Guest / Limited Access /

Just when you think you've heard it all, along comes an even more distorted public characterization of evangelicals.

According to a recent critic, the belief held by evangelicals and Prison Fellowship (PF) in the "substitutionary and atoning death of Jesus," reflects "a legalistic understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus, [which] is not shared by many Christians." So much for the central tenet of every historic creed and confession of the Christian church.

Where is this critique—in The New York Times? No, it's the finding of U.S. District Judge Robert Pratt in deciding on June 2 the lawsuit against PF brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The judge declared unconstitutional the InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Iowa, a program started by PF.

Startlingly, the judge devoted a dozen pages to analyzing evangelicalism and PF's statement of faith, apparently determined to separate evangelicals from other Christians. Evangelicalism, he wrote, is "quite distinct from other self-described Christian faiths, such as Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and Greek Orthodoxy." It is also "distinct from other … Christian denominations, such as Lutheran, United Methodist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian."

Evangelical Christianity, he found, tends to be "anti-sacramental," downplaying "baptism, holy communion or Eucharist, marriage, [and] ordination" as "appropriate ways to interact or meet with God." (The charge of downplaying baptism will surprise my 20 million fellow Baptists.) Moreover, we are "contemptuous" of Roman Catholic practices, a conclusion sure to amuse my colleagues with Evangelicals and Catholics Together.

To sum up: Evangelicals are a fringe cult inherently discriminatory, coercive, and antagonistic ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Charles Colson
Charles Colson was the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, an outreach to convicts, victims of crime, and justice officers. Colson, who converted to Christianity before he was indicted on Watergate-related charges, became one of evangelicalism's most influential voices. His books included Born Again and How Now Shall We Live? A Christianity Today columnist since 1985, Colson died in 2012.
Previous Charles Colson Columns:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only What (Not All) Women Want
The finicky femininity of 'Captivating' by John and Stasi Eldredge.
RecommendedThe World Is Yearning for Beautiful Orthodoxy
Subscriber Access Only The World Is Yearning for Beautiful Orthodoxy
Goodness, truth, and beauty all come from the same Person.
TrendingSpeak Truth to Trump
Speak Truth to Trump
Evangelicals, of all people, should not be silent about Donald Trump's blatant immorality.
Editor's PickThe Best Ways to Help the Poor
The Best Ways to Help the Poor
A new book, building on three classics, fills out the picture.
Christianity Today
Bad Judgment
hide thisAugust August

In the Magazine

August 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.