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Mere Orthodoxy Best of 2023

December 26th, 2023 | 7 min read

By Jake Meador

At the end of each year I like to review the work we've done this year and pull out some of my favorites from the past 12 months. We publish between 150 and 200 pieces a year typically, or even slightly more than that in some years.

We do all of this on a budget of less than $100,000 in a typical year, though we're trying to grow our resources in order to stabilize our institution and set us up for a long-term success. If you value the work we do and want us to keep doing it, please give to our end-of-year campaign today.

January

In Memoriam: Pope Benedict XVI by Luke Stamps: Luke Stamps reflects on the life and thought of Benedict XVI, who died on New Year's Eve 2022.

Stream Off by Brad East: Brad East made the case for why churches need to stop streaming public worship.

The Reality of Fear and Presence of Reality by Jake Meador: This was my attempt to address the theme of "do not fear" at the Eighth Day Institute's annual event held in Wichita, KS each January.

February

The Case for Pew Bibles by William Boyce and KJ Drake: Boyce and Drake explain why it's worth it to have pew Bibles instead of simply displaying biblical texts on a screen during public worship.

Rules for Theological Retrieval by Matt Arbo: Theological retrieval is quite popular now in Protestant circles. But how can we do it well? Matt Arbo provided some guidance here.

Championing an Unknown and Unbeloved Era by Jeb Ralston: Jeb Ralston did a long-form overview of the work of Heiko Oberman, one of the preeminent reformation historians of the 20th century.

March

The PR Style in Christian Media by Jake Meador: The Josh Butler saga is, sadly, one of the biggest stories in Christian media this year. I wrote my take on the whole sad affair here.

The Fears and Hopes We Sing in Lullabies by Nadya Williams: Nadya Williams's reflection on the Russian lullabies her parents sung to her as a child.

Deconstructing with Silas Marner by Elizabeth Stice: Elizabeth Stice put one of George Elliot's finest novels in conversation with current trends around 'dechurching' and 'deconstructing.'

All Alone, After God by Paul Frank Spencer: Spencer reviewed the recent work of Regina Spektor, putting it into conversation with broader questions about what it might mean to not believe in God but still miss him.

The World That Money Makes Go Round by Rhys Laverty: Laverty wants you to follow the money as you try to understand how our culture has come to look the way it does.

Modern, Yet Faithful: Lessons from Herman Bavinck by Jess Joustra: Why is Herman Bavinck a good guide for us today? Preeminent Bavinck scholar Joustra has an answer.

Os Guinness: The Christian Public Intellectual After Jacques Maritain by John Shelton: Shelton's deep dive on the work and legacy of Os Guinness is a fascinating study on how institutions and movements are built and why they sometimes fail.

April

Once More, Church and Culture by Brad East: Read the essay Trevin Wax called one of the best things he read all year.

May

The End of Viking Vitalism by John Ehrett: One of the pressing battles Christians need to be ready to fight is with the new vitalists emerging on our right as the political right re-paganizes. John Ehrett engaged one strand of this pagan "vitalism" well in his reflection on the Norsemen and their place in popular culture. 

Does Maturity Still Matter? by Samuel James: There is no shortcut for wisdom or maturity. James explains why.

June

Christ Mirrors Back Our World by Eric McLaughlin: McLaughlin's essay is one of the more emotionally resonant pieces we ran this year.

We Need Secret Gardens by Lara d'Entremont: This is a great piece about the Frances Burnett book and the value of outdoor life.

July

Does God Want You to be Happy? by Alex Fogleman: Yes, he does, Fogleman says. But maybe not in the way you mean when you talk about being "happy." 

Bad Readers and Their Twitter Swarms by Jake Meador: One of the most basic litmus tests for leaders in the emerging environment is this: Will you capitulate when you are swarmed on social media?

What is Beauty For? by Rachel Roth Aldhizer: The current sexual marketplace, as it were, is an inherently cruel and unnatural thing, as Aldhizer explained well in this piece.

August

It's Time to Build Counter-Institutions by T. M. Suffield: The Boomers damaged our institutions. The Xers didn't care about institutions. The millennials destroyed them. And now we're all realizing what we have lost. Here Suffield explains what we can do about it.

The American Church in the Fourth Republic by Jake Meador: These are the remarks I gave when invited to speak at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando this past August.

The Birth of Comedy by Susannah Black Roberts: This piece is a lengthier companion to Ehrett and covers the ways in which the pagan classical world was primed for Christianity because, ultimately, pagan vitalism just leaves us sad and alone.

Musical Localism and the Rebirth of Culture by John Ahern: Ahern on why we need to not simply consume music, but make music together.

September

Not Augustinian Enough by James Wood: Wood reviewed one of this year's most popular books, Christopher Watkin's Biblical Critical Theory and came away with much to praise, but also some questions that many reviewers ignored or didn't ask.

Want people to go to Church? Invite them. Want them to stay? Invite them into your life. by Stiven Peter: Another major story in this year's religious media has been dechurching. Peter's essay explains what churches should do if they want to avoid falling prey to this alarming trend in American life.

Theology is Dangerous by John Shelton: In many circles in the theological academy today, novelty and innovation matter far more than faithfulness—which is how you end up with a blasphemer having a position of significant influence in academic theology.

October

The Golden Calf by Ana Siljak: Siljak considers AI and how humans are now remaking themselves, as it were, to better accommodate the machines we depend on.

Running the Race in a Secular Age by Simon Stokes: One of my favorite images for understanding how the Christian life "feels" right now comes from this essay from Stokes.

Pandora, AI Girlfriends, and Reborn Babies by Nadya Williams: Forming marriages and families is about to get way way more difficult. Williams explained one reason why.

November

Drunk Tears on a Barren Sea by Matthew Lee Anderson: Anderson reflects on Augustine and desire.

The Tyranny of Seeing Only Power by Brad Littlejohn: Littlejohn reviewed Ahmari's book Tyranny Inc, highlighting both the good and the significant underlying problems that damage Ahmari's political imagination.

December

The Problematic Inklings by G Connor Salter: Salter considers the complicated lives of the Inklings and asks how we should regard men who were so flawed and sometimes even quite alarming in their personal morals.

The Masculinity Pyramid by Seth Troutt: Troutt's essay offers an enormously helpful heuristic for understanding masculinity.

The Coming Psychedelic Moment by Phil Cotnoir: Young Americans have no interest in the new Atheism or a blunt materialism. Their world is enchanted. But the enchantment is a pagan one and so is deeply open to psychedelics as a tool for accessing new parts of the world. Cotnoir explained why people turning to psychedelics will get far more than they bargained for.

Jake Meador

Jake Meador is the editor-in-chief of Mere Orthodoxy. He is a 2010 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he studied English and History. He lives in Lincoln, NE with his wife Joie, their daughter Davy Joy, and sons Wendell, Austin, and Ambrose. Jake's writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Commonweal, Christianity Today, Fare Forward, the University Bookman, Books & Culture, First Things, National Review, Front Porch Republic, and The Run of Play and he has written or contributed to several books, including "In Search of the Common Good," "What Are Christians For?" (both with InterVarsity Press), "A Protestant Christendom?" (with Davenant Press), and "Telling the Stories Right" (with the Front Porch Republic Press).