Essay / Misc.

Scriptorium’s Greatest Hits for 2007

scripto about faces2007 has been a big year for The Scriptorium Daily. Intellectual celebrity J. P. Moreland and fellow professor Matt Jenson joined our team in April, and we have been posting at full power since then, adding our first podcasts and a very active “Noteworthy Links” section that provides three thought-provoking articles to click through to every day. Scriptorium Daily’s prehistory goes waaaay back (in internet years) to March 2004, when John Mark Reynolds started posting voluminously at his blog Eidos. In September 2005, Fred Sanders joined him by blogging at the equally unpronounceable disjectamembra. At the beginning of 2006, we moved to Scriptorium, and soon Paul Spears joined in, followed by Greg Peters in August.

We’ve got some plans and resolutions for 2008 (see for instance the debut post of professor Melissa Schubert on the last day of ’07), but here are the high points of what we did in 2007.

The Top Ten

Hewitt Asked for A List: Thirty Books That Every College Student Should Read (04.11.2007)
Possibly the most popular post we’ve ever put on the site. John Mark Reynolds was on the Hugh Hewitt show and was asked for a list of must-read books. He obliged, Hugh’s listeners came to the site in droves, and then something happened: stumbleupon, digg, and (to cross over to a rough www neighborhood) fark discovered the post, and we don’t know how many thousands of people read Reynolds’ list that day. We really don’t know, because our site overloaded and crashed. Now we have a new server, and you can once again read this thoughtful, sometimes quirky, but entirely defensible list.

The Theology of Homestar Runner (04.02.2007)
Twilight of the Fhqwgads! Fred Sanders declares that “there is no theology of Homestar Runner” and then goes on to describe the non-theology at great length, giving special attention to the role of artistic sub-creation in the Homestar universe.

How to Look at Art (07.16.2007)
Fred Sanders offers eight things to do to increase your understanding when you are in front of a painting. Lots of people wrote to say they printed this out and took it to a museum or gallery with them.

Harry Potter is Dreadful and Vulgar (08.13.2007)
Yes, the books are dreadful and vulgar, and Paul Spears means that as a compliment. Comparing Rowling’s books to nineteenth-century “penny dreadfuls,” Spears takes a stand on the side of simple appeals to right and wrong, to ideals, and to the popular imagination.

What You Can Learn from Calvin and Hobbes about the Message and the Medium (08.20.2007)
Fred Sanders, looking for any excuse to think about how great Calvin & Hobbes is, takes lessons from cartoonist Bill Watterson’s principled stand against merchandising his art. Some messages don’t fit on T-shirts or coffee mugs. Christian communicators, take note.

Jesus: The Great Man (08.10.2007)
“One problem with being an atheist or a secularist is Jesus Christ. Losing Jesus is a big deal . . . rather like having a point of view that costs you Socrates, Newton, and Shakespeare.” John Mark Reynolds, in an essay that made the rounds of the internet atheist community, describes the greatness of Jesus as a teacher, story-teller, and thinker.

The Theology of Sleep (09.06.2007)
Fred Sanders directs our attention to that crucial one-third of our lives that we spend asleep. “That moment when you consciously choose unconsciousness, and let yourself go, is a daily opportunity to relinquish control to a God who you have to trust. Sleep is good practice for death.”

The Heresy of Cool (10.01.2007)
Matt Jenson dissects the whole notion of coolness and finds in it a fundamental antagonism to Christ: “Coolness is heretical. Or at least the pursuit of it is. This is because an inverse relationship exists between our attempts at being cool and our faith in Jesus Christ.” Choose you this day, would you rather be liked by God or by “a fickle mass of opinion jockeys?”

Reading Books: Quantity or Quality? (07.27.2007)
Greg Peters points out that something’s gone wrong when Harry Potter fans are caught lamenting that “because this last volume is now in print, they do not know what they are going to do next. It appears that their reading careers have ended. In their minds, there is nothing left on the planet to read.” On this overwhelmingly pro-Potter website, Peters plays the role of curmudgeonly cheerleader and recommends that people should consider reading great books.

How to Detect Answers to Prayer (04.16.2007)
J. P. Moreland, in one of his first posts at Scriptorium Daily, hits a home run by combining critical thinking, open inquiry, and proven practices of spiritual formation. “In my more than thirty-five years as one of Jesus’ apprentices, I have experienced literally hundreds of specific, detailed answers to prayer. … I experience unanswered prayer as well, but in all honesty, I (and my family and close Christian friends) have seen enough specific answers to prayer that it is no longer reasonable for me to doubt that prayer actually works.”

Honorable Mention

Home School Mothers: The Beatrice Brigade ( 03.29.2007)
John Mark Reynolds sings the praises of this “kitchen table Socrates” type of woman who is out there by the millions, “the heart of a traditionalist revolution that is driving life back into the homes.” This post (which didn’t make the top ten because it was based on a 2003 essay by Reynolds) has taken on a life of its own in the blog world, and will probably outlive us all.

Eat the Word of God (08.09.2007)
If you want your life to be changed by the truth of the Bible, you should get serious about internalizing the truth of the Bible. James Gray and the other founders of the Bible Institute movement taught a technique for doing this, which they called “Mastering the English Bible.” Fred Sanders wrote about it in 2006, Joe Carter tried it out and became an advocate. We re-posted the 2006 essay in August of 2007.

Is the Desire to Avoid Hell Egotistical? (04.02.2007)
JP Moreland responds to a moral objection to Christian virtue by making some distinctions that needed to be made.

