its upward mobility and investments in fostering scholarly debate within and under its noble doctrinal basis, then some members will do well to look at the sophistication of the philosophical treatments on free-will (even if some of the philosophical treatments may not be biblically palatable, therein are many examples of sophistication).

Some theological masters like William Lane Craig and Clark Pinnock have helped take us to new levels of theological sophistication in this area. In the literature it is obvious that many of the arguments about free-will and determinism (or foreordination) are or can be transported back and forth between the philosophical and the theological disciplines. Outside of the single volumes on the topic as with masters like Craig and Pinnock, I am not aware of any theologian who has approached the level of sophistication in scholarly theological work that has sought to bring together divergent theological positions on divine foreknowledge in anything approaching what Robert Kane did with the philosophical positions on free-will in his massive Oxford Handbook on Free Will (Oxford; NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002, 638p.). A few of the theological “Four Views on …” kinds of works are so very helpful; but as we saw in Appendix 1, some of the contributors within some of those works lacked the high level of focus and skill that is present in the philosophical schools (e.g., Kane, et al). In view of Craig’s articulation of Molinism and Pinnock’s (et al) articulation of Open Theism, there are not any presentations by Classical Theists that are truly dealing with the issues of God’s genuineness and issues of honest respect for whatever human free will there may be (and a subsequent responsibility).

Pivotal to Nicole’s allegation is how God related to Hezekiah, and this is Nicole’s strongest link. Nicole himself says Hezekiah’s experience is pivotal to Open Theism, but not so, not at all. Hezekiah’s experience is actually pivotal for Classical Theists, for they are the ones who have to add to the text various circumlocutions in order to support their doctrine of a fixed-settled God who cannot be affected by His creation.

Like Ware and Frame above,[8] Nicole gave a token to God’s relational qualities. Nicole said in his Primary Document that we all can

learn from Dr. Pinnock’s emphasis that we must suitably emphasize the relational and personal characteristics of the God of the Scripture, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ. (p. 14)

But that is all of the deference Nicole gives to the living God. Just like Ware and Frame, Nicole and most Classical Theists will give tokens—as Nicole does with this single sentence—but in their very writings they do not “suitably emphasize” and as a general rule[9] only give a bare token to that “emphasis” with a few lines, only to make extended arguments to the contrary. This kind of mockery of or token tossing to the relational theme while simultaneously and more substantially defending static fixity within God is almost schizophrenic in way.

The relationship “emphasis” is the issue of greater importance from Genesis through Revelation—our very Christian hope.

It is one thing for Nicole to ignore the issue of fidelity to Scripture in his own documents, preferring his own circumlocutions around the basic meaning of Scripture to indict Pinnock’s most basic reading—that is one thing; but, incredibly, it is another thing altogether that Nicole dared to pass his own circumlocution to the ETS as having greater fidelity to the ETS doctrinal basis than Pinnock’s more basic biblical reading. That is truly embarrassing.

How Nicole handles Pinnock is one thing, and how Nicole interpolates into Hezekiah’s experience is another thing. Let’s take a closer look at Hezekiah’s experience.

A.  How God Related to Hezekiah   ~  Top

1.  Why Did God Cater to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-11?
2.  Difference Between Fidelity and Interpolation
3.  Nicole’s Violation of the ETS Larger than Pinnock’s
4.  Pinnock Closer to the Text
5.  Nicole Crushed by His Own Standard

1.  Why Did God Cater to Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-11?  ~  Top

In 2 Kings 20:1-11 we read the following:

   In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, “Remember, O Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes,” and Hezekiah wept bitterly.

   Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”

   Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. Hezekiah asked Isaiah, “What will be the sign that the Lord will heal me and that I will go up to the temple of the Lord on the third day from now?”

   Isaiah answered, “This is the Lord’s sign to you that the Lord will do what he has promised: Shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or shall it go back ten steps?” “It is a simple matter for the shadow to go forward ten steps,” said Hezekiah. “Rather, have it go back ten steps.”

   Then the prophet Isaiah called upon the Lord, and the Lord made the shadow go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz. [NIV]

This is a remarkable passage, very plain to the common Christian soldier. God answered Hezekiah’s prayer. We thank God for that.

But the passage is so much more than a mere answer to prayer. From Hezekiah’s view, we understand very clearly that Hezekiah believed he could or might have a chance to appeal God’s judgment and prophecy. Hezekiah prayed for mercy doubtlessly hoping for mercy. But that is not all. From our view of the whole passage, we clearly see God responding to Hezekiah, even catering to his fears.

The plain sense of this passage has enormous ramifications for the nature of God and God’s work in this world. The plain sense directs us to understand how serious God is with us. For Hezekiah, he was going to die, then prays for mercy. The great message of this passage is that God can have mercy and can respond to our prayer.

Apparent in the passage is Hezekiah’s doubt or worry about God keeping His promise to heal. God could have just left well enough alone, where then the passage would have taken on more of a message about the “need for faith in God’s promises.” But God did not leave well enough alone. Remarkably, God in His great mercy decided to add to His own word and promise a supernatural and miraculous proof that His promise would come to pass.

Essentially and in divine sovereignty, God catered to Hezekiah’s worry like God does not do for most biblical characters. At a minimum, this says that God cares about how we feel about Him and about His promises. In light of this debate, God is responsive to his creatures, minimally in a merciful answer to prayer and beyond the minimum in a clear negotiation over use of His almighty power to move a stellar object (earth or sun) in order to make Hezekiah feel more secure beyond simple trust in God’s own words.

This is a magnificent passage. Relational to the uttermost.

2.  Difference Between Fidelity & Interpolation  ~  Top

Pinnock wrote Most Moved Mover,[10] and it certainly is not dependent upon the Hezekiah passage. Pinnock’s theme is about how God genuinely relates to His children, and as a sub-theme Pinnock challenges our old pagan inheritances.

Instead of dealing with Pinnock’s themes, why did Nicole chose to defend his own pagan heritage, and so chose in a round about way? Why did Nicole avoid correcting Pinnock’s more sweeping statements and themes? Why did Nicole focus upon the obvious observation of a 8 year old child to the Hezekiah passage?

Read the verses where God answers Hezekiah’s prayer and decides to heal Hezekiah. Is there an 8 year old child anywhere on the planet that—if asked about the essence of the passage—would say anything other than the obvious? God answered prayer. That “God answered prayer” is the same thing as “God changed His mind” as “God had mercy” as “God forgave” Hezekiah.

One of the greater issues that Nicole must face is the entire issue of forgiveness. The penalty of sin is death, and God “changes His mind” about my death penalty when God looks at the cross. But that is slightly off the issue.

Much more than a simple answer to prayer, the issue at stake is the genuineness of God’s real time relationship with us, His children. No matter how open the future may be, Classical Theists are mistaken to view Open Theism as a belief in the absolute openness of the future—Pinnock (et al) are constantly saying “partly open and partly settled.” Even I have an inclination to accept meticulous foreknowledge in God. Nevertheless, I shall choose to question coherency of my understanding of meticulousness over any kind of degrading of the more important and more clear theme of God’s genuineness. Biblically speaking.

Only the philosopher-theologian taking the Bible as seriously informative can draw more conclusions about God’s nature and God’s true relationship with time and humanity. Here is a more technical way of looking at Hezekiah’s two miracles in 2 Kings 20 and the interpretative options.

Lined up in succession, we have God coming to Hezekiah warning of imminent death (#1=GH), Hezekiah going to God in prayer for mercy (#2=HG), and we have God coming to Hezekiah with healing and a life extension of fifteen years (#3=GH).

 

Time passage

#1

#2

#3

God

G

G

G

Direction of Initiative

Hezekiah

H

H

H

 

At #1, God informs Hezekiah;  at #2, Hezekiah prays;  at #3, God heals and extends life.  Simple enough.

At #1, God informs Hezekiah that he is going to die. Nicole says that if this is true, then when #3 comes around, God is proven false about #1: so #1 does not actually mean what it says, and we must interpose upon the text Nicole’s view that God did not mean what He revealed. Nicole leaves us no options here. Either we interpose upon the text or face his castigations. Actually, according to Nicole, God only meant to threaten Hezekiah, for God did not really intend to kill Hezekiah. Hezekiah was simply to believe he was going to die so that Hezekiah would pray and so that God would in turn heal Hezekiah. According to Nicole, we have to add to the text to truly understand what happened at #1, because #1 was not actually going to happen (not at the precise time that God had Isaiah say #1 to Hezekiah); therefore, we have to force from #3 our interpretive correction for “shalt surely die” at #1.

At the precise time that God had Isaiah inform Hezekiah, I cannot see how Nicole’s version is anything but a lie to Hezekiah. Nicole’s version sure is a burden upon the text. And Nicole’s version certainly is a lesser degree of fidelity to the actual text itself, and as such Nicole’s version is also a lesser degree of fidelity to the ETS doctrinal basis. But let’s stay on the issue.

