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).

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Great Commission

OK - This is a silly and brief thought (brief because I am using a computer in a library and have few minutes left in which to write).

I always took the great commission in Matthew 28:19 to be Jesus telling the whole church (which included me) to go and convert everyone in the world. You know - the standard evangelical reading (not, I hasten to add the classical Christian reading - on which see the brilliant reception history study of the text by David Parris in Reading the Bible with Giants).

The more that I read the NT in the light of the OT the more crazy interpretations I keep coming up with.

So here is something I was wondering about (and I am no Matthew scholar) - What if we read the commission in the light of the OT story accoring to which God will restore Israel and then, through Israel, he will draw the nations to worship him? There is a strong case for seeing such restoration-of-Israel and mission-to-the-nations stuff going on in Matthew (see esp. Joel Willitts book on Israel's Shepherd King in Matthew - cannot recall exact title).

If we do this then Jesus is commissioning his disciples, as representatives of restored Israel, to take the good news of Israel's resotration and salvation for the world to the nations of the world.

I have always read it as a call to the church to go to the world. But if Jesus was calling restored Israel to go to the nations then the text's relevance for a mission by Gentile Christians to other Gentile Christians is one or two steps away from what Jesus was getting at. I am not wanting to say that the text is of no relevance for such contexts but simply that it may be of more indirect relevance than we may have thought.

I guess that I will now get lots of replies saying, "Everyone knew that anyway! You're slow off the mark" Yes I am. Better late than never.

So I guess my question is - what is Jesus commanding in Matt 28? Who is he commanding? How does it apply today?

Saturday, 13 December 2008

No one is good but God alone (Mk 10:18)

I went to a lecture by Richard Bauckham this week about the christology of Mark's gospel. It was, as you would expect, great. But the big "Of course!" moment for me was in his brief discussion on the story of the Rich Young Ruler who met Jesus (Mk 10:17-31).

The Ruler refers to Jesus as "Good teacher" and Jesus responds with the words, "Why do you call me good? No one is good - except God alone".

This saying has always puzzled me (on the rare occasions when I have cast a sideways glance at it). It looks like Jesus is rebuking the Ruler for calling him 'good' because only God - not Jesus - is good. For a well trained Chalcedonian graduate such as myself this feels ... odd to say the least.

Bauckham's talk gave me two new insights on this puzzling question:

(a) The words 'but God alone' are an allusion to the shema (as are the same words in 2:27).

(b) Jesus is not rebuking the man and in the process denying that he himself is good. Rather he is using a penetrating question to push the man (and Mark is pushing his readers) to think through the implications of his own words to Jesus. So Jesus' question to the man is designed to draw him to recognizing Christ's divine identity.

Now this claim makes perfect sense in the flow of Mark's unfolding narrative revelation of Jesus' identity. Throughout the gospel we have stories in which the issue of Jesus' identity is raised again and again in very tantilizing ways. It is only before the High Priest in 14:62 that the question of Jesus' identity is overtly clarified. The story in Mark 10 is one of a sequence of stories designed (in part) to raise the question of Jesus' identity and to point readers towards his sharing in the identity of the one God of Israel.

You know what? I think this is indeed so!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Using God to Serve our Social Agendas

I have long had a very simple and basic concern with some feminist theology. It has haunted me since 1988 when I read Sally McFague's fascinating book Metaphorical Theology. In a nutshell, my worry is this:

Feminist theology has been at the forefront of a range of theological 'moves' that have very helpfully highlighted the fact that all theology has social implications. Theological ideas have legs and sometimes those legs have kicked the s**t out of people. Feminists and others have called attention to this and have rightly argued that a theology that leads to violence and abuse is a deeply problematic theology that needs questioning.

But what concerned me about McFague's book was that it seemed to me that she did her theology backwards. She decided what policial goals she wanted to achieve, worked out what kind of God would be needed to support that agenda, and then reverse-engeneered a doctrine of God that serves the pre-decided political agenda. It is the very self-conscious, and blatant crafting of a God to serve our political ends that is ... worrying.

I got no sense from her book that theology is a response to a divine self-revelation. It seemed to me that for McFague the 'truth' of the theology was determined by whether it supported the pre-decided agenda. It was not accountable to ... what God has revealed. Perhaps I am unfair - and I am open to correction here - but it seemed to me that the McFague model seemed to me to be in danger of using God as a means to our ends. I cannot but feel that 'here be monsters'.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Karl Barth on Truth and the Gospel

"The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths."
(Epistle to the Romans, 35)

This sounds like something to ponder - it feels very profound. But first I need some help from the Barth scholars out there: What exactly is Barth's point here? What is he saying and what is he not saying?

Theological Reflections on Prostitution?

This is a call for theological help. There is a fair amount in the Bible about prostitution and, of course, prostitution is an ever-present issue in most societies so I am thinking that there must be some serious and helpful theological reflections out there on the issue. I have found articles by biblical scholars but have theologians got in on the act? Surely they must have but where?

Also - does anyone know any good historical studies on past Christian attitudes towards prostitution? I have good material on 19th C but not earlier.

I ask because I am writing something on the issue and I wish to move beyond biblical exegesis in my reflections.

I'm also interested in finding out about Christians who work with prostitutes.

But I have an end of Dec deadline so I need to be fast.