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Voices

'A perilous venture'

Faithful friends-and critics-reflect on 20 years together in the trenches

Terry Eastland

"The average life of a magazine is three years. WORLD is 20 years old and counting-an achievement worthy of notice even from the mainstream media. What distinguishes WORLD is its steadfast effort to report and understand events with due regard for man's sin and God's grace. The columnists invariably have something to say, often on subjects seldom addressed in other news and opinion magazines. WORLD's impressive contribution is to remind a secular world that its categories for interpreting the lives of individuals and nations are too narrow, indeed that eternity has been set in the hearts of men, that this world is not all there is."

-Terry Eastland is publisher of The Weekly Standard

John Piper

"WORLD Magazine doesn't wear its Calvinism on its sleeve. It is the sleeve. And arm. And brain. And soul. What's attractive about this magazine is that it has an integrating vision of God and his ways in the world. God is sovereign. All things are from him and through him and to him. Everything relates ultimately to him. Nothing can be understood apart from him. The meaning of any person, thing, or event is most fully understood when its way of glorifying God is clarified.

"My vote is not with magazines that fudge on the great truths about God. Or oscillate between different theologies. My vote is with a clear, prominent, well-defined, unashamed flag-raising for the supremacy of God in all things. Thanks for making the effort, WORLD Magazine! May the next 20 years be more God-entranced, more Bible-saturated, more Christ-exalting, more wise, more penetrating, more true, and more provocative for the good of this world and for the glory of God."

-John Piper is Pastor for Vision and Preaching, Bethlehem Baptist Church

Franklin Graham

"Congratulations to WORLD Magazine for 20 years of important journalism. I can still remember my grandfather, Dr. Nelson Bell, working so hard at World's predecessor, the Presbyterian Journal years ago. I'm sure he never dreamed that magazine would become such a strong voice or achieve the kind of publishing success that World has. In an increasingly politically correct world, WORLD Magazine stands tall as a source of good reporting and thoughtful editorial content on so many issues of vital importance in our country and around the world. I hope the magazine will continue to grow in circulation and influence for many years, and, more importantly, that it will remain true to its calling to stand for truth."

-Franklin Graham is President and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

"Over the past 20 years, WORLD Magazine has transformed the world of Christian journalism. That's quite a claim, but it is sustained by a look over the past two decades of WORLD's existence. This one magazine has helped untold thousands of Christians to understand the issues of the day from a Christian worldview perspective. Its reporting is not for the faint of heart, and its analysis is not for those who do not want to think. The landscape of evangelical Christianity is littered with periodicals that appeared, disappeared, and hardly mattered. WORLD Magazine really matters-and makes its readers really think. Congratulations on 20 years of cultural analysis, current news, and nourishment for the mind."

-R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College

Cal Thomas

"I believed it contained a biblically-based view of the world that was a must-read, even for people who might not agree with its fundamental premises. Two decades later, I feel even more strongly about World. I never miss an issue and always find something in it I won't find in any other publication. Congratulation on 20 years. May you have at least 20 more."

-Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist

Russell Pulliam

"Plenty of Christians have been unhappy about the news media-it's too secular, slanted liberal and ignores the many authentic stories of the Lord's work. Only a few Christians have tried to correct the problem. Even some of them, with good intentions, have fallen short in starting alternative faith-based publications. They didn't learn enough about news journalism, or they did not realize the need to bring in more revenue than they were spending.

"Fortunately for World magazine readers, Joel Belz had an idea of how to correct the problem, and he knew enough about news coverage to understand what readers would want in a weekly magazine. He also had a keen eye for talent and a pastoral heart that attracted talented editors and writers to join him on this 20-year WORLD Magazine journey. Sometimes he asked talented people, such as Marvin Olasky, to serve on his board. Then he proposed an increase in the workload with a new assignment, asking Marvin to be editor.

"The timing for the magazine's birth was challenging. For various reasons, other respected Christian magazines were running their final laps, including Moody, Christian Herald and Eternity. Christian magazines were going out of business, not coming into it. Wise and friendly counselors advised Joel that people were looking for entertainment, not serious news of the day, that evangelical Christians especially had their minds on heaven and other places and would not be interested in a biblical coverage of the news. Others were suggesting that the printed word was dying, to be replaced by a boom in radio stations and cable TV outlets, along with a weird new thing called the internet. Joel listened to this counsel with some caution and respect, then plunged ahead with his experiment in faith.

"WORLD's impact has gone beyond its immediate circle of readers. Stories about state overregulation of Texas Teen Challenge in the 1990s helped spark then Gov. George Bush's interest in a faith-based approach to social issues. Why were all these bureaucrats picking on a program that produced such good results? That kind of coverage contributed to what became a winning theme in future presidential campaigns, changing the direction of the Republican Party.

"Weekly Christian newspapers also have sprung up in the past two decades, learning from WORLD that the core of a news publication is serious news coverage of all areas of life. They learned that newspaper or magazine had to offer real news, not just sermons, personal testimonies, mission travel stories and a review of the latest Christian Contemporary Music concert.