Nicole takes exception with Pinnock and says Pinnock (et al) believes that God in fact “changed his mind” at #3 (which is what Pinnock says), but Nicole adds to Pinnock what Pinnock does not say: to this effect, then, Nicole says that Pinnock’s words really mean that God at #3 had made an error at #1, which in turn forces error into God (that is, the errant text makes God errant, or vice versa). Therefore, in that stream of what “Nicole says that Pinnock means” Pinnock violates the ETS doctrinal basis. As Nicole interprets Pinnock, Nicole says,

There is a manifest conflict [between #1 death message and #3 15 year extension] … Therefore the event shows that God does not have a fixed, invariable plan for the whole future, but that He does take account of prayers and tears to the point of changing His own decisions…. I [Nicole] say this interpretation is false.[11]

In his Appendix 1, Nicole gives us his own interpretation of 2 Kings 20:

… Hezekiah yielded to pride in spite of God’s goodness to him and to Judah, protecting them from the disaster that befell Samaria through the Assyrian conquest. To deal with this defect, God announced to Hezekiah that if he continued in his self-sufficiency, his life was at an end, for no human power could overcome his deadly terminal disease. Only by a miracle could his life be continued. So Hezekiah “repented of the pride of his heart” (2 Chron 32:26) and God graciously extended his life by 15 years: “I will heal you” (2 Kings 20:5) He said and the rest of the passage deals with the confirmation of God’s miraculous power that would apply both to Hezekiah’s personal life and to the protection of Judah from Assyrian attacks (2 Kings 20:6; Isa 38:6). This is articulated very clearly in Hezekiah’s song recorded for us in Isaiah 38:10-20. That this whole process does not reflect a change of mind on God’s part is manifest from the fact that in that same fourteenth year of Hezekiah’s reign, God had promised him at least three more years of life (2 Kings 9:29) and that the birth of his son Manasseh, necessary for the fulfillment of God’s promise to David ( 2 Sam 1:12-16), also took place 3 years later in the seventeenth year of his reign (2 Kings 21:1). [Emphases mine, and Nicole has a similar paragraph on Jonah.]

When such a sounder interpretation of the texts is acknowledged, the validity of claiming these cases as documenting a change of mind on God’s part has vanished.[12]

Whoooo! You have to give Nicole a brownie star for trying.

If ever there was a Pharisaical hunt for a splinter of error, this has to be among the greatest leaps of witch hunt logic in the history of the ETS. A new day has dawned if this kind of stuff is allowed to continue.

And for Nicole’s case against Pinnock, this is the most significant part of his allegation against Pinnock’s (et al) violation of the ETS doctrinal base. That is Nicole’s rationale, with a scintilla of other verbiage that in a round about way supports, with some extra verbiage that has no relation at all—none—to the allegation. On top of that Nicole adds some extra-extra verbiage that is so very dubious, like chastening Pinnock for utilizing too many modern scholars (?).

Whoooo! … Now look at what Pinnock actually did.

According to how I read Pinnock, who believes we should stay as close to the Bible as we can, at #1, God informs Hezekiah that he is going to die. At #1, this is a true and simple statement. No need to interpose anything at this precise time from #3 or anywhere else. At the time of #1, Hezekiah is going to die. That is a true statement for God and from God to Hezekiah. Even an 8 year old child can understand that. At the precise time of #1, Hezekiah was going to die. From Hezekiah’s point of view, and just from his point of view, what is Hezekiah supposed to believe about God and about the future? Is Hezekiah to believe what Nicole says or what God clearly says? This is not sarcastic, but the point of contention for Nicole and the point of defense for Pinnock.

At #2, Hezekiah prays for mercy. Just like an 8 year old child would, except far more genuinely and with a greater sense of understanding of death, Hezekiah is fearful and is more profoundly shaken. Not merely and simply implied (as Nicole deigns to intimate), and contrary to Nicole’s mere intimation, the passage says clearly—inerrantly(?)—that this prayer for mercy touches God.[13] At #3, God answers the prayer with detail on the promise of a healing and a promise of 15 years of extra life. Pinnock can certainly be said to observe that “God changed His mind” at #3 from what God said He was going to do at #1.

Note that a court of law could be asked to consider throwing out Nicole’s statements of Pinnock’s version of Hezekiah, for Pinnock does not actually say “God changed His mind” in reference to Hezekiah in Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover.[14] This is an important technicality within the context of Nicole’s very heavy scrutiny of Pinnock to find a splinter of error (made all the more important by the Hezekiah passage that Nicole himself said was crucial for Open Theism[15]), and made even more important by the fact that Nicole is not engaging in theological discourse but attempting to oust a member through an allegation that is based upon the criticality of the Hezekiah passage’s interpretation.

Here is what Pinnock actually says,

Moses interceded in prayer and God “changed his mind” (Exod. 32:11-14).[16]

Why, unless the future was somewhat open, would God speak of the future in conditional terms? How, unless the future was somewhat open, could God be said to change his mind?[17]

[Pinnock shares the story of Hezekiah] This shows that the exact time of death was not forever settled in God’s mind but was something flexible, depending on the circumstances…. The fact that God knows some things in the future as certain and other things as possible establishes the fact that the creation project has an unquestionably dynamic character.[18]

You can see a fair minded judge considering the tossing out of Nicole’s case for tampering with the evidence. Nicole makes “God changed His mind” apply directly to Hezekiah in Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover, but it only indirectly applies. Given how hard Nicole is attempting to scrutinize and squeeze a violation out of Pinnock’s book, this error by Nicole is magnified, is certainly a minor tampering with the evidence. As ironic as this technicality is, the error that Nicole attempts to impute to God in Pinnock’s use of “God changed His mind” in Hezekiah is not actually in Pinnock’s dialogue about Hezekiah.

So what’s the big deal with “God changed His mind”? Even though Pinnock does not use “God Changed His mind” in direct relation to 2 Kings 20 (as Nicole indicates), there is a connection in Pinnock. That is the simple observation of the literal rendering of the passage. Pinnock makes some clear and direct observations of many texts, and from those philosophical observations makes some deductions.

What does the text say? From there, from the basic reading, it follows that “God knows some things in the future as certain and other things as possible.”[19] And it is the “possible” things that Nicole rejects and really gets riled over.

That simple observation is not the problem for Nicole. The problem for Nicole is Nicole’s interpretation of “God changed His mind” and not the interpretation of the text itself and not even the simple observation of the text. Nicole jumps immediately to the philosophical ramifications of Nicole’s own interpretation of Pinnock’s statement “God changed His mind” (not Pinnock’s view of the text), and those ramifications hit the age old debate between the eyes.

The text says clearly that God responded to Hezekiah, even answered prayer. That is the textual reality that Pinnock hones in on with Hezekiah and others. The dynamism of our relation with God in the text is instructive to us about God’s nature. This text about Hezekiah (and others and inside the entire biblical context) instructs us about a very clear dynamism in God’s relationship with His children. This relationship with God is unmistakable to the Christian soldier in the trenches of life, even clear to an 8 year old child.

3.  Nicole’s Violation of the ETS Larger than Pinnock’s  ~  Top

Based upon the text itself, Nicole violates the ETS doctrinal statement in his Primary Document and in his Document #4 (that attack Pinnock). For it is true that 2 Kings 20 teaches that God answered Hezekiah’s prayer (in a genuine response), and Nicole denies that God truly answered or truly responded to the prayer. In that blatant and unambiguous denial, as Nicole imputes upon the text a fixity to God that is not present, Nicole denies the truth and inerrancy of the text.

Should Nicole be ousted from membership? Or should we talk more about this?

Yet the ironies continue.

Let’s be clear about this. The issue of God’s ability to truly answer prayer is only part of Nicole’s dilemma. God’s ability to freely and genuinely answer prayer is part Pinnock’s defense, but not the only part. Nevertheless, the issue of God’s ability to truly and genuinely respond is a far, far more important piece of theological integrity to the entire evangelical community than Nicole’s misunderstood perception of another author’s meaning of an extra-biblical sentence. And Nicole’s case degrades when one sees that Pinnock’s observational sentence “God changed His mind” is but the simple observation of the plain sense of the passage. Let’s be clear about the simplicity of Pinnock’s observation and the incredible leaps one has to take to understand Nicole’s meaning (as faulty as Nicole’s meaning was).

Let’s be more clear in clearing up the clouds of confusion. The person with the largest circumlocution and who has to add the greatest amount of extra-biblical verbiage to the biblical text to get at the true meaning of the text is the person who more greatly violates the ETS doctrinal base. That should be so very obvious and so very important.

To claim that is a far cry from proving it. Let’s prove it.

Nicole chooses to believe that there has to be something at 1# beyond what the text says, for God cannot declare something to be true at any time, and then “change His mind” later. For at #1, if God had meant what He said, then God actually does not know that #3 is going to happen—then, when #3 happens, God must have been in error at #1. So Nicole backtracks in favor of #3 and imposes at #1 what is not there: namely, God did not really mean what the text says at #1 and, because of #3, then God at #1 really lied or meant something other than what Hezekiah heard God say (or some other contrivance of Nicole that works around what God actually said at #1).

Are there implications here for whether God actually does possess exhaustive foreknowledge or not? Sure. But the biblical theories for explaining such are not the topic, not the subject of allegation.[20] The subject is whether or not Pinnock violated the ETS doctrinal basis, and that violation must include (in a guilty verdict) a clear and unambiguous denial of the inerrancy of the original autographs: if not, then at least the line of reasoning toward denial must be crystal clear.

Amazingly, Pinnock’s attempt to stay as close to the text is not as great a violation as Nicole who has to add to the text to make the text fit his doctrine. Simply, Nicole violates the ETS’s doctrinal basis in a greater fashion than Pinnock, and Nicole violates in a more direct fashion than Pinnock.

STOP. Finish. End. Exonerate Pinnock and Sanders. Or start proceedings against Nicole.

Whatever the great ETS shall do, one honorable and Christian action is not to let Nicole retire to keep Pinnock from contributing to the great ETS. Not at all. Correct the grave injustice, end the ugly course of infamy, and open the way to reconciliation.

Nicole’s breach of the inerrancy basis is seen in his clear line of denial of the plain and literal meaning of how God genuinely responded to Hezekiah and genuinely answered prayer, and this breach is much greater than  Nicole’s faulty interpretation of Pinnock’s observation of “God changed His mind.” And by a long distance.[21]

Where is honor? This is radical fundamentalism, where the accuser (Nicole) is more guilty than the accused (Pinnock and Sanders)—yet the accused is still a defendant.

