Why 'Christianity Today'?
Christianity Today has its origin in a deep-felt desire to express historical Christianity to the present generation. Neglected, slighted, misrepresented—evangelical Christianity needs a clear voice, to speak with conviction and love, and to state its true position and its relevance to the world crisis. A generation has grown up unaware of the basic truths of the Christian faith taught in the Scriptures and expressed in the creeds of the historic evangelical churches.
Theological Liberalism has failed to meet the moral and spiritual needs of the people. Neither the man on the street nor the intellectual is today much attracted by its preaching and theology. All too frequently, it finds itself adrift in speculation that neither solves the problem of the individual nor of the society of which he is a part.
For the preacher, an unending source of wisdom and power lies in a return to truly biblical preaching. For the layman, this same Book will prove to be light on the pathway of life, the record of the One Who alone meets our needs for now and for eternity.
Christianity Today is confident that the answer to the theological confusion existing in the world is found in Christ and the Scriptures. There is evidence that more and more people are rediscovering the Word of God as their source of authority and power. Many of these searchers for the truth are unaware of the existence of an increasing group of evangelical scholars throughout the world. Through the pages of Christianity Today these men will expound and defend the basic truths of the Christian faith in terms of reverent scholarship and of practical application to the needs of the present generation.
Those who direct the editorial policy of Christianity Today unreservedly accept the complete reliability and authority of the written Word of God. It is their conviction that the Scriptures teach the doctrine of plenary inspiration. This doctrine has been misrepresented and misunderstood. To state the biblical concept of inspiration will be one of the aims of this magazine.
The doctrinal content of historic Christianity will be presented and defended. Among the distinctive doctrines to be stressed are those of God, Christ, man, salvation, and the last things. The best modern scholarship recognizes the hearing of doctrine on moral and spiritual life. This emphasis will find encouragement in the pages of Christianity Today.
True ecumenicity will be fostered by setting forth the New Testament teaching of the unity of believers in Jesus Christ. External organic unity is not likely to succeed unless the unity engendered by the Holy Spirit prevails. A unity that endures must have as its spiritual basis a like faith, an authentic hope, and the renewing power of Christian love.
National stability and survival depend upon enduring spiritual and moral qualities. Revival as the answer to national problems may seem to be an oversimplified solution to a distressingly complex situation. Nevertheless statesmen as well as theologians realize that the basic solution to the world crisis is theological. Christianity Today will stress the impact of evangelism on life and will encourage it.
Christianity Today will apply the biblical revelation to the contemporary social crisis, by presenting the implications of the total Gospel message for every area of life. This, Fundamentalism has often failed to do. Christian laymen are becoming increasingly aware that the answer to the many problems of political, industrial, and social life is a theological one. They are looking to the Christian Church for guidance, and they are looking for a demonstration of the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a transforming and vital force. We have the conviction that consecrated and gifted evangelical scholarship can provide concrete proof and strategic answers.
Christianity Today takes cognizance of the dissolving effect of modern scientific theory upon religion. To counteract this tendency, it will set forth the unity of the Divine revelation in nature and Scripture.
Three years in a theological seminary is not sufficient to prepare a student fully for the ministry. Christianity Today will seek to supplement seminary training with sermonic helps, pastoral advice, and book reviews, by leading ministers and scholars.
The interpretation of the news becomes more and more important in the present world situation. Correspondents conversant with local conditions have enlisted in the United States and abroad. Through their reports Christianity Today will seek to provide its readers with a comprehensive and relevant view of religious movements and life throughout the world.
While affirming the great emphases of the historic creeds, this magazine will seek to avoid controversial denominational differences. It does not intend to concern itself with personalities or with purely internal problems and conflicts of the various denominations. If significant enough, these will be objectively reported.
