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At the beginning of July in 1994, I arrived in Wheaton, Illinois. Wendy and the three of our kids who were still at home came later in the summer. That was a heady time, leading up to the first issue of Books & Culture a little more than a year later, and I met a wonderful variety of people, ranging from potential writers for B&C to editors, publicists, prospective advertisers, and others in the book industry. Christianity Today (the company that published the flagship magazine and, at that time, more than ten others) made it possible for me to attend all sorts of bookish events.

Several recent “happenings” have conspired to take me back to those days. (These happenings include the publication of this or that book or article last week or last month or last year; news of someone I first encountered back then and haven’t seen in a long while; coming upon random reminders—correspondence, publishers’ catalogues, pieces of paper on which I jotted notes, etc.—while rummaging in my “stacks” in search of something else.) It’s a good thing we couldn’t see the future in 1994, couldn’t have imagined the state of “evangelicalism” (real or imagined) in 2024. If we had, we wouldn’t have had the heart for our enterprise, which was in fact worth every bit of the time and money and energy poured into it.

First Things, which launched in 1990, had just recently reached its fifth anniversary when the first issue of B&C appeared. Blessedly, FT has not merely survived but is flourishing. Long may it thrive. I am very thankful for the books coverage FT provides. But in my opinion, we still need a full-scale “review” publication informed by big-tent orthodox Christian convictions and devoted to books and the arts.

Here's a for-instance. At the end of March, Princeton University Press published David N. Livingstone’s long-awaited book The Empire of Climate: A History of an Idea. It will certainly be one of the most important books published this year; it is also certain to be misconstrued, both via imperfect comprehension and deliberate distortion. A “review” such as we are imagining—in the vein of the NYRB, the TLS, and so on—could assign this book to three different scholars coming at it from three different directions, plus a substantial interview with the author. An entire issue of our imaginary magazine could be devoted to the extraordinary range of brand-new and recent books on “space” (“outer space,” the universe, the hypothetical “multiverse,” the whole shebang). And so on.

At present, too much of the energy in the orthodox Christian intellectual realm is taken up with a handful of conflicts. These are not trivial concerns—not at all—but the attention paid to them, while other subjects are given short shrift, is grossly disproportionate. Of course, this is in part simply a matter of what drives financial support. But surely there are sufficient resources within our community to support an enterprise such as I have described.

Even as I am typing, visions of what could be are filling my head. Cast a wide net. Hire a superb editorial team and a world-class art director. Create a publication that is grounded in our faith, intellectually first-rate, superbly designed and illustrated.

“Do all this now, in the shadow of AI? You’re indulging in sheer fantasy!” Then another skeptic will weigh in, from a different angle: “We’re beset on every hand by attacks on our core convictions, by enemies of our faith, and you are whining about book reviews?” And so on. Such criticisms are shallow, indicative of a massive failure of imagination.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” This old man says, “Amen!”

John Wilson is a contributing editor for The Englewood Review of Books and senior editor at The Marginalia Review of Books

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Image by Bahnfrend via Creative Commons. Image cropped.

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