Saturday, 1 September 2012

Book Review: The Faith

Genre: Religion & Spirituality   
Author: Charles Colson and Harold Fickett   
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars   
It is a shame that Charles Colson will go to his grave known as one of the Watergate defendants because he wasn't. Colson was not charged with nor was he guilty of any offense related to the Nixon era Watergate break-in and cover up. He plead guilty to "dirty tricks" directed against Pentagon Papers defendant Danial Ellsberg and the world would likely have remained ignorant of Colson's hand in that affair if he had not voluntarily confessed.

Colson, for those who do not know, found God while in prison and upon his release founded a prison ministry called Prison Fellowship. He has also become one of the most eloquent and brightest apologists of the Christian faith.

While surfing the Internet the other evening I happened across a one hour interview of Colson and at it's conclusion realized that I had just listened to one of the brightest men in America today with a worldview and a grasp on what is happening today second to none, Whether one agrees with Colson's faith ot not he deserves to be listened to as he presents the most cogent case for the collapse of the west that I have ever heard and that collapse he lays firmly at the door of the post-modern world and the abandonment of Christianity. He makes a very grim picture of our future and he believes we may indeed be defeated by radical Islam. Not only have we lost the will to fight we do not have a cause to fight for. It is that lacking a cause to fight for, the lack of a faith, Colson argues, lies at the heart of Islam's hatred of th West. It is not our support for Israel or our troops in Saudi Arabia that offend them so much as our complete moral collapse and degradation as a society.

A friend of mine and I have been having an on and off conversation about he decline of the western world. My friend lays that decline squarely on the decline of christianity while I have just as firmly resisted that notion but after having listened to Colson and read his latest book, I may have to revisit my opinion because I think my friend and Charles Colson make a well reasoned argument.

In a society that tried to erase the notion of God from everything it is interesting that God is at the heart of all our laws and contracts and without God there is nothing to differentiate us from the animal Kingdom. In fact it is common for eastern religions such as Buddhism to teach that our life force is indeed no different than that of any other animal's life force. If that be true than there is no driving force behind 'sila,' or morality that is so important to Buddhism nor would there be anything to differentiate humans from dogs and our laws would have no meaning.

Colson has not convinced me of the existence of God but he has eloquently defended a position that I have long believed I was seeing come to pass before my eyes - the decline of the western world and the dumbing of the world's population.

Like Andrew Keen I see the Internet as having been instrumental in our decline where everyone becomes an expert, except they aren't, and where everyone's opinion has equal authority, when they shouldn't. But the Internet has merely accelerated what has happened in our society at large.

Like the psychology of Alcoholics Anonymous, my psychiatrist has long maintained that humans, in order to be mentally healthy, must live in submission to something greater (or higher) than themselves even if that something is only an idea. I also believe this to be true. 

If one looks at the Western world, even in its decay, and compares it to the rest of the world it is glaringly apparent that the Western World has risen to the pinnacle of civilization. But it did not get there in a vacuum. The reason the West advanced as far as it did was primarily the work of Christianity. The Western world was carried aloft on that hallowed thought.

Colson's new book The Faith shares a lot in common with the interview I watched the other night as Colson explores Christianity in a post-modern world. Whether one is a Christian or not or whether one holds to any spiritual belief, Colson's book is an important read in today's world. Sadly it will not be read by many and the few that do are probably already in the choir. Reading a crime novel or a vampire serial seems to be the most large swaths of our culture can manage to read. As thinking in the west declines, how can we bring it back if people have forgotten how to read books that require them to make a decision?

Two reviews listed on Amazon. The first from Publishers Weekly: 

Longtime collaborators Colson and Fickett address the very tenets of the Christian faith in order to renew ourselves as Christians and the Church as God's people. Generally they do this well, first offering an overview of challenges facing the church and then moving on to specific core issues. Chapter builds on chapter, from God Is to He Has Spoken to Truth and so on to Last Things. Especially thought-provoking is the question of why so many people accuse the Christian faith of being dry and brittle. One answer, the authors say, is the church's failure to teach what the faith is. Colson and Fickett call the church to rediscover the joy of orthodoxy, to renew the surrounding culture and to rethink how we live out faith. If there's ever been a time in which renewal was essential, it is today, they say. Those who know Colson's work will appreciate his pointed statements and bold words, while those looking for subtle shadings of doctrinal issues may be aghast at the lack thereof. The book's strength lies not in minutiae but in opening the discussion on orthodoxy and what living as a Christian means by going back to faith's beginnings.

And the second from Christianity Today: 

"…a winning combination of Christian apologetics and Christian doctrine -- a manifesto for looking at the world in a distinctly Christian way….'The Faith' is moved along by stories more than by systematic theology (though there's plenty of the latter in the book as well). Colson and Fickett bring together stories of courage and martyrdom from the annals of Christian history as well as riveting accounts of personal transformation from Colson's Prison Fellowship ministry. The contemporary stories help readers see what the Christian life looks like today. The ancient stories remind us that we are not the first generation of Christians to live this way. The stories aren't just inspirational. They're informative….[T]he book indeed works as both catechisms and as apologetic, a strong defense for traditional faith without sounding overly defensive. 'The Faith' is more a celebration of orthodoxy than a circling of the theological wagons. 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." 

The hour long television interview with Colson can be found here:

(Originally posted to Multiply January 4, 2009)

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