Pinnock wants to be as close to the Bible as possible, using the Bible to define God. How much more direct can that be? How much closer and more faithful to the ETS doctrinal basis can anyone come?

How can one get closer? Seriously!

These are not rhetorical questions. This is the issue and the heart of Nicole’s spurious allegations. Certainly, obviously, one cannot get closer in fidelity to the ETS doctrinal basis by adding circumlocutions to the plain sense of the biblical text.

4.  Pinnock Closer to the Text  ~  Top

Pinnock opts to be understood by the common Christian soldier—not Nicole. Pinnock is far more the gentleman, far more closer to the true spirit of Luther and the spirit of the ETS. Certainly, Pinnock is trying to stay as close to the text as possible, far more than Nicole. That should be obvious.

Importantly and the heart of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover is Pinnock’s desire to be faithful to the Bible and get doctrine and develop our understanding of ultimate truth from the Bible. Unlike the contrivances of Nicole (et al), Pinnock wants to understand the truth about God and God’s relationship with us with as little contrivance as possible.[22] Did you hear that—with as little contrivance as possible.

Look at the bibliographies. Pinnock is far more open to dialogue, far more open to correction, far more the team player and open to mutual and collegial and scholarly debate. From the bibliographies of Nicole and Pinnock, team playing and mutual and continued dialogue is Pinnock’s history and strength—far more than Nicole. That is just history.

Pinnock opts to see God in truth at both #1 and #3. That is far more true to the text and a far, far, greater level of respect of 2 Kings as having a source in an inerrant autograph—far greater respect of 2 Kings as inerrant than is given by Nicole. How can so many in the ETS have not seen this? Why did titans like Timothy George and L. Russ Bush and others let this get by?[23]

Is not fidelity to the ETS doctrinal basis THE issue of concern? Is not fidelity to the ETS basis the same as fidelity to the Scripture?

Here is how I see the Hezekiah passage in the light of Nicole and Pinnock.

At #1, God speaks bare bones truth to Hezekiah: Hezekiah you are going to die. There is no implication that God is going to do anything else. But as Hezekiah knows, God is merciful by nature, so—sure—there is always an alternative (at a minimum there are always alternatives to Hezekiah). Hezekiah can pray, and he does pray at #2. At #3, God hears the prayer and decides to heal Hezekiah. There no conflict here, none whatsoever.

That is how I pray. Is that how you pray? Don’t you too pray that tomorrow you will live and not die? How did Jesus pray in Gethsemane?

Is Jesus our example or is Nicole’s circumlocutions to be our example?

My God in heaven, what has Nicole tried to do? Nicole is trying to impute upon the text something that is not there. Abracadabra—name your poison. If we can add to Hezekiah as Nicole does, we can add other notes of clarification to every other passage of the Bible. It is this exact same kind of kooky reasoning that says of John 3:16 that God did not actually “love the world” but that what John really intended was that God only loved the elect. “Whosoever believeth” actually applies only to the elect. Yet in the mighty ETS, those are rationales that do not cause problems. Not for Nicole and party anyway.

The conflict is in Nicole’s mind, inculcated and even indoctrinated by his own Reformed tradition, negatively influenced as Nicole’s mind is by his pagan inheritance and his own life’s work in defense of the Reformed tradition (Remember, Nicole even gave us his own assumptions in Document #3[24]).

The conflict is in Nicole’s mind. Nicole believes that Pinnock believed that what God said at #1 was an unalterable prophecy that God then backtracks on in #3 (making God have an error at #1) and summarily makes a false prophet out of Isaiah.

That is not what Pinnock said. That is the heart of Nicole’s rationale. And that is not what Pinnock said.

We cannot help the conflicts that come to Nicole’s mind. But these conflicts are not the grounds to question someone’s membership in the ETS. The conflicts can be the subject of scholarly debate, if one had the courage to submit to the debate in the first place.

Contrary to Nicole, Pinnock affirms the truth value of the Bible without the need to contrive circumventions to God outside of the text that few people can understand.

Contrary to Nicole, Pinnock affirms the truth of God at #1, and when #3 comes around, #3 is truth too. Saying both #1 and #3 are truth is far more close to the ETS doctrinal basis than Nicole who says that only #3 is truth. Read this twice more.

This is most important.

For Nicole has to add to #1 before anyone in the world will know what the actual truth of #1 is. The rest of us just believe the Bible as it is. (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I’m pushing here—but why not have some fun. Most of this would be so silly if it were any place else but in the great ETS where so very much esoteric baggage attends to some of the smallest statements.)

The error is that Nicole and all Classical Theists want to impute Psalm 139 and God’s exhaustive foreknowledge into Hezekiah’s experience at #1 and change the text’s most basic meaning. Classical Theists want to change the certainty of Hezekiah’s death at #1 into a conditional at the very time of #1 for Hezekiah (based upon our knowledge of #3 and a majority opinion of Psalm 139). Ironically, then, Classical Theists want to interpolate a degree of “Openness” at #1 where there is none, and Open Theists like Pinnock only see Openness where the Scripture gives indication—as with Hezekiah somewhere between #2 and #3 (based on what God did in #3).

Pinnock does not say or assume or document that #1 had to be an unconditional prophecy without any subjection to a conditional prayer or anything else. And more importantly, Pinnock also does not say that #1 has to be conditional. For Pinnock and Hezekiah, the point of #1 is that #1 is truth—period—truth that Hezekiah had better heed and put his house in order. At #1, the truth may or may not be dependent upon a somewhat open future. As it stood for Hezekiah, at #1, Hezekiah was going to die and at that very moment there was no open future: Hezekiah was going to die.

At #2 Hezekiah prays. At #2—looking ahead at #3—staying as close the biblical revelation as we are able, God can and does and did allow for an openness of some kind to the future. When God responds at #3, that response by God is truth too, and a truth that does not negate the truth of #1.

At #3, we are told God responded in mercy. At #3, we could then and only then see #1 as conditional, but that would be imputing something upon the text and even upon Hezekiah that was not present. In the same manner of not imputing conditionality upon #1 from our view of #3—so too, and in the same manner—at #1, God is not bound or forced to allow Hezekiah to die. At #1, God is not bound to Hezekiah as though God’s promise of death to Hezekiah was in the same league as the covenantal promise of blessing to Abraham or the promise of a savior to the world or the promise of a heaven above for the inheritors of the promise.

Even Nicole (in his own documents) concedes to degrees and types of prophecy. Why Nicole does not allow such for Pinnock is anybody’s guess.

What the text says is that at #1, Hezekiah doubtlessly understood that he was going to die, and—since God said it—there was nothing anyone but God could do to change that. Indeed, it is a kind of prophecy that Isaiah gives to Hezekiah that is and will be true. Then Hezekiah prays at #2 and God responds (through Isaiah in another prophecy) in #3.

Who is limiting God here? Does not God—as the potter—have the divinely sovereign right to give a conditional prophecy without asking Nicole’s permission (or placing the condition in the original autograph) and later answer prayer with a subsequent prophecy? Or as Pinnock would have us understand, when times come like #1 did for Hezekiah—we can be sure that some things are settled (death) and some things are not (an appeal to prayer)—but God is the one who will decide in His mercy. As Pinnock would have us understand, God can and does genuinely respond.

This is pivotal. It is also about an attitude of respect to the passage, indeed, fidelity to the text and fidelity to the ETS doctrinal basis.

In aftermath, it can be an “observation” that in this passage “God changed His mind,” indeed, just as Pinnock intimates. But to interpret “God changed His mind” as Nicole philosophically interpolates Pinnock to mean, where God is in error, is weird and so off base. How does Nicole get away with that?

Here is another huge irony that compounds into a double irony. Think about the absurdity of this. What actually happens here is that Nicole is taking Pinnock’s own words of “God changed His mind” far more literally than Pinnock meant them and far more literally than Nicole himself is taking 2 Kings 20.[25] Ironic indeed, but the irony continues. In double irony, Nicole then takes his own more literal interpretation of Pinnock and less literal interpretation of the Bible, and Nicole twists them to say that Pinnock is not being faithful to the text and not being faithful to the inerrancy clause of the ETS doctrinal basis.

Give me a break. That stinks. Exonerate. End the infamy.

Truly, for God’s sake, foster communication on the greater biblical theme of God’s ability to genuinely relate.

Furthermore, the above is evil if Nicole actually knew that that was what he was doing. At a minimum, in due respect to Nicole’s fire and great esteem, and excusing overzealous passion—it is counter productive to good Christian progress when such is exposed and there is no facing up, and no apology beckons.

Nicole’s case backfires upon himself, and it backfires doubly so and so much more profoundly. And in the manner in which Nicole succeeded in doing this with so many supporters and so few detractors—like Timothy George’s and L. Russ Bush’s letters to the ETS president—therein, a larger case can be made that Nicole is a theological bully than can a true case be made against Pinnock violating the ETS’s doctrinal basis.

At minimum, exonerate Pinnock and Nicole. Certainly, Nicole ought to be called to give an apology to Pinnock and Sanders. As certainly, we should apply the Nicole criteria to Nicole and every other person in the esteemed ETS, and vote on the membership of everyone who sees the Hezekiah passage as Nicole (even to those similar to Nicole). Nicole’s violation of the ETS is larger than Pinnock’s violation. Why not do a survey? Every member who sees the passage as Nicole has articulated is guilty of a greater breach of the ETS doctrinal basis than is alleged to Pinnock.

The above standard of conduct by Nicole is what Jesus meant when He said that we should take the beam out of our own eye so that we could see more clearly in removing the splinter out of a brother’s eye.

The integrity of the ETS and the freedom of energetic debate are at stake—to freely debate truly substantive issues without fear of splinter-hunting Pharisees.

5.  Nicole Crushed by His Own Standard  ~  Top

Inerrancy is the issue, and Nicole makes God’s inerrancy the fulcrum that supposedly crushes Pinnock and Sanders.

