As it is de rigueur for the active blogger and as is my own habit, I am ending the year with a retrospective. 2017 has been an odd year in many respects; looking back over it, it seems rather disjointed, like several parts that don’t quite constitute a whole. No doubt this is largely because much of it was spent on the move. Also, as my family’s Christmas plans have been postponed for a week or so, this Christmas season feels unusual.
My level of blogging and article-writing this year was diminished from 2016, partly on account of book-writing, but also because much more of my time was spent speaking, teaching, reading, and answering questions on Curious Cat. Despite this, this year my blog had more traffic than it has received in any previous year. Whereas last year I wrote fifty-nine guest posts or articles, this year I only wrote only twenty-five, even though they were generally longer. We only recorded twenty-three episodes of Mere Fidelity this year too, down from thirty-eight in 2016. I did, however, have two books published with articles of mine in them, wrote a chapter for another book yet to be published, and largely finished writing two full-length books. I also appeared in a number of videos for the Davenant Institute, for whom I taught over the summer.
The topics I’ve written about have generally been typical of those which I have tackled over the past several years. Biblical interpretation, technology, society and politics, and issues of gender and sexuality have all been prominent.
Biblical theology continues to be my primary passion, even though it may not always seem that way from my online writing. This is because the vast majority of my offline writing is in biblical theology, and my online writing is where I share some of my other thoughts. Much of my writing in biblical theology also relates to themes that I am exploring in forthcoming books, giving you a taste of the sort of interpretation that I do within those.
In January I argued that our ecclesiology should be grounded in the narrative of the New Testament, not merely in the epistles and overly didactic sections of the text, demonstrating the significance of the event of Pentecost in this regard. One of the highlights of my reading from the year was Richard Hays’ scintillating Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. I reviewed that book here and was also privileged to be able to interview Hays this year. Last week, I explored the connections between the birth of Christ and his death and resurrection in this article on his ‘twin nativities’. I also wrote on the meaning of the term ‘gospel’.
I wrote nine posts in the Politics of Scripture series this year, tackling a range of different passages: Genesis 2:15-17 and 3:17 on the Fall of humanity; Genesis 12:1-4a on the blessing of Abraham; 1 Kings 3:5-12 on Solomon’s dream; Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-15, and Matthew 21:33-46 on Israel as God’s vineyard; Ezekiel 33:7-11 on Ezekiel as watchman; Luke 2:1-20 on the sign given to the shepherds; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 on community formed by the communication of truth; 1 Peter 2:2-10 on the stumbling stone; and 2 Peter 3:8-15a on the coming of the Day of the Lord.
On the theology front, the final three parts of my series on the eternal subordination of the Son debate were posted over on Reformation21. I also addressed the subject of creedally-defined orthodoxy.
I wrote in several places on issues related to sex, gender, and sexuality and reviewed a couple of books in the area. I addressed the threat of nature to progressive science. I got caught up in the controversy surrounding the Nashville Statement. I also explored ways in which technology transforms our understanding of gender, writing on the subject of artificial wombs and on the challenges that the modern ordering of society poses for motherhood. After the death of Hugh Hefner, I wrote an article studying the dynamics of the sexual culture he championed. Last week, I wrote a post on the viral short story “Cat Person”, presenting it as illustrative of the struggle to navigate the intersubjective realm of desire in contemporary society (I really ought to have titled that post “Schrödinger’s Cat Person”—very poor showing on my part).
The technological, social, and institutional structures of our discourse continue to be a matter of concern and interest for me and have often been addressed in my writing over the year. Towards the end of January I précised much of my prior writing on the subject in a retrospective post. Earlier that month a lengthy interview with me was posted, in which I discuss the effect of social media and smartphones in particular upon us. In April I commented on the way that the Internet transforms the functioning of authority in the Church, and changes the way that the sexes function in discourse. In a piece occasioned by controversies surrounding speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, I discussed some of the underlying causes of the stifling of discourse in the university, themes that I also addressed in other pieces such as this one. More recently, I expressed my concern about the ways in which social media undermine or substitute for our agency and that of other more local institutions and persons. Themes of technology’s impact upon our thought and lives were also prominent in my Theopolis Institute post on the subject of the transformation of Scripture as a result of developments in technologies of the text.
The wisdom and ethical principles by which we are to understand, inhabit, and navigate our hyper-connected and anxious society were common issues raised within my posts. I produced a number of posts in which I sought to characterize liberal society and its dynamics. I maintained the contingency of liberal society and its inability to found itself upon its own values. I wrote an exceedingly long post in which I tried to unpick the logics of the modern mind and reveal the ways in which they differ from more traditional ways of perceiving and approaching reality. The matter of value lies behind many of our issues in modern society: I tackled that in a guest post on The Kitchen Table a month ago. Over the year, I addressed the dangerous lurch towards the justification of violence against our opponents, the difficulties for young people seeking to attain maturity, the danger of victimhood culture, discussed the way dysfunctional dynamics shape things such as our arguments over immigration (my blog post from this year that received the most hits), and gave counsel on how to engagement responsibly when people around us are losing their heads.
On Mere Fidelity we tackled a number of stimulating topics over the course of the year, and passed our hundredth episode. We also began a series of episodes in which we are reading through Augustine’s Confessions together. Some of my favourite episodes of the year include our discussion of James K.A. Smith’s Awaiting the King with Davey Henreckson, our Reformation episode with Carl Trueman, our episode with Rod Dreher on The Benedict Option, our episode on ethics and technology with Michael Sacasas, and our episode with Yuval Levin on The Fractured Republic.
In addition to my regular blogging and podcasting, I also answered almost 1,000 questions on Curious Cat, writing almost 155,000 words in responses. I collated sets of questions in a series of posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Within these responses, I addressed a host of issues, from those relating to exegesis, theology, and ecclesiology, to personal questions, science-related questions, questions about society, technology, ethics, sex and gender, and many other matters besides.