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, 30 September 2008

Update on Persecution of Indian Christians

24 August to 29 September, 2008

States listed in alphabetical order

1 Church damaged: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2417/45/

4 Nuns assaulted: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2432/45/

1 Church attacked and attempted ‘reconversion’ of Christians: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2435/45/

4. KARNATAKA (several stories at http://indianchristians.in/news/content/category/7/21/45/)
4 (of 29) Districts affected
19 Churches damaged or destroyed, but attacks continuing
20 Nuns, women injured by police

4 Churches damaged: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2387/45/, http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2406/45/, http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2424/45/

4 Churches destroyed or damaged and 4 schools vandalised: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2373/45/, http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2360/45/

2 Churches damaged: per emails from aicc regional leaders; also http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2433/45/

8. ORISSA: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2332/45/
14 (of 30) Districts affected
300 Villages damaged
4,300 Houses burnt
50,000 Homeless
57 People killed including at least 2 pastors
10 Priests/Pastors/Nuns injured
18,000 Men, women, children injured
2 Women gang-raped
149 Churches destroyed, but attacks continuing
13 Schools, colleges damaged

3 Christians harassed and imprisoned by police on false charges: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2406/45/

4 Churches damaged: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2424/45/

3 Pastors and a pastor’s wife beaten: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2397/45/, http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2355/45/

12. UTTARAKHAND (formerly named UTTARANCHAL)
2 Christians murdered (priest and employee): http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2410/45/

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Guest Post from ancient Rabbis

Lamentations Rabbah offers the following fascinating rabbinic reflection of God's reaction to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem presented in the book of Lamentations. It prompts me to reflect on the doctrine of divine impassibility. Perhaps I will ponder it in some posts.

'At that moment the Holy One, blessed be he, wept, saying, “Woe is me! What have I done! I have brought my Presence to dwell below on account of the Israelites, and now that they have sinned, I have gone back to my earlier dwelling. Heaven forfend that I now become a joke to the nations and an object of ridicule among the people” … When the Holy One, blessed be he, saw the house of the sanctuary, he said, “This is certainly my house, and this is my resting place, and the enemies have come and done whatever they pleased with it!” At that moment the Holy One, blessed be he, wept, saying, “Woe is me for my house! O children of mine–where are you? O priests of mine–where are you? O you that love me–where are you? What shall I do for you? I warned you but you did not repent.”'[1]

[1] Lamentations Rabbah XXIV.ii.1.I-2.C-D.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

I Want to Live in Community ... on my own!

I have a problem.

You see, I have a clear Christian theology about the importance of community. Community really matters to me and I have strong words for those nasty individualists who suggest that Christianity is all about Jesus and me. I love the idea of 'church' - of a radical counter-cultural community offering an alternative way of being-in-the-world.

That's not the problem. The problem is that my theology has yet to hatch out of its theoretical egg and actually do anything. I love the idea of Christian community but in practise I want to do community on my own. I am one of the nasty individualist Christians I so despise. And I suspect that I am not alone.

Taking community seriously - getting beyond ephemeral and superficial relationships - in the husslebussle of modern life is not easy. Unless we are intentional about it and make an effort then it simply will not happen.

Now I have lots of excuses. Some of them are the very real problems of the time and emotional pressures of work and family. I do not actually have a whole lot of time in which to take community seriously and I am not at all sure how to free up much time. But I've been saying that for years and unless I do something will be saying it in years to come (a lonely old fart with a hymn book - a slight exageration ... we use a powerpoint projector).

So - what I want to know is how people with busy work and family commitments (commitments that they have limited control over) can build community. Come on people! Help me out here! I want to hear stories of how some of you lot did it (or why you find it hard). What worked? What didn't? Dream some crazy dreams!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Evangelical Views of the Bible and the Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Evangelical views (plural) on the Bible actually tolerate quite a wide range of hermeneutical practices - far more than evangelicals used to think. For instance, in the olden days if a scholar was an evangelical with a high view of Scripture then you could guess where s/he would come down on various historical-critical issues (e.g., Moses wrote most of the Pentateuch, Isaiah wrote Isaiah, biblical histories are historically accurate). No longer. Evangelicals do still incline towards conservative judgements (e.g., biblical histories are broadly reliable, the traditions behind the Pentateuch ultimately go back to Moses even if they have been added to and developed) but one can no longer say that if someone is an evangelical then they must affirm certain narrowly prescribed historical-critical judgements.

