This department has been created to showcase stimulating opinions, interviews, and other writings from some of our sister publications at CHRISTIANITY TODAY, Inc. In coming issues you can expect readings on trends affecting the church from LEADERSHIP journal, instructive tales of the past from CHRISTIAN HISTORY, and incisive commentary from BOOKS & CULTURE.
We inaugurate the series with an excerpt from the November/December issue of B&C. In his review essay, historian Mark Noll summarizes the thought experiment that opens missiologist Andrew Walls's new book The Missionary Movement in Christian History (Orbis). For Noll, this passage wonderfully captures the significance of Walls's larger thesis that "the whole history of Christianity is a series of successive adaptations of the faith to local situations."
Imagine an alien savant who wants to study Christianity and who is able to visit planet Earth at widely spaced intervals. His first visit occurs in A.D. 37 at a gathering of believers in Jerusalem where the ways in which this church differs from a Jewish sect are hard to discern. The Christians honor the seventh day, meet in the temple, read from the Hebrew Scriptures, and circumcise their sons. Only by unusual interpretations of parts of those Hebrew Scriptures, specifically by relating Jewish accounts of the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, and the Son of Man to Jesus of Nazareth, do these Jews show that they are, in fact, Christians.
Next, the extraterrestrial returns in the year 325 to the little town of Nicea in what is now modern Turkey where a great gathering of Christian leaders is taking place. Jews and the marks of Judaism are nowhere to be seen. Rather, the believers come from throughout the Mediterranean world ...1