A Sabbath for Theology
In researching a book I'm writing on Karl Barth, I found a book of Barth's letters written between 1961 and 1968. The third entry in, I was surprised to find a letter to the late Geoffrey W. Bromiley, one of my professors at Fuller Theological Seminary, who had written Barth on behalf of the editors of this esteemed magazine. Bromiley had included questions from three theologians, but Barth was not pleased: "… they can adopt toward me only the role of prosecuting attorneys, trying to establish whether what I represent agrees or disagrees with their orthodoxy."
Those were the days when Christianity Today felt its job was to grade everyone's theology, as if CT were the evangelical version of the Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. While we no longer cross-examine theologians, we still take theology pretty seriously. In each issue of the magazine, we try to run at least two articles—if not more—that directly or indirectly prompt readers to think more deeply about what they believe and why.
For example, in the current issue you'll find an interview with Dinesh D'Souza, who argues in classic apologetics mode that recent scientific advances bolster Christian belief in life after death. The cover story by John Franke is argued theologically—that is, from a perspective that emphasizes the role of revelation versus reason. Franke says that when it comes to convincing others of the uniqueness of Christ, simply witnessing to what has been revealed is the most faithful thing we can do.
While we celebrate theological variety, we still think it our business to call Christians to remain firm on the essentials of faith. This does not mean merely repeating old doctrinal formulas, but presenting them in ways that make sense to a postmodern world, as Franke has done in our cover story.
Theology pieces sometimes require heavy lifting by readers. Magazine consultants are wont to think that such pieces are a throwback—and too demanding for modern readers. Hogwash. First, good theology always looks forward. And second, many readers are tired of small thinking and blog logic.
One reader, for example, recently told us that his week is consumed with the practical, day-to-day busyness and details of ministry. He looks forward to each issue of CT precisely because it offers one of the few times each month when he is allowed to think. It's like a Sabbath for theology, when he gets to ponder more deeply who God is. Enjoy this month's Sabbath.
Next month: Why parents are not responsible to make their kids Christians, what church statistics (which know no end these days) can and cannot tell us, and how the late theologian Lesslie Newbigin is still shaping Christian mission.
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Christianity Today has several articles on theology, including:
Reveling in the Mystery | Sometimes in order to see God, we have to learn to not know him. (September 17, 2009)
John Calvin: Comeback Kid | Why the 500-year-old Reformer retains an enthusiastic following today. (September 8, 2009)
The Justification Debate: A Primer | Two of the world's most prominent pastor-theologians on justification—and what difference it makes. (June 26, 2009)