Into an era of unparalleled problems and opportunities for the Church comes Christianity Today with the firm conviction that the historic evangelical faith is vital for the life of the Church and of the nations. We believe that the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation for all who believe; that the basic needs of the social order must meet their solution first in the redemption of the individual; that the Church and the individual Christian do have a vital responsibility to be both salt and light in a decaying and darkening world.
Believing that a great host of true Christians, whose faith has been impaired, are today earnestly seeking for a faith to live by and a message to proclaim, Christianity Today dedicates itself to the presentation of the reasonableness and effectiveness of the Christian evangel. This we undertake with sincere Christian love for those who may differ with us, and with whom we may be compelled to differ, and with the assurance in our hearts that God's Holy Spirit alone can activate any vital witness for Him.
The Evangelical Witness in a Modern Medium
With the first public announcement that a biweekly journal of evangelical conviction was in prospect, Christianity Today attracted the spontaneous interest of thousands of ministers and lay leaders. That initial response gained swift momentum as assurances multiplied that a wide welcome would await such an evangelical medium.
Behind this initial issue stands a year of prayer, of decision, of planning. The fortnightly correlation of the Christian lifeline and the editorial deadline now takes the form of necessity as well as of opportunity and responsibility.
In design and typography, Christianity Today combines the classic heritage of the past with the best of the modem. The cover achieves this effect with its combination of the classic Dutch and Weiss initials. The feature articles, contemporary in interest, are set and captioned in modern type faces. For article headings, Deepdene will predominate, with the body of the article set in Fairfield, an easily legible book face not uncommon in religious magazines. In its choice of type faces CHRISTIANITY TODAY had the counsel of Paul Smith, a leading West Coast type designer.
Christianity Today is printed on 40-pound eggshell paper. The first issue alone required 37,000 pounds—enough to reach, page by page, almost across the state of Texas, or from Cairo to Jerusalem to Damascus to Beirut.
Christianity Today enjoys excellent printing arrangements. Type is set in Washington, D.C., by the McArdle Printing Company. "Mats" cast from the type are rushed to Dayton, Ohio, where the McCall Corporation, publisher of national magazines, completes the actual printing and mailing.
Even before the last copy of Christianity Today is off the press, the addressing and mailing of copies is begun. The mailing schedules to various parts of the United States are so arranged that all readers receive the magazine virtually the same day.
Readers of Christianity Today are served by a staff of more than seventy evangelical correspondents around the world. Swift airmail service speeds their reports to the news desk.
Christianity Today uses the cable facilities of western Union and other wireless services under the code name XTY. Telegrams are received direct at Christianity Today editorial headquarters through the Desk-Fax service of Western Union. Christianity Today also uses the Bell System national teletype service, using the TWX code number WA-555.
Besides the efforts of far-Hung correspondents, readers of CHRISTIANITY Toms: will enjoy vigorous articles by fifty contributing editors, as well as contributions secured from other significant sources. In the formulation of a consistent editorial style for a religious magazine whose tone is formal but not austere, Christianity Today has had the counsel of Miss Joan H. Wise, textbook editor in New York.
Advertising in Christianity Today is carefully screened. As Time magazine noted in a prepublication item, Christianity Today accepts only "culturally constructive" advertising copy, in addition to advertisements for standard products and services of special utility to minister and church.
Editorial, subscription and advertising headquarters are in the Washington Building where, from Suite 1014-1022, the editors daily look down Pennsylvania Avenue and glimpse the White House, Blair House, and other strategic centers of national life. Thus Christianity Today is a symbol of the place of the evangelical witness in the life of a republic.
Vision of Sovereignty - A Remedy for Tensions
The uncertainties and conflicts of national and international tensions are in themselves no excuse for the pessimist or the cynic in Christian circles. Nor are they a legitimate excuse for man to lay impatient hands on the ark of the universe to steady it. We are prone to forget that God sees all time and eternity at once.
