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).

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Puzzling over Lazarus

I thought I ought to look again at the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. I said to myself, "Just look at what the text actually says and ask what it means to take this text seriously as a teaching of the Lord." So I have started to try doing that.

What is puzzling me (a little) is this:

the rich man suffers in Hades because he is rich. Not because he did bad things, but simply because he was rich in a world in which others were destitute. The poor man enjoys life at Abraham's side because he was poor. Not because he was good (or because he believed the gospel). Simply that his life was crap. God reverses the situations of the rich man and Lazarus.

Clearly the key point concerns the huge disparities in wealth and God's reversal of that.

But to send a man to Hades simply for being wealthy and another to Abraham's side simply because his life was crap seems odd. (Which presumably is why almost all commentators seem to suggest other reasons for the fates of the two men — e.g., the rich man was impious and Lazarus was pious. Perhaps so, but Jesus does not mention this — we have to read it into the text.)

But is Jesus really teaching that one's fate after death is determined by one's relative wealth? That is what this parable seems to suggest if we assume that Jesus is offering systematic teasching here. (But perhaps our error lies in assuming that Jesus is offering that kind of teaching here.)

So what is Jesus saying to us about disparities of wealth in this parable? How is it that many western Christians seem not to feel ill at ease with the great disparities of wealth in the world when we read this parable?

Friday, 27 May 2011

Robin discussing Lament

Here is a video of an interview with me discussing lament in the Christian life (and, apparently, something about the place of Israel in salvation history). It was filmed some while back in St Andrews.

"All Shall Be Well" on Kindle

"All Shall Be Well": Explorations in Universal Salvation and Christian Theology, from Origen to Moltmann is now available in Kindle format. So here is the link. It costs $34.49 (which is about £21). A bargain!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Pondering Piper: Should the Neo-Reformed Hope for People's Salvation?

Here is a quote from John Piper that I have often thought about over the years (sometimes in admiration and sometimes in sadness and horror)
I have three sons. Every night after they are asleep I turn on the hall light, open their bedroom door, and walk from bed to bed, laying my hands on them and praying. Often I am moved to tears of joy and longing. I pray that Karsten Luke become a great physician of the soul, that Benjamin John become the beloved son of my right hand in the gospel, and that Abraham Christian give glory to God as he grows strong in his faith.

But I am not ignorant that God may not have chosen my sons for his sons. And-, though I think I would give my life for their salvation, if they should be lost to me, I would not rail against the Almighty. He is God. I am but a man. The potter has absolute rights over the clay. Mine is to bow before his unimpeachable character and believe that the Judge of all the earth has ever and always will do right.
Here is the link for the whole article.

This is just something I was wondering about, so I will just float my "wonderings" out there so those who are better informed will be able to help clarify things for me. Let's start with the question of whether it is right to hope/desire/wish that God will save all people (which, I am well aware, is not what Piper was doing in the above quotation).

I may be completely mistaken (so please tell me if I am) but I would imagine that a Calvinist of the neo-Reformed school (those Roger Olson rather sweetly calls "Piper cubs") should believe that hoping that all would be saved would actually be impious and morally bad. At best, it is a result of our distorted human misperceptions of the world.

Given that God has chosen not to save all then I would imagine that the wish/hope/desire that God had chosen something other than what God has in fact chosen (i.e., the wish/hope/desire that God save all) would be to wish that God had done things "our way" instead of "God's way" and this is a disordered desire.

So wishing that God had chosen to save all (even if you did not believe that he had) would be a sin. (Perhaps itself worthy of eternal punishment.) Right?

Perhaps we also have a dilemma regarding those who are not yet Christians and whose status as "elect" or "non-elect" is unknown to us — and here I am thinking of the kind of desire that John Piper had for his sons. Should we hope that they come to believe the gospel? If God has not elected them (and for all we know, he has not) then desiring that they believe the gospel and participate in salvation in Christ is to wish for something that God does not want. Is that a sinful desire? But if we do not desire it then, in cases where God has actually elected them, we fail to desire something that God desires. So that may also be a sin.

Or do we go with the working assumption that we should desire that they be saved because God may possibly have elected them. In other words, is our epistemic ignorance the key?

I may have the wrong end of the stick here entirely. This is not an accusation against neo-Calvinism because I have never heard any neo-Calvinists suggest this. Clearly Piper passionately longs to see people saved whose status as "elect" is unknown saved. I think that's good but I am not sure how consistent it is.

In short, I wonder whether the "godly" neo-Calvinist desire should be, "I desire that God save my child if he wants to" and not, "I desire that God saves my child." That seems to make sense to me as a recommended way in which neo-Calvinists should try to cultivate their desires (given their other beliefs). Obviously it is not what neo-Calvinists usually do (Thank God).

"The Evangelical Universalist" on Kindle

The Evangelical Universalist is soon available in Kindle format on amazon.com. There were some problems with the version that went on sale for most of a day. Those have now been corrected. So soon the correct version will be live. Thanks for your patience.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Friday, 20 May 2011

Chan on Hell

I love this guy's heart and his style (and what a lovely voice). Of course, I know where he is going and I think that he is mistaken but I like his way of getting there. It is a wise way to travel, even if he is heading in a wrong direction.
I can live with that.
I can get on with a bloke like this.

Vegetarian Lion by DMcToons (David McNeill)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

"Lamentations and the Poetic Politics of Prayer"

I have just had an article published on the book of Lamentations and politics.

The article, published in the Tyndale Bulletin, is available below if anyone wants to read it.

"Lamentations and the Poetic Politics of Prayer"

If that link is a problem then try this one.

Here is the abstract:

The first half of this paper seeks to make explicit the political dimensions of the text of Lamentations. The poetry vividly depicts the political use of violence in the destruction of a society. Judah is ruined politically, economically, socially, and religiously by the Babylonians for political ends. In the second half of the paper I argue that Lamentations contributes to our theo-political reflections not so much in its provision of new conceptual categories, nor even in its sharpening of categories already in place but rather in its power for shaping the emotional, ethical-political response of its audiences (human and divine). The readers are invited to bring political calamity into God’s presence and to seek salvation; they are encouraged to look with merciful eyes at victims of political violence even if those victims are not ‘innocent’; they are encouraged to see political evil for what it is and to speak its name; they are guided towards becoming honest-to-God lamenters and God-dependent pray-ers who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Alvin Plantinga on ontological arguments

Ontological arguments are widely considered to be among the least persuasive for God's existence. I must confess that, while I remain unconvinced by them, I have never been persuaded that the standard criticisms of them are as strong as people think. I have always had something of a soft spot for them. And Alvin Plantinga's version of the argument is one I have always found worthy of serious consideration. Here it is in a chatty form.

Alvin Plantinga on evil (pt. 2)

Here Plantinga offers his own attempt at an actual theodicy. I am not persuaded (I am not persuaded by any theodicies) but it is worthy of reflection.

Alvin Plantinga on evil (pt. 1)

Here Plantinga outlines the problems of evil and explains his critique of both deductive and inductive forms of the argument. I think he is correct on both counts.

Alvin Plantinga on the afterlife

This one is most interesting to me because Plantinga expresses his openness to universalism. I was told many years ago that he was a hopeful universalist but I had not seen any documentary evidence of this (and when I asked him in an indirect way he avoided answering. To be honest, I was probably too indirect and he did not see what I was getting at). Well, here he is saying what I suspected he thought.