I. We believe in God, self sufficient and sovereign, versus all atheism, whether expressed in materialism, naturalism, or positivism.
II. We believe the Bible is the authoritative disclosure of God’s word and purpose and thus is the rule of faith and life, versus all relative authority of variant religious and ethical systems.
III. We believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only mediator between God and man, our Saviour and Lord, versus all views of Jesus as only an ethical example, a martyr, a teacher, or a demiurge.
IV. We believe man created in God’s image is moral, intelligent and free, of unique dignity and potentiality for good or evil, versus all views of man as a product of materialistic evolution.
V. We believe in the Church as essentially spiritual, providing worship of God, proclaiming the Gospel of salvation for men’s souls, giving ethical guidance in life, versus all conceptions and uses of the Church as merely a social organization, an agency of political propaganda, or of lobbying, or of Class interests.
VI. We believe that society is most Christian in which free, moral men rule themselves according to the laws of God inscribed in nature, conscience and Scripture, versus all human propensity to resort to legislative direction of worship, work, speech, ballot and property.
VII. We believe that Christian Faith (theology) and the freedoms of man are interdependent, versus all divorce of modern culture from Christian theology resulting in the substitution of legislative control and direction of individuals for use of moral and spiritual impulsions.
VIII. We believe that these concepts must be re-established in the minds and convictions of the masses by a movement of grassroots education if a free and Christian America is to be attained. The key to this educational task is the Protestant minister and the purpose of CHRISTIANITY TODAY is to assist him in the achievement of these ideals.
Christianity Today Marks First Anniversary
Perhaps no religious magazine has addressed itself to American theology at so crucial a time as CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Secular alternatives to Christianity are in increasing collapse; religious alternatives to the gospel are threadbare; opportunity for vigorous evangelical affirmation, application and advance is unique.
To its readers, CHRISTIANITY TODAY voices deep appreciation. The first year’s distribution to 160,000 readers has garnered a magnificent charter subscription list. This reflects confidence in this magazine’s competence to represent evangelical convictions with spiritual insight and challenge. Nothing would so hearten the Editors at this renewal period as prompt response by our family of readers.
During its initial year CHRISTIANITY TODAY shows growth in advertising space, as well as in subscriberships. Alongside large denominational magazines CHRISTIANITY TODAY has attracted an impressive amount of advertising from firms that recognize its unprecedented access to virtually the entire Protestant ministry of all denominations as well as many lay leaders in the United States and Canada. Advertising policy seeks new clients beyond the usual circle of religious advertisers but is always committed to the goal of “culturally constructive advertising” only.
In its first year, CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S most dramatic gains are not quantitative, however. Rather, they represent qualitative progress for the evangelical Protestant witness. Evangelical Christianity now may claim a supra-denominational magazine that unites conservative Christian scholars in all denominations everywhere into a shared attestation of the great biblical verities. While this undergirding of biblical evangelism and biblical theology has burrowed into churches around the world, it has also gained significant interest among seminary students grappling with contemporary theological perspectives. Inclusion of CHRISTIANITY TODAY in the annual index of significant religious periodicals prepared by the American Theological Library Association will provide ready and permanent reference to an unusual accumulation of authoritative writing in many areas.
From the outset the magazine has featured world religious news coverage from an evangelical perspective. CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S news editor supplied weekly reports of the spectacular evangelistic achievements in Madison Square Garden not only to readers of this magazine but also to hundreds of city editors across the land. During the year ahead, as events may warrant, an additional feature of the news section will be photographic coverage. More interpretative reporting of the major denominational and interdenominational conventions and assemblies is also expected.
The month of October has come to be known as Church Press Month. President Eisenhower comments that “guided by the truth which sets men free, the various periodicals of the Church have a splendid opportunity to emphasize their story of faith and good work across the land.” The foremost purpose of CHRISTIANITY TODAY is encouraging Protestantism’s fullest evangelization of a lost world. The magazine, therefore, occupies a strategic position. Committed to the presentation of the Christian gospel as relevant for both individual and social needs, CHRISTIANITY TODAY may well be the fulcrum in the seesaw of contemporary Christian enterprise.
