Retrospective on 2015

After a very pleasant extended break from blogging and Twitter, I am (temporarily) returning. Christmas has been thoroughly enjoyable so far, involving extended bouts of board gaming with family, lots of baking and cake decoration, debates about the merits of the new Star Wars movie, and the consumption of unnatural quantities of gingerbread!

The Christmas cake I decorated this year

2015 was a rather quiet year on this blog: beyond open mic threads, links to guest posts on other sites, and podcast episodes, I didn’t post much here. I did, however, have thirty-two guest posts published—not counting thirteen posts on Passing the Salt Shaker—and wrote over a dozen more that have yet to be published. I also participated in thirty-five episodes of Mere Fidelity.

A continued focus of much of my writing has been the changing character of Christian communication in the Internet age, our need to give consideration to the way online media subtly form us, and to be mindful about the way we forge our conversations and participate in discourse. In March, I wrote in defence of argument, but my most extensive explorations of this subject came at the end of July and the beginning of August, one of which—a 12,000 word treatment of the contemporary phenomenon of the extensive use of first person narrative in Christian theology among snake people—has yet to be published. The first was a rather hastily written blog post, within which I argued that the Internet has brought us too close together, and that we might learn some lessons from trolls (properly defined). The second was a lengthy defence of long blog posts and a discussion of the ways in which our forms of reading have changed by the Internet. The third, published on Mere Orthodoxy, was an extended discussion of the unhealthy character of the social hyper-connectedness of the Internet, developed against the foil of Jane Austen’s depiction of the village of Meryton in Pride and Prejudice.

Issues of gender and sexuality appeared in my writing in various ways. Over the course of the year I discussed intersexuality, the gendering of God, the ‘eternal subordination’ of the Son, transgenderism, and interacted with books on Christian masculinity and the sexual formation of contemporary society. In two guest posts on the Theopolis Institute, I discussed the challenge that the reality of sexual difference poses to liberal social and political thought and the social developments that led to the acceptance of gender neutral marriage in American society. I also participated in several discussions over on Passing the Salt Shaker, a blog devoted to the discussion of gender issues in the Church.

Guest posting over on the Theopolis Institute also gave me the opportunity to write on a subject that has been central to my thinking and study for the last decade. Within ‘Christians, Liturgy, and the Past’ parts one and two I reflected upon the way our relationship to liturgies of the past must navigate between dangers presented both by conservatism and progressivism. More recently, I wrote a three part treatment of the significance of the body within the rite of baptism: Sealed for Resurrection: Baptism and the Objectivity of the Body; Presenting Limbs and Organs: Baptism and Sacrificial Ethics; Embracing Embodiment: Baptism and the Nuptial Meaning of the Body. Watch this space: there should be more on liturgy and the sacraments in the near future.

Political theology has continued to occupy much of my attention this year, particularly on account of my involvement in the Political Theology Today blog. I’ve written twelve posts for that site this year (see all of my posts here) of which the following are some of my favourites: The Politics of the King’s Shepherd, The Politics of Making a Prophet, The Politics of the Death of the Nation’s Beloved, and The Politics of Hannah’s Opened Womb. I have also written (a rather controversial piece) on the refugee crisis and upon American debates surrounding the subject of abortion, here and here.

Once again, although biblical theology has been woven into so much of my writing, I have been disappointed that I haven’t been able to give much more time to it. One exception to this is my ten part series on the subject of the Transfiguration and Christian reading of Scripture, of which the first two parts have been published on Reformation21. I also enjoyed interacting with John Barclay’s recent big book on Paul’s theology of grace, which I reviewed for Reformation21.

Above all of the article writing and the exploration of the absorbing topics mentioned above, what I have most benefited from over the past year has been the opportunity to enjoy conversations with brilliant and amusing people in various contexts. In November, Mere Orthodoxy hosted two stimulating conversations I enjoyed with friends of mine: the first an interview with Brad Littlejohn and the second a discussion of moral sentimentalism and mechanized society with Jake Meador. However, it has been on the Mere Fidelity podcasts that I have enjoyed the gift of such conversation the most. Working with Andrew, Matt, and Derek has been an immense privilege and pleasure and I look forward to many more episodes of the podcast in the future. We have also been blessed to have some wonderful guests on the show: the episodes with J. Todd Billings, Karen Swallow Prior, and Rachel Wilson were particular highlights for me. I also especially appreciated doing episodes on the cross in the gospels and the Transfiguration.