Are we to believe, then, that God did not mean what He said? Are we to mean that God needs Nicole’s interpolations? No. God in His inerrancy could have added to His own inerrant autograph. Jesus said, “if it was not so” He would have told us.

How ironic—yet again—that God does not mean what He says in passages like 2 Kings 20, yet Nicole is so bold as to say Pinnock is the one who believes in an errant God.

Nicole’s own interpretation of this passage—in itself—is necessarily dependent upon (1) his own extended rhetorical contrivances, upon (2) his Reformed doctrine and upon (3) his own 1943 dissertation on antinomies.[26] Then Nicole used his own interpretation to say that Pinnock believes that God makes errors; from here it gets complicated (not direct at all), in those errors by God—as Nicole interprets Pinnock—that means Pinnock does not believe in the inerrancy clause of the ETS doctrinal basis.

What just happened?

Nicole accuses Pinnock based upon Nicole’s interpretation of Pinnock; and Nicole’s own interpretation is dependent upon Nicole’s own circumlocutions and Nicole’s own extra-biblical interpolations. Nicole’s “dependence” becomes another kind of breach of the ETS doctrinal basis.

In a kind of weird and hyper-ironic manner, Nicole’s “dependence” is clear from Nicole’s Document #3 Traditional Theistic Assumptions. In the light of these assumptions, was there supposed to be a point other than Nicole’s dependence upon tradition? In Nicole’s assumptions, are we to believe that Nicole’s “assumptions” are actually more important than fidelity to the text in supporting Nicole’s allegations?

Wow. You have to think about that in Nicole’s corpus of documents to find any kind of cohesive element at all.[27]

Asked in another way, what is actually more important: tradition or fidelity to the Bible? Seems like Nicole makes a point in his own documents that “his tradition” is more important than the Bible. Herein, and certainly, in his own documents, we could make an entirely separate case that Nicole violates the ETS doctrinal basis in placing “tradition” above “scripture.”

Look for yourself. See if you can find any element—any element at all—that makes Nicole’s scattered topics cohesive. If there is no cohesion, then the only real substance to the allegation is in Nicole’s Hezekiah dialogue, which fails to indict Pinnock and makes Nicole more guilty than Pinnock of Nicole’s own allegation. If the “tradition over Scripture” is actually the only thing that makes his corpus of documents cohesively coherent, then we have Nicole doubly guilty. Nicole then becomes guilty of violating the ETS doctrinal basis in two ways:

1. His own interpretation of Hezekiah (and elsewhere) as well as thematically in

2. His glorification of tradition above the ETS doctrinal basis.

That’s two strikes to Nicole, where all we actually have against Pinnock is the “allegation” of a foul ball that is even hard to determine upon video playback. That is not a very good game at all. Well, it’s no game at all, when Nicole is attempting to sully Pinnock’s and Sanders’ life’s work (“cancer”?) and devotion to the Bible in front of friends and peers—most especially with ironies flying around like flies on a dead carcass.

Nicole stretches the limit of even Pharisaical splinter hunting. Can Nicole himself stand the same kind of scrutiny?

Do you think an 8 year old child would understand what just took place? I am not sure there are many adults that would understand what Nicole was trying to do. Excuse me. Not what Nicole was trying to do, but what Nicole has been doing and doing with impunity.

B.  Fidelity to the Text is THE Issue   ~  Top

Even an 8 year old child could ask from reading 2 Kings 20, “teacher, why does God change His mind here?” Pinnock would answer that God answers prayer. In attempting to explain and correct Pinnock, Nicole would say that God was wrong in his first prophecy and had to correct Himself. Nicole himself would answer (who knows for sure) that God did not change his mind, and then Nicole would have to strain out something for the 8 year old like he tries for the ETS.

The issue is fidelity to the text.

Instead of 16 pages of round about hodgepodge—off the subjective allegation most of time—such a serious charge by such an esteemed scholar like Professor Nicole against another esteemed and even more productive scholar like Professor Pinnock 

should have been heavily laden with
clear proofs
 of a breach and
clear and direct scholarly rationale
.

Forgive me, here, but Nicole’s documents should have somewhere said, “One proof, two proof, three proof … bam, bam violation.” Anything less from one titan to another titan is not “proper”—for lack of a better term. “Proof” of violation should be “proof with a clear line to the allegation.” It is so disheartening that no clear line appeared.

I say this, because my prior excitement led me to believe that someone was going to get really and truly serious with God’s genuineness in the face of the fixed-settled God of Classical Theism. Oooops. Pinnock already did that. What I meant to say was that I thought some truly able and world class Classical Theist was going to credibly and clearly articulate how God could have exhaustive foreknowledge and genuinely relate to me. I know that was not the allegation of Nicole, but you should know that that was what was behind the allegation. To see the mess I saw, trumped up in scholarly baggage, was more than a disappointment.

Adding to the confusion of the allegation, confusing the topic, Nicole himself said he had his document screened so that it would be accepted by Reformed and Arminian variations within the ETS. Nicole will allow Reformed and Arminian, but no other variations. That is an amazing piece of dialogue in this context. Why not allow the only coherent alternative between them. One can see Nicole choosing the same line of dubious reasoning to oust Arminian members and just about anyone who is not in the Reformed or Classical tradition.[28]

The inscrutability of cohesion in the his documents and Nicole’s faithlessness to his own simple allegation are obvious to any non-biased reader—somewhat like me, who has yet to meet Pinnock, Sanders or Nicole and his crew. I have yet had the privilege to attend one ETS gathering.

Nicole did not clearly address his own allegation. You have to read and reread the documents to try to discern just how Nicole is trying to construct a bridge from his own interpretation of Pinnock’s “God changed His mind” to Nicole’s allegation of a breach of the ETS doctrinal basis. What you actually find is that, in Nicole’s own words and after making the allegation, Nicole immediately and throughout moves to another topic altogether—that being how Pinnock’s view is unpopular, not the norm, not in the majority, strange, and somehow Nicole comes to focus upon Hezekiah.[29]

C.  Nicole’s Missed the Main Theme of Open Theism
—like So Many Other Classical Theists
   ~  Top

What Nicole missed was—or purposed to hide—was that within Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover was the “relational theme.” It is on nearly every page. Pinnock stays focused as he outlines his own critics, challenges his critics, and provides powerful reasons for his position. In contrast to Nicole—did you see this—Pinnock quotes his own critics in their own words and then challenges them. Among those in Pinnock’s footnotes and bibliography are his own critics (where Nicole says—apparently and sadly—that some of Pinnock’s critics become a rationale that Pinnock did not have adequate coverage?). How else does one do scholarly debate?

Nicole missed the “relational” theme of Open Theism, purposed not to relate to Pinnock himself as a person, not as a fellow Christian and certainly not as a true fellow scholar. Nicole missed that Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover is about “how” God genuinely relates to His children and the world.

Nicole did not miss Ware’s and Frame’s respect of tradition though. In fact, Nicole’s own references to Frame and Ware indicate the “question of value” of Frame’s and Ware’s work. As pointed out in Appendix 1, more so for Frame than Ware,[30] their works attack a straw man effigy of Open Theism with simple and old regurgitations of ancient themes that have been regurgitated many times before.

In other words, Frame and Ware do not add very much of anything new to theology, only regurgitate (perhaps even co-opting the scripture references from the previous centuries old work as though the references derived from their own study). Then Frame and Ware fail to address how their own stance coherently works within the biblical theme and main thrust of the relational God of the Bible and of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover.

How does Frame and Ware’s settled-fixed God have a genuine relationship with His children? We are still in the dark about that (even though they gave tantalizing tokens here and there).

If Open Theism is not as biblical as Nicole (and party) claim and if it is a threat—a cancer—then why not debate it, why not dialogue, why not provide solid proof? I personally did not think that the June 2002 Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society did justice to Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover, and though a beginning, it was clear there were more political impediments than there were truly evangelical impediments to an open minded view of Open Theism.

D.  Classical Theists Want a Title Belt,
But They Do Not Like Earning It   ~  Top

If the Classical Theists are wanting to defend the fixed-settled God, then get into the ring. But they have trouble.[31] So they sit on the side lines and churn out social commentaries and books that they mutually esteem. To date, most of the Classical Theist works regurgitate work several hundred years old—patting each other on the back—but that do not really say anything new.[32]

That is called playing in the sand box together, or a kind of sparing with a partner you have paid to spare with you—which is really only playing in the ring. When someone arrives with novel ideas and better rhetoric, playing by the rules—staying as close the Bible as possible like Pinnock and Sanders—that is, really throwing some punches that hurt, the true condition of the combatants comes to light.

What is so sad, so very incredibly sad, is that rather than get into shape, the Classical Theists want to close the gym to the best fighters. The Classical Theists really don’t want a true fight, really don’t want to test their skills in the ring. They want to keep their championship belt, but they don’t want to earn it.

Well—phooey on that!

Pinnock has churned out a world class contender in Most Moved Mover. For those of us on the street, we can see who is really in shape.

Ironically, even for those of us off the street and in prison, like myself, we can see who the real champion is. I sure wish the Classical Theists would take up the challenge and seriously engage a true master. Is that Cowardly? What is the meaning of “Rope-a-Dope” anyway? For those of us in the street and in prison, to see someone prance around with a title belt—but unwilling to test his mettle—is so near what we would call cowardly.[33]

Nicole’s allegation becomes more dubious when the criteria of the allegation indicts Nicole—Nicole himself—to a greater degree of guilt than the persons he attacks.

Hang on to your hat, for the ironies are spinning us around so fast that we are liable to fall off this indignant tirade and become what we hate. Would that it had not gotten to this degree of infamy.

