Charles Colson

"The Counterfeit Gospel"* (Book Reviews)


Loving God

In this book and audio cassette tapes by Chuck Colson, he praises "Mother" Teresa very highly as one of the "contemporary giants of the faith" and "the greatest saint in the world." I do not know which faith he is speaking about, Christianity or Roman Catholicism, since he seems to think that the two are identical, or at least that Catholicism is a species of the genus Christianity.


The Body

Since Loving God, Colson has written a number of books. The Body is a book about the church. It is enthusiastically endorsed by J.I. Packer, John Cardinal O' Connor, Pat Robertson, Bill Hybels, Steve Brown, Jerry Falwell, James Montgomery Boice, Jack Hayford, Carl F. H. Henry, Adrian Rogers, Kenneth Kantzer, Richard John Neuhaus, and Vernon Grounds -- a cross-section of the religious establishment in America.

Like other Colson books, it is a mélanges of fictional short stories, anecdotes, social commentary, autobiography, and theology. Although it is not a systematic discussion of the purpose, function, or structure of the church, it is perhaps his most theological book so far.

In the nine page "Recommended Reading" list he appends to The Body, included are works by "outstanding" theologians such as Richard Owen Roberts, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Cardinal Ratzinger, Malcolm Muggeridge, Richard John Neuhaus, Richard Niebuhr, Ern Baxter, Avery Dulles, Charles Finney, Keith Fournier, John Frame, John Paul II, Robert Webber, and Helmut Thelicke.

As one can surmise by reading his Recommended Reading list, Colson's views are quite eclectic -- perhaps ecumenical is the better word. He expresses his gratitude to those who have helped him: Baptist Carl Henry; Presbyterians Francis Schaeffer, R.C. Sproul, and T.M. Moore; Roman Catholics Richard John Neuhaus, Tom Weinandy, and J. Daryl Charles; Anglican J. I. Packer, and so on.

The reason Colson is ecumenical is that he sees Christianity as "mere Christianity," a set of five or six "fundamentals" that constitute the essence of Christianity -- fundamentals such as "the Virgin Birth, the deity of Christ, the Atonement, the Resurrection, the authority of Scripture, and the Second Coming" (104; 108-109, 185ff.). Colson claims to be a fundamentalist, and insistently says so. He calls for church unity around those fundamentals. He is a leading proponent of minimal Christianity and maximum one-churchism. (Those two, by the way, always go together: minimal doctrine and maximal bureaucracy. The Biblical view is maximal doctrine and minimal bureaucracy.)

"There are fundamentalists in every denomination," he writes. "Catholic, Presbyterian, Baptist, Brethren, Methodist, Episcopal every Christian is a fundamentalist" (186). What we need is all to get together. Colson's book is a 400-page equivalent of Rodney King's whine, "Can't we all just get along?"

Colson lards his book with quotations from or references to John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, the popes, several cardinals, Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, Billy Graham, many Roman Catholic priests, and United Methodist Ministers; he gives no evidence of understanding that these men represent different religions. If Roman Catholicism -- with its adoration of Mary, veneration of the saints, prayers to both, religious costumes, elaborate rituals, mass, totalitarian hierarchy, saving sacraments, eating the physical body and blood of Christ, adulterated Bible, perverted Gospel, and oral tradition -- is Christianity, then Calvin, Luther, Edwards, the Puritans, Pilgrims, Reformed Baptists, and this writer are not Christians. Christians should never forget that Paul cursed the fundamentalists in Galatia who erred on justification (Galatians 1), and the author of Hebrews excoriated the fundamentalists to whom he wrote (Hebrews 5).

Colson is enthusiastic that the liberals -- who, as J. Gresham Machen argued, are not Christians -- and the Roman Catholics are uniting. Colson's affinity for the Roman church is revealed throughout the book (page numbers in parens):

1. Colson favors making the sign of the cross (106);

2. Colson laments the lack of a Protestant Magisterium (132);

3. Colson viciously attacks "individualism," "lone rangers," and the "entrepreneurial spirit" (32, 134); (one wonders if Colson has such people as Noah, Abraham, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abadnego, David, Athanasius, John Huss, and Christ himself in mind when he condemns "Lone Rangers");