A high view of Scripture tolerates more than we often think. Robert Gundry infamously showed this when he argued (correctly) that even those who subscribe to inerrancy can affirm that a gospel could contain what we might call 'historical fiction' (this was in the context of Gundry arguing that Matthew's gospel was a Midrash).

Even more recent hermeneutical bogey men such as reader-response theory now have strident evangelical defenders (at least the more moderate versions of reader response theory do).

But how hermeneutically open is an evangelical view of the Bible? Will it tolerate anything in terms of interpretation? Clearly not! But I have something more specific in mind. Can it tolerate the kind of ideological criticism that may conclude that the message of a particular text is not something that a Christian can affirm?

If, for instance, Ezekiel 16 is felt to have a fundamentally objectionable view of husbands and wives at the heart of its metaphorical message (i.e., that if a wife is unfaithful a husband, he is within his rights to publically strip her and humiliate her - perhaps even to allow others to rape her) can the evangelical reject a specific text in the name of the God revealed in the canon as a whole?

Ideological hermeneutics of suspicion seem to strike at the very heart of the traditional Christian hermeneutic of trust and submission to the biblical message. At face value such hermeneutical approaches seem obviously incompatible with an evangelical view of the Bible.

Now this is a genuine question: to what extent can evangelical views of Scripture take on board ideological hermeneutical approaches which read counter to the grain of the biblical texts?

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Tom Sine in the UK

Tom Sine, well known futurist and missiological dreamer, will be in the UK soon.

If you are a leader, or just someone concerned about church, community, social justice, mission, worship, a radical Christian, an outside-of-the-box kind of person, an inside-of-the-box-but-curious type of person, or a tree (actually - the tree one was a joke) then Tom Sine might well be someone that would interest you.

you can find the list of the events he is at that are open to the public through this link


Here is the blurb from the book cover

God is conspiring, through a new generation, to re-imagine and create new expressions of discipleship, community and mission to make a difference in our rapidly changing world. Tom Sine invites readers to learn from what God is doing in four innovative streams in the contemporary church:
· emerging church
· mosaic, multi-cultural church
· missional church
· contemporary monastic movements
He then leads a guided tour of major new challenges facing the world and the church in C21. The encouraging message of the book is that our own faith, though it be as small as a mustard seed, can make a real difference in the world. God is inviting us to join his conspiracy – to imagine fresh ways of celebrating the coming kingdom.

“A fabulous book! A bold challenge to all who think that the kingdom of God can be built from the starting point of comfort and compromise.”
Jonny Baker, CMS

“Rich with challenge and inspiration.”
Brian D. McLaren, author/activist

“A great book from a great teacher and genuinely wise guide.”
Alan Hirsch, founding director of Forge Mission Training Network

“An inspirational tour-de-force that invites us to celebrate the future into being.”
Stuart Murray, author of Post-Christendom and director of Urban Expression

“A must-read for anyone seeking to understand where the church is heading in these turbulent times.”
Julie Clawson, Emerging Women

“A great book that draws together stories and threads from all around the church/world.”
Kester Brewin, author of The Complex Christ

“A significant and compelling contribution.”
Russell Rook, Director of ALOVE: The Salvation Army for a new generation

“An insightful look into the rapidly changing face of the church in the 21st Century.”
Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics and President of Sojourners

“A deeply insightful analysis of the problems and opportunities we face.”
Jason Clark, Founding pastor of Sutton Vineyard, London

“With each passing story I felt moved, inspired, and called to action. Highly recommended!”
Ryan K. Bolger, Assistant Professor of Church in Contemporary Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary

Visit the book's site at http://thenewconspirators.co.uk/

Walking in a Worship Wonderland

I've just been at a fantastic worship conference at London School of Theology. Of the gazzilion thoughts buzzing around my head when I left I offer up just one (which is not a new thought but one that was driven home afresh).

