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).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The Value of Johannine Dualisms

I have recently been re-reading 1 John (and parts of John's Gospel). One of the things that always strikes me about Johannine literature is its dualism. Everything seems to fall into one of two categories: truth or falsity, light or darkness, love or hate, obedience or disobedience. Similarly people fall into these two categories: children of God and children of the devil, of God and of the Antichrist, those who walk in the light or those who walk in the darkness, and so on.

1 John in particular sets forth some stark oppositions. Here are just a few of them:

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1:6)

And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked (2:3–6)

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (2:9–11)
And the book carries on in the same manner.

This can sound like our faith is either on or off, light or dark, pure or corrupt. And it can be very troubling because I imagine that almost all believers see their experience of faith as on something like a dimmer switch with varying degrees of light and dark and complexity. We might read 1 John as suggesting that if we see any darkness in us then the light is actually off.

I don't think that would be right. Before most of these challenging texts the letter has already made clear that all followers of Christ sin, that to deny our sin would be a lie, and that God has made provision in Christ to deal with our sin (1:8—2:2).

So what are those dualisms about? Well, I have never studied the book properly so I am not sure. Here is my best primitive guess:

What John is doing is setting forth the fundamental antipathy between light and dark, love and hate, obedience and disobedience, etc. It is not that any person exemplifies all of one or all of the other; every believer is an ever-shifting and complex mix of light and dark. However, to the extent that we are not loving a fellow Christ-follower (say) then to that extent we are not walking with God. John will not allow us to make excuses for ourselves.

Imagine a bottle that can either be filled with air or water. The value of the dualism is not in saying that the bottle is either full of water or full of air. Rather, the value is in pointing out that the air and the water cannot occupy the same space at the same time—they exclude each other. The extent to which you have air is the extent to which you lack water, and vice versa.

Looking at the dualisms in 1 John in this way may help put some of them in perspective and allowing them to function as they were intended—not as a means of making us insecure and depressed but as a challenge to draw closer to God and as a means of pulling the rug from under our excuses.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Ian Paisley on Protestantism

True Protestantism is Bible Christianity, the Christianity of the Bible.
Protestantism is Christianity, the Christianity of Christ.
Protestantism is Christianity, the Christianity of the Apostles.
Protestantism is Christianity, the Christianity of the Early Church.
Protestantism is nothing less and nothing more than that Holy Religion revealed supernaturally to mankind in the pages of the Inspired Word and centered and circumscribed in the glorious adorable Person of the Incarnate Word, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ian Paisley, “Are We to Lose Our Protestant Heritage Forever.” August, 2004. Online: http://www.ianpaisley.org/article.asp?ArtKey=heritage.

This is a quotation I found in Joshua Searle's forthcoming book on apocalyptic and the Northern Ireland Troubles.

Wow! I am almost speechless. Every line of the quotation is simply wrong. On a positive "benefit of the doubt" interpretation one can happily concede that Protestantism aspired to conform its faith and practice to the teachings of the Bible — a noble aspiration indeed — so the words could be taken as aspirational.

But as a simple matter of brute fact the various versions of Protestantism are not to be identified with any of the things above, and emphatically not to be exclusively identified with them (to the exclusion of non-Protestant versions of Christianity).

I think that Jesus of Nazareth, the apostles, and believers in the early church would find many aspects of Protestantism in its many guises to be very alien to the "Christianities" they knew. And that's fine — the church develops over time. But to collapse the gap between then and now and to imagine that what we do is no different from what they did is simply self-deluded.

Steve Stockman, “The Belfast Beatitudes”

Cursed are the peacemakers
For they might compromise
Cursed are those who mourn
For they might apologise
Cursed are the poor in spirit
For they might confess and regret
And cursed are the merciful
For they might forgive and forget
And cursed are the meek
For they won’t ride their high horse
But blessed are the arrogant
For they will maintain this curse

I just found this in a book I am editing about the use of apocalyptic beliefs in the "troubles" in Northern Ireland. It's relevance extends far beyond the limited social context in which it was penned.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Friday, 7 March 2014

Shipping Forecast song—Lisa Knapp

This song is wonderful. If you know the British shipping forecast then it's a treat.

If you have no idea what all these weird words refer to then a map is below.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Wisdom from Simone Weil

We can . . . be almost certain that those whose love of God has caused the disappearance of the pure loves belonging to our life here below are no true friends of God. Our neighbor, our friends, religious ceremonies, and the beauty of the world do not fall to the level of unrealities after the soul has had direct contact with God. On the contrary, it is only then that these things become real. Previously they were half dreams.
Simone Weil, Waiting for God, p. 142

Wisdom from Thomas à Kempis

What good will it do you to be able to talk profoundly about the Trinity, if you be wanting in humility, and so displease the Trinity? It is certain that learned speeches do not make a man holy and just; it is a virtuous life that makes him dear to God. I would rather feel sorrow for my sins than be able to define it. If you knew the whole Bible by heart, and all that philosophers have said, what use would it all be to you without the love of God and grace?
Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ 1.3