"Joel's strengths were his faith in Christ and his capacity to surround himself with people whose strengths complemented his. Readers have been the beneficiaries of those early steps of faith ever since."

-Russell Pulliam is associate editor of The Indianapolis Star

R.C. Sproul

"Happy 20th anniversary to WORLD Magazine. It is noteworthy that in just 20 years WORLD has become a leading national opinion news weekly. How has this has been achieved? Joel Belz and the people at WORLD give analysis of the popular culture, challenging editorial opinions, coverage of major news events, and Christian commentary. Each week people open the pages of WORLD and find common conviction with a Christian worldview.

"Thank you for being committed as a media enterprise to "factual accuracy, biblical objectivity and journalistic humility." These are no small things in the world we live in. As a matter of fact, these self-described commitments set you apart. WORLD is an important resource for families that want to be engaged with the world in which they have been called.

"In a society that long ago sought ways to eclipse its creator let me commend you for persevering in service to a holy God. On behalf of Ligonier ministries I congratulate you on this memorable milestone in your organization's history."

-R.C. Sproul is Founder of Ligonier Ministries

Douglas LeBlanc

"I've been at both ends of WORLD's editorial sanctuary. In its early years, under the editing of Stephen Lutz and Mindy Belz, I contributed frequently (and probably too glibly) to this magazine's nascent arts and media criticism. By the later 1990s, I was off the masthead and wrote critically about WORLD's "Stealth Bible" NIV coverage.

"If I had to do it over again, I would opt out covering the NIV conflict-not because there wasn't news to be written there, but because I was too close to the story, and it put a strain on my long friendship with WORLD's entrepreneurial founder, Joel Belz.

"WORLD left the Evangelical Press Association soon after the NIV conflict. I've missed its presence. I believe most categories in EPA's annual awards would be more competitive than they already are if WORLD were still among us. Still, I respect WORLD's reasons for leaving, especially its concerns for practicing real journalism, not puffery, and for preserving its editorial independence. I hope WORLD may someday see the curative potential of rejoining EPA.

"In the years since the NIV storm, I've felt an increasing respect for WORLD as a gutsy experiment in Christian journalism. I never became a proponent of directed reporting, but if that style of journalism is to play a reforming role in our culture, WORLD is the best laboratory for making it happen.

"One of WORLD'S other bold moves was to surrender its nonprofit status so it could write about culture and politics without the ideological babysitting of the Internal Revenue Service. For all Christians who complain about Nanny State constraints on nonprofit ministries, here is an astounding model: Place your convictions ahead of your personal peace and affluence.

"I love WORLD's frequency, especially when too many periodicals edited by Christians have had to decrease their frequency, over and over, and ultimately stop publishing. It takes vision and savvy to compete with The New Republicand The Weekly Standard, much less to offer an evangelical challenge to Time and Newsweek. I subscribe to all these publications (OK, I take the web-only version of The New Republic), because my world would not be complete without them.

"It wouldn't be complete without WORLD, either. I frequently enjoy Marvin Olasky's weekly column and his profiles. Not enough Christian journalists make an effort to interview Peter Singer or Robert W. Jensen (the anti-Olasky of UT-Austin's journalism school). Mr. Olasky interviewed them and returned with journalistic gold.

"One of my favorite Scripture verses is Proverbs 27:6: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy." There certainly have been times when I've wished WORLD would dispense more kisses and fewer wounds. Nevertheless, I'm thankful that WORLD is willing to be a friend that tells me, and the broader church, difficult truths in an effort to make us more faithful believers."

-Douglas LeBlanc is a columnist for Episcopal Life.

Chuck Colson

"WORLD Magazine has been in the vanguard of a crucial movement in recent years to awaken the church to its full biblical responsibilities and engage the culture.

"Many evangelicals have comfortably assumed that the task of the church is just to get people saved and discipled. We've often measured success by how many contented churchgoers we can create. But as Francis Schaeffer once said, Christianity doesn't begin or end with John 3:16. To think that way is like opening a book in the middle. The story starts with God is, who spoke us into being, and who cares for all of His creation.

"My mantra has become the statement by Abraham Kuyper, the great theologian and once prime minister of Holland, "There is not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence as to which Christ who is sovereign over all does not cry out 'Mine!' "

"And if Jesus, looking at all of life, cries out 'Mine!', the church's task is to cry out 'His!' Increasing numbers of evangelicals, thanks in good measure to the editorial leadership of World, have begun to understand that Christianity has something to say about every area of life; law, politics, science, arts, community, and so forth. This means that Christians have not just the Great Commission to fulfill, evangelizing the lost, but a cultural commission, to multiply and be fruitful, to occupy, to cultivate and till, to see, as Cotton Mather once put it, that the blessings of God show forth in all of life.

"In short, Christianity is a worldview. It answers all the questions humans ask-where do we come from? Why is the world in a mess? Is there any way out? What is our task?

"What most WORLD readers surely understand is that we are in the midst of a brutal clash of civilizations. On the one hand, as Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicted, the great titanic struggle of the 21st century is between Islam and the Western liberal democracy shaped by Judeo-Christian tradition. When he prophesied that in the 90s, not many people paid attention. 9/11 awakened us. We are in a life and death struggle with radical Islamo-fascism, which is dedicated to destroying Christians and Jews. This great struggle, understood only in historic and religious terms, will be with us for generations.