So often Christians - perhaps especially evangelicals (and double-especially charismatic evangelicals such as myself) - view times of collective worship as a form of escapism and entertainment. In the words of an old song, 'the things of this world grow strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace.' So when we worship we 'set to one side' all the things in our lives that might 'distract' us from God. Worship as escapism.

But that's very odd approach to the worship of the God who so loved the world. Worship ought to involve us bringing our lives (and global issues) in their totality before the Lord as we give thanks, seek help, lament and praise. Why do we feel the compulsion to lose ourselves in some kind of Disney-like wonderland when we worship?

If the call to worship is the call to temporarily forget the hassles of life and the sufferings of the world and to praise the Lord instead then we are in real danger of reinforcing the notion that God is not overly interested in, or involved with, things that go on outside of church meetings. We end up with a god who is into giving people warm fuzzy experiences so they can forget it all for a while. Whichever drug-pusher god that is, it is not the one in the Bible.

Do not mishear me. I am not against powerful and wonderful 'encounters' with God during times of communal worship. But does the revelation of the glory of God make the things of this world grow dim? Does it not rather set them in a new light? Does it not open our eyes to see that God is not found merely in public worship but in the whole of life (which can and should be lived coram deo - before the face of God).

So where are the songs and prayers that enable us to see the glory and grace of God during communal worship without loosing eye contact with the reality of life in the world? How can we reshape public worship to help worshippers to discover that they will find God just as much 'out there' as 'in here'?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Persecution of Christians in India

Some of you may have read of the terrible persecution of Christians in the Indian state Orissa in the last 2 weeks. Hundreds of Christians have been killed by Hindu fundamentalists, and hundreds of churches and houses of Christians have been burned or demolished. Some Christians have even been cut into pieces or burned alive.

Many Christians in Orissa have fled into the jungle. Thousands of Christians are in refugee camps, and Hindu fundamentalists now try to poison their water sources. These Hindus are trying to forcibly reconvert Christians back to Hinduism. Hindu fundamentalists have vowed to destroy Christianity in Orissa, and then in India as a whole. For reliable information, see http://www.efionline.org/ (the Indian evangelical alliance). Their official report of last week is here: http://www.efionline.org/articles/1620.htm

Please pray for the Christians in Orissa, for their protection and for boldness that their testimony will stand, for the Hindu fundamentalists that their hatred will disappear, and for the government and authorities that they will do their duty to protect minority groups.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Poem - The Incarnate Saviour of the World

The Incarnate Saviour of the World
Tell us
and tell us again
your lethal and constituting gospel
tender and terrible
slay us, give us ourselves and all in you
and for you—
you, that one Word
speaking our speech away;
widen and win my ears
ream my reconciled heart to receive,
make room in my throat and open my palms
for praise

I love this poem.
It is not the propositional content but what the words do. Powerful!
I wish I could write poetry.

About the poet
Debbie Sawczak
'I am a lexicographer by profession and write poetry on the side; both activities express my wonder and love for language. What I especially enjoy is the opportunity I often get to read or recite my poems publicly, so that I can look my audience in the eye and try to establish a two-way connection. I am currently polishing a first collection for publication and collaborating with a composer friend on a recording of music and poetry. I live in Georgetown, Ontario with my husband and three sons.'

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Tomorrow People: longing for somewhen else

The idea that Christians are "just passin' through" this world and that we do not belong here seems to be deeply ingrained in Christian spirituality. We hope that when we die we will go to our true home - heaven. One thing is clear - is not our real home. We are like exiles living in a foreign land.

I think that this is mistaken. This is God's good creation and its destiny is not death but new life. Humans were made to inhabit this earth and the resurrection of the dead will be accompanied by the liberation of all creation. So Christians do belong here on earth but we don't belong here yet.