The rest of the popular evangelical world (who do not read Ware and Frame and who are essentially out of the loop of the esoteric ETS gatherings and Nicole’s widespread and esteemed influence) simply trust Nicole, Ware and Frame (et al) as the good Christian men they are most of the time. The rest of the evangelical world simply trust these esteemed caretakers to know what they are saying when they say Open Theism is unbiblical. When they attack people like Pinnock for defending the genuineness of our relationship with God and do so with obviously inferior work, they are traitors both to the spirit of the ETS and even to the whole of Christendom.

Frame’s and Ware’s unsubstantial regurgitations preach more to the Reformed and Classical Theists’ choir than to anyone else, and their works are mostly regurgitations of old arguments and poor rhetoric that have been reframed to oppose “Open Theism” as a category of heresy. Therein, in works like Frame’s and Ware’s, the main theme of “God’s genuine relationship” in Open Theism is ignored and even trampled upon. With Open Theism’s main theme ignored and works like Frame’s and Ware’s, well then, Nicole has a scintilla of references that “oppose” Open Theism.

Then in still another amazing leap of logic Nicole uses that scintilla of references to indicate the unpopularity of Open Theism as though “unpopularity” was another proof of his case against Pinnock and Sanders. How many more ironies does one need to see the accumulating fallacies?[34]

What Nicole does not notice (or what he hides) about Ware’s and Frame’s work is that they do not deal with the main theme of Open Theism. How long will this go on? Is the dodging of Pinnock’s main relational theme the real problem that Nicole does not want to deal with in his efforts to oust Pinnock and Sanders? Nicole sure does not want to deal with Pinnock and Sanders, and Nicole’s “heavy heart” that he said he has over the issue just may be more accurate than he intended. What Nicole does not notice, or what he hides, or what Nicole is not able to understand or grasp or articulate or effectively and scholarly oppose is the main thematic challenge of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover.

The main theme—again—is how God’s genuine relationship with His children works out from a close reading of the biblical text. The noticing of antimonies in 1943 by Nicole is one thing, but trying to see if there is any more clarity to the coherence of God since then is another thing. Failure to use the higher biblical insights like the biblical facts of God’s genuine relationship to temper our own ignorance of how the appearance of antimonies this side of heaven do not conflict within God—well, that is called dodging the obvious.

Instead of dealing with the theme, Nicole picks an item and forces the Classical Theist defenses against Pinnock outside of clear rationale. Let me explain.

It is not Pinnock’s fault that Nicole chooses to defend the settled God of Reformed theology and ignore Pinnock’s theme. Nicole can defend anything he wants to. But if Nicole ventures into the realm of Pinnock’s expertise, why not deal with the topic man-to-man, scholar-to-scholar?

In Nicole’s documents (other than his quote above in the Introduction), you do not see a single effort to deal with the entire theme of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover which is also the theme of Open Theism in general. The main theme is the hub, and Nicole’s allegation addresses only one spoke—and at that indirectly and erroneously.

Nicole says the Hezekiah passage is “critical” for Open Theists. Wrong! It is not. It is a passage that is critical for the Classical Theists and others of the Reformed tradition, for they are the ones that have to come up with grand circumlocutions around the obvious meaning of many passages to support their own doctrine. Nicole’s error is not a matter of God’s sovereignty alone with the relational passages tacked on—not at all. The issue is how the passages about God’s sovereignty inform us about the larger and more important revelation of God becoming flesh, dwelling among—in short and to repeat myself again—about the supremely important theme of the entire Bible:

how God genuinely relates to His children.

Pinnock and Open Theists try to stay as close to the Bible as possible. Yet Nicole and others present a misunderstood interpretation of Open Theism and of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover.

The ETS has standards and attempts to maintain loyalty to traditional Christian faith standards of conduct. Nicole needs judging by his own standards. That so many missed this, as did the esteemed Timothy George and L. Russ Bush in their letters to the ETS president, supports a new direction that is not very positive or palatable to most.

To those on the fence, in the trenches, and who are not Classical Theists, these are very serious and natural questions of integrity. A failure by the Classical Theist majority to recognize them taints the very purpose of the ETS fellowship.

If the Hezekiah passage is the best example and “critical,” as Nicole claims, and Nicole is not willing to present a formal paper on it, what does that say?

It is hard work to stay in the ring till the fight is over. It is another thing all together to throw in the towel in the first round, then run to the commission in an attempt to have an opponent expelled and even disbarred. That is bad enough. What I am saying here is that Nicole bit off Pinnock’s ear, then Nicole ran to the commission and tried to get Pinnock disqualified from all future ETS sponsored bouts.

Pinnock fought from the Bible, winning round after round, produced a world class volume of unequalled erudition on the playing field. Not so Nicole. Nicole and company resorted to petty name calling—“cancer, cancer, cancer”—rather than stay in the ring and fight like men.

Hear ye, hear ye—if ye be scholar—take ye apart the main theme of Most Moved Moverthe hub—before one takes apart one its many spokes of observation.

The only way that Nicole could find to answer Pinnock was with an administrative remedy that was supported with a substandard set of documents appealing to Nicole’s own effigy of Pinnock’s interpretation of “God changed His mind.” 

Shake your head. Slap your knee. Nobody likes that kind of ear-biting behavior, especially from those who pretend to be world class fighters.

Rather than calling Open Theism a “cancer,” Nicole and others who disagree need to detail the symptoms before diagnosis—far more than Frame and Ware who miss or hide the real issue in the same manner as Nicole. A paper on the symptoms and remedies and mysteries is appropriate. But don’t call Open Theism a “cancer” without clarifying the symptoms. For God’s sake, don’t call the main theme of “God’s genuine relationship with us” of Most Moved Mover a cancer without clarifying in a similar piece of erudite and scholarly presentation “how” the settled-fixed God of Nicole (Frame, Ware, et al) has a genuine relationship with His children.

Quit the rambling and get to the point.

A paper detailing errors (within a context of allowing counter papers of defense or concession) is appropriate and in the tradition of the great Evangelical Theological Society.

Make the errors clear and unambiguous, and be ready to test them on yourself.

Indeed, rather than more regurgitation (with 1,000+ Scriptures) of what most ETS members already know—halt … get to the point! About 90% of Frame’s No Other God and about 85% Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory could be culled, and the substance and arguments of their works against Open Theism could be condensed to 30 or so pages.

Even in a condensed 20 pages from their works—even working together—what about the main theme of Open Theism which is God’s genuine real time concern for His children? Why does Nicole, Ware and Frame (et al) run and hide from this? They acknowledge it, give a token of reference to it. They assume antinomies, but offer no proof—only rhetorical circumnavigations around the obvious. Seems like they have more faith in their antinomies than in the coherence of God—more faith in their antinomies than in the coherence of God. They can have the trinity without mention of antinomies in God’s nature, but they cannot apply similar lines of deductions to the passages that indicate a genuineness of relationship.

Why cannot these scholars give the kind of scholarly defense to this problem of theirs in just 15 coherent pages in the same league of scholarship that Pinnock has given to us (and them) in 200+ pages and a multitude of references and cross references?

Why?

Where is scholarly honor here?

And someone may read this and take offense at allusions to “cowardly” as harsh, as most Classical Theists will; just know this, such allusions are far less harsh than calling one’s life work a cancer. I address specific behaviors that really have no other term, but Nicole and party are addressing a theme that is present from Genesis to Revelation—God’s genuineness.

“Cancer” my foot! The real cancer is the lifeless and unaffectable-fixed-settled God of Classical Theism that has so eaten away at its adherents that all they can do is defend with regurgitations hundreds of years old. They know they are the products of a pagan heritage, and not one of them attempts to address or defend themselves against that single chapter in Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover dealing with our Pagan Inheritance—to say nothing of Pinnock’s entire theme. No—when Pinnock publishes, they attempt to censure, which is translated into cowardice on the battlefield.

E.  Unscientific Post Script on Radical Fundamentalism   ~  Top

Christian radical fundamentalism is most characterized by heated irrationality, even an obsessive in-your-face belligerence, most often identical to the N.T. Pharisees who crucified Jesus. Little tolerance for differences. These have enshrined their doctrine and their own selves above God. Most often, these persons cannot see it themselves. Many times, the results of cloak room politics come into the street under the guise of “speaking the truth in love” and other forms of veiled humility-on-a-mission. 

The most radical shoot abortion doctors and take groups of weak minded persons hostage, even leading to mass suicide. These are the most dangerous, even psychotic in self-delusion, nearly hopeless in their closure to any criticism whatsoever. But that is not all.

Also, there is a vein of radical fundamentalism that permeates some higher levels of academia and is harder to follow, even impossible to follow without becoming the despised Pharisee oneself. Many times these are indistinguishable from passionate Bible believers and others of very sincere Christian faith. No one is perfect, and every Christian is passionate about something—and should always be several degrees above lukewarm.

I am no different. There is no definitive test that could weed out the academic crossed-eyed-psychotic from the genuinely passionate who at times bleeds out a belligerent tune every now and then. Even Jesus said something about allowing the wheat and tares to grow together, on the one hand, and on the other hand that “weed tolerance” does not exclude the necessity of properly excluding clear aberrant behavior and removing teachers of heretical doctrine from fellowship.

Certainly, there are times to analyze and expunge from fellowship in the general church and even disbar membership from elite societies. How do you see Jesus? He guided all in the love of God while only a few times exposing the white washed sepulcher.

These are hard times. I am certain that the mighty Nicole believed he was actually trying to weed out a “cancer.” I do hope I have clarified different. In the distinction between tolerating weeds and removing from fellowship, in the distinction between Pharisees and the sincerely passionate (trying to avoid wrongful judgments)—there is the matter of proof. Once someone’s intentions and rhetoric graduate to formal writings, and then those writings yield religio-political pressure—we have then moved into a category of greater evaluation between four kinds of folks: the sincere, the mere weed in need of tolerance, the Pharisee, and the evil wolf-in-sheep’s clothes who lays in wait.