4. Colson favors private communication (140); (it seems that this is theologically correct individualism);

5. Colson laments the lack of a monolithic church structure (199);

6. Colson laments the fact that Americans are free to choose which church they will attend (41);

7. Colson thinks that "Catholics have better made visible the spiritual reality of worship" (73);

8. Colson uses the title "Father" throughout the book to refer to priests, despite Christ's explicit command not to do so;

9. Colson vigorously defends Mother Teresa's "Christian commitment" (87);

10. Colson endorses "natural law" (196);

11. Colson praises Billy Graham for including Roman Catholic priests in his "revivals" (333);

12. Colson includes all denominations in the work of Prison Fellowship;

13. Colson endorses "Catholic evangelicals" (101);

14. Colson asserts "the church is hierarchical and authoritarian and ultimately answerable only to God" (133);

15. Colson criticizes those Protestants who opposed John Kennedy's presidential candidacy (169);

16. Colson implies that anti-abortion activism is more important than a correct understanding of the doctrine of justification (114);

17. Colson praises the Catholic church for "calling heretics to account" (132);

18. Colson believes the pope to be "one of the most articulate defenders of democratic capitalism" (268).

According to Colson, while Luther may have been justified in some of his protests against the Roman Church, the reasons for the protests have disappeared: Indulgences, for example are gone; Rome has changed (271). Indulgences, however, are not gone, and Rome has not changed in any important respect. Rome has always prided itself on staying the same -- semper eadem is its motto -- while adapting to changing cultures.

On one hand, Colson says he is "thoroughly reformed" in his theology; on the other, he praises the holiness and charismatic movements for "breathing life into the churches." On one hand, Colson writes: "The charge is to preach the whole truth" (123). On the other, only the fundamentals. Everything else tends to disunity.


Two Enemies

Colson sees two enemies facing the church today: secularism and Islam. They are such serious threats, he believes, "it is so crucial for the members of the Body to put aside their less significant differences and join forces around our integrated worldview to defend the truth" (199). The first question is, What integrated worldview? Thomism? Calvinism? What is this integrated worldview that Colson has in mind?

Second, when confronted with a similar argument in the 16th century, the Reformers would have nothing to do with it. They were urged to join forces with the Catholics against the "Turk." Islam was the threat then too. The Reformers were too wise to be fooled by that specious argument. They took the command to Biblical separation seriously, Colson doesn't.

One wonders how soon Colson will be joining the Catholic church -- doing so exactly what he and J. I. Packer are urging others to do: "It is about time for Christians who recite the creed and mean it to come together for fellowship and witness regardless of denominational identity" (99).


Against the Night

Against the Night, an indictment of the West and a plea that we revive Western Civilization, grew out of lectures that Colson delivered at Wheaton College in 1988. There is little new in the book; if one has read C. S. Lewis, Russell Kirk, and Robert Bellah, he has already read Against the Night. "Individualism" is a swear word for Colson, which he regularly modifies by adjectives such as "rampant," "utilitarian," "experiential," and "radical"; and we have lost our sense of "community."

What we need to do is to revive the "classical" and Christian "consensus" about the "eternal things." We must recover "2,300 years of accumulated moral wisdom" and a "rationally defensible natural law" (44). (Weren't the Ten Commandments revealed 3,500 years ago? What is this 2,300 year old "accumulated moral wisdom"?) Colson's prescriptions for political, social, and educational action are conservative bromides; he does not get to the heart of the matter.

According to Colson, the Roman Catholic church created the model we need for the next Dark Age: "Instead of conforming to the barbarian culture of the Dark Ages, the medieval church modeled a counterculture to a world engulfed by destruction and confusion. Thousands of monastic orders spread across Europe these religious [sic] provided attractive models of communities of caring and character" (132).

Colson's heroes are the same as in his other books: the Roman Catholics, Jaime Cardinal Sin (yes, that's his name), Mother Teresa, Christopher Dawson, Russell Kirk, Richard John Neuhaus, Gordon Liddy, G.K. Chesterton, Paul Johnson, Pope John Paul II, Charles Williams, Malcolm Muggeridge, a smattering of Anglicans, and a few Protestants. Servant, his publisher, is Catholic. There is a little light in this book, and no hope of winning against the night.


Who Speaks for God?