We who have received the eschatological Spirit of God belong to the future not the present. We are exiles in time not in space. We are the tomorrow people. We are temporally displaced refugees thrown into a past where we do not (or, at least, should not) quite fit in.

We await the fullness of a new age not a new stage. So let's not long to be somewhere else but, as they say in Wiltshire, somewhen else.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Something interesting wot I learned at BNTC

Just back from BNTC in Durham - 'twas a good one. Funnily enough the 'unorthodox suggestion' which most caught my attention was a paper from a PhD student at St Andrews called Kelly Liebengood. It was about the implied audience of 1 Peter. Almost everyone thinks the implied audience of the epistle were Gentile Jesus-believers. Liebengood is suggesting that they were Jewish Jesus-believers. I thought that his argument was very interesting and his case, at very least, plausible. I love all that iconoclastic stuff!

Now I know that it sounds like an obscure debate of little theological interest but that is not the case. There are some very interesting theological issues raised by such a move. Not least issues relating to my earlier posts on "The Gospel of Israel".

Here is the abstract
Kelly Liebengood (St Andrews)
'"Don't be like your fathers": reassessing the ethnic identity of 1 Peter's "elect sojourners".'
Initially, 1 Peter appears to be addressed to Jewish Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (1.1, 17). Several references in the letter, however, seem to nullify this initial impression: the audience is said to have been redeemed from the futile way of life handed down to them from their fathers (1 Pet 1.18); they are urged, as a result of their redemption, to put their faith and hope in God (1 Pet 1.21); and finally, they are seen to have once participated in ‘licentious living, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry’(1 Pet 4.2-3). Most scholars agree that these references are decisive in concluding that 1 Peter was written to a predominantly Gentile audience.

For at least two generations 1 Peter scholarship has operated on this assumption, which has had not only a profound impact on the way the letter has been interpreted, but also has set the agenda for consequent research in 1 Peter.

In this paper I will focus particularly on the common assertion that 1 Pet 1.18, 21 and 4.2-3 ‘could hardly have been addressed to any but Gentiles’ (Selwyn). A fresh examination of both archeological and literary evidence will demonstrate (a) a long-standing tradition within Judaism of repudiating the futile ways of the fathers, and (b) a significant degree of Jewish assimilation in Asia Minor. In light of this evidence, I will argue that 1 Peter is best regarded as a letter principally written to Jewish Christians. This conclusion has some significant implications for how the letter is interpreted, which will be explored briefly.

Kittens have names

The Kittens now have names. For a few days they were Kitkat and Penguin (but that did not feel right) so now they are
Percy (Percival if he is misbehaving) for the black and white one and
Monty (Montgomery if he is bad) for the tabby.

(Must confess, I rather fancied Dr Watson and Steve but I was voted down)

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Worshipping Trinity

How can I sum up my book Worshipping Trinity in a single paragraph? How about this? -

Christian worship should seek to bring God’s church into a dynamic encounter with the Christian God – the Holy Trinity. It will ceaselessly and effortlessly move back and forth between the threeness of God and the unity of God. It will shift focus from Father, to Son, to Spirit and back again in a restless celebration of divine love and mystery. It will also highlight the perichoretic relations within the Godhead by not allowing the worshippers to lose sight of any of the Persons. At times the worship will draw the Father into focus however the Son and Spirit will be there, out of focus but still in our field of awareness. Other times the Son will attract our attention but not insuch a way that we do not see Father and Spirit. When the Spirit attracts our worshipping attention it will always be as the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son. Worship that makes us aware of the inter-relationships within God is fully Trinitarian worship. Trinitarian worship is always ‘through the Son’ and ‘in the Spirit’but is woven from an ever-changing mosaic of songs, prayers, Bible readings, testimonies, Spirit-gifts, sermons, Holy Communion, drama, dance, art and more besides. The variety is endless and the possibilities infinite but at the heart of it all stands the mystery of the Holy Trinity. That is what Christian worship is.

Worshipping Trinity, p. 185