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).

Friday, 9 November 2012

USA, here I come!

I am off the the US of A on Monday for the Evangelical Theological Society in Milwaukee, followed by the Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion meetings in Chicago.

I doubt I will get to any sessions at either but it is not about the sessions; it is about the people.

I am looking forward to lots of good conversation, food, drink, and fellowship (with some live blues thrown in for good measure).

Then home to get confirmed as an Anglican

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Tim Hawkins on the Bible and kids

A book title that annoyed me

I have just come across a book with a title that annoyed me somewhat:

The guilty title is, as you can see, Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity.

The part that sticks slightly in my throat is "biblical Christianity."

Before I offer a very brief explanation of why that phrase annoys me in this context let me be clear: I am not an open theist. In fact, I am perhaps as far as one can get from open theism short of being a Calvinist. I am very much in the "classical theism" camp so despised by open theists. I consider God to be timeless, spaceless, omnipotent (in a strong sense), omniscient (in a strong sense), unchanging (in a strong sense), simple (non-divisible), and so on. All that wonderful classical stuff :-)

In this sense I am closer to the authors of this book than to open theists.

My problem with the book's sub-title is that it suggests that open theists are not following the teachings of the Bible. However, as many defenders of open theism have rightly pointed out, one can make a very good case that God is often presented in the Bible in precisely the way that open theists talk about God. In other words, one can make a very good case for open theism if one affirms a strong doctrine of sola scriptura.

And as these same defenders of open theism also note, the "biblical Christianity" their critics speak of is in fact a theology developed over several centuries after the writing of Scripture. It is the Bible as read through a certain historically-shaped tradition.

At root, my problem with open theism (and open theists will LOVE this) is not that it is unbiblical (nor unevangelical) but that it is too biblical! By that I mean that it reads the Bible's presentation of God too much apart from the historic doctrine of God developed by orthodox Christianity. (Not fully apart from it because open theists are fully committed to trinitarian theology. If they were not their theology would fall outside Christian orthodoxy.)

I fully acknowledge that ancient Christian theologians drew on resources from Hellenistic philosophy in developing their doctrine but they never did so uncritically. They used such ideas to develop biblical teachings about God and they used biblical ideas to modify Hellenistic ideas. And the doctrine of God that they developed was profound.

I am not making a case for classical theism. That would be a longwinded project involving Scripture, tradition, and reason. But my point is simply that if one affirmed a radical notion of sola scriptura then open theism probably has more going for it as a "biblical view" than Reformed Calvinism (at least, if "biblical view" is conceived of in the simplistic way many evangelicals think of it).

But I do not think that Christian theology — nay, not even evangelical theology — should operate with Scripture read apart from tradition.

Of course, Scripture is the primary (though not the only) authority in Christian theology and the classical doctrine of God is open for discussion. I have no problem with open theists raising such questions and I happily affirm them as creedally orthodox and as Bible-believing evangelicals. But I believe that the basic contours of classical Christian theology are far more robust than many open theists believe and that they still tower above the alternatives.

I think that the classical tradition ought to carry a lot of weight for Christians and while it is open for debate it ought only to be abandoned because of major irresolvable problems.

That tradition offers ways to interpret the biblical texts about God that open theists appeal to. Of course, open theists are aware of this and object that we are reading the Bible through a framework imposed upon it. This is both true and false but that is a post for another day. Let's just say here that the theological framework of classical theism arose from engagement with the text of Scripture, wrestled with in the light of wider philosophical questions.

But, returning to my point, (I have got somewhat lost and tangled up in this hasty post) we need to be fair to open theists and acknowledge that we are reading those texts through a theological tradition and not simply claim to be reading them the "biblical" way.

My view, in a nutshell is this: the Bible can be interpreted in both open theistic and classical theistic ways. The debate between the two alternatives needs, of course, to engage the Bible but it will not be settled on that basis. We cannot just dismiss each other as unbiblical. Thus wider issues in the realm of Christian tradition and reason will have to play a key role.

Perhaps the issue, as I perceive it, is rooted in a more basic Protestant problem of undervaluing tradition. That too is a post for another day.

Aquinas rocks! Long live Augustine, Anselm, and everyone else with a name beginning with A ...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Second Edition of "Worshipping Trinity"

Back in somewhen or other I wrote a book on how to make worship more overtly trinitarian. It is my most important book.