This book is a collection of essays that Colson wrote for Jubilee, a publication of Prison Fellowship. In these essays, as in all his books, Colson does exactly what he accuses the media of doing: "The Christian worldview has been undermined by a fierce frontal assault for the past twenty-five years. But, startling as it may sound, these attacks are not really what alarm me. Of course, they are grave -- but also obvious. No, what concerns me more than the frontal assault is a more subtle attack -- the insidious way Christian ideas are subtly altered by an interpretation here, a nuance there." Colson's subversion of Christianity is dangerous, yet almost no one sees it.


The God of Stones and Spiders

The God of Stones and Spiders is a collection of essays originally written for Prison Fellowship's publication Jubilee and for the neo-evangelical Christianity Today. Perhaps Colson's most startling statement in this book is that "there are 350,000 churches across America where people's spiritual needs are being met" (125). Does he seriously believe that? That's 7,000 sound churches in every state, over 100 in every county. Apparently he has a very broad definition of "meeting spiritual needs," just as he has a very broad definition of Christianity. This book continues Colson's program of subverting the Reformation.


Life Sentence

According to the blurb at the beginning of this book, "Life Sentence begins where Born Again left off, chronicling Chuck Colson's growth to full Christian commitment in his prison ministry." The book is endorsed by Jack Anderson, Billy Graham, Catherine Marshall, Carl Henry, John Perkins, and Vernon Grounds.

Life Sentence furnishes one bit of information that might explain why Colson glosses over the differences between Roman Catholicism and Christianity: His wife Patty "was increasingly uncomfortable about my becoming involved too much in religious work. The aggressive Christians nettled Patty, made her feel that her own quiet, Roman Catholic beliefs were inadequate" (35). Colson explains further: "I've been an Episcopalian, but I go to Catholic mass occasionally with my wife and sometimes we go to different churches" (39). "Two days later, as I sometimes do, I accompanied Patty to mass in her parish church" (93).

Colson is a religious relativist, although he denounces ethical relativism in his other books. Consider this conversation. Colson is being questioned by a member of the audience during an appearance at George Washington University:

"Do you believe that only Christians go to heaven?"
"Yes."

"What about Jews?" (The questioner was speaking for much of the audience on that one.)
"Everyone must seek God in his or her own way. I do not judge others and I respect others' beliefs, but I know what is truth for me. I can't compromise what Jesus says and I won't because I believe" (79).

Notice that Colson says that "everyone must seek God in his or her own way." Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me." Colson says that Christianity is "truth for me." The Bible says that it is truth, period. "Truth for me" is the language of relativism.

This religious relativism explains Colson's practice of working with Roman Catholics wherever possible. In fact, be insists on working with "all churches" -- Protestant, liberal, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, you name it. Colson informs us that "few churches have been more effective in prison ministry over the years than the Roman Catholics" (232).

Colson's religious relativism is an indication of theological confusion, and Colson is very confused, to put it most charitably. On page 148 he refers to "inner regenerative experiences such as election and justification -- that is, God's work in the believer." Colson teaches the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification. The Gospel is absent from this book. Indeed, one looks in vain throughout his books for a clear and accurate statement of the Gospel.


Kingdoms in Conflict

The dust jacket subtitle is "An insider's challenging view of politics, power and the pulpit." This book breaks no new ground for Colson. He continues his uninterrupted praise for and citation of Mother Teresa, Richard John Neuhaus, Christopher Dawson, Paul Johnson, and Pope John Paul II, among others. He favors the use of government to erect crèches and other religious symbols (209-210). And he says nothing in opposition to the billions of dollars the government gives to religious organizations every year.

Colson points out that Hitler was a Catholic who, quoting William Shirer, borrowed "a chapter from the Roman church [by] restoring pageantry and color and mysticism to the drab lives of twentieth-century Germans. This morning's opening meeting had something of the mysticism and religious fervor of an Easter or Christmas mass in a great Catholic cathedral" (131).

Colson tells us, incredibly, that "Christianity possesses the hearts of the [Polish] people and shapes the Polish culture" (195). In fact, "Christianity has been firmly established in Poland for a thousand years" (196). Confusing anti-Communism with Christianity (Colson seems to think that everything that is anti-Communist is pro-Christian, forgetting that Hitler was anti-Communist), he waxes enthusiastic about Papal Masses in Poland and the "worshippers" (what were they worshipping?) at the Shrine of Black Madonna.