We need a new vision of the sovereign God, of a sovereignty which is universal, unlimited and immutable. Neither chance, the follies of man, nor the malice of Satan can determine the sequence of events and their issues. God has not abdicated; He is on His throne and He still causes the wrath of man to praise Him. He is aware of world disorder and He has provided its cure. To the Church He has committed the Gospel and it is still the power of salvation to all who believe. To understand the content of that Gospel and to make that content known is the impelling duty of the individual Christian and of the Church.
Evangelism and the Sacred Book
The names of Karl Barth and of Billy Graham ought not, perhaps, to be mentioned in the same sentence, unless one is prepared to stay for the afternoon.
Their gifts and callings are diverse—the one a skilled theologian, the other a skilled evangelist. Their influence is equally dissimilar, that of the one mainly academic, and of the other mainly popular. Barth is today doubtless at the very apex of his career, while Graham's star very probably is still rising.
Nonetheless, both names are indelibly inscribed upon the role of distinguished Christian leaders in the twentieth century. In some respects, moreover, their ministries reflect superficial points of contact. Barth has had an impact upon theological thought throughout much of the Western world through the translation of his writings; Graham has had an evangelistic access to the Orient as well as to the Continent through the translation of his preaching. Even to contrast their ministries in terms of the technical versus the simple is to exaggerate their basic differences. Barth's influence has extended beyond the classroom to the pew, and Graham's call to decision among university students has been as effective as among the less sophisticated. Barth has delivered a series of Gifford Lectures; Graham has fulfilled a week's preaching mission at Cambridge. And what theologian today does not covet a broad ministry to the market place? Is not the New Testament ideal (we do not imply the flawlessness of Barth's' theology nor of Graham's evangelism) the theologian-evangelist, whom the apostle Paul supremely exemplifies?
However varied their talents and influences, both Barth and Graham have come to symbolize a religious springtime after the long, cold winter of Liberalism. They stand as giants of our generation protesting against the liberal reduction of the Bible to the category of sacred literature generally. The Hebrew-Christian Scriptures differ uniquely from all other religious writings in their witness to special revelation; they cannot, therefore, be classified under general divine revelation. In stressing this fact, the "theology of the Word of God" and the evangelism of "the Bible says" are in formal agreement, and share in the rebellion against the classic liberal distrust of the special revelation claim that is everywhere implicit in the Bible. Yet whoever sees no essential differences between the views of the Bible represented by Barth and the theology of crisis, on the one hand, and by Graham and the theology of the evangelicals, on the other, stands in need of theological lenses.
The difference is understated when the one position is lampooned as returning to the "precritical" and "prescientific" view which disregards "the new knowledge of the Bible." To explain the difference by saying that the evangelical view waves aside those indubitable gains which objective scientific criticism can bring is an oversimplification. There will be convenient occasions to speak of such gains without concealing the sad predicament of twentieth-century biblical scholarship.
Mr. Graham has not, indeed, centered his preaching, nor his writing, in the perspectives of modern higher criticism. Wisely enough, he has left the discussion of critical problems to those whose lives have been dedicated to criticism. And, he it plainly admitted, the critics today face herculean problems, which call for more than expert skill. They hear the burdensome task of letting their profession down easily from a growing series of discredited verdicts—among them the impossibility of Mosaic writings, the nonhistoricity of the Hittites, the priority of the prophets over the Law, the non-supernatural Jesus, the Greek rather than Hebrew background of the New Testament, the second-century dating of John's Gospel, and so forth. They now find scholarship as imposing as that of Dr. William F. Albright in support of the thesis that the composition of no New Testament book need be dated later than A.D. 80, that is, after the lifetime of contemporaries of Jesus of Nazareth. The reconciliation of competitive critical theories is no easy task, and it is no wonder a mere evangelist would prefer to bequeath its exacting requirements to the specialists. For what so often has been proclaimed, with evangelistic fervor, as an assured result of critical science, has turned out all too often to be a transient dogma of a biased critic.
