For the past decade Colin Hansen of The Gospel Coalition (formerly of Christianity Today) has been summing up the year in theology/church news with a top ten list. It’s a challenging task and naturally opens one wide to criticism for picking certain things as newsworthy over others. But when someone with the international platform that Hansen possesses undertakes such an exercise, such a list is a valuable invitation to reflect upon the past 12 months and evaluate the significance of the events that have been highlighted.
I decided it would be a worthwhile exercise to publish the list of stories Hansen has nominated as the most significant theological news items between 2008-2017. The top story for each year is directly below, while you can browse the full Top 100 (titles only, with links to the respective years) at the bottom of the article.
2017 – REFORMATION 500 HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR REVIVAL TODAY.
2016 – WHY DID DONALD TRUMP WIN?
2015 – U.S. SUPREME COURT LEGALISES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
2014 – EBOLA DRAWS OUT THE BEST AND WORST OF US.
2013 – POPE FRANCIS MAKES FAST FRIENDS.
2012 – PRESIDENT OBAMA RIDES RISING TIDE OF GAY MARRIAGE.
2011 – ROB BELL WINS
2010 – FRANCIS CHAN STEPS DOWN FROM CORNERSTONE
2009 – NIV & TNIV TO BE PHASED OUT (FOR NIV’11)
2008 – PUBLISHERS MAKE 2008 THE “YEAR OF THE STUDY BIBLE.”
Hansen acknowledges that his lists are America-focused and represent the theological interests and concerns of his particular corner of (reformed) evangelicalism. As someone who frequents North American evangelical aggregate websites like The Gospel Coalition and Challies.com, it is an interesting exercise to look back over the annual summaries and ask questions concerning the relevance of the chosen stories to Christians outside of that context.
Some stories that were big a few years ago appear eminently forgettable in 2017, while others relate to issues and trends that have continued to be discussed among evangelical communities around the world. I’ve tried to highlight in Purple some of the topics in the big list that strike me as having some lasting relevance outside of the U.S. context.
I’d love to hear from readers what they think of these lists, e.g. How helpful are they at summarising the news and issues of the year? How useful are they outside of American evangelicalism? Are you surprised by anything that was included/excluded this year or in the years past? How would you evaluate “theological newsworthiness” if you were attempting such a list of your own?
10. BENEDICT OPTION – CHRISTIAN CULTURAL ENGAGEMENT DEBATE
9. HOW MUCH DOES GOD CARE ABOUT SMALL TOWNS AND RURAL AREAS?
8. ALT-RIGHT PUSHES FOR MAINSTREAM RECOGNITION & PROVOKES CHURCH REBUKE.
7. DOES ANYONE HEAR OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS?
6. WATCH YOUR LIFE AND SMARTPHONE USAGE CLOSELY.
5. NATURAL DISASTERS PROVOKE BLAME AGAINST EACH OTHER MORE THAN GOD.
4. SEXUAL REVOLUTION MARCHES ON FROM HOMOSEXUALITY TO TRANSGENDERISM.
3. IS IT TIME TO GIVE UP ON THE MULTI-ETHNIC CHURCH?
2. #METOO REVEALS THE EVERYDAY SCANDAL OF SEXUAL ABUSE.
