What I wrote in 2017, and what's coming up

Last year was momentous for me, both personally and professionally. I submitted my dissertation; I earned my PhD from Yale; I got that rarest of things, a bona fide job—teaching at my alma mater no less; I moved my family to a place we love; and I taught my first semester as a professor of theology, a dream 14 years in the making. My wife and three small children are content and flourishing, and for the first time in any of our lives, we don't have an end date bearing down on us from the horizon.

My gratitude and joy know no bounds.

I also started a new blog! (This one, just like the old one.) And I wrote some stuff, here and elsewhere, scholarly and popular. A 2017 rundown...


“Reading the Trinity in the Bible: Assumptions, Warrants, Ends,” Pro Ecclesia 25:4 (2016): 459-474. Technically published in 2016, but not actually available to read in print until 2017, so I'm counting it. This article does not, unfortunately, contain this footnote, which was originally meant to be included in it.

“The Hermeneutics of Theological Interpretation: Holy Scripture, Biblical Scholarship, and Historical Criticism,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 19:1 (2017): 30–52. I think this is the best piece of scholarly writing I have published, and the most programmatic at that. If you want to know what I think about theological interpretation of the Bible in relation to historical-critical scholarship, read this.

“John Webster, Theologian Proper,” Anglican Theological Review 99:2 (2017): 333–351. After Webster's abrupt passing in 2016, I was asked by ATR to write a commemorative review article of his many books, and it was a bittersweet experience. The last few pages of the piece engage in some friendly criticism of a couple features of Webster's theology, and I'm hopeful it contributes to the beginning of the reception of his thought.

“What is the Doctrine of the Trinity For? Practicality and Projection in Robert Jenson’s Theology,” Modern Theology 33:3 (2017). I wrote the first version of what eventually became this article nearly five years before its publication, which turned out to be only months before Jenson's death at 87 years old. My argument criticizes a specific feature of Jenson's trinitarian thought, namely its (ironically Feuerbachian) projection into the triune Godhead in order to secure practical payoff for human life. Though critical, the piece comes from a place of pure affection for Jenson's work (see below).

"Review: Gary Anderson, Christian Doctrine and the Old Testament: Theology in the Service of Exegesis," International Journal of Systematic Theology 19:4 (2017): 534–537. This is an excellent book that ought to begin paving the way forward for theologians and biblical scholars alike to read Scripture together, both theologically and historically.


"Theologians Were Arguing About the Benedict Option 35 Years Ago," Mere Orthodoxy. This piece grew out of a Twitter thread reflecting on Hauerwas and the Yale School vis-à-vis Rod Dreher. In it I use James Davison Hunter's work in To Change the World to clarify why (a) people disagree so vociferously about Dreher's proposal and (b) how the very way in which the Benedict Option is a popular distillation of ideas from the 1970s and '80s demonstrates the force of Hunter's conception of cultural change and the need for something like the BenOp. My thanks to Derek Rishmawy for suggesting I write my thoughts up in essay form and send it to Jake Meador at MO.

"Systematic Theology and Biblical Criticism," Marginalia Review of Books. A review essay of Ephraim Radner's wild and woolly and uncategorizable (not to mention un-summarizable) 2016 book Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures. This piece didn't seem to get as much play as my previous piece for MROB on Katherine Sonderegger, but it was just as pleasurable to write.

"Public Theology in Retreat," Los Angeles Review of Books. 'Tis the season of David Bentley Hart! This piece, ostensibly a review essay of Hart's three latest collections of essays, offered an occasion to reflect, in conversation with Alan Jacobs, on the nature and status (and prospects) of theology on the American intellectual scene. The feedback on this piece, even from the DBH-agnostic, was overwhelmingly encouraging. Twitter remains unarguably demonic, but the kind words of strangers who shared this essay with others was a shaft of clear, angelic light to this junior prof scribbling in west Texas.


On the use of "everyone" in pop culture talk. (June 4 & 7) From listening to too much (never enough!) of Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan on their podcast The Watch for The Ringer.

Figural christology in children's Bibles. (June 8) From reading my children Bible stories and noticing theological connections in the illustrations.

Four writing tips for seminarians. (June 9) From my time as a teaching assistant at Yale Divinity School.

The best American crime novelists of the last century, or: a way into the genre. (June 12) A fun diversion; who doesn't love a good list?

