Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Best of the Theological Blogosphere in 2010

Last year, as I recapped 2009's movies and music by lists, I took the opportunity to do the same for the theology blogs I read. Given that blogging is itself oddly but internally a communal affair, I wanted to share (beyond the sidebar) which blogs I read, for what reasons, what they're about, and (if possible) further information about their authors. I enjoyed the exercise for its own sake, but I came to think also that perhaps in the process it might help render an ever-so-slightly more human face on what can otherwise amount to no more than screen-filtered fodder for anonymous RSS feeds.

Looking back at the post, I count 23 blogs. At the time of writing I already knew six of the authors, and in the year since I have met six more, on top of personal correspondence or plans to meet another half a dozen. I'm not entirely sure what that means, but it does offer some insight into the deeply paradoxical character of a medium that at times seems almost constitutionally impersonal, yet by all indications leads to increased personal interaction, both digital and face-to-face. For ease of use, I've appended last year's list to the end of this post.

There are 17 more in this year's list, and I should be clear that I have no expert methodology here: these are simply the blogs I read, and this list in particular consists of those blogs added to my Reader in the last 12 months. I welcome additions and suggestions in the comments; at the moment there is -- apparently -- no end in sight to high quality, engaging, substantive theological thought on offer in the blogosphere.

(And as a member myself of this curious guild, I steadfastly admit to the sheer weirdness of that last statement, and so to a happy ignorance of its larger meaning or implications.)

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Andy Rowell: Church Leadership Conversations — Andy is ThD student at Duke whose work is sparse but thorough when it appears, and whose voice is measured and highly informative. Though rarely concerned to "take a position" on any particular issue, much less to map out arguments, Andy seems interested instead in providing resources for theological and ministerial reflection and formation; and, accordingly, he is a wonderful source for just those things.

The Art of the Good Life — This is the blog of Jarrod Longbons, a midwesterner and fellow church of Christ-er who (not self-contradictorily!) is earning his PhD in philosophical theology. He uses his blog in general to think through, in a more conversation manner, issues of culture and theology that he encounters in his studies.

Becoming What We Are — In his own words this blog is the "random musings of a perpetual student." Its author James Walters is another (there are not many of us) fellow church of Christ-er who is a PhD student in church history at Princeton Seminary, as well as a fellow graduate of Abilene Christian University. I know of James through his wife Naomi, who is a notable and outspoken proponent of the full inclusion of women in the Spirit-gifted leadership and ministries of the church.

Boo to a Goose — Bruce Hamill is a creative pastor down under (yes?) who uses his blog as an outlet for his sermons and theological ruminations, and (pertinent to me) counts influences in theologians like Yoder and Hauerwas. It is good for my heart to see someone outside of the academy both "making it preach" and keeping his mind alive.

Connexions — The home of Richard Hall's rapid-fire mini-posts, and sometime host as well to Kim Fabricius of Faith and Theology fame, this is a great resource for links to politically serious as well as theologically humorous pieces around the internet, not to mention controversy on certain issues like Palestine and war, too.

Der Evangelische Theologe — Travis McMaken is a PhD student in theology at Princeton Seminary and, with David Congdon, hosted the Karl Barth Blog Conference last fall. Like all good Princeton theologians, Travis is interested in three things: Barth, Barth's influences, and those whom Barth influenced. Maybe more, but those for sure.

Flying Farther — David Horstkoetter is a PhD student in theology at Marquette who works at the intersection of theology and politics, and often engages in helpful (and fiery) polemical analyses -- or, perhaps better, takedowns -- of foolish or otherwise ridiculous theopolitical perspectives. His posts became sparse for a while, but since achieving ABD status (and joining another blog, Justice Outside the City), it seems that he might be more active now.

J. Kameron Carter — After reading through Carter's magisterial Race: A Theological Account last summer, I had the opportunity to hear him speak at AAR and to meet with him during a visit to Duke just a week later. His "rising star" status in the theological scene is well earned, and his blog serves as a kind of way station for his less scholarly, more immediate theological reflection -- to the great benefit of those of us impatiently awaiting his forthcoming publications.

Loretta's Basement — Adam McInturf's posts are as few and far between as they are creative in detail and in engagement of their subject matter. When he writes, it's worth reading.

