The Best of 2007

I began this blog in March of 2006 which means this coming New Year will mark the first full calendar year of writing, with posts having come weekly from January 2007 to December 2007. So, to commemorate and to join in with all the other Top 10 end of the year lists, here is a list of what I consider to be Experimental Theology’s Top 10 Posts of 2007:

#1: The Voice of the Scapegoat series
I began the year in the middle of my review of S. Mark Heim’s book Saved from Sacrifice which gives the church a Girardian reading of the cross. At the conclusion of that series I received the following e-mail from Mark Heim:

Dear Richard,
I'm writing with appreciation for your series on Girard and my book--one could not hope for a more graceful and thoughtful summary of Saved from Sacrifice, and I think there was much significant value added in your own reflections. It's wonderful to see such a response, and encouraging to think that there are others who find this as helpful as I do. It's a bonus also to discover your site and your other work there. I've known ACU only by my friend Doug Foster who is on the faculty of the Graduate School of Theology: now I'm glad to have this connection as well.
Under the Mercy,

For this gracious e-mail alone I vote this series The Best of 2007. Thank you, Mark, for your kind words. Keep the books coming!

#2 The Christ and Horrors series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
This was a review of Marilyn McCord Adams’s wonderful book on Christology and theodicy. The critical feature of McCord Adams’ position is that God will be good to all horror participants. This leads to a universalist position which, in my opinion, is the only coherent move a Christian can make in confronting the problem of horrific suffering. This series got a nice plug from Keith DeRose at the Generous Orthodoxy Think Tank.

#3 Summer and Winter Christians
This was a single post summarizing a published paper of mine. The main thrust of the paper is to get Christian communities to reject simplistic polar models of faith (where doubt/negativity are antithetical to faith) and adopt a circumplex model where doubt/negativity can co-exist with faith.

#4 The Ecclesial Quotient
This was a quirky series where I try to create a mathematical formula to calculate your contribution to the Kingdom of God. I even graph the function. I like this series because it got noticed by a Network Theory class at Cornell University. When a theology blog shows up in a math class at Cornell you’ve got to be doing something right.

#5 Toward a Post-Cartesian Theology (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7)
In this series I review and interact with Harry Frankfurt’s book Taking Ourselves Seriously & Getting It Right. It is my best attempt (supplemented by my The Cartesian Race post) in grappling with the free will versus determinism debate. My work on these issues got noticed by Bob Cornwall who solicited an article from me on this subject for the pastoral journal he oversees, Sharing the Practice. The paper came out in the fall and was entitled “Ministry in the Post-Cartesian World.” Thank you Bob for asking!

#6 Theology and Evolutionary Psychology (Prelude, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8)
I don’t think Christians should be afraid of evolution. In fact, if you look at the Sermon on the Mount through the lens of evolutionary psychology you come away thinking that Jesus was a Darwinian genius. In this series I show how evolutionary psychology makes the Christian moral witness seem extraordinarily prescient, deep, and powerful.

#7 My Bible Class about Bob Sutton's Book
No retrospective on 2007 would be complete without facing up to my Most Controversial Post of the Year. I did a bible class at my church on Dr. Sutton's book and then followed that post up with a series. That post was picked up on by Dr. Sutton (initially here on his personal blog and then later in The Huffington Post where he mentions his changing attitudes about Christians in two features found here and here). Which pleases me in that, if you look at his remarks, it seems I helped dismantle some stereotypes about Christians and Christian intellectuals.

These gains aside however, because I didn't euphemize and took Dr. Sutton's language as-is (following the lead, as a scholar would, of the Harvard Business Review who first published Dr. Sutton's idea), some conservative readers have been offended and have written my employer about my Christian commitment. The disappointing part for me is that none of these complaints have been taken directly to me per Jesus' instructions in the Sermon on the Mount. Which means that the complaints are not Christian, honest, and truth-seeking in intent. They are, rather, attempts to use my post as a political tool against my university. Which is sad. To those offended by this blog, please e-mail me directly for conversation. Also note that my discussion of Dr. Sutton's book had nothing to do with my university as it was a bible class for my church, populated with adults and not college students. Thus, if you have any spiritual concerns with me on this topic please contact my spiritual overseers, the elders of the Highland Church of Christ. They are the ones accountable for both my spiritual journey as well as any teaching conducted under their oversight.

