Happy Anniversary?

feature-article.gifThis past summer my wife and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary. Each anniversary is a special occasion for us to celebrate another year together as a married couple. When a couple reaches their golden or 50th wedding anniversary, that’s something really special.
This month another anniversary will be celebrated, but of a different sort—for 50 years the magazine Christianity Today has been published. During this time it has served as the “voice” of new evangelicalism, opening a window into its soul. Anniversaries are supposed to be special times of celebration, but this one really provides nothing for Christ’s church to be happy about.

What is Christianity Today?
This magazine began in 1956 as the brainchild of the evangelist Billy Graham. In the midst of his great evangelistic campaigns, Graham saw the need for two kinds of publications. One would deal with devotional themes and day-to-day Christian living; Decision magazine fulfilled this objective. The other publication would be more academic and intellectual; Christianity Today was developed to be that scholarly voice of the new evangelicalism.
Carl Henry, the magazine’s first editor, determined to see that it was dedicated to (1) biblically addressing current issues in the church and social scene and (2) promoting the social implications of the gospel. In line with the new evangelicalism Christianity Today sought to promote, it would not be controversial as fundamentalists were; rather, its direction and purpose would intentionally seek a middle-of-the-road position.
One should not think that Christianity Today was developed to be the “official” voice of new evangelicalism, although it was definitely designed to promote its beliefs and agenda. Think of the magazine as giving a view of the life and activities in evangelicalism. Not all evangelicals will agree with what is written in the periodical, but it does show what is going on in their movement. With 50 years of printed history, anyone interested in what new evangelicalism is really like can look through the window of Christianity Today and see for themselves.
God’s plan for marriage is for one man and one woman to be devoted to each other for life. When I married Trish in 1990, I made a solemn promise before God and His people to forsake all others for her alone. The moment we made those solemn promises, we were committed to giving ourselves entirely to the other, excluding all others. In essence, we had separated ourselves to each other. What would you think of our marriage if she or I kept trying to stay in touch with old flames and see if those fires were still burning?
New evangelicalism’s rejection of separation in essence rejects Christ’s expectation that His bride, the church, be totally separate from all other suitors (2 Cor 6:14–7:1). Christianity Today observes 50 years this month of pursuing alliances with other “flames” instead of faithful, exclusive devotion to Jesus Christ. Who are some of the beaus evangelicalism has pursued that this magazine has given us a window into?
Beau #1—Religious Liberalism
Like the new evangelicals who birthed it, Christianity Today has sought to court religious liberals in the various denominations. From its beginning issue, the dual convictions that Christ’s body must be unified and that love trumps doctrine controlled the magazine’s practice of ecumenical journalism.
The first several years of Christianity Today witnessed an amazing fascination with neo-orthodox theologians such as Karl Barth. Their infatuation with Barth (who was by no stretch of the imagination a believer) was due to his philosophical and intellectual “god talk,” which appealed to the new evangelicals’ desire for intellectual acceptance. Later issues saw articles by liberals such as John Bonnell, John MacKay, D. Elton Trueblood, and Clark Pinnock.
One may wonder why it is a problem to use a writer or speaker who differs from biblical beliefs and practices. For one thing, their presence gives them a position of honor to those listening or reading. People can look at them as deserving of their trust and fellowship, when in reality they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. The names that one has in one’s magazine (or pulpit) gives tacit approval to what that individual stands for. Additionally, even if a counter-article is given (which Christianity Today periodically would provide), the truth is blurred and a smorgasbord approach to biblical subjects and theology results.
Since its inception in the early 1940s, new evangelicalism has sought to involve itself in the social issues of the day, believing that winning lost souls isn’t enough—the culture must also be impacted by biblical principles. The church needs to involve itself in the social and cultural issues of the day in order to be the “salt” and “light” Christ commanded His disciples to be. This attempt at an evangelical social theology (or gospel) resulting from individual salvation has morphed into a life and significance all of its own.
When the new evangelicalism announced its presence, it called for a reexamination of the biblical doctrine of inerrancy and other “debated” theological issues. Christianity Today has done its part by publishing articles rejecting the doctrines of inerrancy, eternal punishment, and the lostness of the heathen.
