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, 30 April 2010

Leaving Paternoster

After eight years and nine months it is time for me to leave Paternoster. It is my last day today (little tear slides down cheek - well, perhaps it would if I was not such a hard-hearted Englishman).

In 1999, when I was a teacher at Worcester Sixth Form College, my wife and I felt that God was saying that after two years I would have a job working in academic theology but not teaching it. In addition to that I was not to look for such a job ... so I did not. Towards the end of that two year period, on the very day that Carol was going to suggest that I did start looking for such work, I got a phone call from Mark Finnie at Paternoster Publishing (who I did not know from Adam) asking if I was interested in a job commissioning for Paternoster! Until that point I had no ideas at all what kind of job might get me involved in academic theology without teaching it. So began my life at Paternoster. In all the time I have spent working here I have never wavered in my conviction that I was in the place that God wanted me to be.

I have worked with a genuinely fabulous team of people at Authentic Media - the salt of the earth. I have also had the pleasure of working with so many lovely authors. One of the highlights of the job was getting out and meeting interesting people! And I got paid to talk theology - how cool is that! Plus, joy of joys, I got to go to Scotland on quite a few occasions (my heart is humming now even as I think of it).

Looking back over the books we published during the Parry-phase of the Paternoster story I am pleased with the direction that we took things (which is not to say that we did not make some mistakes along the way but such is life). We have developed some great series and published some corking books. It has been both a joy and a privilage to do the job I have done.

But I do feel that it is time to move on, both for me and for Paternoster, and so whilst I will miss people I have no regrets and I am excited about the future - Paternoster's and my own (with Wipf and Stock).

I am thrilled to announce that my replacement will be Dr Michael Parsons. Mike did his MPhil at London Bible College and his PhD at Spurgeon's College (it was about the husband and wife relationship in the theology of Luther and Calvin). He then moved to Perth, Australia where he was Lecturer in Systematic Theology at Murdoch University (1999-2002), Head of the Department of Christian Thought at the Baptist College in Perth (2003-2006), and Head of the Department of Christian Thought and Director of Postgraduate Research at Vose Seminary, Perth (2008-2009). 2010 saw him return to the UK to be Associate Research Fellow at Spurgeon's College, London and now to head up Paternoster.

Mike has published books and articles in the areas of New Testament studies, systematic theology, and historical theology (with Reformation being a special interest). In fact, he is already a Paternoster author having edited and contributed to Text and Task: Scripture and Mission in 2005.

Mike brings a wealth of experience working in the academy and a breadth of interest that makes him just right for the job. He is very excited about heading up Paternoster and has plenty of ideas for taking it on into its next phase.

Mike will be starting on 1st June 2010.

Well - that's about it so, without any more waffle, I will bid Paternoster adieu. As my mum taught me to say, "Thanks for a lovely meal. Please may I leave the table?"

On Monday I start work for Wipf and Stock

Robin

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

N. T. Wright at St Andrews

Hot off the press - Tom Wright to join the faculty at St Andrews. Click here for the press release.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Jeremy Mudditt RIP

I am writing this post today to bring some sad news:

Jeremy Mudditt - colleague, friend, and Christian brother - died on the morning of Wednesday 21st April at the Eden Valley Hospice in Carlisle. He was 71.

Jeremy was diagnosed with cancer of the colon just over a year ago and had secondary tumours in his liver. Four weeks ago his liver started to fail and he was admitted to the Infirmary in Carlisle and then to the Hospice.

I wanted to say a few words in honour of Jeremy who was, as all who knew him would agree, an extraordinary fellow - one of a kind.