The Church may rejoice that an emphasis on the New Testament evangel is finding its way once again into pulpits from which it was long absent. In this proclamation of the evangel there is often a considerable similarity between those who hold the high view of the Bible and those who shy away from it. Whoever preaches the Gospel must lean heavily on the warnings of Jesus about sin and its connection with the wrath of God and the judgment to come, no less than upon His assurances of the gracious forgiveness and the welcome awaiting sinners who come to the Father "in Christ's name." The omission of either of these elements is destructive of the Gospel. But the Gospel is far more definite than this; the simplest New Testament statement of it includes the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners and His bodily resurrection (I Cor. 15:1-4). It is at this point of the sharper definition of the Gospel that the difference between evangelical and sub-evangelical preaching comes more clearly into view.
The danger in a pragmatic age is that the success of evangelism may institute an era of respect for evangelism in which the evangel itself is foggy and mist-thin. Much of this resurgent emphasis today is hesitantly biblical in mood. It is especially uncomfortable in the presence of the well-worn Graham formula: "The Bible says." In fact, in some places, the twentieth-century phenomenon of an evangelist without an evangel has appeared in the aftermath of a Graham campaign.
A half-hearted confidence in the reliability and authority of Scripture faces the opportunities of evangelism with self-defeating uncertainties. Shall the evangelist preach the wrath of God? The apostles did. The propitiatory atonement? The apostles did. The final doom of the wicked? The apostles did. The formula "the Bible says" covers all the articles of faith. If we are to hear only what a given evangelist or theologian tolerates, however impassioned his intonation of whatever Scripture escapes his censorship, the fact that the Bible appropriates certain of his theses is no more significant than its repudiation of certain others. The public exhortation on Sunday to heed what "the Bible says" in a given passage does not mean much in the mouth of a professor who on Wednesday is confiding to divinity students that they had best disregard what it says in the next verse. The same verdict holds for the evangelist who strikes one note in the invitation and another in the ministerial meeting.
This leads us on to an important difference between the modern "theology of the Word of God" and the evangelism of the Bible. The Graham article in this issue employs the phrase "biblical authority." It does not rush to draw a line between what God says and what the Bible says. It does not locate what God says in the misty flats above the Bible, above its written propositions and words. It picks up, with life-and-death urgency, the confident identification of special divine revelation with a specific message, and in this characteristic it stands in the company of prophets and apostles and of the Lord Jesus. The hearers of the Sermon on the Mount were reminded that they would be judged by specific principles and words: "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man …" (Matt. 7:24). It is in the course of precisely this identification that lightning strikes from heaven in Graham meetings.
Doubtless some will think that Mr. Graham sketches the picture in too broad strokes. Others will rally to his side, proclaiming the high view of the Bible to be not alone a key factor in evangelism but a Watershed of theological conviction. However his readers may divide, nobody has a profounder right than Mr. Graham to a hearing on the subject of the authority of the Bible in evangelistic preaching. He has earned that right theoretically, by his devout study of the Word, and pragmatically, by his passionate proclamation of it to an age of theological unbelief, in which he has unsheathed the Book once again as a two-edged sword. His ministry supplies the theological enterprise with a graphic reminder that the mysteries of higher criticism are unnecessary for grasping the essence of the biblical message—as devout Christians in apostolic and in Reformation times did—and also that the simple believer often stands closer to the heart of the Gospel than the sophisticated critic. This is not because Christianity is against scholarship, but because scholarship often places itself in needless opposition to Christianity. Those who have invested much of a lifetime propounding now-discredited theories supply eloquent witness that the essence of the Gospel did not first become available through some new and modern gnosis, but can be confidently located in what was plainly accessible to the earliest century of faith.
By a true intuition, shaped by confidence in the plenary inspiration of the Bible, the evangelical movement and Mr. Graham cling fast to, the Gospel, and to what most of the new theology still misses, namely, that Jesus of Nazareth is the high point of special divine revelation, and that the Christian revelation disallows the relegation of Scripture to a twilight zone in which its authoritative note disappears.