Maggi Dawn — An author and blogging all-star who needs no introduction from me, Maggi Dawn is witty, knowledgeable, literary, and wide-ranging, a writer of felicitous facility and ease. Check out her blog if you haven't yet taken the time to do so.

Memoria Dei — A serious but not overwhelming group blog made up of four Notre Dame graduate students in theology (a kind of counterpart and forerunner to WIT below), these guys focus on a host of issues, including especially Christology, the Trinity, Catholic theology, and the place of theology in academia.

Per Caritatem — Cynthia Nielsen, doctoral student in philosophy at the University of Dallas, is an uber-scholarly blogger who does work with Foucault, Fanon, Augustine, and Frederick Douglass. To be honest, I have trouble keeping up with her thick series of posts, but not for want of content, only for lack of the time and energy needed to think through the serious stuff she's regularly putting up.

Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People — Michael Westmoreland-White (one mouthful of a name) is an extraordinarily prolific blogger who has roots in radical peacemaking traditions along with personal connections to influential figures within them, such as John Howard Yoder and James McClendon. His writing is relentlessly politically activist, urging theological reflection always toward the goal of obedient praxis and faithful response to the gospel of the Crucified One.

Quo Vadis, Domine? — This is the blog of my brother Garrett, who is currently finishing the first year of his MDiv at Abilene Christian University. Garrett and his wife belong to a team that will be traveling to Tanzania in the summer of 2013 for a 5-10 year mission, and his posts accordingly reflect that set of concerns (evangelism, east Africa, multiculturalism, ecclesiology). Garrett is my chief theological interlocutor, and is a gifted thinker, lucid writer, and committed disciple. See more in my original commendation here.

Sign on the Window — Melissa is now in the first year of earning her MDiv at Princeton Seminary, having before been at Duke (I believe). Her posts span a happy range: from experience as a woman in the world of theology, to musings on motherhood, to reflection on Mennonite identity, to general constructive theological engagement. Melissa's blog is one more superlative beachhead in what is characteristically an overwhelmingly masculine field -- the theological blogosphere, in this case.

This Side of Sunday — I "met" Jon Coutts by being assigned to respond to his piece on Barth and the Coen Brothers for the Karl Barth Blog Conference last fall, and then had the opportunity to host (through his facilitation) three of his fellow Aberdeen doctoral students at AAR here in Atlanta. Jon is an aesthetically-minded, thoughtfully evangelical Barthian with interests in film and music, and -- to my heart's delight -- is a lover of Chesterton. I am delighted that my very first print/book publication will be, on the one hand, at the intersection between theology and film, and, on the other hand, a response to Jon's own playful bandying of the two before me.

Women in Theology — WIT came on the scene last October and quickly established itself as a premier source for theological reflection in specific relation to issues of gender, feminism, and modern ecclesial challenges. The all-female roster of contributors seems to be marked by shared roots in Catholicism and Notre Dame, but the writing and subjects addressed are not thereby limited. In short: this is one of the best places to be reading (unofficial/unpublished) theology on the internet; it is substantive, provocative, relevant, engaged, and close to the ground. Subscribe already, and start reading!

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The Best of the Theological Blogosphere in 2009

All That To Say... — Mark Love is the Director of Missional Leadership at Rochester College in Michigan. As a former preacher and professor at Abilene Christian, and having just finished his PhD course work at Luther, Mark's experience and training give him a wonderfully creative and playful approach to theology in general, and to reading biblical texts in particular. Also, I stole my "Sunday Sabbath Poetry" series from his "Dylan on a Sunday" series, which is hitting two years this summer.

An und für sich — Quite possibly one of the most prolific and thoughtful group blogs around, especially given that the authors aren't getting paid. Adam Kotsko & co. have created an engaging place for philosophical, theological, cultural, and textual conversations to be had; and Adam in particular is a kind of blogging force of nature, routinely offering innovative and off-the-wall comments and interpretations on any number of subjects. The snark rears its head from time to time, but it's usually in good fun. And even when it's not, it's no less worth the read.

The Church and Postmodern Culture — This one ebbs and flows, depending on recent releases or engagement with particular works, but when it's going, it's great. The contributors and books claimed and produced here are especially noteworthy.

