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, 31 March 2013


So good I'll post it again:

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Songs about ...

[WARNING: the following observations concern contemporary evangelical songwriting. I cannot speak to the situation outside that context.]

There are lots of people writing songs for Christian worship, although most of the ones that are widely disseminated come from one of a small group of songwriting stables.

There are a lot of good songs being written.

But what strikes me is how generic they often seem. They are mostly songs that could be dropped into any meeting on any theme in any season of the year.

How many songs are there that focus on baptism? (I cannot think of one and yet getting baptized is something all Christians do!)

How many songs concern the bread and the wine of the Eucharist? (The Eucharist songs that I do know are mostly songs about Jesus' death, only alluding obliquely to the Eucharist.)

How many songs of lament or of repentance? (Those that there are never seem to get used.)

How many songs about mission? (There are a few more of these but still not enough.)

Why is this?

I am wondering whether it is because most songwriters want their songs to be sung and the way to maximize the chances of that is not to make them too event-specific (i.e., tied to special meetings or special themes). So the songs are written for what has become the paradigm evangelical worship gathering — a large convention at which there are no baptisms, no Eucharist, no repentance, no sorrow; just lots of happy songs. Only generic songs will work in that context and so that is what gets written.

I have nothing against the kinds of happy songs I am writing about — we need them.

However, my challenge is simply this: if contemporary Christian worship songwriters want to write songs for the church they need to have something of a mindset shift. They need to write songs for churches in local contexts living as church. They need to write songs for baptism and Eucharist and mission and Lent and lament and preaching and funerals and ... you get the picture. We need to change our mental image of the paradigm context in which songs are needed. Forget the X-Factor, Your Church Needs You!

God and all that jazz

I have just started reading Jamie Howison's new book God's Mind in That Music: Theological Explorations through the Music of John Coltrane (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012).

I am so excited about it. It explores theological themes through eight Coltrane tracks. I have intended to get into listening to some John Coltrane for some while but so far have not done so. So this seems like a great way to do it. From what I have read so far Howison knows his onions and writes really well.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Ellen Davis on Jerusalem as God's tattoo

Zion says, “YHWH has abandoned me, and my Lord has
forgotten me.”
Does a woman forget her suckling from her own womb, the child of her body?
Even these might forget, but I, I will not forget you.
Look, I have engraved you on my palms; your walls are before me always (Isa 49:14–16).
God, too, bears the burden of Jerusalem, or rather God wears Zion like a tattoo — a scar deliberately, painfully, and indelibly inscribed; however the bearer might come to regret the image, it is there forever. Jerusalem is ineluctably part of God’s person, even God’s body, imaginatively speaking.

Ellen F. Davis, "Singing for the Peace of Jerusalem: Songs of Zion in the Twenty-First Century." In The Bible and Spirituality, edited by Andrew Lincoln, Gordon McConville, and Lloyd Pietersen. Eugene, OR: Cascade, forthcoming 2013. Quote from pp. 82–83

Monday, 4 March 2013

In "Defence" of Dawkins

I don't like this poster. It mocks Dawkins in a rather cheap way.

Who of us has not made a comment that contained a logical problem? Most of us do it all the time. But we would not want people to mock us and to reject our ideas out of hand because of such offhand remarks.

I understand why people swipe at Dawkins. He can be infuriating, but if we claim to be better than that we should not treat him the way in which he treats believers in God.

Now there are indeed MAJOR problems with Dawkins' philosophy (see Conor Cunningham's excellent critique in Darwin's Pious Idea, for instance) but we can only get at them by taking the whole of what he says on the subject and taking it seriously. When we do that we are at liberty to pull his philosophy limb from limb, but even then we must do so respecting him as a creature of God, created in God's image. (I am preaching to myself here.)

If we treat him as a buffoon, which he most certainly is not, then we not only demean him but we also demean ourselves.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Dynamic and Relational God ... of Christian Platonism

So I have just been reading the umpteenth book that is telling me how Platonism corrupted Christian theology by substituting the dynamic, relational view of God with a static view of God-as-statue.

And in defense of this view we were introduced to ... Gregory of Nyssa, with his relational view of the Trinity.

Pardon me!

Gregory of Nyssa was a Christian Platonist!!!

Which just goes to make the point that this oft-repeated accusation against Christian Platonism is ill-informed. (Or, when it is better informed, it is often the influence of the wonderful Colin Gunton that lies in the background. But what the critics often do not realize is that Colin's interpretation of Augustine have come in for a lot of criticism from Augustine specialists.)

1. The Trinity on Christian Platonism is indeed relational (the persons of the Trinity are what they are only in relation to each other), and, contrary to what many think, the metaphycis of Christian Platonism are relational metaphysics (on which see Adrain Pabst's new book, Metaphysics, though be warned — it is very dense).

2. God in the theology of Christian Platonism is indeed unchanging but this should not be confused with lifeless and dead. Rather, God is dynamic because he is, as Aquinas says, pure act. God is maxiamlly dynamic, as it were, and supremely alive.

So if you want a relational, living, dynamic God Christian Platonism is well worth considering.

And if you wish to criticize it that's fine but make sure you understand it before you do.