Monday, July 13, 2009

Charles Colson's "The Faith"

I just began reading “The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters” by Chuck Colson and Harold Fickett (2008 by Zondervan). I’ll be writing about each chapter as I go, which will appear here probably rather irregularly, as I squeeze my reading in between gardening, biking with my son, daily Bible reading, making some attempt at keeping the house from falling into total disarray and farming out freelance stuff (which is much easier to write than to find a home for!)

With that, here’s a look at the first chapter of “The Faith”:

Colson is all about defending the Christian faith in challenging times, something that has, in fact, been necessary since the beginning of Christianity. The thing I love about Colson (I’ve read his book "Born Again" and heard him speak this past February at Moody Bible Institute Founder’s Week) is that he speaks plainly, passionately and confidently about being a Christian. There’s none of what I like to call “black turtleneck spiritual angst” in Colson: he doesn’t focus on and encourage mystery; he tells us plainly about the reason for the hope that he has; and he desires for all to have a changed life through Christ. He isn’t about "re-imagining" Christianity to where nobody can even recognize it—he’s about professing the simple and clear Truths of the Bible that all are called to and can understand through God’s Holy Spirit. In short, Colson isn’t embarrassed to be a Christian, even though he himself acknowledges that

“Christians are fallen, flawed, and broken people who often profess one thing and do another.” “But,” Colson points out, “contrary to the public misconceptions about Christianity today, the Christian Church and the truth it defends are the most powerful life-and culture-changing forces in human history. This enduring truth has been tested and proven true over two thousand years.”

So what is it that will help the church revive and bring more people to freedom in Christ? Orthodoxy. That is a word that many people strongly dislike, yet everyone follows some form of orthodoxy, be it secular, humanist, political, agnostic, atheist, etc. Colson defines Christian orthodoxy as “the core beliefs that have united Christians through the ages.” He calls it “right belief.” It is this Christian orthodoxy that is under assault today, and is the reason Christians need to know what they believe and why they believe it.

Colson says critics of Christian orthodoxy say “we are trying to ‘impose’ our views on American life—that we want to create a ‘theocracy,’ or a government run by the Church. But this is absurd; theocracy is contrary to the most basic Christian teaching about free will and human freedom. Christianity gave the very idea of separation of Church and state to the West. And Christianity advances not by power or by conquest, but by love.”

The real challenge for Christians is that “we have come into a postmodern era that rejects the idea of truth itself,” says Colson. He says that “tolerance--falsely defined as putting all propositions on an equal footing…has replaced truth.” (not allowing refutations and constructive criticisms of evolution come to my mind as one example of where tolerance has failed).

Colson goes on to say how “Millions acquiesce to the all-beliefs-are-equal doctrine for the sake of bettering their social position in our values-free, offend-no-one culture. But to succumb to this indifference is not to accept a tolerant or liberal view of Christianity; it is to embrace another religion, a belief in some supreme value—perhaps tolerance—but not in the God who is and who has spoken.”

If we go to a Christian church or call ourselves Christians, why? Colson likes to ask the question “What is Christianity anyway?” He found that this is a very difficult question for Christians, and even Christian pastors, to answer.

Colson said, “Christians must see that the faith is more than a religion or even a relationship with Jesus; the faith is a complete view of the world and humankind’s place in it. Christianity is a worldview that speaks to every area of life, and its foundational doctrines define its content. If we don’t know what we believe—even what Christianity is—how can we live it and defend it? Our ignorance is crippling us.”

The Bible says that orthodoxy, right belief, Scripture, Jesus Christ Himself, will be foolishness to those who have not yet been born again. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” That is something to keep in mind while reading this, and any other defense of the faith books. It means we need Colson’s book very much, so that we can continue with the “renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2) in order to fulfill the great commission (lead people to freedom now and forever in eternity through Jesus Christ). We don’t shut down and cower because people--maybe even other church-attendees--think us foolish. No. We as Christians can joyfully and gently but firmly contend “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

It starts with knowing who our faith is in and why. Colson’s book will help us to do just that.

“Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:20-21

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