Decade Of Promise For The Laity
The fresh concern to define the responsibility of both ministers and laymen in biblical terms is one of the hopeful signs of the times. The ministry is being challenged anew to evangelistic effort, and to preaching of the whole counsel of God; the laity are being called anew to a profounder grasp of the meaning of discipleship.
In addition to his ministerial office, the minister shares with the layman in the wider office of believer. Many ministers are realizing anew that they belong primarily to the succession of Peter and Andrew as fishers of men. Yet the minister’s very gift for preaching, and the peculiar work of his divine calling, often cuts him off from effective personal access to his neighbors.
Today there is a happy recovery of the many New Testament passages stressing the faith and effort of lay workers in the Early Church. The Roman Catholic church by its Christopher movement seeks to overcome the gulf between priest and layman created by its repudiation of the biblical doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, and it is placing new emphasis on lay visitation. In Protestant circles, the role of lay activity in the Reformation is being reconsidered. The aggressive work of the Lutheran Laymen’s League is widely known. The Christian Reformed Church, marking its centennial in America, looks hopefully to increased lay activity as its key to expansion in its second century. This very day thousands of Presbyterian laymen are gathered in Miami to hear Evangelist Billy Graham and others call the Council of Presbyterian Men to fuller dedication to Christian priorities.
The pressures of Communism, secularism and materialism make this decade an opportune time for lay activity. If ever the Christian movement stood in need of monuments to lay vision and enterprise, it is in this decade. This is indeed a kairos, an opportune time, for an increase of lay concern, interest and devotion to the cause of Christ. The profound Protestant emphasis on the universal priesthood of believers must not only narrow the gap between clergy and laity, but it must also, if soundly interpreted, call every layman to justify his daily vocation as a sacred ministry.
There are heartening signs that lay activity is increasing in scope and intensifying in zeal. Prayer groups and counsellors rallied by the Graham evangelistic campaigns represent mainly a lay effort. Some churches have introduced courses in lay evangelism. Others are realizing anew that the Church, in its Sunday School and youth societies, possesses a framework for the confrontation of unbelievers. The meetings of the Church are not simply an engagement with God; they are also an engagement with the world, an opportunity of calling the unchurched into theological conversation and of sharing Christian realities with one’s neighbor.
Mobilization of the laity holds certain perils. Christian workers can be mobilized for inexpedient and even for wrong ends in the very course of lay activity.
One danger is the organization of laymen whose personal experience of faith in Christ remains in doubt. In his book The Face of My Parish, the Scottish churchman, Tom Allan, one of CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S correspondents, reminds us that “Christian action which does not emerge out of a personal faith is a contradiction in terms.”
Another peril is an exaggerated stress on techniques. A rash of religious books is appearing with chapters on lay evangelism, and some of these are good. Techniques are valuable, but love of neighbor is the one indispensable factor in the Christian lay outreach. The motive is less dispensable than the method. One who is burdened for a neighbor can bungle, but one skilled in techniques yet lacking in love can repel.
Still another peril is a neglect of the task and message deserving in lay activity, leading the unsaved to Christ. The Great Commission is the supreme mandate for lay effort. The churches follow a sure instinct when they first mobilize their laymen for evangelism. Multitudes in the churches today were led to Christ through the efforts of believing friends and relatives. To lead another soul to Christ is the heart, even if not the height, of lay responsibility. If the churches are to gain new vigor in our decade, the layman must become skilled in the art of seizing opportunities for effective evangelism in his own local community.
There is a further danger, however. Like the others, it stresses the responsible role of the pulpit in interpreting Christian duty to laity. The danger of neglecting the larger obligations of lay witness in the social order—in the realms of marriage and the home, of labor and economics, of politics and the state, of culture and the arts—must be met. The evangelical pulpit must keep the traffic of lay duty moving in larger dimensions than lay witness by proper stress on Christian vocation. The problems of Christian conscience in politics, business and culture must be confronted if the Christian message is to make inroads in the centers of contemporary secularism and materialism.
If we are to have a strategic renewal of Christian conviction this decade must become the decade of the laity. But the pulpit bears an awesome responsibility in proclaiming the indispensability of personal experience of Christ, the priority of evangelism, and the duty of Christian citizenship.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.