Friday, August 21, 2009

Colson Takes on the Faith

Over the past few years there has been a rise in the number of books that have fallen under the category of the "New Atheists". As these intellectuals attempt to dispel Christianity there is another disturbing trend going on within Christianity itself - people who are becoming more and more biblically illiterate. Here is where Charles Colson steps into the gap. Colson has written an amazing book that helps to explain what it is that Christians historically have believed, why they believe it, and why it matters. Colson has been a profound thinker in Christianity, helping to get people to think through a worldview that reflects the faith and evaluates the culture through that grid instead of the other way around. He points out in the beginning of his book that: "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." (p. 28).
With that as a foundation Colson then begins to explain in detail the foundational truths of the Christian faith: God the Father, sin, the importance of the Bible, knowing truth, reconciliation through Jesus Christ, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the transformational purpose of the Church. Colson does a great job in explaining the pillars of our faith in a way that is easy to understand. He not only is excellent at explaining the core truths of Scripture but he is also an excellent story teller. He tells some of the most fascinating stories of history to go along with his arguments of the faith.

Favorite Quotes:

Colson on the Bible: "Simply put, the Bible is the rock on which the Church stands or falls. It is the ultimate authority for all Christians - Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox alike. It is revealed propositional truth. The texts were written by men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and thus are REVEALED to us. It is PROPOSITIONAL because it makes a series of claims. It is TRUTH because it is from God, and thus must certainly be true; God could not have spoken something that is not true because that would be contrary to His nature. This is why all true Christians take the Bible as their ultimate authority - and why no Christian should ever be intimidated in defending it." (p. 56).

Colson on Truth: When the God of the Bible is rejected, people choose a new god. The postmodern age has anointed secular tolerance as its god. Tolerance once meant listening respectfully to all points of view, freely discussed in our common search for the truth. But the creed for the new god of tolerance is that knowing truth is impossible. So everyone is free to think and act as he likes, with one exception: those who have the audacity to believe that they know the truth, particularly if they think God has revealed it to them, are not tolerated. . . The task of this generation - as it will be in every generation - is to understand Christianity as a complete view of the world and humankind's place in it, that is, as the truth. If Christianity is not the truth, it is NOTHING, and our faith mere sentimentality. (p. 68-70).

Colson on the Incarnation: The revolutionary nature of God's invasion of our world is far more significant than all the other invasions of history taken together. This one establishes the possibility of the rule of God in every human heart and began the reclamation of our world as God's own. (p. 87).

Colson on the Cross: . . . the cross is the symbol of Christianity. It marks the dividing line between man's futile efforts to achieve God's righteousness and God's gracious act in sending Christ to redeem all who will follow. It represents the most decisive moment in history, when God answered the great human dilemma that we have all sinned and yearn for forgiveness: God took upon Himself our sins to set us free. It is where justice and mercy meet. It is scandalous. (p. 90)

Colson on the Trinity: The Trinity enables us to better understand the scriptural teaching that God is love. Love cannot exist without someone to love, which is why Allah and any unitary understanding leads to a cold, impersonal god. The essence of the God of the Bible is His intertwined triune nature of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The three continuously pour out love to one another and receive love in return. The Trinity exists as a perfect community of self-giving. In this life, Christians enjoy participation in this community through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and in the world to come we will be united with the Godhead in perfect love. The Trinity sums up our final hope. What could be more central to our faith? (p. 105).

Colson on a Christian Worldview: . . . Christianity is a way of seeing all of life, every aspect of reality; it is a worldview. This means that we have two divinely authorized commissions. The first is well known, the Great Commission, to make disciples and baptize them (Matthew 28:19). But the second is equally important. It is to bring the righteousness of God to bear on all of life, to take dominion, to carry our the tasks we are given in the first chapters of Genesis, to bring a redeeming influence into a fallen culture. I call this the Cultural Commission. (p. 107).

Colson on Salvation: It was an exchange of identities. Christ comes to the cross to die, giving His righteous life for us; we in turn come to the cross to die, surrendering our old sinful life for Him. Thereafter Christ lives in us (Galatians 2:20). This is the heart of the Christian conversion. . . . Our past sins are not only forgiven, but we are transformed to live a new life with God's power and grace. (p. 113).

Colson on Holiness: When you look at the history of these Christian awakenings and movements, you find one common denominator running through all of them. . . . They acted because they believed, as God's holy people, that they were called both to end systemic evil AND reform cultural attitudes. (p. 170)

Colson on the Origin of Life: I believe the Intelligent Design movement has provided good reason for evolutionary theory to be reconsidered; what we have learned about DNA tells us that all of life is governed by intelligent information. But however we regard evolution, all serious Christians take issue with the secular view and affirm that God created humanity with a specific purpose in mind: that creation is intentional and cannot be random. The argument for design is clear in Scripture. which records that the 'heavens declare the glory of God' (Psalm 19:1) - in other words, God has left his imprint on creation. Created by God and with His purpose for us clear, human life is sacred. (p. 175).

Colson on the Influence of Christianity: Christianity does not seek to impose, it proposes. The Gospel is the great proposal: Come to the wedding feast, one and all - black, white, rich, poor, East, West, Muslim, Jew, Christian - all are welcome, and it's never too late. God turns no man or woman away, not one. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Father brings us into His Kingdom. This is the promise He holds out to individuals and nations alike, a Kingdom not of eating and drinking or of marching armies and clashing swords, but a Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy forever in the Holy Spirit. (p. 225)

In conclusion, this is an excellent book that not only helps to respond to the New Atheists, but it is a great book for all Christians to be reminded, maybe even for the first time, what it is that historic Christianity has believed and how that has transformed peoples lives and impacted the world in which they lived. This is a book to be read and re-read. We constantly need to be reminded of what we believe, why we believe it and why our beliefs matter in the world that we currently live in. And finally, if you want to dive into more of Colson's concept of the Cultural Commission read his book "How Now Shall We Live?". His argument for the Cultural Commission profoundly changed my views on how I look at culture how Christianity should approach it.

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