A Cross at the Bookends
September 11, 2001, is a marker in American history. Much like November 22, 1963, to a previous generation, and December 7, 1941, to the generation before that, it is a day on which everyone remembers what they were doing when they first heard the news.
The first and the last dates led to international wars; the middle one involved a killing and anticipated a culture war within our borders. All three events radically changed the United States and the world, and this month many other magazines will reflect on how 9/11 has altered the social and political landscape locally and globally.
Christianity Today is more interested in how 9/11 changed the church and its mission. The most pressing change has been our increased awareness of Islam. Before 9/11, missions to Muslim countries and cultures were an asterisk for many Christians. Today they have become the theme of missions, and our relationship to Islam has been the subject of some of the most important conferences of the past decade. There is no better person to survey this topic than J. Dudley Woodberry, senior professor of Islamic studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.
We also wanted to show how 9/11 reverberated on a local level, from how one Midwestern church ramped up its missions to Muslims to how "the vicar of Baghdad," Andrew White, learned to minister in his war-torn country, to how 9/11 inspired a parachurch ministry to reach out to emergency personnel as an unreached people group.
But mostly we are interested in how 9/11 sharpens our understanding of the gospel. Russell Moore does a splendid job showing how the murder of 3,000 revealed the darkness of the human situation, yet also points to the glorious light of the Cross.
In one sense, then, our tribute to the life of John Stott is a fitting bookend to an issue that was originally designed to be entirely thematic. Though Stott will be remembered for many things, this writer suspects the theologian mostly wanted to be remembered for his magnum opus, The Cross of Christ. In it, Stott said that "when substitution is denied, God's self-disclosure is obscured, but when it is affirmed, his glory shines forth brightly." Many rightly exalt Stott for bringing renewed emphasis to social justice. Fewer remember that it is the Cross that "gives us … a new incentive to give ourselves in mission, a new love for our enemies, and a new courage to face the perplexities of suffering."
In the end, it is the Cross that helps us grasp the meaning of 9/11.
Next month: J. Todd Billings explains why a theological way of reading Scripture is the most necessary, Jeremy Weber reports on how digging a well in Africa is more complicated than it looks, and John Stott is remembered through a selection of his best writings.
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See our cover story on "The Gospel at Ground Zero."
Other Christianity Today articles on 9/11 include:
How Leaders Have Changed Since 9/11 | Christian leaders describe how that fateful day shaped how they see the world. (September 7, 2011)
Wake-up Call | If September 11 was a divine warning, it's God's people who are being warned. (November 12, 2001)
Where Was God on 9/11? | Reflections from Ground Zero and beyond. (October 1, 2001)
Flames of Love | How a terrorist attack reshaped efforts to reach Muslims. (September 8, 2011)
Believers on the MOVE | A suburban Chicago church ministers to Muslims at home and abroad. (September 8, 2011)
Saving the Superheroes | Portland-based ministry Responder Life sees police officers, firefighters, and dispatchers as an unreached people group. (September 8, 2011)
'A Plain, Ordinary Christian' | John Stott made extraordinary contributions to the global evangelical movement. (July 27, 2011)