The liturgical/praying animal in Paradise Lost. (June 14) Riffing on Milton's anthropology in Book VII with Jamie Smith and Robert Jenson.

On the analogia entis contra Barth. (June 19 & 21) From finishing IV/1 last summer.

Teaching the Gospels starting with John. (June 30) Why not? Fie on the critics.

Figural christology in Paradise Lost. (July 10) One of my favorite things to write in 2017. Focused on the angel Michael's prophetic instructions to Adam in Book XI.

Against universalizing doubt, with a coda. (July 20 & 21) Top five favorite things I wrote in 2017. Would like to revise these together and publish in a magazine or some such thing.

Scripture's precedence is not chronological. (July 24) Expanding on a dissertation footnote on Yoder.

A question for Richard Hays: metalepsis in The Leftovers. (August 1) Having some fun while watching a great show.

Scruton, Eagleton, Scialabba, et al—why don't they convert? (August 11) A genuine question, to which a reader kindly offered a partial answer, at least for Scialabba, who once wrote briefly on the topic (in dialogue with C. S. Lewis, no less!).

What it is I'm privileged to do this fall. (August 22) Reflections on the extraordinary gift of teaching college students theology.

Rest in peace: Robert W. Jenson (1930–2017). (September 6) A bittersweet celebration of what Jenson meant to me, theologically and otherwise. This was by far the most-read piece on the blog this year, which goes to show how much this man of the church meant to so many others, too.

16 tips for how to read a passage from the Gospels. (September 14) Something I gave the freshmen in my fall course on the life and teachings of Jesus.

On John le Carré's new novel, A Legacy of Spies. (September 17) An enjoyable but ultimately disappointing trip back in time once more to the world of George Smiley.

On contemporary praise and worship music. (October 8) A fussy little missive, whose contents you can probably guess.

On Markan priority. (October 12) What would have to be the case for Mark not to be the first Gospel written? What implications would follow? How crazy is it to consider?

On the church's eternality and "church as mission." (October 20) Picking a friendly fight with the church-as-mission folks, with an assist from Thomas Aquinas.

The Holy One of Israel: a sermon on Leviticus 19. (October 25) This was a joy to write and deliver. Flexing some nearly-atrophied muscles in figural homiletics.

Notes on The Last Jedi, Godless, and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri. (December 17) In which I share my critical reflections on all three, including a stirring, unanswerable defense of Rian Johnson's brilliant film. Also Three Billboards is bad.

Upcoming (as of January 2): 

“The Sermon Revisited: A Review of David P. Gushee and Glen H. Stassen’s Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context,” in Living Church. As you'll see when it's published, my evaluation of this book is quite negative.

"Review: Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Biblical Authority After Babel: Retrieving the Solas in the Spirit of Mere Protestant Christianity," in Interpretation. I did not love this book, but I respect its author and his goals; he simply fails to persuade here, nor is he helped by the oft-distracting rhetoric.

"Review: Hans Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church," in Interpretation. This is a tiny little review of a lovely, fulsome work. My how I love the church fathers' biblical interpretation.

“Ambivalence After Liberalism,” in The Los Angeles Review of Books. This is a review essay of James K. A. Smith's Awaiting the Kingdom: Reforming Public Theology and Patrick Deneen's Why Liberalism Failed. I'm a ways into both books, so I hope to have a draft of the piece by the end of the month.

“Scripture as the Church’s Book in Robert Jenson’s Theology,” Pro Ecclesia. This will be out by the end of the year or in early 2019, as part of an issue dedicated to Jenson, who co-founded the journal. I'm going to adapt it from one of my dissertation chapters.

I have another scholarly article planned, which I will not write until the summer, on theological interpretation. I'll probably submit it to the Journal of Theological Interpretation.

And last but not least, I hope to complete my work as editor of Robert W. Jenson's The Triune Story: Essays on Scripture with Oxford University Press and have the book published by the end of 2018—perhaps even by the annual meeting of AAR/SBL in Denver the weekend before Thanksgiving. Lord willing!

Thanks for reading. It was a good year writing. Happy new year y'all.


  1. I've had "The Hermeneutics of Theological Interpretation" in the queue for a while, and the post finally prompted my reading. Glad another CofC colleague is working in this area. I track with most everything you've written there. Cheers.


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