Rightly understood and rightly communicated, the Christian faith is one of great joy. It is an invitation to God's kingdom, where tears are replaced by laughter and longing hearts find their purpose and their home. This is the heart of the gospel: God's search to reclaim us and love us as his own. But have we truly grasped this? Those of us who have disdained Christianity as a religion of bigotry--have we repudiated the genuine article or merely demonstrated our own prejudice and ignorance? Those of us who are Christians--have we deeply apprehended the mission of Jesus, and do our ways and character faithfully reflect his beauty? From the nature of God, to the human condition, to the work of Jesus, to God's coming kingdom, and all that lies between, how well do we understand the foundational truths of Christianity and their implications? The Faith is a book for our troubled times and for decades to come, for Christians and non-Christians alike. It is the most important book Chuck Colson and Harold Fickett have ever written: a thought-provoking, soul-searching, and powerful manifesto of the great, historical central truths of Christianity that have sustained believers through the centuries. Brought to immediacy with vivid, true stories, here is what Christianity is really about and why it is a religion of hope, redemption, and beauty.
In this book, Colson promises to explain what Christians believe, why, and why it matters. He succeeds in two out of three goals, describing conservative beliefs and how the beliefs transform lives. He doesn’t, however, explain very well why conservatives believe.
The book is in two parts, and the first part is painful, so bear with me until I get through this section. Hoping to explain why Christians believe the way he does, Colson instead highlights how differently many Christians really do believe. For example, a poll showed that “49 percent of Protestant pastors reject core biblical beliefs,” whatever that means. Colson is unfazed; he chops them out of the church, so they don’t count. One of his favorite phrases is “true Christians,” by which he means anyone who agrees with his “nonnegotiable, irreducible fundamentals of the Christian faith.”
Colson argues with emotional appeal. For instance, he writes about struggling with his children’s illnesses, questioning God’s love, and then stepping outside the hospital to see the beauty of creation. God Is, he immediately concludes, and the book transitions into a discussion of three possibilities: A godless universe; a pantheistic universe; and a personal God. But why does he neglect to consider the most obvious fit to his observation: Deism. Doesn’t his observation imply a creative creator who then ignores his creation?
Colson’s logic in this book seems to be that since the Bible is true, everything in it is true. The Bible is our rock, the ultimate authority, and because it came from God, it must certainly be true. And how do we know the Bible is literally true? Because “there has been no discovery proving the Bible false.” Sigh. Maybe the most obvious “fail” here is that archaeology has thoroughly debunked many of the claims of conquest in the book of Joshua. Elsewhere, Colson argues that Jesus’ resurrection must be true, because nobody has yet disproved it. I guess Elvis fans can take heart: Nobody has yet proved he’s dead, either.
Colson especially goes on the offensive against liberal Christianity, labeling it “institutionalized agnosticism,” “no better than paganism,” and insinuating that liberal Christians were responsible for Hitler’s eugenics movement. I can handle the anti-liberal posturing by people who misunderstand the nature of Christ. I’m quite used to that. But the first half of Colson’s book is little more than fundamentalist rhetoric.
After whittling the Christian community down to his own mold, he is ready to move on to part 2. But not before dissin’ even my man Einstein, claiming that Einstein detested the “religion of fear and morality” that a personal God brings (Einstein actually said something quite different … that development from a religion of fear TO moral religion was a great step forward, and he pointed to the Bible as evidence of that progression).
Anyway. On to part 2 where the intolerance continues but where it now mixes with some very inspiring words about how Christians are to live out their faith. This is where “why it matters” rings true, and this section raised my rating from one star to three. God’s favorites, Colson notes from scripture, are the poor, the destitute, the widowed, the fatherless, the sick, the prisoners, and anyone suffering injustice. So we choose sides. We choose love, and plunge into the battle between good and evil. Once on God’s side, we come to understand God’s point of view and position ourselves to experience God’s love and friendship in a whole new way.
This time, Colson is correct. He has identified the “true Christians.”
I find reviewing works of nonfiction to be extremely difficult because every chapter is a piece of the whole. I enjoyed this book. I liked that Colson worked so hard on unity among Christians. I think those that choose to not believe in God, like Dawkins, would not be swayed by this book. Those that might like to find ways to explain their belief might find this book of value. The book really is a challenge to the Christian to be more intentional.