Faith is Nothing (10.18.2007)
Matt Jenson keeps faith in its place: “Faith is nothing. Really, it is. In fact, one way to ensure missing the gospel is to think faith is something. But it’s not. It’s really nothing at all.”

Kiss and Tell (03.17.2007)
Paul Spears shares a kind of phenomenology of kissing with the whole world. Too much information? That’s the whole point.

Real People, Not Just Facebook Friends (11.12.2007)
Real People, Not Just Facebook Friends: The John Mark Reynolds, under the influence of GodBlogCon, on “The Importance of Being There in the New Media Age.”

On the Difficulty of Being Thankful (11.26.2007)
Greg Peters, who has written extensively on the virtues this year, brought his analysis to bear on the virtue of gratitude for Thanksgiving 2007, with an eye on how our culture makes it a difficult virtue to practice.

Union with Christ (04.09.2007)
Fred Sanders works out his doctrine of salvation with fear and trembling.

B.C. by Johnny Hart: “This Warm, Mischievous Feeling” ( 04.10.2007)
Fred Sanders writes an obituary for Johnny Hart, who ended a remarkable cartooning career in April 2007.

The Who? What? Where? When? and Why? of the Emerging Church (06.27.2007)
Matt Jenson contributed a number of thoughtful posts on the emerging church this year, and one of his best was this quick introduction to the topic that he wrote as soon as he finished co-teaching a class on the subject at the Nazarene Theological Seminary.

How He Worked for Christ: R.A. Torrey (10.22.2007)
Biola’s honors institute is named after the great R. A. Torrey. Fred Sanders provides a biographical overview of Torrey’s ministry.

Christian for Love’s Sake (10.29.2007)
John Mark Reynolds argues for the truth of Christianity, not with traditional proofs and evidences, but with the poetry of John Donne and Plato’s teaching on love.

(How) Do Women Sin? (09.10.2007)
Matt Jenson introduces a fascinating argument about the nature of sin and the way it applies to the genders.

Best Election Post:
If the Present Presidential Field Were Filled with Disney Characters . . . (05.03.2007)
Somewhere in the mind of John Mark Reynolds, two things are always occurring: political discourse, and Disneyland. The two world collide in this spirited essay.

Runner-Up: Best “I’m Voting for Mitt Romney And So Should You” Post ( 03.13.2007)
Reynolds wrote several important essays in this category; here’s one of the best.

Best Series:
John Mark Reynolds on The Women of Holy Week (the Virgin Mary, Mary of Bethany, Veronica, Pilate’s Wife Procula, Mary of Clopas, conclusion.)

Greg Peters on Vices and Virtues (Sloth & Vigilance, Gluttony & Contentment, Anger & Justice, Avarice & Benevolence, Envy & Temperance).

John Mark Reynolds on Basics in Creation and Intelligent Design

Fred Sanders on the First Five Ecumenical Councils (introduction, First Council,
Second Council, Third Council, Fourth Council, The Need for the Fifth Council, The Fifth Council, and a conclusion.

Most Controversial:
Star Parker and Michael Moore on Jesus’ View of Healthcare (08.02.2007)
This was a post that provoked a lot of discussion at other blogs. When you start with professional controversialists like Parker and Moore, you’re bound to get sparks.

Best Avante-Garde:
Planes and more planes (02.25.2007)
Instead of just a picture or two, Fred Sanders and Freddy Age Six posted a whole lot of pictures of air planes all at once in February. Scriptorium Daily’s Avant-Garde section has emerged as a place to find children’s art work and highfalutin’ artsy analysis of it.

Best Satire:
I Totally Found the Grave of Jesus! (03.01.2007)

TheoLOLgians: Patristic, Medieval, and Reformation theologians rendered as LOLcats by Fred Sanders in October.

Essay Whose Title Drew the Most Google Hits From People Looking For Something Else:
No-Fault Sex in a Paris Hilton Culture (05.10.2007)
JP Moreland’s ethical analysis of our culture was probably pretty dry reading for some of the people whose search engines brought them to this post. But regular readers recognized it as vintage Moreland.

Longest Post:
Trinity Debate: Sanders Vs. Buzzard (05.27.2007)
At almost 25,000 words, this transcript of a 2003 debate about the Trinity and the deity of Christ is too big for your browser. Think of it as a teeny tiny book that we gave away for free.

Only Geeks Could Love Us:
We try to write for the general, educated public here. But each author here has specialized research interests that we dig pretty deep into, and sometimes an unstoppable storm of geeky technical stuff shows up. Our top three this year had to be Matt Jenson on the anthropology of Illricus Flacius ( 07.04.2007), John Mark Reynolds on the use of the word kephale in Greek authors prior to Paul (05.24.2007), or Fred Sanders on Bilateral Asymmetry in a Preiconoclastic Encaustic Pantocrator (04.13.2007).

Best Education Essay
It’s no surprise that we need a whole category for this topic, since all of us have full time jobs teaching at Biola University. Spears and Reynolds are the two contributors who write the most on the nature of education.

Toward Virtue: Ten Lessons We Have Learned Home Schooling (03.21.2007)
John Mark Reynolds shares the wisdom his family has gleaned from the homeschool project.

Honorable Education (08.05.2007)
Paul Spears reflects on the nature of education as the honors students start filing back toward the university.

What is a Classical, Traditional, Christian Education? A FAQ (03.25.2007)
John Mark Reynolds stakes out a position on a distinctive kind of education.

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