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, 31 January 2011

Does God Promise to Heal All?

I am currently editing an excellent book on the history of healing movements in the nineteenth century (James Robinson, Divine Healing). It has prompted me to think again about the issue of healing.

Being a charismatic I move in circles in which one often encounters people who sincerely believe that God promises to heal all who reach out to him in faith and do not waver.

When you challenge them as to their experience (which never matches up to their theology) the line is: "we must bring our experiences up to the word of God rather than bring the word of God down to our experience."

Now, I do think such determination to hold on to God in faith is admirable and I do think that such a belief motivates people to pray for healing and, as a result, to see more divine healing.

However, the belief seriously underestimates the theological significance of experience. Biblical writers themselves were more than happy to allow experience to shape their theology. Consider how Job's theology had to be rewriten in the light of his experience, or the impact of the exile on the theology of the inviolability of Zion, etc.

When one considers experience, the claim that "God will heal all who ask him in faith for healing" can be (a) tested, and (b) demonstrated to be false.

You see, no amount of positive testimonies of people who prayed for healing (in faith) and were healed would demonstrate the truth of the claim. Such experiences are perfectly compatible with more modest claims, such as "God will heal some of those who ask him in faith."

But it only takes one instance of a person who asked in faith for healing and was not healed to demonstrate the falsity of the claim.

And we do not have just one example—we have thousands of examples. And I mean examples of those who prayed for healing for themselves (or others) and who did not waver in their confidence that there would be (or was already) healing . . . and there was no healing.

Such experiences demonstrate conclusively the falsity of the claim that "God will heal all who ask him in faith for healing."

I do believe that God's endgame is to heal all and in the new creation all will be healed. But in the interim God allows and uses things that are less than the ideal to bring about his purposes. Healing in the present is a sign of the coming kingdom to be sought. But please let's stop promising things that are not true.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Monet's "Vader"

Lorenzo Dow on Calvinism

You can and you can’t; you shall and shan’t; you will and you won’t; and you will be damned if you do; and you will be damned if you don’t.
Lorenzo Dow, 19th C anti-Calvinist ditty. It is, of course, unfair but as a funny little rhyme it is OK.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Richard of Saint Victor, On the Trinity

OK—here is advance warning of a classic theology text available in English for the first time . . . ever! Richard of Saint Victor, twelfth century Christian mystic, was the author of a book that influenced the shape of the western trinitarian tradition for hundreds of years. That book was De Trinitate. It stands as a masterly example of the theological method of the period and remains a classic. Sadly, only parts of it have ever been translated into English . . . until now. This forthcoming Cascade volume presents 1. an introduction Richard and to De Trinitate 2. a commentary on the argument (accompanied by very helpful charts plotting the shape of the argument) 3. a full translation of the Latin text. Richard stands within the Augustinian tradition but works as a creative thinker within that tradition. He deserves a lot more attention than he has received so I hope that this volume will play a role in stimulating a mini-revival of interest in him. It should be available in a couple of months. Keep your eyes peeled.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Beautiful

I love the creeds

The revelation of eschatological wrath at Calvary

I was thinking this week about something that those with differing views on hell (traditionalists, annihilationists, and evangelical universalists) agree on—that any doctrine of hell must be worked out in the light of the cross. The cross of Christ is the end-time wrath of God against sin experienced by Christ within the present age.

So what do we learn about hell?

My thought was actually pretty simple: Jesus was neither annihilated nor suffered eternal conscious torment.

Traditionalists make much of the problems with the claim that Jesus was annihilated. The problems are essentially that if Jesus ceased to exist between his death and resurrection then there is either a problem with the Trinity (which temporarily becomes a Binity) or, if only Christ's human nature ceased to exist, a problem with the incarnation ( for "the man Christ Jesus" would be disincarnated and then re-incarneted again).

One also has a problem with the Bible and the tradition in that both indicate that Jesus did not cease to exist (nor to be human) during Holy Saturday.

But if Jesus was not annihilated then he did not experience the fullness of our hell (if hell is annihilation).

Annihilationists make much of the fact that Jesus did not suffer everlasting torment but really died. Indeed so.

Now traditionalists have a reply to this: Jesus was the God-man and, having an infinite divine nature, he could experience an infinite punishment in a finite period of time.

I am not convinced that this solves the problem for traditionalists. Aside from the fact that such considerations seem a million miles away from the theology of the NT two other issues niggle away at me.

1. Jesus the God-man could experience an infinite punishment in the smallest divisible segment of time—a nanosecond. So Jesus' sufferings did not need to last for more than a fraction of the blink of an eye. Anything more than that was simply for show. Was the cross mostly just for show? Or, if God decided to spread the infinte punishment across the time-period of Jesus' sufferings why that time period and not a shorter one, or a longer one? It seems arbitrary.

2. More worrying is that I would have thought that Jesus would have had to have experienced the infinite punishment in his human nature for it was as our human representative that he suffered. But the human nature of Christ could not experience an infinite, eternal punishment in a finite amount of time (unless one is Luther and thinks that Christ's humanity comes to share all the properties of his divine nature . . . an idea that I always thought to be mistaken).

To be honest, I don't know exactly what I think the cross reveals about hell. If anything, it lends support to the view that the eschatological wrath Jesus spoke of was a coming military destruction of Jerusalem by Rome (the view of N. T. Wright and Andrew Perriman). But the NT texts clearly look beyond such a divine judgement to a deeper, fuller one.

What I am wondering though is this: if hell is either annihilation or eternal torment then it does not look like Jesus suffered our hell.

If we sought to reconstruct a theology of hell around the revelation of the cross what would it look like?

I am not really sure but if you have thoughts do add them.