2012: A Review of the Year
Best devotional book of the year: Mike Reeves’ The Good God [US title: Delighting in the Trinity], which I reviewed recently. A superb book on the trinity which has theological weight and devotional fire in equal measure.
Best leadership book of the year: Tim Keller’s Center Church. Other than the inaccurate spelling in the title, this is an excellent resource, particularly for the way Keller talks about theological vision (part I), which will be music to the ears of anyone who gets irked by the gap between theological reflection and strategic leadership, and contextualisation (part II), which has loads of Kellerish wisdom, and more insights than you could shake a New York bagel at.
Best commentary of the year: Robert Jewett’s Romans in the Hermeneia series, which was actually written in 2007, but which I only got round to buying and reading in the last few months. It’s a magisterial commentary, which makes more sense of how the letter fits together than any other I’ve read, shows how to move beyond the old/new perspective debate, and presents the missionary reading of Romans in a thoroughly compelling way. If Jewett hadn’t made the irritating and gratingly PC decision to call God “she” throughout, it would be one of the best commentaries I’ve ever read.
Best academic paper of the year: David Shaw’s analysis, and critique, of the apocalyptic school at the British New Testament Conference. Careful, gentle, and devastating.
Book review of the year: Kathy Keller on Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood. “Throughout your book, you have ignored or even hidden from readers the fundamental principles of scriptural interpretation ... you have become what you claim to despise; you have imposed your own agenda on Scripture in order to advance your own goals. In doing so, you have further muddied the waters of biblical interpretation instead of bringing any clarity to the task. As a woman also engaged in trying to understand the Bible as it relates to gender, I had hoped for better.”
Best conference of the year: there are a fair few contenders for this one, because I’ve been to a number of good conferences in the last twelve months, but on balance I think it was the Mobilise event, held in Prestatyn. Some wonderful times of corporate worship and a delightful mix of speakers - Stef Liston on the gospel, PJ Smyth on missional church, and so on - coupled with the energy of a thousand students, made it a superb event.
Best sermon of the year: Jeff Lucas preaching on Samson at the One event in Lincoln. I’ve never been able to do narrative preaching very well; Jeff is a master at it, and combined his trademark humour with profound theological insight, and a very provocative pastoral challenge, from a story that would not (at least to me) look a very promising starting point. A real watch-and-learn moment.
Most soaring corporate worship time of the year: the second night of Newday, at the Norfolk Showground. Anyone who was there, and saw thousands of teenagers kneeling in awe, accompanied by the spine-tingling sound of Sam Cox singing “Fall on your knees, and hear the angel voices; O Christ divine, O Christ, he is the Lord”, is unlikely to forget it. Apparently Simon Brading had the idea about ten minutes beforehand, and they all just improvised it. Freaks.
Best Christian album of the year: Rend Collective Experiment, Homemade Worship by Handmade People. Fresh, creative, quirky, singable, upbeat, fun, catchy, deep and Irish. What’s not to like? They are also great at leading people in corporate worship, as we found when they visited Kings earlier this year and did a superb job.
Best new song of the year: I know I may sound a bit boring and predictable, but it has to be Cornerstone, which has taken one of the great hymns that we should really sing more often, and made it both singable and comprehensible by adding a superb chorus. Personally, I think the newday version is better than the original, because it includes the last verse (inexplicably left out of some versions), as well as being well produced. But I freely admit to being biased on that one.
Most inspiring church of the year: Yasam church in Bostanji, Īstanbul, for reasons I explained a couple of months back.
Old Testament revelation of the year: that Caleb son of Jephunneh was not descended from Abraham, but was a Kenizzite who was allowed to join Israel when they fled Egypt. One of the two heroes who saw Canaan with the eye of faith, and trusted Israel’s God that they could take the land, was a Gentile. Put him up there with Rahab, Ruth and the others.
New Testament revelation of the year: the phrase “you are the Christ, the son of the living God” is Trinitarian. Jesus is the Son of God the Father, and he is also the Messiah, the one anointed by the Spirit (or, as Francis Spufford brilliantly calls him, Mr Royal Oil). Father, Son and Spirit all appear in that one declaration.
Blog comment of the year: I won’t quote it, but there was a classic one-liner from Yohaan Philip in the comment thread after The Emperor’s New Frontiers which caused me to splutter into my coffee with laughter. You’d have to see it in context for it to work, though.
Most wrong blog post of the year: I wrote a brief post about Charles Spurgeon thinking charismatics were all nutters, and within three hours was robustly corrected by a phalanx of readers who know Spurgeon far better than I do, and can quote chapter and verse to prove that he thought some charismatics were nutters, but was patently charismatic himself in many ways. I stood corrected by lunchtime, if I remember rightly.
Most discussed blog post of the year: the most widely read posts we did here in 2012 were the ones on pushing right and pushing left, and the one on the pink pamphlet. But the one that I was most encouraged by, in that it generated exactly the sort of discussion we’re trying to encourage here, was the pair of articles on Charismissional. People got in touch from other networks to talk about it, and there was a great seminar stream on the topic at the Turkey conference. Globally, I’m afraid to say, the most discussed post was probably Jared Wilson’s brief piece about sex at the Gospel Coalition, which has since been taken down.
Satirical blog post of the year: Saint Stuffed Shirt’s piece on Joyce Meyer taking over from John Piper at Bethlehem Baptist Church was so carefully done that someone in the Newfrontiers Fulham office took it seriously, and began telling people about it. That is the mark of a satirical genius, surely.
I know it’s a time of year when people are unlikely to be reading or commenting too much, but if you’ve got this far, it would be interesting to hear your reactions / responses / alternative suggestions. And Happy Christmas!