Summary of Above

From the above reviews, it is obvious that Southern Baptist Charles Colson is one of the most effective propagandists for the Roman Catholic Church in America. The following summary points out some of Colson's anti-Christian and Roman Catholic ideas:

1. Colson asserts that the Bible is paradoxical (Loving God).

2. Colson praises the nun Teresa of Calcutta as one of the "contemporary giants of the faith" and as the "greatest saint in the world" (Loving God).

3. Colson asserts that faith is "not just belief, but belief lived out -- practiced" (Loving God, 37).

4. Colson advocates "mere Christianity," the doctrines on which "all Christians agree" (The Body, 104, 108, 185).

5. Colson praises ecumenical discussions between Lutherans and Roman Catholics (The Body, 271).

6. Colson favors making the sign of the cross (The Body, 106).

7. Colson laments the lack of an ecclesiastical Magisterium among Protestantism (The Body, 132).

8. Colson heatedly attacks "individualism," "lone rangers," and the "entrepreneurial spirit" (The Body, 32, 134).

9. Colson advocates private communion (The Body, 140).

10. Colson laments the lack of a monolithic church structure (The Body, 199).

11. Colson laments the fact that Americans are free to choose the churches they will attend (The Body, 199).

12. Colson believes that Roman "Catholics have better made visible the spiritual reality of worship" (The Body, 73).

13. Colson constantly uses the title "Father" in referring to Roman and Orthodox priests.

14. Colson vigorously defends "Mother Teresa's Christian commitment" (The Body, 87).

15. Colson endorses "natural law" (The Body, 196).

16. Colson praises Billy Graham for including Roman Catholic priests in staffing his crusades (The Body, 333).

17. Colson includes all denominations in Prison Fellowship (The Body, Life Sentence).

18. Colson endorses "Catholic evangelicals" (The Body, 101) as "a great movement of the Holy Spirit among people completely committed to Christian living within the Catholic Church" (Foreword to Evangelical Catholics).

19. Colson asserts that "the church is hierarchical and authoritarian and ultimately answerable only to God" (The Body, 133).

20. Colson criticizes Protestants who opposed John Kennedy's election as President (The Body, 169).

21. Colson implies that anti-abortion activism is more important than a correct understanding of the doctrine of justification (The Body, 114).

22. Colson praises the Roman Church-State for "calling heretics to account" (The Body, 132).

23. Colson recommends reading Roman Catholic authors (The Body).

24. Colson asserts that Rome no longer offers indulgences (The Body, 271).

25. Colson uses "inclusive language" in his own books while denouncing such inclusive language as "code words of a feminist orthodoxy" which "represent subscription to the entire [feminist] agenda" (The Body, 242).

26. Colson endorses a Roman Catholic monk as a "Christian" -- a monk who teaches that obedience to God's commands is "not difficult" and "very simple" (The Body, 320).

27. Colson asserts that "it is so crucial for the members of the Body to put aside their less significant differences and join forces around our integrated world-view" (The Body, 199).

28. Colson endorses one world church: "It is about time for Christians who recite the creed and mean it to come together for fellowship and witness regardless of denominational identity" (The Body, 99).

29. Colson attends mass with his Roman Catholic wife (Life Sentence, 39, 93).

30. Colson asserts that "Christianity has been firmly established in Poland for a thousand years" (Kingdoms in Conflict, 196).

31. Colson enthusiastically praises Roman Catholic masses in Poland and the worship of the Black Madonna (Kingdoms in Conflict, 196).

32. Colson participated in mass in Northern Ireland (Loving God tapes).

33. Colson defends lying for pious purposes (Kingdoms in Conflict, 286).


How Now Shall We Live?

Introduction

Since the review of Colson's earlier books [above], Colson has publicly attacked the Biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone in Evangelicals and Catholics Together and The Gift of Salvation, and, if their pattern holds, we can expect another such quasi-Romanist document from the Cardinal Cassidy Colsonites in 2000. Colson's jihad against Biblical Christianity continues to open new theaters of conflict, and he and his Romanist and crypto-Romanist friends have already inflicted many casualties, including some within the Southern Baptist Convention and the Presbyterian Church in America.

