Review of the Year 2017 image

Review of the Year 2017

2017 will be remembered for all kinds of things—Reformation 500, Trump, the sexual abuse revelations, the botched UK election—but it’s been a fascinating year theologically (as, in many ways, all years are). Here are a few of my highlights; the usual caveats about whimsy and personal preference obviously apply.

Book of the year. Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion, closely followed by Richard Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. My full top 20 is here.

Think Theology post of the year. We had a quarter of a million different readers this year—which is quite something—but one of the quirks of our traffic is that the most read posts were not necessarily published in 2017; the most popular this year was last year’s post on The Passion Translation, followed by the Complementarity, Marriage and the Gospel video, and Phil’s article on Charles Darwin. The most popular 2017 article was this response to open theism in fourteen words.

Video of the year. No one else in the frame, right? (To augment your enjoyment, consider this list of thirteen reasons why the video is so funny.)

Conference of the year. The Advance Global conference, hosted in Maryland in June, was my conference highlight, although the Convergence conference in Oklahoma City ran it a close second.

Movie of the year. At 7 hours 47 minutes, OJ: Made in America is not your average Hollywood blockbuster, but its gripping portrayal of an astonishing story, and its careful reflection of American race relations in the 1990s, made it a worthy Oscar winner.

Article of the year (humorous). Anthony Lane’s The Book of Jeremy Corbyn in The New Yorker:

And the elders rose up and said to the young people, If ye choose Jeremy, he will bring distress in your toils and wailing upon your streets. Do ye not remember the nineteen-seventies?

And the young people said, The what?

And the elders spake again, and said to the young people, Beware, for he gave succor in days of yore to the I.R.A.

And the young people said, The what?

And the young people said, Jeremy shall bring peace unto all nations, for he hateth the engines of war that take wing across the heavens. And he showeth respect for all peoples, even unto the transgender community.

And the elders said, The what?

Article of the year (serious). Tish Harrison Warren’s piece on authority and the Christian blogosphere started an important (if sometimes fiery) conversation, and the last few months have made her comments more valuable, not less:

Christian writing and teaching is not minor surgery; it is heart surgery. In this new Internet age, we as a church have to recover the idea that, like doctors, Christian writers, teachers, and leaders can help cure or help kill. And therefore, like doctors, we have to ensure that all Christian leaders—male and female alike—have oversight and accountability that matches the weight of their authority and influence.

Honourable mention goes to this hugely thought-provoking recent post from Alastair Roberts on intersectionality, agency, victimhood, morality and politics:

In the context of the Internet, where one is largely defined by what one says over what one does, deference to victim classes can function as a sort of public performative piety, serving primarily to identify the speaker as morally enlightened themselves. One of the many lessons that should have been learned from the recent revelations about abusers in Hollywood and elsewhere is that many people who play what proves to be a self-serving politics of deference game in public can be deeply abusive or indifferent to those same classes in their personal lives.

TV show of the year. I never saw the original version of Roots when it aired in 1977, but I found the recent remake utterly compelling when it came on iPlayer this year, as it followed the story of Kunta Kinte and his descendants through capture, slavery, escape, capture, slavery and war. Brilliant.

Tweet of the year. This, from College Student:

using microsoft word

*moves an image 1 mm to the left*

all text and images shift. 4 new pages appear. in the distance, sirens.

Theological debate of the year. It’s fascinating to me how much less attention was drawn to this year’s debate on the doctrine of God, relative to last year’s. On the face of it, the implications of James Dolezal’s debate with John Frame on the simplicity of God (summarised well by Kevin DeYoung) are at least as great as those of last year’s Trinity kerfuffle. Yet for some reason, when compared with the global theological meltdown that followed the latter, very few people seemed to be interested in the former outside of the usual Reformed circles. (I’m pretty sure I know what that reason is, but I’m probably in enough trouble already.)

Review of the year (serious). David Bentley Hart on Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: “The entire notion of consciousness as an illusion is, of course, rather silly. Dennett has been making the argument for most of his career, and it is just abrasively counterintuitive enough to create the strong suspicion in many that it must be more philosophically cogent than it seems, because surely no one would say such a thing if there were not some subtle and penetrating truth hidden behind its apparent absurdity. But there is none. The simple truth of the matter is that Dennett is a fanatic: He believes so fiercely in the unique authority and absolutely comprehensive competency of the third-person scientific perspective that he is willing to deny not only the analytic authority, but also the actual existence, of the first-person vantage. At the very least, though, he is an intellectually consistent fanatic, inasmuch as he correctly grasps (as many other physical reductionists do not) that consciousness really is irreconcilable with a coherent metaphysical naturalism. Since, however, the position he champions is inherently ridiculous, the only way that he can argue on its behalf is by relentlessly, and in as many ways as possible, changing the subject whenever the obvious objections are raised.”

Review of the year (humorous). Jay Rayner’s astonishing demolition of Parisian restaurant Le Cinq: “Other things are the stuff of therapy. The canapé we are instructed to eat first is a transparent ball on a spoon. It looks like a Barbie-sized silicone breast implant, and is a “spherification”, a gel globe using a technique perfected by Ferran Adrià at El Bulli about 20 years ago. This one pops in our mouth to release stale air with a tinge of ginger. My companion winces. “It’s like eating a condom that’s been left lying about in a dusty greengrocer’s,” she says. Spherifications of various kinds – bursting, popping, deflating, always ill-advised – turn up on many dishes. It’s their trick, their shtick, their big idea. It’s all they have. Another canapé, tuile enclosing scallop mush, introduces us to the kitchen’s love of acidity. Not bright, light aromatic acidity of the sort provided by, say, yuzu. This is blunt acidity of the sort that polishes up dulled brass coins.”

Sermon of the year. Duke Kwon’s remarkable message at LDR 2017:

One other message worth mentioning here, completely different in style, content, context, audience and form, is this one from Francis Chan at Newday:

Enjoy, and happy Christmas!

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