In the very first “In this Issue” of Modern Reformation, Editor-in-Chief Michael Horton lamented that both popular culture and evangelicalism had pushed aside attentive and careful consideration of God, seeking instead entertainment, amusement, and fun. “So in this issue,” Dr. Horton wrote, “we will be raising thinking to the top of the agenda.” Indeed, not only for that first issue of July/August 1994, but for the whole of Modern Reformation’s now thirty years of publication, thinking has been at the top of its agenda.
As we at MR were preparing to celebrate our thirtieth anniversary, we spent a good deal of time reflecting on the magazine’s identity: its history and legacy. MR has been and continues to be a theological magazine for engaging in the public intellectual life of our culture. The way in which we have engaged, as our readers well know, has been rather specific. We don’t merely report on matters, nor are we a cultural or political commentary magazine. We aim at thinking theologically.
Thinking theologically is a rich sort of thinking. It involves theological retrieval, whereby we learn to listen to the wisdom of the past (Ps. 78:1–4; Heb. 13:7). It involves theological conversation, where we consider, probe, and examine from varying perspectives in order to prove what is excellent and to grow in our discernment (Prov. 11:4; 18:17; Phil. 1:10). It involves theological engagement with the goodness, the perplexities, and the agonies of our time and place (Jude 3; Matt. 5:13ff). This is the legacy of Modern Reformation, in which we have sought to persuade our readers that the truths of the Christian faith, and the particular insights of the confessional Reformation traditions, matter greatly.
As we prepared to celebrate, we also spent a good deal of time thinking about how the design of the magazine might complement and reinforce its legacy. We hope that our new design’s elegance and simplicity convey the magazine’s intellectual heritage, while also maintaining its distinction from the pomp and circumstance of academic “inner circles” and pretentious high culture. We aim at thinking, yes, but not at pretending. You’ll also notice that the architecture of the magazine is a bit different now. We have created four new main sections that aptly express the magazine’s legacy: “Retrieve,” “Converse,” “Persuade,” and “Engage.” For a culture that’s fast becoming historically ignorant, aggressively tribalistic, and anti-intellectual, we believe that Modern Reformation is as important today as it was when Michael Horton began it three decades ago.
In 2022, we are again holding American evangelicalism up to the light. We’ll be asking questions about its history and influences, its relation to confessional Protestant traditions, its grasp on classical Christian orthodoxy, its stance toward “science,” and more. In this this first issue, we discuss its relation to fundamentalism, with essays from George Marsden, Daniel Treier, and Charles Cotherman. Our Global Theological Forum interview with Frew Tamrat on the history of Christianity in Ethiopia is fascinating and enriching. We are also delighted to announce our new poetry editor, award-winning poet Larry Woiwode, the poet laureate of North Dakota. With his assistance, we are publishing—for the first time ever in MR— new poems from Nick Schaff and Matthew Nies.
So, with this initial issue of 2022, please join with us in celebrating thirty years of thinking theologically!
Joshua Schendel Executive Editor