Mark D. Roberts

the faith chuck colson book Chuck Colson and Harold Fickett have just published a new book: The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters (Zondervan, 2008). In order to promote this book, Chuck Colson is doing a “blog tour,” in which he “visits” nine different blogs, responding to a question from the host blogger and sparking conversation with blog readers. is the seventh stop of Colson’s tour. For the other stops, check out the Zondervan Blog.
Colson is due to stop my my blog on tomorrow, Wednesday, March 12. In anticipation of his visit, I thought it would be good to do a brief review of The Faith. (Note: In this review, I’m going to speak as if the book was written by Colson. It bears the mark of his personality and life experience, and is written in the first person. I expect that Harold Fickett, an outstanding writer, took Colson’s ideas and stories and turned them into a very readable, engaging book.)
In his Preface to The Faith, Chuck Colson say that he “wanted to write an accessible gook that would summarize in about 240 pages the basic truths of Christianity” (p. 9). If you count the Appendix, The Faith has exactly 240 pages. And I can vouch for the accessibility of the writing. Though Colson deals with all major Christian doctrines, including some of the tricky ones (like the Trinity), this is a book that can be easily digested by someone with a basic education. Most high-school-aged readers would be able to make it through this book without extraordinary effort.
Colson intends to present the faith “once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). His is an exposition of classic Christian orthodoxy, those matters of doctrine on which most Christians have agreed for centuries. When it comes to doctrines on which orthodox Christians disagree, like the sacraments or the nature of the church, Colson states his preference, but doesn’t insist that his is the only right way. This will, no doubt, be unsettling to Christian readers who tend to emphasize differences within Christendom. For example, I expect Colson will get some flak for his positive comments on Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical movement in which Colson participated (see, for example, p. 143).
Some Christians will also cringe when Colson tells the story of baptizing his thirteen-year-old grandson, Max. In this story Colson advocates believer’s baptism (which makes sense, given that Colson is himself a Baptist), and he explains how he was ordained by his church for one day so he could baptize Max. Here Colson stands clearly outside of the mainstream of Christian tradition, which advocates infant baptism and allows only those ordained to clerical ministry to do the baptizing. I know quite a few Christians who would say Colson’s notion of the “the faith” is out of step with traditional Christianity in this regard.
But Colson’s story of baptizing Max is part of what I love about this book, even though it wouldn’t fit within my Presbyterian tradition. He did something special for Max out of love and faithfulness to God. Max, because he is autistic, wasn’t able to be baptized in public in the ordinary manner. So did something unusual, stretching the boundaries even of his Baptist tradition. Even as he upholds orthodoxy and argues for it passionately, Colson isn’t simply laying out the truths of Christianity. He is continually illustrating these truths with compelling stories.
And these stories, often moving and always well-narrated, are part of what makes The Faith distinctive and engaging. They come not only from Colson’s personal experience, especially in his prison ministry, but also from around the world and throughout Christian history. Each story says: Here is what it means to live out the truth faith. Take away the stories from this book and you have a fairly ordinary introduction to basic Christian orthodoxy from an evangelical Christian perspective. Add the stories, and you have a gripping account of what it means, not only to believe the right things about God, but also to live out these beliefs in the world.
Colson exposits Christian faith in the context of threats in today’s world. This is another quality of The Faith that makes it distinctive. What are these threats? They include: radical Islam; secularism; atheisim (really anti-theism); liberal Christianity (which doesn’t embrace historic faith); and watered down, discipleship-less Christianity that’s found in many apparently evangelical churches today. Colson takes these threats seriously. But he doesn’t advocate a defensive strategy so much as an offensive one. Christians don’t need to fight against the threats we face so much as to stand strongly on the solid ground of Scripture and proclaim orthodox Christian faith without apology.
I’ll have more to say about The Faith tomorrow, in the context of Colson’s “visit” to

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