It is just about to come out in a shiny, new, second edition. This edition is fully updated and revised. It also contains some new material:

1. a new chapter on Lament and the Trinity
2. a new appendix on gender language and the Trinity ("Two Men and an It?")
3. a new appendix with some trinitarian family prayers for each day of the week

Here are some endorsements

“The book has become a classic—and rightly so. There is nothing else like it. It brings first-rate theology and astute practical wisdom to the very heart of the church’s life. And the second edition is even better than the first!”
—Jeremy Begbie
Thomas A. Langford Research Professor,
Duke Divinity School, North Carolina

“During the last generation or so theologians of all traditions have begun recognize anew that, since God is revealed to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, everything that we do and are as Christians needs to engage with God as Trinity. Sadly, that crucial insight has not found its way into the worshipping life of many Christian communities and this excellent book has already proved itself an invaluable resource for enabling it to do so. Robin Parry is a fine theologian who writes accessibly and engagingly. I hope that this second edition will be very widely read. It has the capacity to enable the renewal of the life and worship of the church.”
—John Inge
Bishop of Worcester, UK

Praise for the First Edition

"In these pages, Robin punches us in the stomach (theologically speaking), gives us a few moments to get our breath back, and then teaches us some nifty moves so that we can defend ourselves better in the future—and even throw a few theological punches of our own. Get your gloves on—this is an extremely helpful book."
—Matt Redman
Songwriter and lead worshipper

"In Worshipping Trinity, Robin Parry has given us a terrific resource
with which we can see a clearer picture of the God we worship—Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit. He humbly makes us aware of the blind spots of our
contemporary worship movement and encourages us to move forward as
authentic worshippers of the true God of the Bible so that, when we worshipfully
sing, we are what we have been created to be."
—Keith Getty
Hymn writer, co-writer of “In Christ Alone.”

“If you believe, as I do, that public worship is one of the most powerful means of spiritual formation in the world, and if you also believe that our deficient spiritual formation is due in part to the mediocre quality of too many contemporary worship songs, then you will celebrate the release of Worshipping Trinity. Robin Parry calls us higher up and further in through this well-written, clear, and important book. It will help inspire, I hope and pray, new intensity, intelligence, depth, and artistry among songwriters—which will bring blessing to worshipers and greater honor to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
—Brian McLaren
Pastor and Author

“I doubt that there is any other factor which undermines the mission and worship of the church more tragically than the widespread failure to appreciate the trinitarian dynamic of worship that can be called ‘evangelical.’ It is only when we discover the trinitarian nature of God’s initiative and involvement in worship and mission that they become grace-centered and, as such, liberative, transformative, and evangelical in truth. In this book, Robin Parry succeeds in articulating the issues in a manner that is not merely theologically profound but lucid, accessible, and profoundly relevant. If this were read, pondered, and discussed by clergy, laypeople, and worship leaders alike, it could become a means of the liberation and renewal of the church.”
—Alan J. Torrance
Chair of Systematic Theology, St. Mary’s College,
University of St. Andrews, Scotland

“This is a most important book. The Trinity is not a theoretical doctrine—some form of theological algebra, but the life of God within which all Christians live. The doctrine of the Trinity provides the basic grammar for all Christian life and thought. Nowhere is this more true than in regard to worship—the first calling of the people of God. Robin Parry brings the two themes together in a way which can only enrich the church.”
—Graham Cray
Bishop of Maidstone, UK

“Here’s a book to make you stop and think. For me, Robin Parry’s chapters on the Trinity (even if they had not been in a book on worship) are well worth reading in their own right. He is extremely lucid in handling a difficult and mysterious subject. I found my own spirit was stirred by simply reading those excellent central chapters . . . This is a book well worth reading and one which I wholeheartedly recommend.”
—Terry Virgo
New Frontiers, UK

“This is an academic book wonderfully disguised in language most in our churches would understand. I cannot recommend this work highly enough. Pastors, worship leaders, and mature Christians must read this and practice the sort of trinitarian worship Parry recommends.”
—Myk Habets
Lecturer in Systematic Theology,
Carey Baptist College, New Zealand

“Bloody good!”
—Andrew G. Walker
Emeritus Professor of Theology, Culture, and Education,
King’s College, London