About Me

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Robin Parry is the husband of but one wife (Carol) and the father of the two most beautiful girls in the universe (Hannah and Jessica). He also has a lovely cat called Monty (who has only three legs). Living in the city of Worcester, UK, he works as an Editor for Wipf and Stock — a US-based theological publisher. Robin was a Sixth Form College teacher for 11 years and has worked in publishing since 2001 (2001–2010 for Paternoster and 2010– for W&S).

Monday, 30 November 2009

Advent thought 1: Isa 2:1-5

OK - confession: I am a whimpy Charismatic who is somewhat fed up with the superficiality of much that goes under the banner of Charismatic spirituality. We don't do 'Advent' in our kind of Charismatic tradition but my wife and I thought we'd give it a go in our own devotional time. Prepare for us making a pigs ear of it all - please be patient with us.

So we started off today with Isaiah 2:1-5
"The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. 5 O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD."

Here is what struck me about the text, when read from a NT perspective:

Advent is a time of waiting in expectation, leaning forward towards the future. The Church recalls (imaginatively re-living) the first coming of Messiah and anticipates his Second Coming. But these two advents are not unrelated, distinct events. They are two phases of a single event: the coming of the kingdom of God.

This Isaianic vision is one in which the nations of the world are finally at peace. And they all come to Jerusalem to acknowledge that the god of Israel is the true god, and to learn his ways from Israel.

What strikes me is that the nations come as 'the nations' and not as converts to Judaism. Their distinctive cultural and ethnic identities (note the plural) are valued and preserved in relationship to Yhwh. So this is a pluralist vision of a kind. And they relate to Yhwh on equal terms to Israel (whilst this is not so clear in this Isaiah text it is clear elsewhere in Scripture).

But, there is a clear 'priority' of sorts which Israel retains. The nations do not come on their own terms. They come to Zion. They come to the God of Israel. They seek to learn the ways of Yhwh - the God of Abraham and Moses. And - warning to Christians here - whilst the nations are not expected to convert to Judaism to share in relationship with Yhwh, neither are the Jewish people expected to become de facto Gentiles in order to be the true people of God. Israel and the nations retain their distinct identities even whilst uniting in worship of the one God.

In Christ the kingdom has come and is still to come; it is present in part but awaits its consumation. So too with this vision: The first advent of the Messiah ushered in a period in which some non-Jewish people are called out from all nations to join with a remnant of Israel - united through Christ into a single new humanity (but not in such a way as to remove the diversity and distinctions between Jew and Gentile, nor between Gentile and Gentile - diversity is a good thing. It is division which is bad). In the Church we are called, in the Spirit, to live this Isaianic vision in an anticipatory way.

That's a challenging call (see v. 5). Stanley Hauerwas writes,

"all too often it appears that we who have been called to be the foretaste of the peaceable kingdom fail to maintain unity among ourselves. As a result we abandon the world to its own devices. The divisions I speak of in the church are not only those based on doctrine, history, or practices, important though they are. The deepest and most painful divisions afflicting the church in America are those based on class, race, and nationality that we have sinfully accepted as written into the nature of things." ("The Servant Community")

Yet any degree of the peaceable kingdom we experience now is only a foretaste of the age to come. When our Messiah returns then 'all Israel will be saved' and all the nations will come on pilgrimage to Zion, to worship the god of Israel.

For that future we still wait in eager expectation!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Friday, 27 November 2009

"Now you can go to church every day without leaving your home"

Pinch me! I have died and gone to Hell!


Who is the Most Sinful?

One of these men is the heretical author Gregory MacDonald and the other is his sinful publisher Jimmy Stock. You might think that there is a case of red-eye in this image but these horrible men actually look like that! It's not red-eye - it is evil-eye!
But who is the most wicked? The heretic or the one who facilitated the dissemination of his heresy? Hmmmmm. There's only one way to find out - "FIGHT!"

Thursday, 26 November 2009

ETS and SBL highlights

Following Chris Tilling I'll mention some ETS/SBL highlights.

1. The French Quarter in New Orleans had character and was fun to visit. Bourbon street (pronounced bur-bun not bor-bon - it's a drink not a biscuit) was ... lively. Went to hear some good jazz bands.

2. The food was good (but do they HAVE to deep fat fry everything??? Even the lettuce??? That said, I did find a type of donought that I liked - a miracle!)

3. The main highlight was meeting lots of friends. Like Chris Tilling, I think that the Wipf and Stock gentlefolk deserve special mention. The kings of hospitality! (and it was great to have a chance to talk to Chris - I seem to see him more in the USA than in England. Crazy!)

4. It was also great to hook up with some Messianic Jewish NT scholars (some of whom I have wanted to meet for a long while). God is doing something really significant through their work and through the work of like-minded Gentile scholars. I think a paradigm shift in NT studies and theology is on the way.