As a final thought on this subject, a part of the reason (other than its clear gospel message) I took up Dr. Sutton's book was to explore what "Christian language" can and should look like. What are the discernment issues involved? How do we adjudicate? Is propriety and politeness the main concern? But what if, as Dr. Sutton's book shows, cultural mores are changing? Is this a generational issue? If so, should language change to connect with the young even if the older (and most established in faith) are offended? These are challenging and important issues. How shall we speak to our world? Is the world a homogenous crowd allowing only a single form of Christian discourse? Or is the world heterogeneous, diverse, and ramified, requiring multiple languages each unique given context and audience? In short, all readers here--offended or not offended--should pitch in and discuss rather than gripe and complain. There is work to be done for the Kingdom! Let's find out how best to do it and support each other in a process--being in but not of the world--that necessarily creates different modes of missional living.

#8 Ghostbusting
For some strange reason I love this post from my Walk with William James series. (See the sidebar for all the installments. I would have listed the whole series but it's very long.) In this post I tell the story of my one paranormal adventure with some of my students.

#9 Everyday Evil (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6)
Lots of people seemed to really enjoy my Everyday Evil series where I show how the potential for evil is just around the corner for ordinary people. I have this series so low in the rankings because the YouTube clips that made the series so enjoyable keep getting taken away or moved.

#10 Why the Anti-Christ is an Idiot
The funniest post of the year.

So there it is, The Best of 2007. Thanks to everyone who has visited, read, linked to, and commented here in the past year. Look for more theological adventures in 2008. I have some fun stuff planned. See you after the New Year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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13 thoughts on “The Best of 2007”

  1. Richard,

    Thanks for your year-'round, ongoing Christmas present: this blog.

    May you and yours be blessed this Christmas.

    As to those who complain to others (your employer) about what you say: may they consider the following Scripture. "Thou shalt not put a pasture patty into thy neighbor's punchbowl lest you drink from it unawares. Selah." (The Acts of George 2:38)


    George C.

  2. Thank you for some of the most stimulating thoughtful and spiritually transforming articles I have ever encountered. I am truly saddened by your tattletale.
    I can think of a word that my apply.


  3. Yeah for No Asshole Rule! And Yeah for the "Why the Anti-Christ is an idiot"... I tell everyone about that.

    mr. w

  4. Dr. Beck--yours is easily one of the most enlightening, thought-provoking blogs on the Christian web. Thanks for keeping us on our toes.
    Rich blessings to you and your family over this holiday season.

  5. Richard,
    As an atheist/agnostic/non-religious person (pick one), who was raised a fundie but is still interested in religion, I find your blog to be the only one I have found that provokes thought, is honest and self critical and is entertaining at the same time. It also has a heart that is focused on love and acceptance rather than dogma and exclusion which is typical mainstream religion. I check it everyday in case I missed something. I'm also impressed with the commentors who seem to be open minded as well.
    Thanks for a good year of blogging with hopes for the same next year.

    Merry Christmas and Merry Festivus for the rest of us (just kidding as I am not a Seinfeld fan, I just like the name.)

    Rick T.

  6. Merry Christmas, Richard!

    Your blog has been a source of great insight and comfort this year. God bless you and give you a prosperous New Year!

  7. I don't always have time to read your blog as frequently as I would wish, so thanks for providing this recap.

    Re-reading the Christ and Horrors series, it seems to me that one critical thing was left out: how to explain the creation of a world in which there was going to be a fundamental problem arising from humanity's problematic material-spiritual condition. Maybe there's no answer to this question, but it still needs to be addressed.

  8. Richard,

    Thanks for inspiring me. You and your readers taught me so much this year about what it really means to be open-minded. Merry Christmas,

    Bob Sutton
    Author of The No Asshole Rule

  9. Merry Christmas everyone!

    You should know I almost did a Top Ten George Comments. It would have been more interesting than this post!

    Don, Daniel, and Garry,
    Thank you for the encouragement. Before I started writing this blog I felt isolated and peculiar. Few people I knew experienced faith the way I did. But since March 2006, the start of this blog, the loneliness went away. I found people just like me.

    I'd love to contribute some more. Whenever you see something I've done or will do that might interest your readership just let me know.

    Mr. W.,
    You are a trip my friend.

    Rick T,
    I've been blessed by your presence here. Who knew non-theists would like my blog? And Merry Festivus! Let the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strengths begin!

    Excellent point. McCord Adams does address that question but ends up in a faith stance: We just can't answer that question (i.e., Was God justified in creating the world?). When it comes to issues of theodicy I think people part ways at that point. That question, in my experience, is the last question of theology.

    Thanks so much for dropping in. My mother is a CEO at a health club in the Northeast. Guess what book I got her for Christmas? Given her staffing issues she's going to need it.

    See you all after the new year!

