The 2007 Year in Review

Generally speaking, I try not to get too self-indulgent with this blog. That is, I try not to blog about the blog. I can't imagine that anyone would find a blogger blogging about his blog to be remotely interesting.

But from the beginning of this blog, starting in 2007, I have done an end of the year round up of the year's writing on the blog, gathering, in my estimation (that's the self-indulgent part), my most favorite posts. Beyond a personal taking stock, these reviews have also been nice ways for newer readers to explore the early years of this blog.

So, leading up the New Year's review of 2010 over the next few days we will go back in time. Here, then, is the first year end wrap up from 2007:

Experimental Theology 2007 Year in Review

#1: The Voice of the Scapegoat series
I began 2007 in the middle of a 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 an e-mail from Mark Heim expressing appreciation for the series. I'm always surprised by these emails. Being a psychologist I consider myself a bit of a naif when it comes to theology. So it's always nice to get encouragement from the professionals, particularly when I'm interacting with their work.

#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. A 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. The book remains on my Top 10 list for theology.

#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 tried 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 the early years of this blog I wrestled a lot with free will and how modern advances in genetics and neuroscience are undermining the notion that humans are radically free because we have a "soul." I've struggled a great deal with how all this science affects Christian theology, particularly soteriology. In my Post-Cartesian series I reviewed and interacted with Harry Frankfurt’s book Taking Ourselves Seriously & Getting It Right. It is was my best attempt at that date (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 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 tried to 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 (if complaints to my university is our measure). 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. As I wrote about this year, Dr. Sutton's book has just come out in paperback and in a new chapter Dr. Sutton mentions my bible class:

Among the biggest [surprises after the publication of the book] was when this book was read in a bible studies class in a Texas church. Professor Richard Beck, an experimental psychologist at Abilene Christian University, explained on his blog, Experimental Theology:

I thought to myself, "Richard, what are you possibly going to say in class that hasn't been said before about 1 Corinthians 13?" Then it hit me. I started the class by doing a book review and reading selections from Dr. Bob Sutton's new book The No Asshole Rule...

We reflected on all this in my Sunday School class. And after reflection on The No Asshole Rule, I read these famous words: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs..."

Basically, don't be an asshole.

In the months following Professor Beck's post, I seemed to be deluged by people who linked their religious beliefs to the ideas here. I had a long phone conversation with a Silicon Valley pastor who wanted tips for a sermon that was inspired by the book. A Jesuit priest emailed me that The No Asshole Rule should be mandatory reading for every Catholic priest. Chrismon, a religious magazine in Germany, published a story on the book (translated as Der Arschloch-Faktor). Editor Nils Husmann explained that 1.5 million copies of Chrismon were printed each month and said, "We are financed by the Evangelical Church in Germany, and therefore very interested in topics that deal with how human beings interact, since that is what religion is all about." A Methodist minister I met on a plane ride told me, "The no asshole rule is just a subset of the golden rule, and even easier to remember."

#8 Ghostbusting
For some strange reason I love this post from my Walk with William James series. (See the sidebar for all the installments.) In this post I tell the story of my one paranormal adventure with some of my students. I repost this every year around Halloween.

#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. So beware of dead links.

#10 Why the Anti-Christ is an Idiot
The funniest post of 2007 and a not-so-subtle shot at the Left Behind series.

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