More personally, some of the highlights of my 2015 have included getting an unconditional pass in my PhD viva and receiving my PhD in June…

With my doctoral supervisor at congregation

With my doctoral supervisor at congregation

a glorious few days in Northumberland with my brother (#3) and a friend over Easter

Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne

…extended periods of cat and dog sitting…

DSCF3686

a weekend in Cambridge with my brother (#3)

Punting in Cambridge

Punting in Cambridge

…lots of knitting…

A baby blanket, one of this year’s creation

…being treated to tickets to a one day international match between England and New Zealand by my brother (#3)…

Final England vs. New Zealand ODI at Chester Le Street

Final England vs. New Zealand ODI at Chester Le Street

a holiday in Whitby, where we were joined by my brother (#1) and his family…

Whitby

Whitby

visiting my brother (#2) in the South of France

A beach where we swam in the Calanques

…the birth of my second niece…

…and making a wookie gingerbread church with a seven year old friend of mine!

A Wookie Gingerbread Church

Looking forward to 2016, I have some substantial writing projects that will demand my attention, which is why my return to blogging is only temporary. If all goes according to plan I expect that I will write well over half a million words for publication in some form or other during the course of the year. I am looking forward to a number of books that will be coming out during the year, perhaps especially to the first part of Peter Leithart’s commentary on Revelation. I expect to read over one hundred books next year, although, unfortunately, I don’t expect that I will have as much time as I would like for leisure reading. I am looking forward to many board games evenings, a lot of walking, some knitting, visiting a few cathedral cities with my girlfriend after a long time apart, a holiday over Easter with my brother (#3), and hopefully catching up with some friends in the US at a conference in June. I have had much opportunity to delight in God’s goodness in 2015 and look forward to the chance to make the most of his gift of another year!

What have been your highlights of 2015? What are you looking forward to in 2016?

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Just for Fun, My Doings, Public Service Announcement, What I'm Doing, What I'm Reading. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Retrospective on 2015

  1. Good to hear from you here Al🙂 Happy New Year and every blessing for 2016! We are hoping to add to our little family this year – it’s already been a long slog and nothing is certain yet but honestly we’ve reached the point now where if they say no, you might find me suddenly blogging from a far away country under an even more assumed name!

  2. Of course, when I said “here”, I really meant Twitter!

  3. Jonathan Roberts says:

    Happy New Year, and congratulations on the recent nomination in Archbishop Cranmer – the Father Ted references make themselves…

    It’s good to see a reminder of your prolific writing over the last year, I’ve been rereading a number of articles that I’d appreciated or missed at the time. Hope to be able to see you in August, if not before!

    We’ve also added to our household, we have an 18 year old Afghan refugee staying with us for some months while he finishes his studies.

    • It’s no Golden Cleric award, but it’s still an honour!😉

      Good to hear about the new addition to your household! Is that seven of you now?

      By the way, I loved the cake, calendar, and chocolate! The calendar is now hanging up above my desk.

      Best wishes to you all for a wonderful 2016!

      • Jonathan Roberts says:

        It’s a shame they didn’t list everyone in order, I’d have liked to have seen your seeding this year! I’ll let the feminists on Boing Boing know who to go to for a man’s perspective on gender, in any case!

        There are now seven permanent residents in our house, not including couch surfers – although we’ve had fewer of those since we started focusing on longer term guests who have a particular need. We converted the basement into a mini apartment with a kitchenette, so he can have some independence, invite friends etc. He seems to be getting on well and fits in well with the rest of the family. He actually became a Christian just before Christmas, but I don’t think we had much to do with that – he’s been attending a church in the city since before he started living with us.

        Glad to hear the gifts arrived safely! We’ve been playing the Castles of Burgundy quite a bit over the last week – it’s a lot of fun and we’re pretty evenly matched. Thank you very much!

  4. Rachel Tan says:

    Dear Alastair,

    I would like to thank you for this email. I really enjoyed reading many of the posts you’ve linked in this post and shared with them on Facebook with my friends over here in Singapore.

    I think I chanced upon your blog from a retweet by Wesley Hill, though I can’t be sure.

    Much insight has been gained from your posts on how the Internet has made us less tolerant and how we can learn from trolls. The posts on sexuality and theology were very interesting too.

    I look forward to more posts, however infrequent in 2016.

    Just wanted to thank you for writing.

    Cheers, Rachel Tan

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Just stumbled onto you blog via a tweet of Matthew Moffit’s. What a prolific output, and on such interesting topics. I look forward to reading more and best wishes for learning more about God and his world through all of the above in 2016.

    Elizabeth

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