Book Review: The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters by Charles Colson
To the general public, at least to those old (or historically literate) enough to remember, the name, “Chuck Colson” conjures images of politics, the Nixon presidency, the Watergate scandal and prison. To most believers, however, Colson is best known for his first book, Born Again, his radio broadcast, BreakPoint, his internationally renown Prison Fellowship, and the numerous subsequent theological best sellers that followed his dramatic conversion in the 1970’s that come. Co-authored by Harold Fickett, this latest book, The Faith, will no doubt be added to the list of contributions he will be best known for. It is one of his most in depth works to date in this call to bring the church back to its roots of Biblical orthodoxy and the tenets of the Christian faith. Yet, far from being just another dry systematic theology the authors accomplish this goal through the use of inspiring stories and personal experiences as they list and defend 12 of the major core doctrines of the faith.
Colson explains his motivation in writing the book: “The Christian West is under assault by the twin challenges of secularism and radical Islam. Only through Christianity, I believe, can Western Europe and America meet these desperate challenges.” The book is written to meet these challenges by bringing the readers back to an understanding of the core beliefs that have untied Christian through the ages, also known as “Orthodoxy” or “right beliefs.” Unlike the alternatives, Christianity is not a theocracy. Colson explains that “Christianity advances not by power or by conquest but by love.” Christianity is more than a religion or even a relationship with Jesus. He explains, “The faith is a complete view of the world and humankind’s place in it. Christianity is a world view that speaks to every area of life, and its foundational doctrines define its content: What Christians believe, why we believe it, and why it matters, applied to each of 12 propositions (doctrines of the faith) that all the history of Christianity believed. This is the truth you can stake your life on.”
The book is divided into two parts. Part One, “God and the Faith,” looks at the six major doctrines of the nature of God, Himself. Part Two, “The Faith and Life,” continues on with the doctrines dealing with God’s relationship to His creation. The subjects covered are as follows:
“God Is” describes the existence of God (we have three choices - the belief in no God, the belief in an impersonal god, or the Universal Mind, or the belief in a personal God (the God of the Bible).
“God Has Spoken” discusses the written Word, the canon of the Scriptures, the process of archeology, verifying textual integrity, and most important, it’s transforming power and the testimony of changed lives.
“Truth” takes on the challenge against the fact that there is an absolute truth and we can know it. It discusses the importance of doctrine in a world of post-modern relativism. There is also a discussion of why truth matters.
“What Went Right, What Went Wrong” is an excellent discussion on the existence and the problem of suffering and evil. We are reminded that God is not the cause of most of our suffering. It is our own sin. Rather than taking responsibility we deny our own fault (and the fault of a fallen world) and blame God.
“The Invasion” covers the doctrines of the Incarnation (God becoming flesh), the Cross and atonement, and the bodily resurrection and ascension. To give you a feel for how powerfully Colson addresses this subject, he writes, “Sometimes I think Jesus’ humble announcement of the liberation of the people and the coming of the Kingdom of God is as badly misunderstood in churches today as it was by the Jews of his time. He was bringing in the reign of God on earth - first through Hi won ministry and then by establishing a peaceful occupying force, his Church, which would carry on God’s redemption until Christ’s return in power and glory at the Kingdom’s final triumph. In the cosmic struggle of good and evil, Jesus’ inauguration of the Kingdom was more decisive that D-day or any other invasion in human history.”
“God Above, God Beside, God Within” is a superb discussion on the nature and the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity. Taking some of the very arguments used to attack it, Colson turns them around to prove the direct opposite. He writes, “Serious Christians must understand the nature of this God in His fullness, particularly God’s Trinitarian nature and God’s sovereignty. Both are critical to the freedom of the Christian life.”
Part II. The Faith and Life
“Exchanging Identities” discusses what Christ did on the Christ to attain our salvation. Colson also shares some excellent thoughts on suffering as believers. After telling the story of Dietrich Bonheoffer, Colson writes, “The way Christians endure suffering can be, in fact, our most powerful witness.”
“Reconciliation” covers both our reconciliation to God and to others. It discusses forgiveness and unity of the Church.
“The Church” is the community of the saints. We are told, “The Church is a reclamation project, reestablishing God’s rule in the midst of a world still mostly under Satan’s sway.” The chapter also discusses church ordinances, discipline, community and the mission of the church.
Quickly reviewing the last four chapters, Chapter 11: “Be Holy - Transform the World” discusses the importance for believers to live lives worthy of our calling. In Chapter 12 “The Sanctity of Life,” Colson explains the Biblical pro-life position. Chapter 13: “Last things” is a discussion of the return of Christ and the End of History, and Chapter 14: “The Joy of Orthodoxy” is an inspiring discussion of how the true believer’s life is filled with excitement and joy. The final chapter, “The Great Proposal” wraps up all of the doctrines and concludes that “Christianity does not seek to impose, it proposes. The Gospel is the Great Proposal...All are welcome and it’s never too late.”
Christianity Today calls The Faith “a winning combination of Christian apologetics and Christian doctrine — a manifesto for looking at the world in a distinctly Christian way... Its primary message is that Christianity is true, Christianity is good, and Christianity is beneficial for the world. Its primary method is to do so by explaining what Christianity is.” I would add that in The Faith Colson has responded to the challenges and charges facing Christianity today, not just by repeating doctrines but by personalizing them, making them real and applicable to each of us in our daily walk. I highly recommend The Faith to anyone who would like your own faith to be reinvigorated in the truths we believe and the power they have to turn this world upside down.
Last Modified July 28, 2008