Jeremy's father, Howard Mudditt, founded The Paternoster Press in London back in 1935 and Jeremy lived in the shadow of Paternoster for literally all of his life. He joined the company in 1957 and replaced his father as its Managing Director in 1975. In 1988 heart problems required a lifestyle change and so he sold the business to STL who moved it up to Carlisle. Jeremy moved to Carlisle with Paternoster and continued to work freelance for it until recent months. So he has walked with Paternoster through its London period (1932-1962), the Exeter years (1962-1992), the Carlisle phase (1992-2004), and its more recent Milton Keynes incarnation (2004-present). He has been the ongoing link with our historic roots and his passing is literally the end of an era.

In his time Jeremy worked in just about every conceivable area of publishing: from commissioning to editing, typesetting to proofing, printing to warehousing, marketing to selling into shops (and even to working in bookshops). If you ever wanted to know about, say, the virtues and vices of various fonts or paper-types then Jeremy was the man! But far more than being a living encyclopaedia of publishing, Jeremy had a passionate faith in the triune God and saw the mission of Paternoster very much in terms of divine calling. This was not just business, it was mission!

Jeremy oversaw the launch of landmark books and series such as the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (1976) and the NIGTC commentaries (the first volume of which appeared in 1978). He also worked for many years on the production of various theological periodicals including Evangelical Quarterly. In recent years his passion was the blooming of the Paternoster monographs. He was instrumental in the creation and growth of what was originally one series (Paternoster Biblical and Theological Monographs) but soon grew into five (Paternoster Biblical Monographs, Paternoster Theological Monographs, Studies in Christian History and Thought, Studies in Evangelical History and Thought, Studies in Baptist History and Thought). It gave him immense satisfaction to play his role in the publication of groundbreaking and significant works that bless both the church and the academy.

But for me the greatest thing about knowing Jeremy was the man himself. He knew so much 'stuff' - history, poetry, art, politics, literature, classical music, theatre, theology - and could keep you entertained for hours with countless stories and interesting snippets of information and opinion. He was an old-school man of the best kind.

Speaking and praying with him not long before he died I was so very impressed by his unswerving faith in and commitment to God. He was at peace with his situation and had complete confidence that his life and his death were in the hands of a Father that he trusted. He died, as he lived, in the hands of Pater Noster - 'Our Father'.

I have asked a few people who knew Jeremy over the years to offer some words of appreciation in tribute to a life well lived.

"I have worked alongside Jeremy as an author, an editor, and an adviser for almost fifty years (we first met on July 10th 1961) and deeply appreciated his friendship, his expertise and wisdom as a publisher, and his marvellous literary knowledge and witty letter-writing skills (continuing the pattern set by his father). The debt I owe to him for the rich contribution that he has made to my own life is incalculable and I thank God for such a friend and colleague."

I. Howard Marshall, Emeritus Professor of New Testament Exegesis, University of Aberdeen. Chairman of the Paternoster Theological Advisory Board, Senior Editor for Paternoster Monographs

"The first word that springs to mind when I think of Jeremy Mudditt is commitment. This was to God, first and foremost; to his family, which was moving; to Christian publishing which was far-reaching; to the Christian Brethren which was profound; and to the Anglican worship which illumined his later years. Nor shall I quickly forget his considerable erudition or his quircky sense of humour. It may be trite but it is surely true to say that we shall not see his like again."

Harold Rowdon, retired lecturer at London Bible College, Brethren author and editor, and presonal friend

"Laurel and I were saddened to learn of the death of our dear friend, Jeremy Mudditt. We have been friends since our time in the UK in the mid-1960s when I was a research student at Manchester and we began to talk about various editorial projects that later came to fruition under Jeremy's watchful eye. We treasure the numerous visits we made over the years to Jeremy and Meg's home in Exeter and our personal friendship over the years. Jeremy's was a life well lived, focused on serving God's kingdom. He was both an encouragement and inspiration to many. We thank God for allowing us to share in various editorial projects together and for the fun we had together."