"At the same time, there's a clash within our own civilization. On one side are secular naturalists, who believe that life arose out of the primordial soup, that it has no transcendent meaning, that the task of government is to protect people from having any infringement on their desire to do whatever they choose to do, that truth is merely a preference; and on the other side are those who believe in overriding natural moral law, a created order, the knowability of truth. The so-called culture war involves abortion, gay "marriage," cloning, and the like; but at a far deeper level it forces us to face the question of who we are, what it means to be human, whether it is possible to continue to enjoy ordered liberty.

"The stakes could not be higher. Christians can no longer be content retreating into their sanctuaries. Instead we have to be self-conscious about our responsibilities, learning to defend truth, to winsomely work for justice and righteousness in the midst of an apostate world, and seek to become the businessmen, doctors, lawyers, artists, movie producers, literary critiques, academics, and leaders who shape the culture in which we live.

"I salute WORLD on 20 years of pioneering vision and advocacy of a biblical view of all of reality. The magazine does a superb job reporting on films, music, politics, and energizing readers across the board to winsomely engage the world."

-Chuck Colson is Founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries

John McCandish Phillips

"Why, WORLD, at age 20, is old enough to vote, and also to drink, though I suspect that, when it raises the celebratory glass at its 20th anniversary, it will do so quite temperately. (How often have I, at banquets and receptions, carried a stiff shot of 7-UP, swirling in my glass, falsely posing as a dry martini).

"Somewhat more than two decades ago, when what became WORLD was forming in his fertile imagination, I had lunch with your founder, Joel Belz. He laid out his vision in broad strokes, with some details, for my inspection. After we said goodbye, and I turned north on Broadway in New York City, I distinctly recall my interior discourse, which began with precisely these soundless words: "If any man in North America can bring forth a news magazine with a Scriptural perspective, Joel Belz is that man."

"It is a source of joy that, in that assessment, I was proved right. WORLD was a perilous venture. There is a very large gap between having a concept, and bringing it to birth, through serial crises, and ultimately to youthful maturity and permanent place in the national landscape.

"WORLD has given us the cool, calm intelligence of your founder in his weekly commentaries, the deft, beguiling, often deeply persuasive essays of the remarkable Andree Seu, and much more. Some of its coverage overseas notably in Iraq, and especially by Bob Jones came pretty close to matching the peerless work of one of the greatest correspondents of our time, John Burns of The New York Times, in quality, though not in its extent.

"As a news magazine that is quite stoutly conservative and evangelical, WORLD has largely avoided that "party spirit" of which the Scripture warns, that curdles American political discourse and miraculously enables its partakers to see the failures of their opponents magnified, while the same eyes cannot see, and the mouths below those eyes strangely deny, much the same behavior when it occurs in its own camp.

"It was this malady in some real measure by which Dr. Graham and a large majority of evangelical Christians once saw the person of Richard Nixon as essential to our national welfare, even to the point of exhortation, while rendering them blind to the iniquities of an administration that were, in part, quite apparent well before a Congressional investigation (in which Senator Sam Ervin often quoted Scripture, for cleansing and clarifying effect, not for appearance, and quoted our Constitution, which he saw as nearly sacred secular scripture) drew out the coiled skein of appalling evils in which a whole roster of federal officials had been engaged, until even the attorney general went off to jail.

"How critical it is, then, that evangelical eyes be enabled, by faithful, clear eyed, fact-based reporting, to see things as they are, not as we prefer them to be.

"WORLD, and Mr. Belz and Dr. Olasky, have not, I think, been treated nearly as well as they ought to be by their potential audience, or by prospective advertisers. How many evangelicals dwell in these United States? Estimates I have encountered in print have ranged from an improbably low 14 million to a possibly bloated more than 65 million. I don't much care what that figure is-since nobody situated this far below heaven can know-but whatever it is, WORLD should surely be in 10 per cent of their homes, and in many more of their hearts than it is.

"What it does, nearly every week of the year, on a budget that is, to that of Newsweek or Time, as a can of sardines is to a barrel of oil, is nothing short of a marvel of integrity that gives us a breadth of coverage across variegated territories of news and culture. WORLD quite often puts things in a perspective inaccessible to the Scripturally ignorant, delivering a result that can never match in bulk what those newsweeklies supply, but can stand a side-by-side test of quality."

-John McCandlish Phillips is an author and former reporter for The New York Times

Michael Cromartie

"For 20 years now WORLD has carved a unique place in the world of publishing: unapologetically Christian, theologically orthodox, culturally conservative, and politically opinionated. Always bold and informative, WORLD has covered a wide range of subjects that deserve our urgent attention. It's reporting and editorials are well argued-and well worth arguing with. Unafraid to tackle controversial issues or to bring to our attention issues that should be controversial, WORLD often manages to do what a prominent theologian has said is the duty of the church: "afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted." This means they receive praise, and criticism, from all sides. Let's hope it continues. By doing so they render us all an important service."

-Michael Cromartie is Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom