Joel Belz, Trailblazer in Christian Journalism, Is Dead at 82

Joel Belz, the founder of World, a pioneering Christian magazine covering politics, culture and other topics through a biblical lens while occasionally drawing wider notice for its reporting on prominent religious figures behaving less than holy, died on Feb. 4 at his home in Asheville, N.C. He was 82.

His brother Andrew Belz said the cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Before World, a biweekly, was launched in 1986, religious periodicals were often cheaply mimeographed and filled with church news. Mr. Belz, a preacher’s son who grew up reading Time, wanted to replicate the journalistic ambition and crisp look of Henry Luce’s publication for an evangelical audience.

“For so many people, church and religion are Sunday morning only, and from 11 a.m. to noon only, and then you forget about it for the rest of the week,” Mr. Belz told the newspaper The Gazette, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1989. “There is no engagement of those principles with what happens the rest of the week.”

Operating in the basement of an Asheville mall, World nearly went bankrupt in its early years but eventually stabilized and grew to attract more than 100,000 subscribers in 1999. Today, World News Group, which includes the magazine, website, children’s publications and podcasts, says it has an audience of about 500,000 people.

World set out to cover politics, the arts, science and other subjects from a “God’s-eye” view that was “biblically objective,” as Mr. Belz and others described the magazine’s mission. In contrast to traditional objective journalism, which seeks out multiple viewpoints, World’s “biblical objectivity” begins and ends with what the Bible says.

World News Group says its employees are “committed to a biblical worldview” and “motivated to excel for the glory of God.” On issues such as abortion, adultery and gay marriage, its journalists think the Bible provides definitive instruction, so there is little need to explore opposing views. The magazine’s articles explore multiple angles on issues on which the Bible doesn’t offer clear guidance, such as a global trade agreement or school vouchers.


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