W. Ward Gasque, English Ministries Pastor, Richmond Chinese Alliance Church, CANADA

"Jeremy was passionate about publishing and loved books from many genres. He would often quote several stanzas from a sonnet or lines from a French poem whilst dashing down the corridors of STL. If sales were strong he could occasionally be heard singing an anthem from The Mikado or a Verdi opera. His tireless commitment to biblical and theological publishing has left a legacy that will continue to influence a generation or more of students, scholars, leaders, and thinkers."

Mark Finnie, Publisher at Authentic Media

"Like many other younger Evangelical scholars I first met Jeremy when Paternoster accepted my doctorate for publication. And like many others, I received encouragement, wise counsel, help, and guidance, and I am grateful to God for His servant's tireless ministry. From this initial contact, I started to freelance for Paternoster, working closely with and learning a great deal from Jeremy, who knew the publishing business inside out and the Christian publishing ministry as well as anyone. It has been a joy and a privilege to serve the Lord together with Jeremy in this way for ten years, and to become a close friend. Evangelical biblical, theological, and historical scholarship has been greatly served by Jeremy who had a deep passion for the intellectual dimension of Christian faith and witness. Now he knows in full. Thanks be to God."

Anthony R. Cross, Director of the Centre for Baptist History and Heritage, and Research Fellow, Regent's Park College, and Member of the Faculty of Theology, University of Oxford

"Jeremy had a unique character. He was a man of immense intelligence, wit, and humour with an incredible command of the English language. His traditional values, his good manners, and charm endeared himself to everyone he met. We shall not forget him."

Jeremy and Liz Thompson Jewitt, Directors of AlphaGraphics, Printers of the Paternoster Monographs and Journals

"I helped Jeremy with historical titles in the Paternoster SCHT, SEHT, and SBHT monographs, although I met him only once. But I was aware of the enormous influence for good he exercised. His strategic vision for Christian publishing allowed academic authors to see their efforts in print and Evangelical readers to appreciate the strength of their position. He loved his Lord with all his mind as well as with all his heart, soul, and strength."

David Bebbington, Professor of History, University of Stirling and Paternoster Series Editor for SCHT, SEHT, and SBHT

He will be missed.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Living naturally in the supernatural???

I am a charismatic, albeit a mild mannered one, and a recurring theme in some of the circles in which I move is that God wants us to be living naturally in the supernatural. Miracles, we are told, should be everyday events in all of our lives. This is, of course, aspirational because it is a lived reality for only a very tiny number of people (and even in their cases there is a tendency for myths to grow around them).

So I have been struck recently by how much the characters in the Bible did not live naturally in the supernatural. I notice the lack of miracles in the stories of key characters such as Joseph, Ruth, David, Solomon, Josiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, etc, etc, etc.

I am also struck by the fact that amazing miracles clearly cluster around key people at key times in the salvation story

1. Moses
2. Elijah and Elisha
3. Jesus
4. The apostles

What strikes me in the book of Acts is not that all the believers were doing miracles (as many charismatics would have us believe) but that they were not! The miracles in Acts cluster around a small band of people. The believers brought their sick to those people. There was no call to normal believers to be raising the dead every day. Thus Paul refers to his signs and wonders as the things that mark an apostle out (2 Cor 12:12).

Of course, I do believe that the church is a charismatic community in which the Spirit sheds abroad gifts such a tonogues, prophesy, healing, etc (1 Cor 12-14). I am in no way a cessationist! I do expect to see the gifts of the Spirit operative in the body.

However, I do not think that I if I am not seeing miracles in my daily life of the quality and quantity that Jesus did then I am falling short of God's best for me. Sorry but I am not prepared to carry that burden (and it is a burden, because all those who aspire to such things fall far short of their goal). Doing miracles is God's job not mine and if he don't do 'em then, so long as I have been obedient, I am not going to feel guilty.

So I am inspired by the very biblical vision of believers finding God at work in their very 'un-supernatural' lives. If we are honest that is where most of us engage with the living God and I, for one, don't feel bad about that.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

God All-Matey

Yesterday morning in a sermon the speaker (Dr Rick Thomas) lamented the fact that often God Almighty is reconfigured by us as God All-Matey. Classic! And so right. It never ceases to perplex me why many Christians seem to want a nice, cuddly God who can be their buddy.

