Religious elites being out of touch with the theological issues of their day is not a new phenomenon. Today’s Big Eva exemplifies this elitism in their navel gazing review of the ten biggest theological stories of 2021. The Gospel Coalition’s Collin Hansen attempts to state what he thinks the year’s biggest stories were. Hansen recently published a book with Jonathan Leeman about the importance of church gathering after a year of silence and opposition to pastors who remain faithful.
10. Welcome to the metaverse.
Evangelical Dark Web responded to their specific article on this, and disagrees that this will be a real thing in the way Big Eva suspects.
9. Rising generation debates loyalty to pre-Reformation creeds.
Especially within the Baptist tradition, younger theologians continue to contend with and against each other over the relationship between the Bible and ecumenical creeds. What began several years ago with Presbyterian criticism of theologians who find eternal relations of submission and authority (ERAS) within the Trinity has now broadened to cover theological method itself. Pointed criticism between students and their mentors suggests Baptist theologians will divide as some align with other Protestant and even Catholic and Orthodox counterparts on classical theism.
If only Evangelicals had the luxury to debate the finer points of the Holy Trinity. Unfortunately, in the times of which we live, this is navel gazing. It’s not a top ten issue when feminism, Critical Race Theory, and side b theology are rampant.
8. Verdicts revive trauma from violence in 2020.
Three guilty verdicts in the trial for the murder of Ahmaud Arbery didn’t elicit nearly so much debate among Christians as the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in the shooting death of two men during the Kenosha riots of August 2020. Some Christians see in Rittenhouse a model for self-defense in a city that authorities allowed to devolve into anarchy. Others see him as a dangerous vigilante, even after a not-guilty verdict. Theological priority—on fighting persistent racism, or on resisting the spread of critical race theory—tends to follow which case and verdict you see as more representative of American culture in 2021.
This is a reflection and contrast between the various verdict. Hansen incorrectly compares the two trials which could not be more dissimilar. Any reasonable person would have acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse and convicted the murders of Ahmaud Arbery. I do not disagree with this being on the top ten, but the Big Eva commentary is weak.
7. Cultural and historical shape of evangelicalism scrutinized.
Unlike the Roman pontiff, no Bishop of Wheaton has the authority to define evangelicalism, which spans the globe. But that doesn’t stop authors from tugging between theological and cultural descriptions of this amorphous Protestant renewal movement. The political ascendancy of white evangelicals as an American voting bloc, especially since 2016, has spawned bestselling critiques that fault conservative Protestant theology for cultural captivity. A spiritually healthy version of deconstruction would be disenculturation, as every generation must distinguish between the timeless gospel and their myopic age.
This is nonsense, and the links removed during editing suggest that this is talking about Jesus and John Wayne, the work of a flaming heretic, Kristen Kobes Du Mez.
6. Biden’s White House advances liberal agenda as Trump’s Supreme Court prepares key decisions.
This deserves to be on the list but should be more focused on the issue of abortion and or vaccine mandates.
5. Southern Baptist dividing lines harden in closely contested presidential election.
It’s worth noting when smaller denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America debate modern concepts of identity and release timely reports on human sexuality. But nothing shapes evangelical priorities like the massive Southern Baptist Convention, where the generation’s most influential theological educator finished third in their watershed presidential election. Fights over SBC polity and abuse that dogged Mike Stone’s second-place campaign quickly shifted to accusations of plagiarism against the winner, Ed Litton. Yet unresolved is the question outgoing president J. D. Greear left the executive committee: will the Southern or Baptist identity prevail in the SBC?
Another one that should be on the list. Of course, Hansen’s commentary is horrendous, but this is a major story.
4. Afghanistan withdrawal threatens persecuted Christians.
I personally do not see this as a top 5 story.
3. Vaccines add to church divisions over COVID-19 measures.
Anyone aware of Facebook mom groups in recent years could have anticipated the lackluster response among some Christians to the COVID-19 vaccines that became universally available by the first half of 2021. Vaccine skepticism remains high today across Africa as well. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Asbury Theological Seminary sued over President Biden’s vaccine mandate for any business with more than 100 employees. Famously agreeable Canadians even fought over the case of pastor James Coates in Alberta after he refused to limit capacity at his Edmonton church. Churches of all denominations, in all locations, report tension between conspiracy and authority in a pandemic that may have abated but has not ended.
Obviously Hansen’s commentary stems from his Branch Covidianism. This is ranked too low on this list, a decision that shows how out of touch Big Eva is with everyday Christians.
2. ‘The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill’ podcast rocks the church as leaders continue to fall.
Mike Cosper’s podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill is the most important breakthrough in Christian media from the last decade. Near the top of global podcast charts, this Christianity Today sensation pushed the problems of spiritual abuse to the top of church agendas, especially after more revelations of Ravi Zacharias’s abuse surfaced in 2021. Prominent churches suffered internal divisions in this atmosphere of mutual suspicion. Because many Christians today expect their leaders to affirm more than challenge them, theologians will continue to debate the proper definition and application of “empathy.”
Overstating the influence of a podcast series by the apostate Christianity Today is Big Eva’s way of fighting yesterday’s battles with so much vigor while many of today’s battles were neglected in Hansen’s article. But Mark Driscoll must be knocked down by people from churches with logs in their own eye trying to take out the speck in Driscoll’s eye. Driscoll may be a disgraced bully, but at least he’s more qualified to run a church than the people over at Christianity Today.
1. U.S. Capitol storming unleashes flurry of debate over Christian nationalism.
Nine months of tension over the pandemic and politics exploded on January 6 in a surreal scene of hangman’s nooses interspersed among crosses on the U.S. Capitol lawn. Subsequent think pieces on Christian nationalism sometimes conflated appropriate patriotism with unbiblical syncretism. However, it’s still worth asking why so many Christians responded to the 2020 election results with violent anger and even now refuse to accept the results. Maybe it’s not Christian nationalism, where promises to God’s people are applied to the United States. But it might still be an over-realized eschatology or mistaken view of the covenants.
Hansen deliberately misdefines what a Christian nationalist is by stating at the end that they are someone who believes America is Israel. That’s closer to describing a Mormon than a Christian Nationalist, like myself. Recommend reading The American Gulag for a response to this crap from Hansen.
Evangelical Dark Web will be doing its own series of year end review stuff. And our top ten stories have very little in common despite the fact that The Gospel Coalition operates in the same niche.