The Faith - Chuck Colson

I first heard about Chuck Colson's new book "The Faith," at Willow Creek's Leadership Summit. I was very much encouraged by Colson's speech - especially the emphasis on the need for the church to return to a proclamation of Truth. So, I couldn't wait to get my hands on his book. 

The first 112 pages of "The Faith" were exactly what I was hoping for. Colson calls for a return to the basics: God is, He has spoken Truth. Despite that, something went wrong and it took an "invasion" of earth by God Himself to make the situation right. Colson also includes a chapter on the Trinity, and the importance of clarity on that issue. 

For the first 112 pages, Colson is clear, concise, and presents a rather good overview of some historical tenets of the Christian faith. The chapters are solid theologically, but extremely easy to read. Colson's ability to relate Truth to real-life is compelling, and actually exciting. I flew through the first several chapters because I couldn't put it down. 

All that came to a screeching halt at page 113 as Colson launches into the section called "The Faith and Life." He begins the section on the Gospel message called "Exchanging Identities. If you're familiar with the lordship salvation discussion, Colson's chapter presents lordship salvation on steroids; he says things that I don't think any other proponent of lordship salvation would say. Ultimately, I think he presents salvation like a car loan with no down payment:  free on the front-end, but you'll spend the rest of your life paying for it. Either Colson wasn't careful with his language, or he isn't clear on the gospel. I'm hoping for the former, but if the latter is true it certainly helps me understand the rest of the book. 

Page 129 through the end of the book (the last half of the book) is basically a defense of Colson's belief in a document called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" (ECT). It was a document that attempted to find common theological ground between Evangelicals and Catholics so that they might have unity in the faith. Unfortunately, (and I want to put this as kindly as possible), the document is best illustrated by the picture of an ostrich with its head in the sand. 

Dont' get me wrong - I would love to see Evangelicals and Catholics together. But that will not happen en masse until the Roman Catholic Church as an institution returns to salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, alone. There are Roman Catholics who have a right understanding of the Gospel, and Evangelicals are together with them. But the only way we can look at the Roman Catholic church and say that we're "together" is to ignore the essentials, pretend they're not really essential, or for evangelicals to change their essentials to reflect more Roman Catholic doctrine.  

Unlike the first half of the book, the second half doesn't seem to be nearly as careful in its lanuage. For example, on page 150 Colson says both Catholics and Evangelicals hold to "Sacraments," which are "an outward sign of an inward and spiritual reality." Such a statement would horribly offend my Catholic friends, who believe that the Eucharist is much, much more than a spiritual reality or a sign. We're not together on that.  

On page 161, Colson says the "Catholics... direct their members to confess their sins to clergy, who then announce God's pardon. Similarly, Protestants have always availed themselves of the clergy's counseling." Actually, I know scores of Protestant pastors, and couldn't name a single one who believes his pastoral counseling is even remotely similar to the Catholic practice of confessing to a priest. Never once have I given penance to a person. Never once have I announced God's pardon on a person who confessed to me. The two practices are not similar at all. But unfortunately, drawing parallels where there are none is the only way at this point to get Evangelicals and Catholics together. 

I was sorely disappointed in the last half of "The Faith." I honestly felt like Colson pulled a bait-and-switch on me, and moved halfway through the book from standing for historical orthodoxy to tweaking historical orthodoxy so that we can see connections where there are none. I'm so thankful for Chuck Colson's ministry, and for many of the books he has written. Sadly, this is not one of them.