In Nicole’s case, it is either the Pharisee-like or wolf-like behavior (though some have certainly seen Nicole’s case as one of passionate fidelity). You be the judge, but the evil at times raises its snake like head in an unmistakable fashion. Not just in “spoken” rhetoric and in the “appearance” of cloakroom strategy, but when the rhetoric and strategy are written by veritable chieftains in high regard, then there can be no mistake as to what has happened.[35] See how Nicole’s documents mesh with what I have documented. It is to the ETS’s great credit and credibility that the documents remain accessible till the issue is finally closed.

I want to see Pinnock and Sanders stay in the ring. I really do. I hate to see puffed up toads, feathers spread out like peacocks, proud of their achievements, when in truth all they did was take a cheap bite off the ears of true contenders.

We shall never progress when peacocks are allowed to strut their stuff without actually getting into the ring with true contenders. Never progress. And those of us in the trenches, on the streets and in the prisons are the losers.

You know, there is one thing about prison life that is clear to all. Prisoners are locked up. A prisoner can prate like a peacock, pretend to be the biggest and most buffed on the block. But eventually he is going to have to take off his shirt. When the true nature of his shoulders and arms are revealed—see then how he struts. That is very biblical, by the way. When Paul the Apostle was talking, there could be some doubt about his credentials. But later in the evening, when around an evening fire, Paul changed his shirt—there it was for all the world to see, the marks on his back. Paul had paid the price of discipleship and true leadership.

Look real hard a Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover, and if you doubt me, then look at all of Nicole’s 6 documents (a massive 34 pages) and look at Frame’s and Ware’s massive regurgitations—then you tell me who has the shoulders of a true scholar and arms of a true contender.

When in the light of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover you do sincerely and thoroughly look at Nicole, Frame and Ware, then you will know why they wanted Pinnock out of the ETS. If Pinnock had not used the observation term “God changed His mind” and if Pinnock had not used five or six other sentences in his 200+ pages, where would Nicole’s case rest then? The implications of this are profound and would take several more pages to chase down that large rabbit.

Pinnock is just in better shape and throws punches they cannot handle.

What Nicole actually accomplished was so very near what Benito Mussolini did in assuming power with a democratic majority, then turning his office against the people with unclear justifications for a Fascist totalitarianism.[36] You may or may not appreciate allusions of this kind, but they are most serious in the context of Nicole’s and other’s actions. From Nicole’s own words and documented actions, in the light of Pinnock’s [et al] responses and other ETS documents, a greater and more clear case can be made that Nicole proceeded in a Fascist manner than in anything approximating a Christian or scholarly exclusion of Pinnock. A more clear case can be made that Nicole is a Fascist than a clear case can be made that Pinnock violated the ETS. We say a case can be made, but we do not go there.

Hear ye, hear ye—we do not necessarily call Nicole a Fascist. We say a case can be made to highlight what happened and that it should not happen again. We say a case can be made to note that this issue and the modus operandi could be taken to another level of infamy.

Nicole did not help expound and defend the Living God of the New Testament, nor did he help clarify whatever openness of God there is and is obvious to all simple Christian soldiers (praying as Christian soldiers do with a sincere hope and faith and love that God will genuinely relate and move [and move in a manner that God would not have moved if they had not prayed]). Nicole did not help at all.

The Bible says God moves in this world and that God is moved by His children. There are Classical Theist reasons for how “God is moved by His children,” but those reasons are not nearly as close to the biblical text as the Open Theist reasons are.

The Bible says that God is indeed the Most Moved Mover. And a champion has come forth and explained how this happens in the most erudite fashion to date in 2,000+ years of Christian history—Sir Clark Pinnock, veteran of many wars foreign and domestic. See the scars on his back and his finger tips weathered by many late night scribblings. Pinnock labored hard. And Nicole did not, but nevertheless challenged Pinnock’s right to stand with his friends and peers in the ETS. 

From listening to some of the ETS tapes myself, it seems like no one could stay in the ring with Pinnock for more than one or two rounds of biblical boxing.

Nicole missed the main theme of Open Theism in their many writers, most especially Pinnock, and chose to pull out one single spoke of observation (“God changed His mind”), claimed that thin spoke was more significant than it actually was (call it Fascist propaganda if you like), and then enshrined his own interpretation of that thin spoke as a straw man effigy so that he could with very loosely fitting rationale destroy that straw man.

A true contender does not deign to fight straw men.

More importantly, and so much like Fascism, Nicole did not depend upon sound rationale at all. Instead, Nicole depended upon friendship and heretofore decades of Christian loyalty and trust to bust and censure Pinnock and Sander. Is there no shame?

Irony of ironies, Nicole graciously submitted his unusually dubious document to Arminian scholars in the ETS for a concurrence with his own Reformed (Classical) view against Open Theism. There is a gulf between the “free-will” theism of the Arminian tradition and “absolute sovereignty (no free will or compatiblist)” theism of Nicole’s Reformed (Classical) theism, and the irony is that Nicole attempts to censure the most powerful and persuasive alternative between these before proper debate has finished its course in the only society truly able to find a solution. That is ironic and sad.

The real issue is “how” God has a genuinely real time relationship with us. In the light of Pinnock’s very scholarly Most Moved Mover, let someone from the Reformed or Arminian tradition now write a work of equal stature that defends the genuineness of God’s relationship with His children inside of Classical Theism’s fixed God of exhaustive foreknowledge. That is the proper response to Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover and real respect to the inerrant autographs and due fidelity to the ETS’s doctrinal basis and grand covenant of fellowship.

Epilogue:  Final Heartfelt Plea for Reconciliation & Upward Scholarly Mobility,
Indeed, for Nicole and Party to Take Up the Challenge of True Contenders in the Great ETS
  ~  Top

In the end, I am tempted to succumb to some dubious behavior and attempt to add up the multiple ironies above—for a final tally—as though that tally itself of multiple ironies would add something to my cause, adding fuel to the fire as it were.

Something needs to be done beyond this scratching here.

In spite of all of the heat, let me be a chaplain for one moment and attempt to offer a win-win clinical solution to this painful event. Let me come to Nicole’s side and defend him for a moment, and then offer a plea for reconciliation.

Given the above, more needs to be done. We need scholars like Pinnock and Sanders. Several of the previous Presidents of the ETS reflected the need for open debate on these important issues.[37] Certainly that is a concern of many regular attendees and would be a concern for many non-attendees if they were privy to the larger issues. 

I am convinced most of those who voted against Pinnock had not read Pinnock, nor all of Nicole’s documents, certainly not carefully—and this is doubly so for the 1,000+ ETS members who were not present at the ETS convocations. One real “proof” of this is Timothy George’s own article,[38] where he overhears a conversation on the confusion of Open Theism with Process Theism; herein, George himself hears, corrects some misconception himself, then writes in support of Classical Theism. Another real “proof” is in Bush’s letters, where such a fine scholar with a wide circle resources could be pushed to the left of a true understanding by such divergent myths and hearsay.[39]

If Open Theism is misunderstood in some of the circles in which George himself ambulates, even to the point of him using the confusion he observed in a tightly woven article, in the very light of the controversy that was currently brewing—even seeing himself the need to correct—what better proof is there that Open Theism is not truly understood?

Open Theism’s main themes are certainly not understood. Compare Frame and Ware with Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover. Then amble over to L. Russ Bush’s info on the ETS site, where Bush also misunderstands Open Theism as believing that all the future is open, which is a very common error (Open Theists have often and clearly declared that God has settled many things [some even say most things]); Open Theists do not believe in an absolutely open future, for they time and again remind us that some things are settled. It is to Classical Theist Timothy George’s great credit that he does clarify some of the confusion, though he too misunderstood some things.[40]

Even if slight, if mighty and very well respected persons like Frame, Ware, Bush and George misunderstand some of the main themes, how about the rest of the ETS membership, to say nothing of the rest of Christendom?

All this bespeaks the great need for clarification and an even greater need to keep the true champions in the ring till the fight is over.

I think God can help all of the contenders, as I believe God is superintending it all. What do the Classical Theists fear if God is truly sovereign? Surely it is not ordained that they loose every bout.

Surely—somewhere—there is one or two Classical Theists who can get in shape to truly contend with Pinnock and Sanders. They just have not shown up yet.

Let me give an alternative reason why Nicole did what he did and others followed. Let me say that others followed simply because Nicole has been a man of integrity and has grown in respect during his decades of leadership. Nicole and his colleagues started the ETS in 1949, and that heritage places others in his debt for the great society that now exists.

When Nicole speaks, people listen.

To whom much is given much is expected.

Nicole has been given much, and he has given much. Nicole has been involved for over 50 years as a long time theological professor and now Professor Emeritus at Gordon-Conwell and in the many other venues of leadership and guidance. Clinically, here is man who took his position and learning very seriously, who gave his life to his profession, who has given everything to the cause of God.

In the Reformed and Classical tradition, Nicole has defended the sovereignty of God. A person who has done this for a life time cannot be neutral. In line with some of the greatest minds in Christendom, Nicole has made his stance with the sovereignty of God a personal one. Indeed, we want all of our ministers to take their calling personal: 1 Corinthians 13. Any professor worthy of stature should take his calling personal.

Here is Nicole’s strength. In many respects Nicole takes a life and death stance, a kind of final stance against a heresy as he perceives it. He helped found the ETS, has helped it grow and has been a competitor in many debates. Having listened to some tapes, hearing Nicole’s reserved, stately and articulated diction, one can easily see a person of natural authority and one deeply respected. In many circles, he must be a man who captures attention.