Now Colson, Colson's collaborators and ghostwriters, and his vast network of enablers have presented us with another book, How Now Shall We Live? an awkward title that bastardizes Francis Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? Colson desperately wants to be recognized as Schaeffer's intellectual heir (he dedicated the book to the memory of Schaeffer). At 45 chapters and 572 pages, How Now musters more theological, philosophical, and historical blunders than a cathedralful of chattering clerics at a Vatican Council.

The errors range from the inconsequential -- on page xi, a mere three pages into the Introduction, Colson describes Abraham Kuyper as "the great eighteenth-century theologian" ("No, Chuck, if it's the 1800s, it's the nineteenth century") -- to the soul-destroying. It is the latter that makes Colson so dangerous; the former are merely amusing. Far from being a "champion of the faith," as CEO Joel Belz of World magazine described Colson in a shameless puff piece in his neo-evangelical magazine, Colson is an enemy of the Christian faith -- one of the slickest that has yet emerged from the theological swamp of American neo-evangelicalism.

Colson's trickery -- there are few other accurate words for it -- begins in the Introduction. Colson writes, "Christianity offers the only viable, rationally defensible answers to these questions. ... Only Christianity offers a way to understand both the physical and the moral order. ... God's revelation is the source of all truth" (xi). Sounds good, doesn't it? But we must understand that by the phrase, "God's revelation," Colson does not mean the Bible; he actually means everything else, including symphonies, in which we "hear his [God's] voice" (xii). Chuck has exchanged the Creator for the composer, all the while unctuously pontificating about God and a Christian worldview. Colson denies sola Scriptura, just as he denies sola fide. There can be no "Christian world and life view" that omits, denies, soft-pedals, or perverts either of those doctrines.

And there is just the rub. There are many groups, organizations, and individuals abroad promoting what they call the "Christian worldview." But while they may have a world-view of some sort, it is not Christian, any more than the world-view of the apostolically anathematized Judaizers in Galatia. What removed the Judaizers from the fold of Christianity, and what removes many today, is their denial of justification by belief alone. That doctrine is a sine qua non for Christianity and a Christian worldview. Deny it, ignore it, soft-pedal it, and no matter how pious and religious you are, you are not Christian. But Colson and many of the "Christian worldview" groups endorse and collaborate with those whom the Apostle Paul has anathematized. Poor Paul: He should have seen the importance of unity and worked together with the Judaizers to oppose the pagan worldview of the Roman Empire.

One reviewer of Colson's book (Christopher Mann writing in the Fall 1999 issue of American Outlook, a secular magazine) commented on the fact that "although the authors [Colson and Pearcey] expend much effort investigating examples of honest and dishonest science, they pay only a small amount of attention to the biblical worldview and the Bible itself. Only one chapter [out of 45] is devoted to this subject, yet the Bible and its scientific and moral implications are at the center of the debates today." Quite perceptive. How Now has no Scripture index, for it has very little Scripture in it. Instead of Scripture, Colson appends a recommended reading list that runs for 15 pages. Contrary to his claim, Colson does not get his worldview from Scripture.

Rewriting History

On page ix, the very first page of the Introduction, in listing the persecutors of the Christian church, Colson mentions pagan Rome, the barbarians, the Turks, and modern tyrants. He conveniently omits the ancient Jews, and, more significantly, papal Rome, which has persecuted millions of Christians, kept Europe ignorant of the Gospel for a thousand years, still keeps its own subjects ignorant today, and continues to persecute Christians 2,000 years after the coming of Christ. Colson omits Rome from his list of persecutors, for he has made a theological and political alliance with Rome.

The Religious New World Order

On page x, Colson quotes the Roman priest Richard John Neuhaus, one of his collaborators in the ecumenical movement called Evangelical and Catholics Together, as optimistically predicting the "desecularization of world history" in the next millennium. That is, Colson and Neuhaus look forward to the re-divinization of world history -- to a time when priests and witchdoctors once again rule the world.

One of the cultural consequences of the widespread preaching of Christian doctrine was the de-divinization -- the "secularization" -- of the world. Pagan religions, including Roman Catholicism (read the Roman Catholic historian Carlos Eire's book, War Against the Idols, for details) had populated the world with fairies and nymphs, spirits, demons, wonderworking and weather-controlling crucifixes, and miraculous relics -- and all that was swept away by the preaching of the Christian Gospel in Europe and North America. The world was de-divinized, secularized, and industry and business developed as a consequence. Now that the Reformation is over, Colson and Neuhaus are heralding the coming of a new religious world order. Following the lead of Pius IX, author of the Syllabus of Errors, they are preaching a new Crusade against Modernity and in favor of Medievalism. (They are echoed by some who call themselves Reformed.) The unctuous blathering of politicians about God and values is a harbinger of great religious deception to come.

