What a difficult, painful, sorrow-laden 2021. Yet despite it all, readers continued read the articles posted on Eclectic Orthodoxy:
These numbers are comparable to those of 2020. That is gratifying . . . and surprising, given that my I probably wrote fewer original pieces last year than any previous year. The simple fact is, after nine and a half years I find myself at a loss. I feel like I am only repeating myself now. How boring is that? More distressing is that I no longer have the consuming passion for theology that once dominated decades of my adult years. As we neared the end of 2021, I began wondering if it was finally time to announce Eclectic Orthodoxy’s retirement. But apparently I’m not quite ready to do that. So let’s continue into 2022 and see what happens.
Now to the info everyone’s been waiting to hear. What were our most popular articles of 2021?
This article on the first chapter of Ezekiel continues to amaze. It was first posted in July 2019. That year it didn’t even make the top ten, garnering 1,261 hits. In 2020 it jumped up to 5,407. The hits came on coming in 2021—7,222! Evidently a number of folks are interested in Ezekiel’s visions, and Google is faithfully directing them to Eclectic Orthodoxy.
I am delighted that this lengthy scholarly essay by Mark Chenoweth finds itself in second place. Here Mark challenges the common, and often superficial, objections raised against the universalist thesis and challenges particularly the claim of an early patristic consensus affirming eternal damnation.
No one is going to be surprised that David Bentley Hart has captured third place. He has dominated the rankings for the past couple of years. In this short piece David addresses a question that is often raised, both by theologians and layfolk: Why didn’t God just skip to the great universalist consummation and avoid all the suffering, chaos, and sorrows of history?
This piece was originally posted in 2015 under a different title, and I have been revising it ever since. It continues to garner hits. If I do say so myself, it’s the best recent treatment in English of the question posed in its title. I’m certainly not a historian, but I have tried to read everything I can find on the Fifth Council’s alleged condemnation of universal salvation.
5. “The Hound’s Hart”
In 2021 DBH published perhaps his most unusual book, Roland in Midnight. I confess I have yet to read the book in its entirety. I pick it up and put it down, I pick it up and put it down. Fortunately, David Armstrong has shared with us his review.
Finally! One of my articles actually written in 2021 makes the 2021 list. This was getting embarrassing. Whew! This is the first in my series critiquing journal reviews of That All Shall Be Saved. It’s difficult for theologians who belong to a church that affirms eternal damnation to give the case for universal salvation an honest hearing.
David Armstrong returns with another top ten article. This one compares the Christian understanding of the Incarnation of Christ with Hindu and Buddhist parallels—similarities and differences.
As readers of Eclectic Orthodoxy know, DBH has joined our conversations from time to time. He left one comment which drew particular interest, so I decided to make it easy for people to find. When David whispers, the world listens.
The second article in my review of reviews series.
This scholarly article by Roberto De La Noval deserves to be at the top of the list, and the only reason it ain’t is because Bulgakov is such a difficult theologian to read and understand. I have been pestering Rob for several years to explain Bulgakov’s claim that “It is impossible to appear before Christ and to see Him without loving Him.” Finally, Rob felt himself ready to address it.
The free-will defense of hell remains the strongest objection to the greater hope. Yale philosopher Keither DeRose, himself a defender of libertarian freedom, does not find the objection compelling.
If one has been following the reviews of That All Shall Be Saved, you may have noticed that reviewers typically avoid the most powerful objection advanced by DBH against the doctrine of everlasting hell—namely, its monstrous immorality. The objection is hardly original to Hart. I asked our regular contributor Tom Belt to share his thoughts about this, with special attention to a 2006 article by the Dominican theologian Fr Joseph Thomas White.
I rarely address political topics on my blog for two reasons: first, because such articles inevitably generate anger and violent disputation, and second, because I only have opinions with little substance and research to support them. It is no easy matter to apply the gospel to the concrete political circumstances of our world, and the one thing I do not want to become is an ideologue. But the emergence of a powerful Christian nationalism movement makes silence increasingly impossible, if not morally irresponsible. Fortunately, our semi-regular contributor John Stamps offered to break the silence.
14. “The Greater Hope”
This is a long, rambling response to a blog article by Roman Catholic theologian Larry Chapp. I wanted to gently challenge Dr Chapp in his advocacy of a Balthasarian hopeful universalism. He took my criticisms like the Christian gentleman I suspected him to be. He has even agreed to write a piece for Eclectic Orthodoxy—coming soon, I hope!
15. “Seeking Theodicy”
The publication of The Sophiology of Death, a collection of essays by Sergius Bulgakov’ collection, was an important event in the theological world. The volume is well worth adding to your library, especially if you have an interest in the topic of universal salvation. In this piece I summarize the arguments advanced by Bulgakov in his essay “Apocatastasis and Theodicy.”
A list like this has to stop at some arbitrary point, so I’ll stop here. Needless to say, many more fine articles were published in 2021 that did not generate more hits. I even wrote one or two of them.
Thank you for reading Eclectic Orthodoxy. I hope you will continue to do so throughout this coming year. And if you think the blog worthy, please recommend it to your friends and colleagues.
I bid you and yours a very Happy New Year.
Yours in Christ,