Clavi Non Defixi — Evan Kuehn, though a long-time read for many, has been a recent discovery for me. Evan focuses primarily on matters academic, journalistic, ecumenical, historical-theological, and/or library-related. Though often reliable enough as a purely compendious source, Evan also offers constructive thoughts on a regular basis in relation to current events in his fields of interest. I should also add how impressive his levelheadedness is, given the waters he regularly wades into.

David Ayres: Prayers & Poems — David is a friend from Abilene Christian, and he's just now finishing up his undergraduate degree in Bible, on his way to an MDiv and a rich ministry of the word. He also happens to be one of my favorite poets, and it is a grateful marvel that such a gifted wordsmith is going into full-time preaching.

Experimental Theology — Richard Beck somehow finds the time in his busy schedule as a husband, father, professor, teacher, researcher, speaker, writer, and sometime-preacher not only to post on his blog daily, but to plan and execute complex, long-term series exploring such extensive subjects as purity and defilement, religious experience, and the theology of Calvin and Hobbes. Though I regret not getting to know Richard while in Abilene, it's been wonderful sharing various conversations back and forth since moving to Atlanta.

Faith and Theology — Ben Myers' blog is the premier theological entry in the genre for good reason. His easygoing, facilitator style creates space for conversation and cross-pollination, serving as an exemplary model for the medium, while his excerpts from papers and forays into constructive work are exceptional. Not that he needs one from anyone, much less me, but F&T comes with the highest recommendation.

The Fire and the Rose — David Congdon, PhD student of systematics up at Princeton, doesn't blog a lot anymore; but when he does, it's worth reading.

God's Politics — Though the flurry of posts bears weeding through, and I continue to have my worries that Jim Wallis has become a soft spokesman for the Obama administration (and/or thinks first in terms of "values" and "the global context" and not "the church"), there is still a great deal of penetrating thought and extraordinary work being done by, at, and through the Sojourners folks.

Inhabitatio Dei — Halden's blog is a warehouse of sincere ecclesial concern, rich theological depth, unyielding rhetoric, and constant cultural criticism. As it stands Halden is the regnant gadfly of the theological blogosphere, and even when exaggerating or targeting someone or something he deems blasphemous, his posts not only ensure you know where you stand, but the force of his arguments demands careful attention to one's own and clarifies the importance of the witness of the church in America. In other words, essential reading.

James K.A. Smith — Though I've been exposed to Dr. Smith's work in myriad ways, I haven't had the opportunity to sit down and read a book of his start to finish -- a lack I hope to remedy soon -- but it has been enjoyable to be able to read him in short bursts online. (And it is an overwhelming challenge to realize just how much out of his discipline, including fiction and poetry, he reads!)

Joshua Case — Josh is a fellow MDiv student at Candler, and I enjoy telling him that he is wrong on a regular basis. He is also an immensely talented thinker, writer, networker, dreamer, speaker, minister, and podcaster. Universities and seminaries prove their worth by creating space for people like Josh and I to argue matters out, at the very least with respect, hopefully in love. That has certainly been the case for us, and I'm glad to know the kind of work Josh is doing is being done by the kind of person Josh is.

Michael Gorman — Sitting in Austin's airport last January, I discovered to my surprise and delight that Michael Gorman -- the Michael Gorman, eminent New Testament scholar and hero of my brother Garrett -- had added me to his blogroll. I quickly returned the favor, not simply as thanks, but because I had long been reading Gorman's work (both on and offline) and continue to appreciate his various emphases in reading Paul, admiring his position vis-a-vis the interlaced Hays-Wright-LTJ schools of thought. It is a strange, and if anything a cool academic/ecclesial world we inhabit, where scholars like Gorman take up blogging. Hopefully others continue to follow suit.

Narrative and Ontology — Philip Sumpter is an Old Testament PhD student in Germany with a perpetual flow creative engagement of texts, the Psalms in particular, as well as what seems like a wholesale intimacy with the work of Brevard Childs. Good stuff here.

Paul J. Griffiths — Clearly the most erudite and learned spare-time blogger I am aware of, Griffiths' every-so-often posts -- on Catholicism, on Augustine, on literature, on politics -- are simply extraordinary fair.