1. REFORMATION’S 500TH ANNIVERSARY HIGHLIGHTS NEED FOR REVIVAL TODAY.
10. HIGH-PROFILE ATTRITION REVEALS CRISIS IN PASTORAL VOCATION.
9. GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED—BUT YOU WILL BE (BABYLON BEE LAUNCH)
8. TRINITY DEBATE ERUPTS IN BATTLE OF BLOGS.
7. ASSISTED SUICIDE GROWS IN AVAILABILITY AND POPULARITY.
6. CHRISTIAN EDUCATION WEATHERS THREAT—FOR NOW (GOVERNMENT AID)
5. WHAT GOOD IS CHURCH AUTHORITY IF YOU CAN’T ENFORCE IT?
4. NEW CULTURE WAR FRONT OPENS IN PUBLIC BATHROOMS (TRANSGENDER ISSUES)
3. PUBLIC VIOLENCE MAKES VICTIMS OF US ALL (ORLANDO SHOOTING & B.L.M.)
2. POPULAR WOMEN TEACHERS CHALLENGE CHURCH TEACHING. (on LGBT issues)
1. WHY DID DONALD TRUMP WIN?
10. Pastor? Theologian? The Intersection between these complementary callings.
9. Benedict Option gains momentum.
8. Caitlyn Jenner introduces the next step in the sexual revolution.
7. Islamic State beheads 21 Christians from Egypt among other atrocities.
6. Mass murder at historic Charleston church raises questions about forgiveness, identity, history.
5. Planned Parenthood videos reveal the truth underneath the hospital gown.
4. Protest movement over police shootings contributes to widespread campus unrest over race.
3. Pope Francis gets the rock star treatment in U.S. visit amid crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.
2. Terrorist attacks are the new global normal.
1. U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.
10. MENTAL ILLNESS PLAGUES CELEBRITIES AND THEIR FAMILIES BUT REMAINS TABOO INSIDE CHURCHES.
9. DIGITAL AGE REVEALS PREVALENCE OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN CHURCH.
8. DEBATE OVER JUSTIFICATION AND SANCTIFICATION REACHES BREAKING POINT.
7. MARS HILL ‘BRAND’ COLLAPSES.
6. ISIS DEALS FATAL, FINAL BLOW TO CHRISTIANS IN IRAQ.
5. CHRISTIANS SPLIT ON VALUE OF FAITH MOVIES.
4. CONSERVATIVES WIN BIG BATTLE BUT CONTINUE LOSING GROUND ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.
3. GAY MARRIAGE DEBATE MOVES INSIDE EVANGELICAL CHURCHES.
2. DEATHS OF GARNER AND BROWN RE-IGNITE RACIAL TENSIONS.
1. EBOLA DRAWS OUT THE BEST AND WORST OF US
10. DOES IT MATTER WHO SAYS IT IF IT’S GOOD?
9. BLACK AND WHITE, WE’RE CLOSER THAN EVER & JUST AS FAR APART AS ALWAYS.
8. PURITY AND MODESTY PROVOKE BACKLASH IN A SEX-SATURATED CULTURE.
7. SHOULD AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY PRIVILEGE CHRISTIANS?
6. ‘GAY’ CHRISTIANS SPEAK OUT.
5. POPULAR TV FINDS FAITH.
4. CULTURE WARRIORS SHIFT FROM OFFENSE TO DEFENSE.
3. WRATH OF GOD DOES NOT SATISFY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.).
2. STRANGE FIRE BOOK, CONFERENCE FORCE EVANGELICALS TO PICK SIDES.
1. POPE FRANCIS MAKES FAST FRIENDS.
10. CHRISTIAN ATHLETE SUPERSTARS RISE AND FALL.
9. IS MORMONISM A CULT OR NOT?
8. CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST WEIGH DEMOCRACY AND SECURITY.
7. CAN AMERICAN CHRISTIANITY REVERSE ITS DECLINING INFLUENCE?
6. WE DARE DEFEND OUR RIGHTS.
5. WAR ON WOMEN SUFFERS MAJOR DEFEAT.
4. TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY RESPONDS TO RECENT CHALLENGES.
3. CAN WE BE SAFE?
2. CHRISTIANITY: RELATIONSHIP OR RELIGION?
1. PRESIDENT OBAMA RIDES THE RISING TIDE OF GAY MARRIAGE.
10.) Marriages need help.
9.) ‘Celebrity’ pastors face backlash.
8.) Presbyterian Church in America warns against Muslim-idiom translations.
7.) Harold Camping fails, again and again. (Predicting the end of the world)
6.) Christians in Afghanistan and Iran stare down death sentences for apostasy.
5.) Tim Tebow comes back.
4.) John Stott dies.
3.) Arab Spring leads to winter of reckoning for Christians in the Middle East.
2.) Osama bin Laden killed by U.S. military.
1.) Rob Bell wins.
10.) Crystal Cathedral Files for Bankruptcy
9.) BioLogos Stirs Debate Over Evolution
8.) Philip Ryken Becomes President of Wheaton College
7.) Liberty Removes Ergun Caner as Seminary President
6.) Matt Chandler Fights Malignant Brain Tumor
5.) Glenn Beck Grabs the Religious Right’s Megaphone
4.) David Platt Pricks the Evangelical Conscience with ‘Radical’
3.) John Piper Takes Leave of Absence
2.) Wright Clarifies Justification Views in ETS Debate
1.) Francis Chan Steps Down from Cornerstone
10. ‘Coming Evangelical Collapse’ Predicted
9. Split Widens Between U.S. Episcopalians and Anglican Communion
8. Bell Shapes Gospel Discussion
7. Rick Warren Prays at Obama Inauguration
6. Adoption Push Gains Steam
5. Manhattan Declaration Prods Culture, Invites Pushback
4. Coral Ridge Hires Tullian Tchividjian, Critics Break Away
3. ELCA Okays Gay Unions, Pastors
2. SBC Seeks a Great Commission Resurgence
1. Both NIV and TNIV Will Be Phased Out
10. Northwestern College faculty and staff struggle over school’s direction.
9. Roman Catholic bishops revisit inerrancy compromise reached at Vatican II.
8. Evangelical Free Church of America revises its statement of faith.
7. Leading evangelicals issue a “manifesto.”
6. Critics respond to dialogue between evangelicals and Muslims.
5. Peter Enns leaves Westminster Seminary.
4. Conservatives launch Anglican Church of North America.
3. Victory for traditional marriage carries a cost
2. The Shack enthralls readers, angers theologians
1. Publishers make 2008 the “Year of the Study Bible.”