Thirty Years' Warfare
When Publishing Remains Necessary
This coming October, Touchstone marks the 30th anniversary of its first issue. In its early years, it came out rather infrequently, so only 29 volumes of Touchstone will have been published by the end of this year. Therefore, we thought it best to mark the anniversary formally in 2017, with volume 30. In the meantime, the senior editors are convening a conference this October to mark the 30-year milestone (More Christianity: Gospel Witness at All Times & in Every Place).
Much can happen in a span of three decades. By the 30th year or so after Jesus ascended, the gospel had reached Europe, North Africa, and Asia; and the two great lights of the Church, Peter and Paul, had been martyred. The next thirty years saw the destruction of the Temple and the completion of the New Testament, with the Apostle John bequeathing his written testimony to subsequent generations. In 302, the Emperor Diocletian launched the fiercest persecution of Christians ever. Yet less than 25 years later, Christianity had been legalized and sanctioned, and Constantine summoned the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea. Then, 36 years after that, Julian the Apostate sought to reestablish paganism and killed some Christians in the process.
Such reversals of fortunes have occurred throughout the history of the Church and for the most part are unpredictable, as well as difficult to assess accurately afterwards. Take the past 30 years, in which Touchstone has published. When it was first published (as I noted in 2011), it had "followed a time of religious and cultural upheaval. By 1986, we were 20 years out from the end of the Second Vatican Council, and from the beginning of the Charismatic movement and the Jesus Movement." By 1986,
Catholics had endured twenty years of post-Vatican II syndrome; mainline Protestants were unsure how far down the slippery slope of theological and moral heterodoxy their churches might slide; Evangelicals were getting politically engaged, finding the Canterbury trail, or discovering seeker-sensitivity; and the Eastern Orthodox had barely emerged from their ethnic isolation. . . .
Touchstone took aim at mainline theological slippage, including egalitarianism there and elsewhere. We began covering the persecution of Christians. We sought greater cooperation between Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox and found fruitful fellowship at conferences as well as in participation in such efforts as the Manhattan Declaration and the World Congress of Families.
How much has changed in 30 years? Theological error has ripened into apostasy and abomination as leftist mainline churches teach heresy and bless abortion, "gay marriage" and "gay clergy." The persecution and killing of Christians has increased worldwide, and even in the putatively free West, Christians grow anxious about losing their religious liberty. As for Christian unity, fellowship among "conservative" or "traditional" believers—Touchstone types—still depends upon grassroots and local initiatives and not on formal ecumenism.
The main story for many is that "Christians lost the culture wars." Alas, this is likely so because too many Christians never fully engaged in a culture war in the first place, and instead went along with the culture, at least to some extent, on such issues as population control, feminism, no-fault divorce, premarital sex, and cohabitation. In recent years, some have bought the idea of identifying as a "gay Christian," while others have gone soft on homosexual practices and "gay marriage." Senior editor Russell Moore has asked, "What if we're not the culture warriors we think we are? What if we are instead slow-motion sex revolutionaries who are 10 to 20 years behind the culture?"
A genuine Christian culture must grow from the soil at the foot of the Cross, watered by the tears of repentance. Christians of such a culture will be doctrinally sound, morally obedient, humble, and willing to suffer. They will know the "love of the brethren."
If we own and defend such a gospel and Christian culture, we may see an all-out persecution, in which we suffer and even die for our faith. Or we may see a peaceful revival. Whatever comes, should it please God that Touchstone continue for the next 30 years, we shall endeavor to encourage sound doctrine, solidarity with suffering Christians, and greater unity among those who persevere in the faith once for all delivered to the saints. The struggle continues, and there is no lack of causes to champion, for our adversary never sleeps. •
James M. Kushiner is the Executive Editor of Touchstone.
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