Even the above criticism can be tempered by Nicole’s past success—that is, even the above cannot negatively taint the character of a veritable saint, not too much. Many theologians today owe Nicole, as many of us would venerate our own grandfathers. If the above be said of my own grandfather—so what—that does not detract from my allegiance to my grandfather.

Here I come to Nicole as a prodigal myself, seeking clarification, seeking reconciliation. Hear ye, hear ye—all can be forgiven. Given the above criticism in sections A-E and the grandsonly plea immediately above, I can certainly say—and do attempt to say—that the ETS corpus of documents and actions that led to the above harsh criticisms were the result of Nicole still on fire for God and still on fire for God’s sovereignty.

Let me say this as a prison chaplain. I would very much want  the men in the prison where I am a chaplain to hear the fire in a distinguished senior theologian’s defense of the “absolute” sovereignty of God. Let’s not put out the fire, and let us make a defense for the fire of Nicole that ameliorates some of the harsh criticism in sections A-E above.

Let’s even do the better thing, the higher thing, and forgive Nicole for the above, even excuse it all. Allow the fire for God’s sovereignty and Nicole’s faithfulness to his own calling to burn in defense of the faith.

Furthermore—and hear ye, hear ye—let’s do the higher and more Christian thing and provide a platform for Nicole and Pinnock and Sanders to cross the podium and shake hands and progress in dialogue on this great theme, the greatest theme in the Bible:

God loves us and wants us and
certainly does have a genuine real time
 
relationship with His children.

And we ought to foster such relationships among ourselves, especially in the ETS. We should also applaud Pinnock and Sanders for bringing us to a higher level of awareness of this issue.

Certainly, Pinnock and Sanders ought to stay in the ETS membership, for who else can articulate as well as they the future developments of Open Theism. Better yet, how can Pinnock and Sanders grow without good and sincere challenges by those who truly disagree.

Regardless—we should be generous. Like the seriousness of Nicole’s allegation and the multitude of misunderstandings in general, the criticism above is serious. But the more serious issue is the need for reconciliation and the freeing of great minds to truly and freely debate these issues underneath the ETS covenant and doctrinal basis.

Truly—hear ye, hear ye—on the late great planet earth, is there anywhere a greater organization more capable of tackling the issues.

We need the clear diction and vast erudition of Pinnock. And how can Pinnock grow without his articulations bouncing off of diehard Classical Theists? If the Classical Theists would just stay in the ring, we just might get some really fruitful work done.

How can the rest of us truly grow if the champions are separated before a bond of peace and charter of understanding are forged. Who is afraid of good scholarly debate? Not Pinnock or Sanders, that much is as crystal clear as a Canadian blue sky. Let’s give a true and honest forum to the greatest champions, let the fires run wildly, burning away the straw and stubble, and let’s see what kind of gems and other precious stones emerge.

I do not call for a vote to disbar or kick out Nicole. Instead, let’s take seriously the dilemma that the fire of these titanic champions have caused and make the debate fun.

Certainly, we all know the dilemma is here. And if we are to progress, then we are all to profit when around the table sits Nicole, Pinnock, Sanders, George and others.

We are almost finished. To round out the clarifications, let’s deal with two more documents that have had a significant influence on the current understanding of Open Theism—documents by the esteemed Timothy George and L. Russ Bush.

 

Conclusion:  Personally, Our God Is ALIVE   ~  top

This is personal. It ought to be.

The real challenge is how God can be personal for Classical Theists? They claim such, but cannot articulate it. And antinomies do not do much except appeal to scientific language to say there is no need to scientifically or coherently search for coherency in God. Kind of ironic, too, don’t you think—using scientific language in order to avoid thinking?

Or worse, placing more faith antinomies than in the coherence of God is one thing, and bad enough, but when one uses that faith in antinomies to avoid the most simple reading of Scripture, that is truly another kind of avoidance.

On the other hand, Open Theists claim that God’s coherence and genuineness are an inherently, inerrantly, infallibly biblical truth. If we are struggling with coherency, it is because we are simply inferior to God. Open Theists get their doctrine from the Bible, with as little contrivance as possible, making their main hermeneutical principle a drive to stay as close to the Bible as possible. Open Theism is about “how” to understand what the Bible says.

You do not have to be an “Open Theist” to appreciate that.

In view of the free-will vs. foreknowledge debate, Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover has pressed the envelope of modern biblical theorizing with a penetrating theme and with the highest level of erudition. No Classical Theist has come close.

Staying as close to the Bible as one can, with as few extra-biblical contrivances as possible, we can see (from Genesis to Revelation) that one theme dominates all others: God has a genuine real time relationship with His children. In His sovereignty, God cares and is involved.

God’s genuine relationship is the denominator against which theology should be forged (as in Open Theism), not the numerator that is given second place to the meticulous sovereignty of the fixed-settled God in Classical Theism. If Christ be not raised, there is no resurrection, and we of all persons are most miserable. In sum, the grand theme of the Bible and Open Theism is this: 

Our God is Alive

God’s character and righteousness are fixed, but His essence is alive and He able to have a genuine relationship with me. In truth, God has a more genuine part in His relationship with me precisely because I am the child, similar in manner as an earthly parent has the more genuine side of the relationship with his/her own child—precisely as the Bible says.

Classical Theists believe in God’s dynamism, but consistently work around it with circumlocutions and contrivances without end (see the Nicole, et al, above). They need to stop that. They are going to hurt themselves in the long run in their repeated attempts to rope-a-dope a fallacy.

Personally, just how all of the rest of it works out—I really don’t care.

I believe that my God, my heavenly Father, my Abba hears me today and is capable in His almighty and absolute sovereignty to hear my prayer and respond and—if He so pleases—able to move mountains tomorrow that would not have been moved had I not prayed.

Just because the Bible says so.

Augustine is not walking with me today. My heavenly father is walking with me today. I hurt. It is tough. I believe what happened to Hezekiah can happen to me. That’s how I live. That’s how I pray. 

If Classical Theists, with magnificent theological pedigrees—with papers and bloodlines dating backwards 1,600+ years—want to still defend their fixed-settled God, well, fine. They can stay in the ETS. I won’t ask them to leave.

In fact, I think I can take them on. Give me some gloves.

I am not afraid of them. I am sure I will get a bloody nose. I am just off the streets, a little rough and without the finesse and certainly without the extensive training and without the multiple venues of experience. Certainly without the support of grand and historic theological institutions. It would be tough for me, no doubt. I have no illusion that I would win most of the time, no illusion that I could even win one time.

But I will get in the ring, as unlikely as that may be, being confined in prison as I actually am.

The real burden is upon the Classical Theists to defend how their fixed-settled God can have a genuine real time relationship, and Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover is the gauntlet. Let one—or all—get together and churn out a volume of equal quality and erudition—with current references that matches it or truly challenges its primary theme.[41]

I have written my Heart of the Living God, as a support—it certainly adds to Most Moved Mover, and it offers a challenge too.

Whether I can get into the ring or not, what I really do want is for the Classical Theists to square off with my champions, Clark Pinnock and John Sanders. I want their best men in the ring.[42] Are the Classical Theists worthy of their offices? Let’s reconcile this mess and stir the fires of honor.

Only then can we truly work on the most important theological theme of the 21st century, truly admitted to be important by all: God’s genuine real time and dynamic love for His children. Our God is alive, you know.[43]

 

Preface         

Introduction

A.  How God Related to Hezekiah 

1.  Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-11 Pivotal to Classical Theists

2.  Difference Between Fidelity and Interpolation

3.  Nicole’s Violation of ETS Larger than Pinnock’s

4.  Pinnock Closer to the Text

5.  Nicole Crushed by His Own Standard

B.  Fidelity to the Text is THE Issue

C.  Nicole’s Missed the Main Theme of Open Theism
—like So Many Other Classical Theists
 

D.  Classical Theists Want a Title Belt, But They Do Not Like Earning It

E.  Unscientific Post Script on Radical Fundamentalism

Epilogue:  Final Heartfelt Plea for Reconciliation & Upward Scholarly Mobility,
Indeed, for Nicole and Party to Take Up the Challenge of True Contenders in the Great ETS

Conclusion:  Personally, Our God Is ALIVE

Nicole & Pinnock ETS Documents:

Nicole-Pinnock Primary Document

Nicole-Pinnock Document 1

Nicole-Pinnock Document 2

Nicole-Pinnock Document 3

Nicole-Pinnock Document 4

Nicole-Pinnock Document 5

Pinnock Response to Nicole

Nicole & Sanders Documents

Nicole-Sanders Primary Document

Nicole-Sanders Document 1

Nicole-Sanders Document 2

Nicole-Sanders Document 3

Nicole-Sanders Document 4

Nicole-Sanders Document 5

Sanders FULL Response to Nicole

Sanders SUMMARY to Nicole

Appendix 3.  Timothy George’s “What God Knows”:  A Counterpoint Challenge

Appendix 4.  L. Russ Bush’s Two Letters to ETS Members on the
Absolute Openness of God in Open Theism:  A Counterpoint Challenge

Heart of the Living God – Home Page ~ www.preciousheart.net

 

 

 

 

 



[1] Professor Emeritus from Gordon-Conwell Seminary.

[2] Professor Emeritus from McMaster Divinity School.

[3] Research Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Huntington College.

[4] The ETS doctrinal statement that all members are to subscribe to is this: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.”

