The web is democratized, right? This means, by my lights, that I get to do a “Best of 2014” list. My list, defined by “magnificently arbitrary criteria” (I steal this marvelous phrase from the class syllabus of New Testament scholar D. A. Carson), ranges over culture, theology, basketball, and rap.
The good stuff, you know.
1. Best video production of the year: Desiring God, “The Calvinist.” I am totally cheating here, because this video came out in December 2013. However, I watched it so much in 2014 that I feel able to justify including it here. This short video, set to a poignant poem by John Piper, set a high bar for other evangelical media. DG has historically set the bar in evangelicalism for this kind of content. Bravo.
2. Best piece requiring serious courage to write: Andrew Walker, A Church in Exile. Andrew took criticism for this one, even from friends, but this one was both needed and right. It also played a role in bringing clarity to a tough issue.
3. Best long-form profile: Mark Leibovich, “Chris Christie Is Back,” New York Times. I read what could be called a lot of long-form profiles. It’s a bit of an obsession. Leibovich is a great read; he paints the big picture, but he notices the details. I enjoyed reading in the Christie profile, for example, how the governor kept his son close to him while doing events. That’s the kind of information that gives you a fuller sense of a complex person.
4. Best autobiography read in 2014: Roger Scruton, Gentle Regrets (Bloomsbury, 2006). Scruton’s name should be shouted from the rooftops; instead, we barely hear of him. There are Christian intellectuals who have not read a word of his. If you haven’t started engaging the philosophy of Scruton, you should treat yourself.
5. Best reminder of the preciousness of life and children: UPS, “Driver for a Day.” If this profile of little Carson, would-be UPS driver, does not melt you, I do not know what could. It helps to have a child who shares such passions. The psychology of boys never ceases to surprise and amuse me.
6. Best clarifying message on a massive issue: R. Albert Mohler, Jr., “Aftermath: Ministering in a Post-Marriage Culture.” Delivered at the 2014 National Conference of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Center, of which I am a Research Fellow. This message got a great deal of media attention, though I’m still not sure that Mohler’s fellow evangelicals have fully grasped its implications. We need to.
Another outstanding address: David Platt, “Radically Single,” 2014 CBMW National Conference. This one made major waves. David will be developing these and other themes in his forthcoming Counter Culture (Tyndale House, February 2015), which I have read. It is fantastic.
7. Best call to faith-fueled-deeds: Brittany Lind, “Wanted: Parents Willing to Get too Attached,” CBMW. Brittany, a young mother and CBMW staffer, has the talent of diving to the heart of the matter. This is a rare gift. Her piece will inspire you (with over 10,000 shares on social media, it has inspired many). Also, here are some other highlights of 2014 for CBMW.
8. Best dogged (and thankless) journalistic effort: Sean Davis fact-checking Neil Degrasse Tyson for The Federalist. Davis decided to investigate some of Tyson’s claims made in lectures he frequently gives and found that they were not based in fact. A fascinating and telling discussion ensued over the truth, motive, and the responsibilities of gifted public intellectuals like Tyson. I followed this one closely.9. Best Twitter account for stimulating content: James K. A. Smith. Smith is a professor of philosophy at Calvin College. He’s an independent thinker and prolific author who is constantly writing and reading about the intersection of the church and a secular culture. He is always worth reading and consistently Tweets links that take me hours to read, because I generally click on about 15 per perusal of his feed.
10. Best response to campus politics: Founding of the Joseph & Alice McKeen Christian Study Center in Brunswick, Maine. I’m partial to this effort, given that it ministers to my alma mater, Bowdoin College, but it is an unusually bold and clear-sighted initiative spearheaded by Rob Gregory. In the face of encroaching secularism (covered on A1 of the Times), what do you do as a group of Christians when kicked off campus? Do you retreat? Fall silent? No, you start an ambitious new work in the name of Christ. I think this trend will only continue to pick up steam. Beautiful stuff.
11. Best faith-fueled rap song of the year: Lecrae, “All I Need Is You.” Honest, funny, and virtuous. I’m thankful for Lecrae, because other than Kendrick Lamar, he increasingly feels like the only major rapper who tackles complex and meaningful subjects. His music and cultural profile has been very encouraging to me and many others, though he still takes heat for his witness. I hear that he’s cultivating meaningful gospel-driven friendships with the leading lights of the hip-hop world. I’m so thankful for that.
12. Best single quotation of the year: “The culture says you are your sexuality. That is an appalling sense of identity to give people.” Sam Allberry at the 2014 Together for the Gospel national conference. Nothing to add to this. Just a killer line, and such a needed one.
13. Best denominational appointment: David Platt, IMB President. The SBC tapped Platt to lead its missionary efforts in a new season of gospel advance and spiritual ambition. Thrilling to see. Good days are ahead for the SBC given moves like this.
14. Best basketball mixtape: Jamal Crawford, Seattle pro-am. I love how Crawford, a silky-smooth and crafty shooter, has given back to his city by staging the pro-am. He drew a whole bunch of nasty ballplayers to Seattle, too; Chris Paul tore it up, and Tony Wroten shut the gym down.
15. Best readable theological resource: Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman (Crossway). A winsome, easy-to-understand, and richly-resourced book. Every pastor should own it.
There you go: a best of 2014 list. Merry Christmas, everyone.
(Image: Desiring God)