By assembling the personnel, hunting up the financing, and hammering away at the need, Billy Graham was the key figure in starting Christianity Today. In an early appeal, he stressed how "a religious magazine … that will reach the clergy and lay leaders of every denomination, presenting truth from the evangelical viewpoint," could help overcome the "confused, bewildered, divided, and almost defeated" condition of evangelicals in the United States. Graham's influence came from where authority has always arisen among evangelicals—from his power as a preacher. Beginning in 1944, as the first full-time employee of Youth for Christ, Graham had established himself as an unusually fresh, straightforward, and convincing voice for traditional evangelical faith.

That his interests also extended to a magazine like CT was, however, unusual. Since the late 19th century, evangelicalism had customarily posed an antithesis between pious preaching and formal intellectual labor. Graham wanted the magazine to function differently, in the fashion of seminaries such as Fuller, Trinity, and Gordon-Conwell, all of which he supported. He hoped CT would not only unite disparate evangelical groups, but also provide a forum for theological depth alongside savvy social analysis. The first editor of the magazine, Carl F. H. Henry, and a host of other educationally ambitious younger evangelical scholars joined him. They shared Graham's desire for disseminating biblical expositions and evangelistic messages, but also for "discuss[ing] current subjects … from the evangelical viewpoint" (as Graham put it), shunning arguments over the details of prophecy, standing "for social improvement," and advancing political opinions from the center.

By trying to strengthen evangelicalism with biblical content brought into engagement with public issues, world affairs, and the life of the mind, CT marked a new evangelical openness to intellectual life. Like much else from 1956, it was a harbinger of things to come.

Related Elsewhere:

This article is a sidebar to our October cover story, "Where We Are and How We Got Here".

More on Christianity Today International's 50th anniversary is available at our anniversary site.

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