[5] At http://www.etsjets.org: Primary Document: sixteen pages, which makes some allegations and contains some dubious rationale; Document #1: one page, “Statement About the Origin of Dr. Pinnock‘s View”; Document #2. one page, “Dr. Pinnock‘s Assumptions,” which includes 5 assumptions that really question Nicole‘s understanding of Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover; Document #3: two pages, “Traditional Theistic Assumptions” which is more of an outline of Nicole‘s defense of biblical antinomies that adds nothing to the primary document’s substance and in a round about way could support a case against Nicole believing that “tradition” should have primacy over the biblical text; Document #4: four pages, Roger Nicole‘s Paper for the ETS Annual Meeting in 2002, which attempts to make a case in summary that Pinnock documents errors in God and such an errant God cannot create an inerrant autograph, and here Nicole highlights Hezekiah and Jonah as pivotal to Open Theism and as such becomes pivotal to Nicole’s allegation (with one appendix on Hezekiah, another appendix on prophecy, for six more pages); Document #5: four pages, An Essay on the Nature of Inerrancy, where Nicole attempts to pin his own view of “God changes His mind” as a violation of inerrancy from the nature of inerrancy itself.

[6] Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001).

[7] Nicole attempted to say that Pinnock had inadequate coverage because Pinnock only used 169 references compared to Frame‘s 1,022 and Ware‘s 369 references. I almost fell out of my chair here, most especially since most of Nicole’s allegation rests upon trying to prove that Pinnock’s words “God changed His mind“ was the violation.

Then Nicole accused Pinnock for disregard for “Christian tradition”—listen to this—because Pinnock utilized “437 footnotes to a wide variety of authors and a 16 page bibliography of 380 titles” with only “10 references to works first published before 1900.” Inside of the high academics of ETS, what does this adolescent comparison actually say? In part it says that Nicole had not really read Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover and that Nicole missed the theme of the entire volume. And Nicole lists the pre-1900 authors—you have to see someone scrapping the bottom of the rhetorical bucket here. Do you believe for one moment that Nicole actually did the counting of these passages? If he did not, why did he not give credit to who did? Regardless, whoever did do the counting is truly the quintessential splinter hunter of the century. Give that guy or gal a plaque.

[8] Appendix 1 of Heart of the Living God.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Clark H. Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: A Theology of God’s Openness (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001).

[11] As Nicole says in his Document #4 (p. 4) on his own view Pinnock’s view.

[12] Nicole Document #4, Appendix 1, p. 6 [underline his].

[13] That passage in 2 Kings 20 on Hezekiah (KJV, NIV, most any modern translation reads the same) is the best efforts of history’s greatest exegetical minds in the attempts to render an English translation that is as faithful to the extant manuscripts in a sincere effort to put forth a translation that is as faithful to the inerrant autographs as possible. Let’s stay as close to the Bible as we are able, for that is the essence of the ETS doctrinal base. Isn’t it?

[14] Read again the quote above from Nicole’s Document #4, Appendix 1, where Nicole said in his interpretation of Hezekiah’s encounter that “this whole process does not reflect a change of mind on God’s part” in a clear connection to Nicole’s challenge of Pinnock.

[15] Nicole’s Primary Document, p. 4.

[16] Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: 43; in Nicole’s list of quotes of Pinnock, Nicole said this was Pinnock, not the Scripture (Nicole’s Primary Document, p. 3).

[17] Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: 48; in Nicole’s list of quotes of Pinnock, Nicole intimates this is a declarative statement within a direct quote of Pinnock, instead of the observational question it actually was (Nicole’s Primary Document, p. 3).

[18] Pinnock, Most Moved Mover: 48, and yet no mention here in direct respect to Hezekiah that “God changing His mind,” certainly not the philosophical imputation by Pinnock that God was in error. As certainly, it directly follows from above, and Pinnock attempts to learn about God from what the 2 Kings and other passages say.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Not Reformed or Arminian or even Arminian variants (aka, Open Theism).

[21] Read Nicole‘s 16 page Primary Document and 3 page Document #4 (with 5 pages that compose 2 appendixes). Easy.

[22] And certainly Pinnock wants us to move beyond our indebtedness to pagan conceptions. Why does no scholar challenge Pinnock here, not Nicole, Ware or Frame?

[23] At the ETS web site: http://www.etsjets.org, see the letters by Timothy George and L. Russ Bush. George’s letter to the ETS president on the Nicole-Pinnock affair that gives a clear endorsement of Nicole with no clarification and references his article “What God Knows,” First Things (June/July 2003) is located on the internet at http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0306/opinion/george.html. Bush’s letter outlines some criticism and points readers to a site with Bush’s larger document on Open Theism. See Appendices 3 & 4 for a counterpoint challenge of George and Bush. .

[24] Assumptions without any biblical references, we might point out, since Nicole had placed such a criteria upon Pinnock.

[25] And there is sub-irony within this double irony—I mean since we are splitting splinters here, let’s go all the way. Notice again that Pinnock never actually says “God changed His mind” in actual reference to 2 Kings 20 (though as we indicated earlier, Pinnock in his context does intimate that observation). The sub-irony is that Nicole’s faulty interpretation of Pinnock’s observational statement of “God changed His mind” of 2 Kings 20 is not only faulty, but the statement itself is not actually made by Pinnock in direct reference to 2 Kings 20 in Pinnock’s Most Moved Mover. Hmmmm? A sub-irony within a double irony? Makes yah scratch your head, doesn’t it?

[26] Perhaps Nicole in all of this was simply defending again his 1943 dissertation.

[27] Furthermore—as another irony within an irony—in Nicole’s Document #3 “assumptions,” are we to assume scripture references as Nicole does not allow for Pinnock in his Most Moved Mover? In spite of Nicole’s sub-allegation that Pinnock does not provide adequate Scriptural references (because Pinnock only uses 169 references compared to Frame’s 1022 references), Nicole does not use any Scripture in his Document #3 “categorical assumptions” and no academic references of any kind. Is there such a thing as a quad-triple irony? In the above paragraphs leading to this point, I have lost count.

[28] And I think this is far more important that L. Russ Bush gives in his extended letter to ETS members at http://www.sebts.edu/downloads/pdf/ETS_OpenTheism.pdf.

[29] And Jonah in a similar way, with “prophecy” tossed in as a more rhetorical support than an actual or substantial support of his allegation.

[30] Frame’s No Other God, and Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory.

[31] Case in point. I found the review of Gregory Boyd’s Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001, 468p.) by A. Boyd Luter and Emily K. Hunter (Criswell College) in the March 2003 JETS hardly substantial and even demeaning of the theodicy question altogether (just what did they mean by better mousetrap?). They gave a basic survey of the book’s contents with a few caveats dependent upon the reader’s “entry viewpoint.” Since they set up the entire review upon Boyd’s previous work (1992) and not upon essence the huge book’s contents, one is left wondering more about whether this was actually a review or another simple slap at what they call the “eccentric premises” Open Theism. In the end, the reviewers deign to give Boyd advice as to how he could have built upon the “momentum of The God of the Possible” to get more adherents if Boyd had made his work more readable. In the end of this review, I found myself asking just what was it that they found so confounding complicated and hard to follow and so very philosophical. I mean the reviewers could have told tell us what their real problem was with the book rather than slap-stick around all of Boyd’s other works and end with an improved marketing strategy for Boyd.

[32] Another irony pops up. In the Classical Theist literature that is attempting to show the error of Open Theism, many Classical Theists will be heard saying that many Open Theists are very creative writers, while the Classical Theists themselves continue regurgitating with a scintilla of reframing arguments against their creative opponents.

[33] What would you call it?

[34] How do you describe this behavior? I have seen teenagers do this. What then does it become when Nicole uses only a scintilla of references and then accuses Pinnock of not having adequate coverage in only 169 Scripture references, and then flip-flops to belittle Pinncock for his 437 footnotes to a multitude of authors and a huge bibliography with only 10 references to pre-1900 authors. Are we dizzy yet?

[35] The ETS documents are online at http://www.etsjets.org/.

[36] On Fascism see Michael J. Oakeshott, The Social and Political Doctrines of Contemporary Europe (Cambridge University Press, 1939): 164-8 on Duce Benito Mussolini’s “Doctrine of Fascism” in the 1932 Enciclopedia Italiana. See also G. Salvemini’s Under the Axe of Fascism (New York, 1936), W. Ebenstein’s Fascist Italy (1939) and D. A. Binchy’s Church and State in Fascist Italy (Oxford, 1941). “Fascism” comes from the Italian fascio meaning group, cluster or bundle. Compare articles on Fascism in major encyclopedias, especially the American People’s Encyclopedia (Chicago: Spencer Press, 1956 [1st in 1948]) that rakes the irrationality of Mussolini’s doctrine, graft and corruption; it was a personal dictatorship.

[37] Bruce Waltke (pres. 1975) flatly said Open Theists should not be excluded saying “The Society should be allowed to breathe”; Stan Gundry (pres. 1976) said he urged “the defeat of the effort to expel” in a detailed 3 page letter; Haddon Robinson (pres. 1984) and of the same seminary as Nicole said that those holding a minority opinion ought not to be “drummed out of ETS”; Richard Pierard (pres. 1985) in a sensitive letter pleaded that we should take Pinnock and Sanders at “their word,” avoid the “circling of the wagons” and be open to new members; Laird Harris (pres. 1961) was neutral, saying the purpose of the original meeting was not put someone out, but to “set limits for those who would join”; George W. Knight (pres. 1995) was neutral praising and encouraging the current President Howard’s clarification letter and general Christian spirit.

[38] Timothy George, “What God Knows,” First Things (June/July 2003): 7-9; located on the internet at http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0306/opinion/george.html.

[39] See Appendices 3 & 4.

[40] And in Part II of this letter, I look at Timothy George’s article and clarify.

[41] And Frame’s No Other God, and Ware’s God’s Lesser Glory are no where in the league, not at all—missing the main theme altogether, regurgitating ancient arguments as they did; pretending humility, they exhibit uninformed condescension as they preach to their own Classical Theist choir.

[42] And I want a front row seat (but I’ll settle for pay per view and most likely end with the video). I hope and pray. If the Classical Theists have the courage.

[43] Or we of all persons are most miserable.