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).

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

UK Day Conference on Christian Universalism (Dec 2012)

The UK version of the second edition of The Evangelical Universalist comes out from SPCK in November 2012. Hooray! Hmmmm. I need to have some special event to celebrate.

I know ... !

For those of you who are interested, I am the speaker at a Day conference on Christian universalism on December 8th. That sounds fun enough to count as a celebration.

It is called "Will the Love of God Save Us All?"

Saturday 8th December 2012

10am to 4pm

St Michael & All Angels Church,
The Street,

The day looks something like this:

10:00–10:15: worship and prayer

10:15–11:15: the problems of traditional hell

11:15–11:45: coffee

11:45–13:00: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation in Christian universalist perspective.

13:00–13:45 lunch (bring your own butties)

13:45–14:45: considering objections to universalism

14:45–15:00: break

15:00–16:00: Q & A

If you are interested in attending please contact Rev. Karen Best.

Rev’d Karen Best, Bradwell Area Lay Discipleship Officer
01245 248 157

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

On Becoming Anglican

I have been part of charismatic evangelical nonconformist churches since 1987 and next month I am getting confirmed as an Anglican. Why, some have wondered, would I wish to join the crew and passengers of the Titanic. Here is my explanation.

My journey towards Anglicanism has been a very slow one.

In the 1980s I was very influenced by the view of church history common to most restoration movements. It goes like this:
In NT times everything was golden
Then it all went crap — lots of "religion" 'n' stuff (you know, Catholics and that lot)
Then along came Martin Luther and it got a bit better ... but not better enough
Then came [fill in all the movements you approve of] and it got a bit better ... but not better enough
Then came us — the church as a beautiful bride ready for the return of Christ
In my view, the British house church movement of the 1980s was where God was at and Anglicans were way off God's radar. They were, in my view, pretty much apostate.

When I joined Oxford Community Church in 1987 I was horrified to discover that the leaders were in communion with some of the Anglican leaders. At best it was, in my humble opinion, a waste of time. (Those were the days when I knew everything about God — if only I had written it down!)

However, during my time in Oxford I occasionally visited a charismatic Anglican church called St Aldates and, though I had trouble admitting it to myself, I really appreciated the gatherings; in particular the combination of liturgy and charismatic stuff.

Also I discovered a lot in common with many evangelical Anglicans I met while I was in Oxford. Which made me think that perhaps they were not all bad. But they were, in my view, still behind the times (in God's timetable).

We moved to Worcester in 1991 and I weirdly found myself gravitating towards liturgical prayer on occasions. It was not something we did in our church but I found it helpful. I started off with the Alternative Service Book, then moved, a few years later, to The Book of Common Prayer (I know!), before supplementing it with Common Worship. And I have continued to use them to this day.

At the same time I was reading a lot of theology (nothing new there), but I discovered that the more I read, especially historical theology (patristic stuff, etc.), the more I found myself resonating with the classical theology of the ancient church. I grew in my appreciation of the importance of tradition to Christianity, especially the importance of the rule of faith and the ecumenical consensus of the church.

I discovered over a period of years that I met God more profoundly in a liturgy than in a charismatic knees-up. It was not that I thought everyone should be like me — I did not and do not — but merely that this was how I was wired up.

In other words, although I had absolutely no intention of becoming Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican , I was more at home spiritually speaking in such contexts than in my own non-conformist context.

So for quite a few years I lived as a liturgical kind of guy in a church context that lacked any formal liturgy. A square peg in a round hole. But I loved — nay, love — my non-conformist charismatic church. It is a wonderful bunch of people who love God and seek to follow him. They are an inspiration. But, as you can imagine, I did struggle with the style of worship.

I considered becoming Roman Catholic and also Eastern Orthodox but in both cases there were some issues of medium significance (theological and other) that I knew I would struggle with.

Anglicanism has slowly sucked me in because it is plugged into the catholic heritage I now so appreciate while also being Reformed. It is a broad church welcoming a wide range of viewpoints and a wide range of styles, while at the same time remaining within the bounds of orthodox Christianity (in theory, though alas, not always in practice!). It has a mass of problems but it also has a mass of rich resources in its tradition for handling them.

So I can carry on being evangelical and charismatic while also being in a communion of churches that can trace a direct line back to the apostles (as can the Catholics and Orthodox) and is open to appreciate the importance of that historical link.

My actual church situation is a tad more complex than this. I will actually belong simultaneously to two churches — one Anglican (charismatic evangelical) and my nonconformist charismatic evangelical church (which I love). It's a long story. Don't ask.