5. I did not get to many sessions but of those I went to I'd like to mention Joel Willits on whether John's gospel has any gentiles in (an ETS session) and Mark Nanos on the Pauline image of the branches broken (off?) the olive tree (an SBL session). Both fascinating and provocative. I would take more convincing but I am certainly open to new possibilites now.

6. Finally, the scripture and hermeneutics seminar session on Ellen Davies' book on the Bible and agriculture was, against my expectations I might add, amazing. I nearly did not go. After all, I have no aspirations to be a farmer. Man alive! How interesting is that lady!!! And Craig Bartholomew's response to her work was, as his work always is, impassioned and inspiring. So bring me a shepherd's crook - it's a new career for me! Ooo arrr!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

something something something dark side

I will post something theological soon but I am just back from New Orleans and ought to be tired. So here is a fab movie trailer.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Narrative Theology - Sam Wells

"This [Christian] narrative paints tiny human lives, plans, and histories into the awesome canvas of God’s everlasting providence. It slips earnest efforts and ignoble failures into the pocket of God’s original creation and final fulfillment. It embraces the tyranny of the pointless present with the everlasting arms of sacred memory and saving hope. The Christian story places Christ at the center of meaning and delvers humanity from the agony of meaninglessness, transforming the unavoidable fate of our mortal folly into the glorious destiny of his unending joy. Confidence in this story gives the church the resources to engage with other and rival stories."

Sam Wells, "Theology as Narrative"

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Hero or Saint?

"Aristotle sought to inspire his readers to be heroes. The virtues he commends are noble ones, and the lives he advocates are ones of effort and attention. His followers will, if faithful, be capable of making decisive interventions that swing the course of a battle, or a debate, or a long cultural struggle. Without them, all might be lost. They are formed in the virtues required to negotiate an awesome role: they are prepared to be the center of the story. They stand out from the crowd; they form friendships only with others of similar stature. They are self-sufficient and resilient amid setbacks. The definitive icon of virtue is the soldier, who is prepared to risk death for the sake of a higher good. The noblest death is death in battle, for battle offers the greatest danger, thus requiring the greatest courage.

Today’s readers tend to have difficulty reading Aristotle. But they find him difficult not because he places the hero at the center of the story: they take for granted that the story is about them. Neither do they particularly balk at the underlying assumption of violence—the emblematic role of the soldier: for they assume that in a world of limited goods, there is bound to be conflict at some stage so that good may prevail. No, what today’s readers find most difficult about Aristotle is his assumption that, though everyone would want to be a hero, very few people will be, and that so being requires a Herculean effort of discipline and will. Today’s readers object to such elitism. Democracy flattens out such distinctions. It dictates that everyone has the ‘right’ to be a hero, and it shouldn’t be restricted to those with aptitude, effort, and skill. Because everyone can be a hero, the most mundane of activities and commitments and achievements may be regarded as heroic. The exception is the hero that makes a beautiful gesture abstracted from story—who forms a human bridge to help passengers escape a sinking ship, or rescues a child from the flames. Anyone can be a hero by making a spontaneous gesture. The point is not that these activities are highly regarded, but that everyone must have the right to be regarded as the center of his or her own story.

Aquinas did not seek to inspire his readers to be heroes. The virtues he commends are not those that enable his readers to make decisive interventions in the heart of battle or the height of controversy. The virtues he proposes are those that enable Christians to follow Christ. They are not called to be heroes. They are called to be saints. The word ‘hero’ does not appear in the New Testament. The word ‘saint’ occurs sixty-four times."

Sam Wells, "Theology as Narrative"

Twitter Theology

I have been encouraged to share theological reflections on Twitter. I thought about it. I even tried it this morning. Then I thought, 'No! You cannot do theology one sentence at a time' (unless you are the writer of Proverbs or an Indian mystic). You cannot even develop an argument on twitter beyond the most truncated kind of soundbiteism.

I am seriously worried that Christian reflection is becoming more and mote bite-sized in this online era. Perish the thought that anyone should have to concentrate for longer than a paragraph or two!

Still Twitter can serve to point people to more substantive discussions. I guess that beyond aphorisms that is a useful role it can play in theological discussion. I am not anti-Twitter, I am just trying to work out what it is good and what it is bad for.

But is the internet shaping people who never indwell a single, sustain reflection for long? Are we a generation of theological fast food addicts?

I think that's long enough for now. I'll post another hot dog soon.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Guest posts

So I had this great idea: Not being full of lots of theological ideas myself I thought I'd start inviting some interesting theological and biblical personages to go guest posts on this site. So - watch this space. Prepare for fire and debate (and a little slice of cake and tiffin). This will soon be a veritable University of interesting thoughts!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

not theological but very clever

This is the 'google' thing for the 20th anniversary of Wallace and Gromit (4/11/09). Fabulous!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009