Cosmology, not Soteriology

Colson quite deliberately removes justification by faith alone from its supreme Biblical position when he writes that "the dominating principle of Christian truth is not soteriological (i.e., justification by faith) but rather cosmological (i.e., the sovereignty of the triune God over the whole cosmos)."

The Apostle Paul disagreed: "I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). Apparently Paul did not know what the dominating principle of Christianity is. Contra Colson, soteriology is the "dominating principle" of Christianity. "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me." Christ the Savior is the only revelation of, the only spokesman for, the only Son of, and the only way to, the sovereign God. By displacing Christ and salvation with cosmology, Colson is deliberately attempting to set one teaching of the Bible against another.

Colson mentions justification by name only once in this large book, and then it is to depreciate its importance: "Being justified before God is a wonderful gift, yet it is just the beginning" (279). (The sole entry for "justification" in the index is page 12 -- a blank page, which aptly sums up Colson's soteriology.) His book jacket takes the same condescending attitude toward salvation: "True Christianity goes far beyond John 3:16." Colson simply does not understand that all of Christianity flows from Christ. He thinks he has discovered something higher and deeper and more important than salvation, when there is and can be nothing higher or deeper or more important. His depreciation of soteriology and Christ is at the foundation of his alliance with Rome and other anti-Christian organizations that profess to believe in God.

One problem with asserting that cosmology is the defining doctrine of Christianity is that the demons -- at least the ones mentioned by James and the one who speaks to Christ in Mark 1 -- believe in God and the power of God, but they do not believe the Gospel. Monotheism is not Christianity. It is the doctrine of salvation that defines Christianity; that is one of the lessons of Galatians.

Common Grace

Colson is an advocate of "common grace." In fact, "common grace" is the reason that he wrote this book: "Because we wanted to communicate a fuller sense of how we cooperate with God's common grace, Nancy Pearcey and I felt compelled to write this book" (xii). "We" -- that is, presumably, all people, at least all nominal Christians, not just Chuck and Nancy -- "cooperate with common grace." And it is common grace upon which a Christian culture can be built. "As God's servants," Colson writes, "we may at times be agents of his saving grace, evangelizing and bring people to Christ. But few of us really understand common grace, which is the means by which God's power sustains creation, holding back the sin and evil that result from the Fall, and that would otherwise overwhelm his creation like a great flood. As agents of God's common grace, we are called to help sustain and renew his creation" (xii). And that is done apart from saving grace, Colson says.

Now, the Scriptures know nothing of Colson's "common grace"; they teach only saving grace. The whole of history and creation, Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, is governed for the good of believers: "All things" -- the Greek is the word for the universe -- "work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." Colson is urging us to go beyond soteriology and "special grace" and become "agents of common grace." He has not learned even the first lesson of Christian political theory: Any civilization that exists is due to God's special grace toward his people. Christ taught this in the Sermon on the Mount: "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. ... For after all these things the Gentiles seek. ... But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you." How Now is a sustained attack on Christ's command to seek first God's righteousness, that is, his justification and salvation, to make seeking that righteousness the priority, the dominating principle, of one's doctrine and life. All the rest follows from that. To put anything else first is unbelief.

Human Experience

"Christianity is, after all, a reasonable faith, solidly grounded in human experience" (xiii). The Apostle Paul disagrees: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed them to us through his Spirit. ... No one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2).

Idolatry

Colson enthusiastically informs us that the head of Prison Fellowship in Ecuador is a Roman Catholic and that Prison Fellowship services (Prison Fellowship acts as a ersatz-church with officers and priests) are held in a room in which "pictures of Christ and other religious symbols were everywhere" (7).

God and Un-Logic

On page 15, Colson asserts that "God created the laws of logic," which, if it were true, would make God illogical, or at least non-logical. From this it follows, for example, that if the word "David" refers to the King of Israel for us, the word "David" cannot mean the King of Israel for God. We think A is A, but God, since he is not logical, thinks otherwise. Therefore, we have and can have no knowledge -- no propositional revelation -- of God.

