This has been my favorite chapter so far. The belief that humans are “basically good” was one I held for most of my Christian life, unwittingly siding with culture against the Bible. I’ll hold on to this chapter to recommend to others in the future.
Summary: The root cause of human pain is sin, a chosen human response to free will. Attempts to mitigate our responsibility for sin only perpetuate destructive behavior. Colson draws heavily on his own experiences with prisoners in showing the reality of objective sinfulness.
When I nodded my head:
“The most terrifying truth I have discovered in life is the banality of evil; the most ordinary people are capable of the most horrific sin; it is in us all.” (p. 76)
When I furrowed my brow:
Not really furrow-inducing, but there were a few times when I felt a generational disconnect with Colson. Which, I suppose, comes from us being 50 years apart in age.
“We certainly want the blessings of free will, even if we don’t like teh consequences of our evil choices, which we often perversely blame God for. But of course we can’t have it both ways.” (p. 74)
(Sorry for the absence – I took a week off for vacation. Back to our regularly scheduled blogging).
Summary – Colson makes the case for absolute truth, a debate which he sees as the fault line in Western culture today. The absence of the potential for absolute truth erodes the gospel, confidence in Scripture, and ethics.
When I nodded my head: Even though our culture argues for relative truth, there is a repressed reality that comes out when the argument for truth is properly articulated. Colson uses the example of young adults who don’t like moral absolutes in theory, but can’t stomach the possibility of certain actions (pushing an old lady into traffic, torturing a baby, etc.) as morally neutral.
When I furrowed my brow: While I agreed with much of Colson’s critique of the emergent community (and certainly appreciated his openness to emerging forms of worship), I thought suggesting that emergent leaders could quickly become “cult leaders” (p. 63) came out of nowhere.
(Quick aside: If you’re interested in getting more into what the “emerging church” is (and I don’t necessarily recommend that you do), here‘s a helpful article from Christianity Today to understand the who’s, what’s, and why’s of the whole thing.)
Favorite quote: “When given thirteen basic teachings from the Bible, only 1 percent of adult believers agreed with or accepted all thirteen… This is why Barna describes this as “an age of spiritual anarchy… [while the] church is rotting from the inside out, crippled by abiblical theology.” (p. 66)
What caused you to nod your head when you read this chapter? What caused you to furrow your brow?
Summary – The Bible is of unparalleled value to the Christian, absolutely true and unrivaled in historic importance.
Favorite quote: “The harder tyrants try to eliminate it and skeptics dismiss it, the better read it becomes. Voltaire, for example, who passionately sought to erase the Christian influence during the French Revolution, predicted that within a hundred years no one would read the Bible. When his home was later auctioned off after his death, it was purchased by the French Bible Society. As one pastor said, the Bible outlives its pallbearers.” (p 56)
A couple links:
– If you’re interested in archaeology, check out the Archaeology Study Bible, which Colson mentions in this chapter.
– Also, you can check out Dr. Todd Bolen’s blog. He’s an evangelical archaeology professor who keeps up to the minute on archaeology finds.
– If you’re interested in reading more on the Gnostic philosophy Colson talks about here, try Dr. Darell Bock’s blog. He’s a prof. at Dallas Seminary.
(Sorry for the delay in getting up the next post)
In Chapter 2 Colson builds his case for the faith with the oft-discussed issue of God’s existence, responding to “anti-theists” (his term) such as Sam Harris and Christoper Dawkins.
I lifted Stuart’s comment from the thread below, because I thought he had a good summary and insight about this chapter: “In chapter 2 Colson talks about the proposition that “God is”, and 3 ways to look at that – logical, irrational, etc. Often times when I encounter people who don’t believe in God, or doubt God, they don’t seem to think of it so much as whether it’s rational or logical or not. More of their problem or disagreement (and why they don’t believe in God) seems to be that they don’t want to be limited or restricted in their freedom of thinking. It boils down to “moral relativism” or “situation ethics”. They don’t want to follow or believe in something that doesn’t allow them to make up their own rules. They don’t even bother with the scientific arguments.” (emphasis added)
I have met many people who don’t want to decide one way or the other, hoping to maintain moral autonomy and the option to pray when they wish.
Do you agree with Colson and Stuart’s experience (that there are more pragmatic atheists than logical atheists)? Have you found yourself tempted to validate anti-Christian behavior with doubts about God or the gospel?
Colson begins his book by outlining why it is important to understand “the faith given once, for all.” The last two millenia have seen Christianity spread across hundreds of cultures and people groups, while still maintaining the heart of “mere Christianity.
However, Colson sees American Christians as remarkably ignorant of our core historic beliefs, something that opens us up to the twin threats of radical Islam and “anti-theism.”
As you begin reading this book, how would you rate your understanding of Christianity’s core, historic beliefs? Do you agree or disagree with Colson about their absolute importance in your life?