So next month I am getting confirmed and how exited am I! I can increase the number of heretical Anglicans by 1.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Esther and God: wisdom from Steven C. Walker

The following quote comes from Steven Walker's excellent forthcoming book on humour in the Bible. The book is a well-written and engaging revelation of just how much humour there is in the Bible. It shows that without appreciating the humour we will miss the meaning of the texts. Anyway, this quote is not funny but it is good:
That may answer the most persistent question about the book of
Esther: Where is God here? A kind of never-say-die religious tenaciousness makes the God who is never mentioned in Esther very much present. He is present not merely peripherally, by implication in the fasting and religious feasting, in the sense of providence, in the miraculous salvation of the good guys. He is present centrally, at the core of the book’s concerns. When we wonder where God is between the lines of Esther’s narrative, we are doing precisely what the writer invites us to do, reading God into the text. This artful author is in the same breath inviting us to do the same reading-in of God in our own lives: “He is teaching a theology of possibility.” Teaching is too pompous a term. The writer of Esther is cajoling by gentle joke, suggesting by artful surprise that anything might be possible. The amused theology of Esther here reflects Yogi Berra’s immortal mortal insight—it’s not over til it’s over. There is always, in the infinite economy of God, hope that things—all things, the worst things and even the best things—could change for the better.
Steven C. Walker, Illuminating Humor of the Bible. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012 (forthcoming), p. 70.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

LA Theology Conference on Christology

If any of you guys are near LA then this conference looks like the place to be.

The theme is Christology. Here is what they say in the summary:
Christology was the central doctrine articulated by the early councils, and it remains the subject of vigorous theological investigation today. The doctrine of Christ is a field of broad ecumenical convergence, inviting theologians from all denominational settings to fruitful collaborative exploration. In the contemporary setting, it is especially crucial for theologians to investigate the scriptural witness afresh, to retrieve classical criteria and categories from the tradition, and to consider the generative pressure of soteriology for Christology proper. This first annual Los Angeles Theology Conference seeks to make a positive contribution to contemporary dogmatics in intentional engagement with the Christian tradition. A panel of accomplished plenary speakers will survey the field and articulate the sources, norms, and criteria for constructive theological work.

The main speakers are Oliver Crisp, Alan Torrance, George Hunsinger, Katherine Sonderegger, and Peter Leithart.

Wow! If only it were not so far from Worcester . . .

Monday, 8 October 2012

Rethinking Evil

I just read a fascinating and thought-provoking book:

Janet Warren, Cleansing the Cosmos: A Biblical Model for Conceptualizing and Counteracting Evil. Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2012 (forthcoming).

In a nutshell she offers a biblical alternative to the predominant metaphor of evil as an army (of Satan and his demonic hordes) against which Christians engage in "spiritual warfare". She argues that while such metaphors are used in the Bible they are far more marginal than we think and that Scripture offers a range of alternative metaphors to conceptualize evil and how the church engages it.

In particular she makes use of spatial metaphors — sacred space with holiness at the centre and chaos/evil at the periphery — to reimagine evil. Tracing the biblical theme of evil from creation texts, through cultic texts, to the Four Gospels, then on to ecclesiological and eschatological texts she makes a very thorough biblical case for her views.

I did not agree with everything but I found it one of the most thought-provoking books on the demonic that I have read in many years (indeed, one of the most thought-provoking books in biblical theology that I have read for some while.)

Highly recommended.

Here is the cover copy:
Understanding evil spiritual forces is essential for Christian theology, yet discussion is almost always phrased in terms of “spiritual warfare.” Warfare language is problematic, being dualistic, assigning a high degree of ontology to evil, associated with violence, and poorly applicable to ministry. This original and unique study proposes a biblically-based model as the first alternative to a “spiritual warfare” framework for dealing with the demonic, thus providing insights for preaching, counseling, and missiology. Warren develops this model using metaphor theory and examining four biblical themes: creation, cult, Christ, and church. Metaphors of cleansing, ordering, and boundary-setting are developed in contrast to battle imagery, and relevant theological issues are engaged (Boyd’s warfare imagery, Barth’s ideas of evil as “nothingness,” and Eliade’s notion of the sacred and the profane). The role of the Holy Spirit is emphasized, and the ontology of evil minimized. This model incorporates concentric circles, evil being considered peripheral to divine reality. Warren’s well-constructed model provides a refreshing alternative to current “spiritual warfare” models.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Theocentric Eschatology

I have just read a superb book on Purgatory and ecumenism. I was particularly struck by the following quotation from Augustine:

God is "the Last Thing of the creature. Gained, He is its paradise; lost, He is its hell; as demanding, He is its judgment; as cleansing, He is its purgatory.

Brett Salkeld, Can Catholics and Evangelicals Agree about Purgatory and the Last Judgment? Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 2011, p. 74 (original source ref not provided).