However God gets along without logic, Colson says that we have no trouble obtaining knowledge apart from Scripture: "In every area of life," Colson asserts, "genuine knowledge means discerning the laws and ordinances by which God has structured creation. ..." But the Scriptures say that genuine knowledge is that received as a gift from God through his Word, his propositional revelation, not by "discerning the laws ... of creation." The worldview that Colson promotes is the Roman Catholic worldview, not the Christian. Colson quotes Al Wolters with approbation: "It is by listening to the voice of God in the work of his hands that the farmer finds the way of agricultural wisdom." Colson continues: "The same is true in economics, politics, the arts, medicine, communications, and education -- in every area of society. We learn how to take care of God's creation by familiarizing ourselves with the creational structures and living in tune with them, and we formalize that knowledge in a Christian worldview" (516). That is, Colson's worldview is not derived from Scripture, but from experience.

The Deficiency of Scripture

The Scriptures are insufficient, Colson tells us: "When advancing the biblical perspective in public debate, we ought to interpret biblical truth in ways that appeal to the common good. [Question: How many different interpretations of Biblical truth are there?] So although we believe that Scripture is God's inerrant revelation, we do not have to derive all arguments directly from Scripture. The answer [to people who object to Colson's syncretism] is that of course God's Word is sufficient for salvation -- for saving grace. But here we are talking about common grace -- that is, carrying out God's work of maintaining creation" (33-34). For this task, the Bible is insufficient. [This sounds much like R.C. Sproul's statement that: "We talk about the sufficiency of the Scriptures to lead one to 'salvific' life, obviously, but for the whole structure of life, we need more than the Bible."] Colson argues that we must turn to science, politics, law, arts, medicine, and education. In this he contradicts 2 Timothy 3: 16-17: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." Colson simply does not teach Christian ideas.

In Colson's scheme, common grace first overshadows and then supplants saving grace. In Colson's anti-Christian worldview, cosmology dethrones soteriology; monotheism, not justification, defines Christianity; and the cultural war is more important than proclaiming and contending for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Positively Medieval

Colson is such a Romanist that he describes the Middle Ages -- specifically the 12th century -- as "the days when Christian faith was robust, even heroic" (47). Christianity, far from being robust in the Middle Ages, was cruelly suppressed by priests, popes, and their henchmen; Christians were driven from society. The heroes were those who did not deny Christ when threatened by the fire and sword of the Antichrists whom Colson praises.

Colson's Heroes

Speaking of heroes, whom does Colson admire? He calls the Roman Catholic Peter Kreeft a "Christian apologist" (119). Kreeft has called for a grand alliance of monotheists -- Christians, Jews, and Muslims -- to wage a jihad -- or in Catholicese, a Crusade -- against the secularists. Colson describes John Paul II as a "Christian leader" (303). Colson believes the legends about Patricius (300) who became St. Patrick, and praises him for establishing monasteries in Ireland. Colson refers to the establishment of monasteries as "an astonishing feat." He writes several pages in praise of monks, but only three lines about the Reformation. It is the Reformation that Colson wants to reverse; it is the monasteries he wants to reinstate: "we want to transform our pagan culture as the monks did in the Middle Ages" (308). Colson's history is wrong: On the eve of the Reformation, Europe was still pagan. Colson should read War Against the Idols by Eire.

Science

Colson thinks science is indispensable in presenting the "Christian" worldview. For example, he writes: "What we need to avoid is giving the mistaken idea that Christianity is opposed to science. If we are too quick to quote the Bible, we will never break out of the stereotype spread by Inherit the Wind. We should not oppose science with religion; we should oppose bad science with better science" (61).

In saying, "we should not oppose science with religion," that is, with the Bible, Colson disarms not only himself, but also all those who listen to him. The Bible describes itself as our only offensive weapon in Ephesians 6. The weapon Colson has chosen -- something called better science -- is no defense at all.

Yet Colson has an ambivalent attitude toward science. On the one hand, he thinks it can prove Christianity. He presents an argument for God from DNA and the design of the universe, a type of argument is very popular in some circles, but which has no value, simply because the argument is logically invalid. The Bible tells us it is invalid: "The world through wisdom did not know God" (1 Corinthians 1:21). Colson tells us that "In many ways, the scientific method is merely a codification of common sense" (66), but that, of course, does not tell us whether common sense or the scientific method is a way to discover truth. The Bible says they are not, for all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden and cannot be known except as Christ reveals them in his Word.