Granted that God is not actually like this but why would people even want 'him' to be? That's what perplexes me.

I don't want God as an inflated version of my best mate (who is always in a good mood and just wants to cuddle people when they fall down). I want a God who smokes (in the Sinai sense). I want the transcendent-immanent God of the Bible. I want to know the God who surpasses knowledge.

Don't give me that slushy-puppy-God and don't teach my kids that God is like that!

Give us the God that makes us fall down on our faces in wonder, love, and awe. Anything else is in danger of being an idol.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Seriously good theological videos online

OK - if you want to see some seriously good theological discussions then check out this link. There you will find high quality interviews with good trinitarian theologians such as Alan Torrance, Gary Deddo, Gordon Fee, Elmer Colyer, Paul Metzger, etc, etc. It is fantastic!

What is really amazing is that this serious theological resource had been created by a church. And not just any church ... this is the Worldwide Church of God. If that name does not ring a bell then perhaps you may recall Herbert W. Armstrong, their founder, and The Plain Truth - their magazine. Know what I mean! This was a very sectarian, theologically dubious (to say the least) movement that has had a complete turnaround. Their story is almost unbelievable - a cult that turns orthodox. And not simply orthodox - these guys seem theologically sounder than most of the mainstream churches I know! They are just delightful!

You can read their story in the books Transformed by Truth by Joseph Tkach (Multnomah, 1997) and The Liberation of the Worldwide Church of God by J. Michael Feazell (Zondervan, 2001). Both are written by high profile insiders who lived through the transformation.

As part of their ministry they are recording interviews with trinitarian theologians on all sorts of theological issues. AMAZING! So check them out. The latest is Alan Torrance - surely one of the sweetest theologians out there!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1



Last week I read Mark S. Smith's new book The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1 (Fortress Press, 2010). As one would expect from Mark Smith it is meticulously researched and fascinating stuff.

Smith sets Genesis 1 against three models of creation that were found in ancient Israel:
- creation as a divine victory over cosmic enemies (e.g. Pss 74:12-17; 89:11-13)
- creation as the activity of divine wisdom (e.g. Ps 104; Job 38:1-11)
- creation as a temple filled with the divine presence/holiness/light (e.g., Ps 8).
These three models were not hermetically sealed traditions and often bled into each other. Genesis 1, argues Smith, draws on insights from all three models and deploys them in a unique and innovative way.

Smith thinks that mainstream scholarship is correct to maintain that Genesis 1 was most probably a sixth century text and was almost certainly written by a priestly author. The main points that Smith seeks to argue for in the book are the following:

1. Genesis 1 does not teach creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing). An absolute beginning is not in view - the focus is rather on God's forming a habitable environment for life out of uninhabitable 'chaos' (described as "darkness", "waters" and "the deep" covering "the earth" - summed up as "void and vacuum"). God does this through a series of acts of separation and differentiation.

Now I do believe in creation ex nihilo (and for all I know Smith does too) but I think that Smith is right about the teaching of Genesis 1. Creatio ex nihilo goes further than Genesis 1 does. But Genesis 1 does not exhaust all that Christian theologians would want to say about creation.

2. The ruah of God that moved over the surface of the deep in Gen 1:2 conveys both the idea of divine breath and of wind (as a natural effect of divine action). He also suspects that the link of divine breath and the divine word in creation (cf. Ps 33:6-7) suggests that the divine breath infuses the whole chapter even though it is not explicitly mentioned again.

3. The watery chaos from which God creates is not, as it is in other texts, a symbol of evil. It does not resist God and becomes a good habitat for sea monsters (which in Gen 1 are not cosmic enemies but simply part of creation). The waters do represent a potential for chaos but God effortlessly puts them in their place, as it were.

