Happy New Year!
Well, 2010 was quite a year for this blog. Thanks to all of you who read this blog and took the time to interact with and comment on the posts and series. Year after year I'm amazed at the quality--in both content and spirit--of the conversations we have here. More, week after week I learn so much from you. Thank you very, very much.
I had a hard time narrowing down my ten favorite posts/series from 2010. I started out with twenty and have finally narrowed it down. If I wrote something in 2010 that you felt should have made the list please feel free to plug it in the comments.
Without further adieu or self-indulgence, here it is, the best of 2010:
1. The Deliverance of God
In late 2009 I saw a lot of theology and biblical studies blogs praise Douglas Campbell's book The Deliverance of God as the book of the year. The book was hailed as a "game changer" in Pauline studies. Ever curious, I got the book and did a series on it, summarizing my understanding of the main argument. There are a lot of reviews of The Deliverance of God on the Internet, but I think mine is one of the best for the layperson. One of the nice things about the series was Dr. Campbell taking the time to interact with me and the readers here to offer some clarifications about his book.
2. The Snake Handling Churches of Appalachia
At the start of the year I did a series on the psychology and theology of the snake handling churches of Appalachia. As a psychology of religion researcher I love case studies like this. In the series we reflected on the history of Pentecostalism, the nature of religious experience, biblical literalism, and the theology of serpents. Reader beware: By the time you finish this series you just might be tempted to make an interesting suggestion to your worship committee...
3. How Facebook Killed the Church (and A Correlational Follow-Up)
This was the most buzzed post I wrote in 2010. In the post I argue that the reason religious attendance is declining among American youth is that one of the traditional pulls of church--social affiliation--has been effectively replaced by Web 2.0. Getting "connected" through a church has waned in importance. This may be a bad thing or a good thing for the church depending upon how you look at it (I think it's a good thing and a positive challenge for the church). Later in the year I came back around to these issues in a post entitled The Kingdom of God Will Not Be Tweeted which pushed back on Web 2.0 in favor of the "strong ties" of the church. Taken together, these posts are a start on thinking through the relationship, good and bad, between Web 2.0 and the traditional church.
4. George MacDonald
In 2010 I paid back a longstanding theological debt by devoting some posts to the Scottish writer George MacDonald. Like C.S. Lewis, I consider MacDonald to be my spiritual master. All these posts can be found on the sidebar but four of the best were my introductory post (start there if you are new to MacDonald), the post The Real Emerald City, my post on At the Back of the North Wind, and the post on the sermon Justice from MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons.
5. Theology of Type 1 & Type 2 Error
Occasionally on this blog I come at theological questions from crazy, unpredictable angles. Initially, in the post Deciding Who is Going to Hell I tried to answer the question "Who is going to hell?" by using tools from null hypothesis testing in statistics, specifically the notions of Type 1 and Type 2 error. That post kicked up enough questions that I followed it up with a second post--Divine Base Rates and the Great Drama of Salvation--where I used the same statistical tools to show how views of God affect soteriological positions.
6. Letters from Cell 92: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Religionless Christianity
I ended the year with a series trying to wrestle with Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theological letters from prison. Many of you seemed to enjoy this series very much. The series was my attempt to get my head around Eberhard Bethge's analysis of Bonhoeffer's letters about "religionless Christianity." I think this series is one of the best things I've done on this blog.
7. Sexuality and the Christian Body
I wrote a lot about same-sex attraction and Christianity in 2010. For my own part, I enjoyed thinking through the arguments made by Eugene Rogers in his book Sexuality and the Christian Body. My review of Rogers' argument came in two posts Contrary to Nature and Grace and Election.
8. To Change the World
I wrote more about politics in 2010. Sometimes that went well. Sometimes it didn't. One lingering effect of that political blogging was that I switched over to the Disqus commenting system. Overall, I think this has been a good change. I have the comments set up so that the most liked comments appear at the top of the comments thread. Consequently, constructive and helpful comments can get voted to the top of the thread while comments of lesser value drift toward the bottom. So when comment threads get contentious I encourage you to vote the best comments to the top. You yourself might not want to comment but a simple click on the "Like" button can help improve our conversation.
In light of all this political gridlock, I think the analysis of James Davison Hunter in his book To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World is very important. Many blogs have To Change the World on their Best Of lists for 2010. I blogged about Hunter's book and, later in the year, I used Hunter's analysis to think through how political conversations on my own campus get bogged down and become fractious and unproductive.
9. Theodicy and No Country for Old Men
I'm not much of a movie or music maven. My tastes, I think, aren't very enlightened or intellectual (I think it's due to my aversion to films with subtitles and enjoyment of music that elicits toe-tapping). That said, in 2010 I did offer up a theological analysis of the Coen brother's film No Country for Old Men.
10. Uncle Richard and the Shark
In these year end reviews I like to highlight humorous and/or biographical posts. In 2010 the best of the lot was my post about my adventures in sharkfishing with my nephews. Yes, the post includes a picture of me with a shark.
Grace & peace,