Experimental Theology 2015 Year in Review

Thank you for another wonderful year here at Experimental Theology. I can't thank you enough for reading, commenting, and sharing my posts with others.

Because of the regularity of my posting over the last few years--we're here every Monday-Friday at 5:00 am CST--the question I get more than any other about the blog is this:

How are you able to write so much?

I don't have a great answer to that question. All I can say is that this blog remains what it has always been, a place to collect my thoughts. This blog is my journal and daybook, a place where I work through my ideas, share stories, write poems and collect quotations I want to keep. I hope you've enjoyed the eclectic mix you find here each day. I'm looking forward to 2016.

Finally, something to keep a look out for this coming year. My fourth book--Reviving Old Scratch: Demons and the Devil for Doubters and the Disenchanted--will be coming out this spring with Fortress Press.

May you have a blessed Christmas and Epiphany season.

And now, our annual tradition, the Experimental Theology 2015 Year in Review:

1. The Psychology of How We Read the Bible
Two of the most shared posts from 2015 were posts I wrote about how psychology affects how we read the bible. Both posts were provocative and are still collecting comments. Both posts make observations about self-awareness and hermeneutics:
Emotional Intelligence and Sola Scriptura
Owning Your Protestantism: We Follow Our Conscience, Not the Bible
2. The Purity Psychology of Progressive Christianity
I describe myself as a progressive Christian, but I don't hesitate to criticize my people when I think that's necessary. I did that in two controversial and much talked about posts in 2015 when I wrote about how purity psychology works among progressive Christians.

And given many of the events that have transpired on college campuses this last fall, with liberal social justice warriors clashing with liberal free speech advocates, these posts remain very relevant and timely:
The Purity Culture of Progressive Christianity
The Purity Psychology of Progressive Christianity: "Do One Wrong Thing and You're Tainted"
3. Would Jesus Break a Window?: The Hermeneutics of the Temple Action
As protests erupted after Ferguson, and continue to take place across America, many Christians debated the legitimacy of property destruction as a part of a protest. I used that question to analyze how Christians have tended to use the violence of Jesus' temple action as a justification for violence against people.   
Part 1: Jesus and Violence Toward People or Property?
Part 2: Jesus, Empire and Othering Violence
Part 3: The Theological Scars of Empire
4. Jesus, You're Making Me Tired: Scarcity and Spiritual Formation
In a short three part series I used Brené Brown's work on scarcity to describe what I call "the scarcity trap," the biggest obstacle to spiritual formation in our churches.
The Biggest Obstacle to Spiritual Formation
The Scarcity Trap
The Therapeutic is the Political: Sabbath as Spiritual Warfare
5. The Theology of Faërie
My favorite series of the year was when I blogged through J.R.R. Tolkien's famous lecture "On Fairy-Stories" reflecting on the unique fusion of rationality and enchantment in the work of the Inklings.
Part 1: The Enchantment of the Inklings
 
Part 2: The Elvish Art and Desiring Dragons
 
Part 3: The Wonder of Things
 
Part 4: Glorious Treachery
 
Part 5: The Good Catastrophe
 
Part 6: The Fairy-Story That Entered History  
6. Exploring Preterism
In 2015 I began exploring preterism on the blog. Preterism, a view common in my faith tradition, is the eschatological position that all biblical prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem. (And if not all prophecy than most.) My interest in preterism, borrowing from scholars like N.T. Wright, is how it reframes our discussions about heaven and hell.
Rethinking Heaven and Hell: On Preterism, N.T. Wright and the Churches of Christ
Knowing the Things That Make for Peace
Dry Bones, You Shall Live: Preterism and the Resurrection of the Dead
7. Instead of a Coffee Shop How About a Laundromat?
By far the most viral post of 2015 on the blog was the post where I shared the opinion that churches should start up laundromats as neighborhood third spaces. Be sure to take the time to read the comments to the post as you'll find lots of readers who shared very cool stories of churches running laundromats.

And guess what? Some good friends at my church, inspired by the post, are starting a laundromat near our church!
Instead of a Coffee Shop How About a Laundromat?
8. Race in America
Racial justice and reconciliation remain passions of mine. This year I blogged about our family going to the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches, the Charleston shooting, Ta-Nehisi Coates' book Between the World and Me, and a bus ride with ten black and ten white preachers from my faith tradition through civil rights sites in Alabama.
Selma 50th Anniversary 1965-2015
Black Heroism and White Sympathy: A Reflection on the Charleston Shooting
The Gospel According to Ta-Nehisi Coates (a six post series)
Bus Ride to Justice: Toward Racial Reconciliation in the Churches of Christ
9. The Good, Bad and Ugly of Social Media
Social media is a blessing, but it presents Christians with a host of challenges and temptations. I blogged about some of those in 2015.
Online Debates and Stages of Change
Let Us Be the Heart Of the Church Rather Than the Amygdala
"A Bid For the Attention of Strangers": Self-Esteem Through Shaming
10. Praying for Enemies
As a part of an ecumenical prayer service in my town for the Syrian refugee crisis I was asked to lead the prayer for our enemies, a prayer for ISIS in particular. Many reposted that prayer on Facebook and shared the prayer with their own churches. I also wrote a follow-up reflection about the "contamination" we experience when praying for enemies.
A Prayer for ISIS
The Contamination of Prayer
11. Hospitality and Refugees
Regarding the refugee crisis toward the end of the year I wrote a few posts speaking into the climate of fear that has taken over America.
Philia Over Phobia
The Dark Spell the Devil Casts: Refugees and Our Slavery to the Fear of Death
12. The Theology of Johnny Cash
In 2015 I continued to write theological reflections inspired by the Man in Black.
Being The Man in Black: It's Harder Than You Think
All Aboard the Blue Train: Johnny Cash and the Train Song
A Faith Painted in Bolder Brushstrokes
13. Life at Freedom Fellowship
Every Wednesday night I'm at Freedom Fellowship where we share a meal and have worship afterwards. Outside of the prison bible study I lead on Mondays, Freedom is the place where I most encounter God.
Where David Plays the Tambourine
Washing Dishes at Freedom Fellowship
The Angel of Freedom
"The People at Our Church Die A Lot"
Don't Make a Mess In Your Heart
14. Blogging About the Bible
On Sundays I teach an adult bible class at our church and on Monday nights I lead a bible study for fifty inmates at the French-Robertson prison. I love studying the bible and I love sharing insights I've discovered. Here were some from of the best biblical reflections from 2015:
The Subversion of the Creator God
The Lord Saw That She Was Not Loved
The Faith of Demons
Stumbling At Just One Point
The True Troubler
"Let My People Go!": On Worship, Work and Laziness
15. Experimental Theology
I'm not a trained theologian, but from time to time I will actually try to do theology by floating a creative theological idea. Some attempts at creative and innovative theological thinking from 2015 were:
Holiness Among Depraved Christians: Paul's New Form of Moral Flourishing
Tzimtzum, Cruciformity and Theodicy
Eucharistic Identity (related: Prayer as Eucharistic Identity)
16. Popular Posts
Finally, there were a bunch of popular but hard-to-classify posts from 2015, from the quirky to the autobiographical.
Batman and the Joker
Unicorns in the Bible
On Discoveries in Used Bookstores
A Million Boring Little Things
The Church is Dying and I Couldn't Be More Excited
The Devil on a Wiffle Ball Field
The Liturgy of the Hours: Some Recommendations for Starting Out
Again, thank you so much for reading, commenting and sharing. Looking forward to spending 2016 with you!

Grace and peace,
Richard

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