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Plough Quarterly No. 6: Witness

Autumn 2015

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About This Issue

Dear Reader,
In a way that might have seemed far-fetched just a few years ago, we live in an age of martyrs. I don’t mean the tormented martyrdom of suicide bombers, but the countless ordinary men and women who have given their lives for Jesus’ sake – such as the ten thousand Nigerian Anabaptists killed by Boko Haram since 2013. If, as Tertullian wrote, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, then the church of the future will be reaping abundantly.

A martyr, in the original meaning of the word, is a simply a “witness.” As Jesus said in his parting words to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). And so, in addition to witnesses who die for their faith, there are witnesses who live for it. These include the families of the twenty-one Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS, who publicly forgave in Jesus’ name – as well as the families of those who died in Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who famously did the same.

A painting by Ivan Shishkin depicting a country dam made from posts driven into soft mud.

The first church’s witness, according to the Book of Acts, was a lived reality: a community of believers of “one heart and one soul” who shared all they had with one another. Isn’t it once again time for the church to live in such a way that would only make sense if Jesus is alive? According to Russell Moore, “it would look awfully strange, but it would look no stranger than a crucified Nazarene governing the universe.”

We can’t talk about bearing witness to the gospel in every aspect of our lives without including marriage, a topic on which debate has burned fiercely since the US Supreme Court redefined marriage law in June. Several contributors address the urgent question: What does following Jesus look like today when it comes to marriage and sexuality?

Finally, in our swipe-and-tap culture, we must remember to take time for another kind of witness – training our eye to see the mystery of the Creator in the natural world. That’s where fly-fishing poetry and painterly photography of nature can help.

Our “Readers Respond” section has tripled in size, in order to accommodate more of the thoughtful letters that come in. And we’re grateful for each of the readers or contributors who have visited our community here in Walden, New York, to share fellowship. Let’s continue to encourage, challenge, and inspire each other.

Warm greetings,
Peter Mommsen, Editor

artwork: Paul Klee, “Highway and Byways.” Front cover image: Ghislaine Howard, 365 Series, detail. Copyright © 2015 by Ghislaine Howard, Used by permission.

Plough Quarterly covers from 2015

About Plough Quarterly

Plough Quarterly features original stories, ideas, and culture to inspire everyday faith and action. Starting from the conviction that the teachings and example of Jesus can transform and renew our world, it aims to apply them to all aspects of life, seeking common ground with all people of goodwill regardless of creed. The goal of Plough Quarterly is to build a living network of readers, contributors, and practitioners so that, in the words of Hebrews, we may “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”