4. Divine speech is central to Gen 1 (and replaces the conflict motif from other traditions). Smith sees this as specifically linked to the priestly focus on divine speech as expressing divine revelation and authority - that which authorizes the role of priests in teaching and the blessing the people. The universe is presented as a temple in Gen 1 and so, Smith maintains, God is presented as the ultimate priest - speaking and blessing.

I must confess that I found this somewhat back to front. Surely the priest images God when he speaks the divine word in the temple and when he blesses the people. God is not a priest in the temple of creation. Rather, the priest acts (in his ritual role in the temple) in the role of God in creation. God is not in the image of the priest - the priest is in the image of God.

5. Smith makes a thought-provoking and plausible case for the view that the light on Day One was not part of creation but was the light of God's divine glory - the divine presence infusing creation (cf. John 1). This was a view I had previously considered a bit bonkers but, whilst I remain unpersuaded, I am now open to this view as a serious contendor.

6. Genesis 1 provides the cosmological context for the priestly worldview. The seven-day structure was utterly unique and innovative in the ancient world. It allows the priestly division of time (with the Sabbath set apart as holy) to be inscribed into the very structure of created time. Various other priestly concerns are built into creation (e.g., the categorization of fish, birds, and animals in Genesis 1 corresponds to the clean and unclean animals in Lev 11 - the distinctions that God makes in the temple of creation, the priests maintain in the Jerusalem temple. Also the sun, moon, and stars in Gen 1 are there to mark out religious festivals).

7. Humans are images of God in the temple-creation. Smith notes both the royal and the priestly backgrounds to the image of God notion but, given the book's focus on priestly concerns, I was a tad surprised that he made so little of the idea that humans are likened to cult statues (and the related idea that the High Priest functions in some ways like a cult statue in the temple). As far as I could see this idea is only indirectly alluded to in one sentence on p. 101. Perhaps Smith thinks it a mistaken suggestion (maybe the end notes will reveal this) but to my mind it is a very interesting development of the cultic theology of Gen 1.

8. The Genesis 1 creation story was written after the Genesis 2 creation story and was written as a preface to Genesis and as an implicit commentary on the Genesis 2 account, framing it in ways that made it more conducive to priestly interpretation. He explores several aspects of the Gen 1 account which seem to be deliberate references to parts of the Gen 2 account. By being placed at the start of the Bible Gen 1 becomes the master account of creation within the light of which all other creation accounts are interpreted.

I think that this approach is important theologically because it allows readers to recognize different theological traditions within the Bible (indeed, within Genesis) whilst at the same time acknowledging that the final form of the text has an integrity of its own. It also alerts us to something that is sometimes forgotten by scholars - that Genesis 2, whilst it may not have had priestly origins, was preserved and affirmed by a priestly redactor. Presumably, when suitably contextualized, it had priestly approval. This means that when constructing accounts of priestly theology (if that kind of thing takes your fancy) it is not obvious that we should filter out non-priestly texts like this.

I was a little surprised that in drawing out some of the links between Gen 1 and 2 Smith did not make any mention of the suggestion that Genesis 2 presents Eden as a temple with Adam as a priest figure (see, e.g., Gordon Wenham's article, "Sanctuary Symbolism in the Garden of Eden"). This would have fitted very well with Smith's thesis.

9. Is Genesis a myth? Of course, this depends what one means by 'myth' and there is no agreement on a definition. Smith follows an indictive route of looking at features of texts from the ancient Near East that most people agree are myth. He asks to what extent Genesis 1 is like and unlike them. His conclusion is that Genesis 1 is in many respects like other ANE myths so in one sense it is a myth. However, its placement at the head of the Pentateuch is unlike other myths in the ancient world.

In sum, a great theological guide to contemporary discussions full of insight and interest. Not the final word but a word that cannot be ignored.

Christ the Lord is risen today!