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, 21 February 2014

The problem with analogies for the Trinity

This is a fabulous video on the problem of taking analogies for the Trinity too seriously. It's funny and it's right.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Idealism—it's a no-brainer

I am not a philosophical idealist, by which I mean that I do not believe that the only reality is mind/consciousness. But if the only alternative to idealism was materialism (the view that nothing exists but matter) then idealism wins hands down. It's a no-brainer! (Excuse the pun.)

After all, doubting the reality of consciousness is as close to impossible as anything gets. Of course, there are hard-core materialists that try very hard to do precisely this, but don't hold your breath! Success is as far from them as it ever has been and as far as it ever will be. Doubting the reality of matter, however, is a different kettle of fish. That is indeed possible. After all, we only have access to it via the mediation of consciousness.

Idealism can be imagined to be true (even if it is false) but while I suppose that one can possibly make sense of the claim "materialism is a possible state of affairs in an alternative universe," I am at a loss to understand how anyone can even imagine that believing "materialism is the truth about our world" is even possible. The very imagining of its truth is inexplicable in purely materialist terms and so if one can imagine that the proposition is true then the proposition must be false. Or so it seems to me.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Mini-rant on foreign aid budgets

The UK is currently experiencing some pretty bad weather. We have just had the wettest January on record and February seems no better. Consequently there is a lot of flooding, including in my own city of Worcester.

As usually happens in these times of relative hardship loud cries go up from the public complaining about the government's foreign aid budget. Why are we giving away all our hard earned money to foreigners when our own people are suffering? After all, these corrupt foreigners only spend it on weapons and space programs! We need to claw back that money and let charity begin at home!

There is currently a swell of public opinion in the UK that shares such sentiments.

I do NOT like it.

The UK is due to reach the giddy heights of generosity this year of giving away 0.7% of our GNP in overseas aid. It is a lot of money but as a percentage of the whole it is tiny. We spend almost all of our tax money on ourselves. And this is as it should be. Governments have a duty first to their own citizens. Maybe charity does begin at home, but even if it does it already has!

What frustrates me is that there are all sorts of budgets from which money could be diverted to help people whose houses and businesses are flooded. Why is it that the immediate reaction is always to stop the tiny bit that we give to help others?

I think that it is a good thing for a nation to seek to help others that are less well off. I think it is a virtuous thing. I think that it is a deeply human thing. That is the kind of nation I think Britain, or any nation, should aspire to be. To divert foreign aid money to flood victims instead of diverting money already allocated for UK spending would, I think, be a wrong move. Yes, times are hard and money is tight but when we only see our own problems and cannot see those of others we are in danger of gaining the world but losing our souls.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Brief thought on the problems of intelligent design

I have been asked why I think that ID is problematic. It's a good question so here are my brief and inadequate thoughts on why I find it unhelpful.

The problem with it is its tendency to look for God in the gaps of scientific explanations. Irreducible complexity is seen as evidence of God because science cannot (in principle, we are told) explain it. If future science did actually explain any alleged instances of irreducible complexity then such instances would cease to be evidence of God.

The problem here is that God is pictured as one being among others (albeit a more intelligent and powerful one) acting as a cause in the world in the same manner as other causes act in the world.

The reason that this is a problem is that classical theology did not picture God in this manner — as a being, as one cause among and alongside others. Rather divine Being was of a fundamentally different kind from creaturely being and divine causation acted at a different level altogether. God was the one who imparted be-ing to the whole of created reality and who enabled all of the powers of causation within creation to be. So God was the explanation for the whole but was not to be found in the gaps.

The explanations of the empirical sciences function at the level of secondary causation within the created order and pay no attention to metaphysical questions of primary causation. As such, God does not feature in scientific explanations. This is unproblematic so long as scientists don't imagine that reality can be encompassed within the realm of what science can explain — that road ends up collapsing in on itself. Treating some things in the world (but not others) as the result of God rather than of inner-creational causes is to mix up these different levels of explanation. Setting divine and creational causes up in opposition as some kind of zero sum game is unhelpful.

Furthermore, the MOST that ID could ever demonstrate is that certain things in the world (but not the the world as a whole) were designed by a very intelligent (though not omni-intelligent) and powerful (though not all-powerful) being. But such a being is more like an archangel than God and of such a being we may still ask, "Who designed it?" for it would certainly not be the kind of thing that could explain its own existence. This intelligent designer would be as infinitely removed from God as a flea.

I am not for one moment suggesting that those who believe in God will not look at complex systems within creation that ID proponents look at and marvel at how they manifest God's goodness and power — after all, such complex systems live and move and have their being in God, manifesting the Divine Logos — but that is a very different issue from seeking to find them as evidence of direct divine intervention. There be dragons!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Watts the hell are you talking about!

Just found this Isaac Watts hymn quoted in a book:

What bliss will fill the ransomed souls
When they in glory dwell
To see the sinner as he rolls
In quenchless flames of hell.

This is one of the nastier sides of the traditional view of hell. I hope I don't really need to explain why.

Hart to Heart: a rocking book!

I am reading David Bentley Hart's latest offering, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss (Yale, 2013). I came across it in a review in The Guardian newspaper written by someone sympathetic to atheism. This guy was raving about the book and described it as the one book every atheist should read. I am well into it now and I can see why he thought it was so good.

In essence all that the book seeks to do is to offer some generic clarification for the word "God." This is not a work in specifically Christian theology but it draws deeply on the classical Christian tradition.

The reason for the need for clarification is that much of the contemporary "God debate" begins with an assumption that we all know what we mean by "God" and so we can get on with the business of showing whether God does or does not exist. However, it is pretty clear from the arguments of the New Atheists that what they are arguing against is not God but a god; not Being Itself but a being, albeit a supreme being. And it is not simply them. The Intelligent Design movement also operates with a reduced notion of the divine as one causal agent operating in the world alongside others, i.e., a god, not God.

Not only does Hart beautifully spell out the classical notion of God but in so doing dissolves most of the so-called arguments against God and exposes the incoherence of naturalism.

Highly recommended.