On the other hand, "Western science has destroyed the environment and polluted the air" (263). So while science is good for apologetics, it is bad for technology -- at least "western science" is. Colson seems to favors some sort of mysticism. He condemns "Western thought" as "leading to fragmentation and alienation" (263).

Colson's Faith-Based Fascism

Faith-based fascism -- the deliberate and gradual elimination of the separation of church and state by governments' collecting taxes to fund religious schools, colleges, hospitals, welfare organizations, and other programs -- is already well-developed in the United States, and this religious movement threatens to end religious freedom in America.

In keeping with the Medieval nightmare that he wants us all to share, Colson attacks capitalism and self-interest: "Whereas both classical [the word "classical" in this context, as in many contexts, means "pagan Greek and Roman"] and Christian [the word "Christian" here means "Medieval" or "Roman Catholic"] ethics had regarded self-interest as a vice to be overcome for the common good, [Adam] Smith contended that self-interest was actually good for society. Instead of raising the moral bar, challenging people to go beyond self-interest [challenging people to go beyond self-interest is, of course, what all collectivist systems do, from medievalism to 20th century totalitarianism; one can read about the challenges in histories of Romanism, Nazism, and Communism], Smith's system [capitalism] seemed to accommodate our sinful state. The system demanded the very impulses Christianity had traditionally renounced as immoral. ... As the early days of industrialism proved, an autonomous, secularized capitalism exploits both workers and the environment, creating new forms of slavery. ... Capitalism provides the best opportunity for economic growth and human freedom only if it is tempered by compassion and regard for social justice" (389-391). This, of course, is the fascist economic perspective of the Roman Church-State, which Colson dutifully follows. I explain faith-based fascism in my book, Ecclesiastical Megalomania: The Economic and Political Thought of the Roman Catholic Church. Read it, and you will see why Colson talks so much about "natural law," the "common good," and "social justice."


WILL CHARLES COLSON GO TO HELL?

Charles Colson's eternal destination is not the issue, as some readers who object to these reviews will undoubtedly try to make it. The issue is the counterfeit gospel Colson teaches while on Earth, which is misleading many souls besides his own. Colson -- and anyone else -- will make it to heaven only if he believes the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is not the gospel Colson teaches.

The church has been plagued with celebrity Christians for much of this century. Colson is a good example of a man who has had some sort of religious experience and is smart enough to parlay that into an organization and movement that keeps his celebrity status alive. But the doctrine he teaches is false. His gospel is no gospel at all.

After reading Colson's books, one gets the impression that twenty years after Watergate, Charles Colson is still working for his party. This time the work is not so innocent as getting the president re-elected. This time, Colson is out to ensure the success of his religious party -- a party that garbles the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a party that advocates religious relativism, a party tolerant of anyone calling himself Christian except the one who insists that broad is the way and wide that gate that leads to destruction, and narrow is the path and strait the gate that leads to everlasting life.

Charles Colson is a bright and clever fellow. One does not get to be White House Counsel by being stupid or ignorant. One might conclude that Colson knows exactly what he is doing in writing his books, and perhaps he does. But my experience has been that bright and clever fellows in one area can be stupid and ignorant in others. That is the best and most charitable interpretation one can put on the matter. But that does not excuse the mortal errors that Colson is teaching in his books.

If one is looking for a proclamation and defense of Christianity, or even a clear and accurate statement of the Gospel, he will not find it in Colson's books. That is not to say that there are no good or true statements in them; any book that is wholly false would be rare indeed. But the "worldview" that Colson presents is not the Christian worldview. The Gospel is missing. The knowledge of theology that a person of Colson's stature should have is absent.

The issue is: Will those who read Colson's books find in them the information they need to get to heaven? It isn't there. Only the grace of God will keep them from being deceived by the counterfeit gospel of Charles Colson.


* The majority of this material has been adapted/excerpted from two articles in the January and February, 1994, The Trinity Review; the "Summary" section of this report, and the review of How Now Shall We Live? have been adapted/excerpted from the October 2000, The Trinity Review (John W. Robbins, P.O. Box 68, Unicoi, TN 37692).


Biblical Discernment Ministries - Revised 10/00

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