These efforts to be acceptable to religious liberals, giving them a voice, parroting their unbelief, and imitating their social gospel have done nothing to strengthen evangelicalism and everything to weaken it. Instead of faithfully obeying her husband, this “wife” has sought the embrace of another.
Beau #2—Roman Catholicism
At its beginning, new evangelicalism sought to evangelize Roman Catholics, believing them lost and needing to hear the true gospel. This desire to see Catholics come to Christ resulted in their taking part in Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades as supporters, choir singers, and even counselors. Those who walked the aisle in Graham crusades were encouraged to attend the church of their choice, even if it was a Catholic church! Graham and his associates believed that if the Spirit led them to Christ, He would also lead them to the right church.
It was just a matter of time, then, before Catholics were viewed by many evangelicals as Christian brothers and sisters. Evangelicals believed that minor theological differences shouldn’t keep them from working together. Christianity Today continually opens a window into this aspect of its growing drift toward Rome. The magazine has expressed the opinion that some faithful adherents to Catholicism are genuine believers—they’re just a little “inconsistent” in their evangelicalism!
If there were any doubts about whether Christianity Today was really serious about courting an old flame that Protestantism had separated from nearly 500 years ago, the recent attempt to bring “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT) should dispel those. From the beginning of ECT, Christianity Today fully supported it, devoting several articles and columns to evangelicals (such as J. I. Packer; Alistair McGrath) and Catholics (Richard John Neuhaus, the main mover in ECT) alike.
Evangelicals’ pursuit of Rome is convincing proof of their eschewing the biblical doctrine of ecclesiastical separation. It is an amazing thing to imagine, must less witness, the evangelical church’s continual efforts to rekindle a flame that it should make every effort to smother.
Beau #3—Worldliness
A final suitor that new evangelicalism sought to woo was the world, particularly with regard to worldly entertainments. By rejecting ecclesiastical separation it was just a matter of time until a steady decline in personal separation revealed itself. Initially the “taboos” thrown off involved smoking, dancing, rock music, and movie theater attendance.
Christianity Today has approvingly documented evangelicals’ continued involvement in such activities, and has taken an active role through their printed and web pages in covering the latest opportunities. All kinds of movies are reviewed, regardless of their Hollywood rating. Justification is given for viewing films either in movie theaters or at home that contain violence, promiscuity, and lewd language, by maintaining that there’s no simple right or wrong on such issues. Evangelicals maintain that films containing objectionable content reflect our culture, and Christians need to engage it.
When the idea and practice of using rock music with Christian lyrics began to raise its head in the late 1960s and early 70s, Christianity Today recognized that while such music will cause division, “it is nevertheless a remarkable vehicle of Christian unity…a spiritual renaissance is taking place today. The Holy Spirit is at the root of it…and kids are expressing their deep happiness through rock music” (2/26/1971, pp. 32–33).
By encouraging its readership to open itself up to the world’s cesspool, Christianity Today has not sought to strive for and imitate the holiness of the God who called them. Evangelicals who do not commit themselves exclusively to Christ but instead court the world, have forgotten James’ exhortation—“know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (4:4).
Happy Anniversary?
What have we seen through 50 years of Christianity Today’s window into evangelicalism? What does a marriage of 50 years look like that rejects the very foundation of its existence, namely exclusive fidelity to its spouse? As we look back on 50 years of Christianity Today, there is nothing to celebrate and everything to bemoan. Christ’s church is in greater theological disarray than ever before. The world has entered the church, for the church has opened her doors to it and she has indeed become like it. Liberals do not become more evangelical; evangelicals have become more liberal. The charismatic movement is now viewed with acceptance and equality. The Protestant church willingly joins hands with Rome; the one who formerly was viewed as the Antichrist is now a brother in arms.
It is interesting to note Christianity Today’s dramatic change in content. The magazine started out with a definite academic and intellectual character, but now it is not much better than a Christian Time magazine. Remember, Christianity Today reflects its constituency, so what does this fact tell you about what is important to its readership? This shift in emphasis and content is a direct result of the movement’s rejection of ecclesiastical separation, faithful fidelity to the Lord Jesus Christ.
What would you think of a wife who thought she was faithful to her husband for 50 years but also openly carried on intimate relationships with three other men? What should you think of a movement and a magazine who for 50 years has done just that?

October 2006


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