Per Crucem ad Lucem — Jason Goroncy seems to me the most disciplined and unique blogger on offer: an Australian Presbyterian minister and theologian, with expertise in P.T. Forsyth and interests in cooking, the arts, and more. I enjoy especially his "Monthly Bests" that update us on his reading, watching, listening, eating forays. Fun, different, and always something new.

Peter Leithart — Leithart's attention to the text and -- not here a contradiction! -- theological readings thereof are unparalleled, and the quick shots across the bow that constitute his postings are concise, direct, and always on point. How are we so lucky that such a man blogs on a near daily basis?

Preacher Mike — Mike Cope was the preacher at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene for nearly two decades before leaving the position last summer. I had the privilege of being a member at Highland from 2004 to 2008, as well as both being a student in a class taught my Mike at ACU and taking a graduate course with Mike as a fellow student. Though God has graciously not called me to the pulpit, Mike Cope proved to me simply through the patient gracefulness of his own preaching that the proclaimed word continues to have power to shape God's people over time. My own understanding -- and understanding is surely too weak a word -- of Scripture, proclamation, women's roles, new creation, and the mission of the church are all profoundly grounded in four sustained years of attending to the weekly voice of Highland's pulpit. That Mike is no longer regularly preaching only means his other work, which most certainly includes his blog, has more attention.

Rain and the Rhinoceros — Another excellent blogger who only resurfaces from time to time, Ry Siggelkow (no less fake-sounding than his actual pseudonym, R.O. Flyer) does great work and always commands attention when he posts.

Seeking First The Kingdom — It has been an odd and unique pleasure to have come to know Jimmy McCarty first by way of reading one another, and then in person, and now in friendship. I first read him on Sojourners more than a year and a half ago; we learned of one another's blogs by way of our respective engagements with torture and with the homeless; then we discovered we each belonged to that strange American tradition called the churches of Christ. Jimmy finished his M.A. at Claremont last May, then moved here to Atlanta to begin his PhD in Religious Ethics at Emory. He and his wife now attend our church and belong to our small group, and it has been a happy accident of circumstance for our paths to converge in this way.

As for his blog, though I continue to be a faithful subscriber, unfortunately since doctoral work began Jimmy hasn't been able to write as often as before. I still encourage anyone interested to check him out, as he is an astute and contrarian observer of those forms of life reflective, as well as negating, of Jesus of Nazareth. Plus, I tell him just about every time I see him that he's got to start blogging again!

Theology Forum — This one is run by Kent Eilers, Kyle Strobel, and Steve Duby, and from what I can tell, attends to various theological topics from a decidedly Reformed/Protestant perspective. There have been some rich discussions here recently, and I always enjoy seeing a new post up, as I know I will inevitably be learning something new.

Theopolitical — Davey Henreckson, PhD student at Notre Dame, keeps things straightforward and on topic: intersections between theology, political theory, and historical practice, usually in the form of reviewing or walking through important books, never without personal or constructive comment. This is an area of which I am supremely ignorant but in which I am extremely interested, so Davey's blog is an indispensable resource.

Vita Brevis — I came to John Penniman's blog by way of Evan's link to his unbelievably helpful guide to applying to PhD programs -- which, I will have you know, I printed out and read twice over, with liberal underlining and highlighting. (It is my field guide for this fall's descent into application hell.) Since then I've come to realize that I barely missed John here at Candler (he left a year ago for Fordham), and have come readily to enjoy his entries in historical theology, particularly of late regarding the evolution of Roman primacy in relation to the Catholic Church's recent troubles.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the very nice shout-out!

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  2. Thanks for this list, it's fantastic. I'm a first year MA Theology student at ACU and--despite having heard about you from Garrett--just discovered your blog in the last few days.

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  3. Wow what a great list. I may get absolutely nothing else done today.
    Thanks!
    Emma

    http://growandbegrown.blogspot.com

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  4. Thanks for the shout-out, although it may be over-complementary. (Except for my name, which is a mouthful. My wife and I didn't think of that, or of how many forms of i.d. would cut it up, when we idealistically joined our names at our marriage. If we had it to do over again, we'd probably each just keep our surnames. :-) )
    I've just started your blog--and I will need to update my own blogroll soon.

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