  10. It's a small and serendipitous world having found your blog via Bob Sutton's and his thru BigPicture. Part of the linkages are the pursuit of open-minded inquiry and, as Bob puts it, evidence-based management. The reactions to your NAH lessons, sadly, very sadly, indicate that such open-mindedness is rather widely restricted. As we now know Mother Theresa faced a major crisis of Faith in the last decade or more of her life, from the courageous publication of her letters to her spiritual counselor. St. Thomas Aquinas came to a similar crisis in his last days when he realized that logic was insufficient to grasp the Divine.
    A great serendipity was finding out here that you're revisiting James. Bravo - I'll make sure to read that series having just started my 3rd reading of Varieties and just finished up the Chapter on "the Reality of the Unseen". Which cogent, evidence-based and open-minded chapter ties nicely to my point. It's too bad that James' work and approach has lain so fallow for over a 100 years but it still offers us great models in the spirit of inquiry as well as findings, methods and powerful insights. You might find Teddy Roosevelt's essay "Reverant Spirit" useful and indicative as well. And startling.
    Looking forward to more open-ended inquiry in the new year.

  11. I read the Everyday Evils series with great interest. When the Virginia Tech shootings happened and people were saying, "I don't understand how someone could do this," I was like, "I do!" Thanks for the chilling-but-true insight into the human condition. I also enjoyed your posts on Christ and Horrors and Universalism. I can relate to much of your spirituality and am looking forward to reading more of your material.

  12. Yoga (Application) which was based on the control of the body physically and implied that a perfect control over the body and the senses led to knowledge of the ultimate reality. A detailed anatomical knowledge of the human body was necessary to the advancement of yoga and therefore those practising yoga had to keep in touch with medical knowledge. (Romila Thapar, A History of India, volume one).

    I suggest : Mind and brain are two distinct things. Brain is anatomical entity whereas mind is functional entity. Mind can be defined as the function of autonomic nervous system (ANS). It is claimed that mind can be brought under conscious control through the practice of meditation. But how? ANS is largely under hypothalamic control which is situated very close to optic chiasma (sixth chakra or ajna chakra). Protracted practice of concentration to meditate at this region brings functions of ANS say mind under one’s conscious control.

    ANS is further divided into parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and sympathetic nervous system (SNS). On the basis of these facts I have discovered a mathematical relationship for spiritual quotient (S.Q.). Spiritual Quotient can be expressed mathematically as the ratio of Parasympathetic dominance to Sympathetic dominance. PSNS dominates during meditative calm and SNS dominates during stress. In this formula we assign numerical values to the physiological parameters activated or suppressed during autonomic mobilization and put in the formula to describe the state of mind of an individual and also infer his/her level of consciousness.

    Meditation is the art of looking within and science of doing nothing. We don’t use anything in meditation. We just try to concentrate to meditate at some point in human anatomy known as ‘chakra’ in Indian System of Yoga. The current of mind is flowing outward through the senses and unconsciously. The mind comes at rest gradually through regular practice of meditation. Then comes self realization and enlightenment. Protracted practice of meditation under qualified guidance will help to manage all sort of psychological problems.

    Emotional Quotient can also be expressed mathematically as the product of I.Q. and Wisdom Factor. E.Q. stands for Emotional Quotient. An intelligent person may not be wise. But a wise man will always be intelligent. An intelligent person having certain level of positive emotions can be said as wise. An intelligent person lacking wisdom will turn autocrat. A wise man will always be a democrat who respects others existence.

    Some may raise doubt that how could be the Wisdom quantified? The answer is simple -if Mental Age of I.Q. can be quantified then Wisdom can also be quantified, of course, comparatively with more efforts. Wilhelm Stern had given the formula of I.Q.. It is, Mental Age/ Chronological Age x 100. Spiritual Quotient (S.Q.) leverages both E.Q. and I.Q.

    Radha Soami Faith is a branch of Religion of Saints like Kabir, Nanak, Paltu, and others. Soamiji Maharaj is the founder of this Faith. You may call It like New Wine in Old Bottle.

    Maslow has given Hierarchy of Needs. At the top of it is need for self-actualization or self-realization.

    In our society we should learn To Live and Let Live and help to satisfy others need. When the lower order needs, physiological and sociological both, are satisfied then only a person think to satisfy need for self-realization in true sense. Else he/she may spend all his/her life to satisfy at the most the need for self-expression instead of self-realization.

    It is, therefore, the duty of every responsible person of our society to give serious thought over it.

    For the satisfaction of need for self-realization i.e. establishment of harmony of individual consciousness with that of universal consciousness we need following three things:

    1. Mater or Guru (A Self-Realized Soul)
    2. Secret of Levels of Universal Consciousness
    3. Method for traversing the path.

    Anirudh Kumar Satsangi

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