Evangelist Billy Graham awoke from a dream at 2 a.m. one night in late 1953 and wrote out a plan for a new Christian magazine, from its budget to its editorial departments to its name: Christianity Today. He soon found a champion in his father-in-law, Presbyterian lay leader L. Nelson Bell, and a reluctant but prolific editor in Fuller Seminary’s star theologian, Carl F. H. Henry.

While those men were giants in their day, this magazine was never intended as a celebrity vehicle or tribute to the past. (Graham complained that his photo appeared too many times in the first issue.) Nevertheless, we often find CT’s founding documents remarkably prescient. The anxieties and goals that occupied those leaders in 1956 remain ours in 2016, not because we’re overcome by nostalgia but because CT’s early vision was both forward-looking and based in timeless gospel passions. We are as ardent as ever in our “desire to express historical Christianity to the present generation.” Here, then, is the original founding editorial from our first issue, with some midrash.

— Ted Olsen, Director of Editorial Development


Christianity Today has its origin in a deepfelt desire to express historical Christianity to the present generation. Neglected, slighted, misrepresentedA popular narrative has it that evangelicals wish to recapture the dominance they had in the 1950s. The founders of CT didn’t see things that way. “As evangelicals, I am convinced that we are in the majority among both clergy and church members,” Graham said in a 1955 speech raising support for CT. “However … we are divided, confused, and in one sense defeated.” There was no evangelical ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.