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Since this is Touchstone’s first issue, no doubt something should be said in justification of its appearance. The purpose of this publication is implied in its name. In its literal sense, a “touchstone” is a type of smooth, dark rock used in assay work to test the quality of gold or silver, which is determined from the color made by rubbing a sample against it. Figuratively, it is that which serves to test the quality of value of a thing. In this respect, we feel that there is a particular need in our day for an assaying of values, ideas, and human experience by the critical standard of Christian orthodoxy.
Any idea of orthodoxy, of course, demands that such a standard exist and that it be knowable. Unfortunately, now amid so many different voices, so many competing claims and innovations—good, bad, indifferent—the very idea of such a standard has become suspect, and even Christians often seem to be adrift in the relativism and subjectivism of our times. As Christians we should take it as a matter of first importance that we have such a standard, a capital “T” Truth, a divine Truth, eternal and unchanging. It is supremely expressed in Jesus Christ and specifically defined in the verities of faith and order, which he and his apostles committed to the Church to be preserved to the end of the world. Here is the criterion by which the Christian mind should judge all things. Yet, to say we have the criteria to judge is not meant pretentiously. It is not that we are thinking too highly of our individual powers of judgment. Our confidence is in the standard, which we believe can be seen as a matter of objective record in the pages of the Scriptures and in the life and teachings of the undivided Church of the first centuries. For any individual or group to have such a conviction necessarily places the task of critical assessment in some form before them.
Now, to speak in this way is not to say that we believe in a simplistic, flat, hidebound orthodoxy. Nor are we speaking of mere traditionalism. Such views reduce and distort the very idea of divine truth. No, we are looking to a living orthodoxy—to discover its fuller dimension. It is a quest, a matter for painstaking pursuit, and not always easy.
There are many issues on which Christians may have a legitimate latitude of opinion. Our efforts may fall short. They themselves are subject to critique and correction. But in this there is hope. This is the point of dialogue and the value of a forum such as Touchstone. The need then is to confront thoughtfully, to think humbly, to grope and to test and to find what is good. That is our purpose. We would apply a standard to the issues, questions, and experiences of our modern life to wrestle out a better and more practical understanding, a deeper spiritual life, and a more authentic and effective witness. That is our goal.
Of course there are already a number of fine Christian periodicals and voices, but in view of the welter of contrary voices, the need to represent the standard and to encourage Christian thought and intelligent commitment is still a pressing one. And we believe, we hope with some warrant, that we may be able to contribute a special perspective—one that is doctrinally and morally earnest and at the same time ecumenical in the best sense of the word. For our purposes and objectives cross over any denominational or narrow party lines. The Christians of our day need to discover and consider the timeless truths that always have been there to guide believers in their faith. God willing, may this serve as ground for a truly Christian and ecumenical dialogue—so that together we may “contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
Reprinted from the first issue of Touchstone, Fall 1986