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The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14 goes on to lament that the world is full of foolish men. Perhaps we don’t explicitly deny God’s existence, but we go through life as if God never called Abraham, delivered commandments on Mount Sinai, took on our condition for the sake of our salvation, and is with us to this day. Sadly, a practical atheism is all too common.
First Things fights against our tendencies to be God-forgetful in public life. As the editor, I want this publication to inspire public officials to govern in accord with God’s plan for humanity. And I’m proud to publish Christians and Jews (and the occasional Muslim) to speak about current events in a distinctly theological voice. We are in this regard unique: confidently contending for the future of the West without sidelining our faith or apologizing for it.
Yet all this would be for naught if First Things did not inspire us to live more fully and deeply as Christians and Jews and Muslims. We will have failed as a publication if our readers were not able to say with the Psalmist, “Lead me in the path of thy commandments, for I delight in them.” And do not think we fail. Paul Kingsnorth, Carl Trueman, Patricia Snow, and other regular writers light many pathways toward greater faithfulness.
Over the years, I’ve heard this from a number of subscribers: “Discovering First Things saved my faith when I was in college.” It’s not that we preach or offer spiritual counseling—both very important. Our ministry is different. First Things helps young people understand how you can be smart and faithful, clear-eyed and critical and obedient, sharp-tongued while testifying to the truth and charitable in spirit.
First Things did not exist when I was a young person in college. Instead, it was Karl Barth who knocked me off the vague path of “meaning” and onto that of truth. He made me see that Christ crucified and risen is not a meaningful symbol. Rather, it’s a claim about the very foundations of reality, and I needed to decide whether or not I believed that claim to be true.
Truth. That’s something on which First Things will not compromise. We’re unsparing in our criticism of transgenderism, an ideology that requires us to lie to ourselves and others about God’s intention: “Male and female he created them.” We don’t play the pronoun game, and we never impose “inclusive language” diktats on our authors. Over the last year, women who acknowledge the truth of our unsettled, sometimes dysfunctional sexual politics have articulated criticisms of feminism.
The same goes for political, cultural, and economic realities. Our authors do not put forward shopworn clichés. We are not in the business of propping up ideological coalitions. Our job is to see clearly—and to say what we see.
We’re a motley crew of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, and other kinds of religious believers. There’s no consensus about God and his plans for us, the most important truth. Yet we share a common conviction: To honor and obey God perfects our humanity and brings true happiness.
In our secular age, this truth is repudiated. We’re often told that religious faith narrows our minds and diminishes our lives. It’s “medieval” and “repressive.” We sometimes refute such claims. But more often, First Things counters with excellence, intelligence, and élan. Theology is the queen of the sciences, and faith emboldens. That’s why what we publish is so much more penetrating and courageous than the fare in secular media, where tired ideas predominate and a hectoring political correctness constrains what can be thought and said.
That’s also why we’ve launched our 2023 spring campaign: First Things as the standard-bearer for orthodoxy. Our commitment to orthodox faith demands that we cut across the demarcations of ideology and tribe. It does not always endear us to the great and the good. Instead, we rely on you—faithful believers and loyal readers of First Things—for charitable support. And without fail you answer the call.
Our age needs more truth-telling by those who have not been so foolish as to imagine that there is no God. In other words, our age needs First Things. Please give today.
R. R. Reno is editor of First Things.
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