These days, if you walk the hallways of CT (if you’re in the area, stop on by!), you might hear a staff member mention “beautiful orthodoxy.” Drawing from the best of Christian thinking, editor Mark Galli recently coined it to guide our ministry in a broader climate of rancor and spiritual rootlessness.
“Beautiful orthodoxy” might seem a paradox. But in both the classical and the Christian traditions, truth and beauty are inseparable. Only relatively recently has it seemed that, to be winsome and loving, one must downplay truth claims. Or that, to speak the truth in a pluralistic world, one must pick a rhetorical battle. Indeed, our social media discourse often feels like a fight between the truth-Christians and the beauty-Christians (with both groups claiming that Jesus likes them best). Pick your side.
Except we at CT don’t think you have to. To our delight, in many articles in this issue, truth and beauty dance side by side. In our cover story (p. 30), Andrew Root corrects our ministry obsession with “reaching millennials” while painting a lovely picture of intergenerational fellowship in the local church. Shannon Sedgwick Davis, who has helped to stop Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony (p. 38), embodies orthopraxy—what Christian belief actually looks like in the world. (Hint: It’s pretty darn stunning.) Even our sobering report on book publishers’ marketing practices (p. 50) aims to highlight what ethical, even beautiful book marketing can look like. In these and other articles, we aim to ensure that every “no!” we imply is followed by a “yes!” That as we name wrong thinking or behavior, we also heartily affirm the abundant life available in our true and beautiful Savior.
In this month’s testimony (p. 96), Gregory Alan Thornbury honors Carl F. H. Henry, arguably the most important evangelical theologian of the past century, as well as CT's first editor. A cursory read of Henry suggests that “beautiful orthodoxy” is exactly what he pursued throughout his 90 years on earth.
Christian liberalism said “yes” to cultural and intellectual trends, at the expense of truth. Christian fundamentalism said “no” to individual sins, at the expense of beauty. Carving out a way between both traditions, Henry reaffirmed Scripture’s “no!” to personal and cosmic sin. And he preached Scripture’s “yes!” to engaging the mind and heart of persons and cultures with the full-orbed gospel of Christ.
In The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, Henry wrote:
The evangelical task is the preaching of the gospel, in the interest of individual regeneration by the supernatural grace of God, in such a way that divine redemption can be recognized as the best solution of our problems, individual and social.
When we practice beautiful orthodoxy, redemption is finally recognized as God’s “yes” to us, and to new and unending life in him.
Follow Katelyn Beaty on Twitter @KatelynBeaty
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