The Experimental Theology 2009 Year in Review

Per tradition at the end of each year I summarize the year's worth of writing on this blog. The 2008 and 2007 reviews can be found here.

1. The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity
If the number of comments and backlinks is any measure, this post, by far, got more attention than anything I've ever written. Something about my broadside about Christians being bad tippers struck a nerve. Mostly for the positive. However, someone did compare me to the Antichrist in the comments of that post. Much to my delight.

2. Original Sin: A New View
The year started with a series exploring an alternative take on the doctrine of original sin. Specifically, I wondered if human sinfulness was less a product of a inner defect then the predictable outcome of being, to use the words of Marilyn McCord Adams, biodegradable creatures in a world of (real or potential) scarcity. The series ultimately transforms a load of soteriological problems into a load of theodicy problems. Which is a frequent habit of mine.

3. The Theology of Monsters
The series I had the most fun with this year was writing about the theology of the monstrous. This series was inspired by a church class I hosted on this subject and my thoughts were greatly shaped by presentations made in that class by Kenny, Bill and Dan, friends and colleagues at ACU.

4. Alone, Suburban and Sorted
In 2009 I dipped into sociology with a synthetic review of the books Bowling Alone, The Big Sort and That Great Good Place. In this series I discussed how Americans are becoming increasingly isolated and ideologically homogenized leading to massive loss of social and civic skills (e.g., welcoming difference). I suggest that churches might become "third places" to help step into this social and civic gap.

5. Freud and Faith
I lecture on Freud every year and in this series I wrote about some of the theological observations I make when I discuss the work of Freud with students. Two posts from this series entitled Pants and Potty are pretty funny (and, I think, make interesting points).

6. The Varieties and Illusions of Religious Experience
A massive project I took on this year was this engagement with Sigmund Freud and William James. The series sets out to answer a very simple question, one asked by Freud: Isn't religious faith just wishful thinking? My answer builds on the work of William James.

7. Thoughts on Mark Driscoll...While I'm Knitting
This post also got some Internet attention, mainly because the subject of the post, Mark Driscoll, is so controversial and polarizing. I use Driscoll to meditate on masculinity in the church. And I also reveal my penchant for knitting while proctoring exams.

8. Darwin's Sacred Cause
The best book review I did during the year was this review of the book Darwin's Sacred Cause. Given how polarizing Darwin is in Christian circles I recommend every Christian read this book to understand how The Origin of Species functioned in the war to end slavery.

9.Purity and Defilement
The other massive series I did this year was an extended psychological meditation on disgust and purity in the life of the church. The series circles around the events in Matthew 9--Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners--and Jesus's claim that God "desires mercy, not sacrifice."

10. Aliens and a Dog
I don't write a lot about my personal life (not that interesting) but two of my favorite posts this year were more biographical (with some theology mixed in). The first post was about our dog Bandit and the experience of becoming first-time dog owners. The second post was about our family trip to find aliens in Roswell, NM.

And so ends 2009.

Thanks to everyone who visits here and to those of you who comment, link, follow and subscribe to this blog. It has been another wonderful year full of stimulating and generous conversation. I appreciate how you treat me and everyone else who comments here. Thanks for preserving the playful, thoughtful, hospitable and, most importantly, experimental tone of this space.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!

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5 thoughts on “The Experimental Theology 2009 Year in Review”

  1. Richard, I just wanted to say thanks for writing this blog. It is spiritually and intellectually engaging and I have often found it to be a source of comfort and encouragement as well. Thanks. I hope you keep writing for a long time!

  2. Thank you so much, Richard, for all your fine work. I haven't found so much intellectually exciting theological experimentation on any other blog. But the series I enjoyed most this year by far has been that on the language of the powers. How come that wasn't included on your list?

    I'm greatly looking forward to whatever you have in store for us for the new year. How about a preview of coming attractions?

  3. Thanks everyone for the kind words.

    I almost listed that series but, in the end, decided that the material wasn't original enough. You can find most of that material on other blogs in the books I review. The series I did highlight represent original material (even if synthetic). One couldn't find that stuff in a book or online. It's my stuff.

    As for what lies ahead in the new year I don't have any solid plans. I mainly think up stuff on my bike ride to work. Obviously, I'm starting the year with a series on the snake handling churches. I've also just wrapped up some research on aesthetic judgments in relation to crucifixion art. I'll likely write about that. I'm also thinking of blogging through Douglas Campbell's book The Deliverance of God. Lot's of people are talking about that book, but it is so big and technical I don't think it very accessible to a lay audience. I might try to provide cliff notes for the book so everyone can get a sense of what the theologians are so excited about. I think I'm pretty good at translating the academic stuff I read into something more practical and intelligible for a nonprofessional audience. (Because I'm a nonprofessional. Theology is a hobby.)

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