Colson the Catechist
Most Christians in the West lack the doctrinal and theological tools with which to stand fast in the onslaught of two hostile forces: Western secularism and Islamofascism. So say Charles Colson and his frequent coauthor Harold Fickett in The Faith, a book that celebrates the Christian faith's essential doctrines, beliefs held by Christians "everywhere, always, by all." Colson and Fickett believe that Christians are living in a unique time of special opposition: "Western culture is doing everything in its power to shut the door" by which humans pass from darkness to light. Only a robust reaffirmation of the essentials of Christian doctrine, they say, will provide a firm foundation for political and social engagement.
The first half of The Faith emphasizes what Christians believe about God, namely the reasons for his existence, his self-revelation to human beings, his triune nature, and the actions he has taken to defeat evil. The second half focuses on how our beliefs about God influence our beliefs about everything else, with Colson and Fickett articulating the Christian understanding of saving faith, reconciliation and forgiveness, the mission and nature of the church, sanctity of life, and so on. The result is a winning combination of Christian apologetics and Christian doctrine a manifesto for looking at the world in a distinctly Christian way.
The authors not only see assaults on Christianity as external; they also warn against movements from within the church that they believe could undermine Christianity. Although they admit that much of the Emergent movement's protest of contemporary evangelicalism is on target, the authors critique what they see as the movement's prescription: a rejection of absolute truth. This, they say, will inevitably lead to idolatry. In attempting to maintain the propositional nature of Christianity's truth claims, however, Colson and Fickett define the Bible as "revealed propositional truth," which seems to relegate all truth to propositions and leaves little room for the narrative nature of Scripture.
It's ironic that Colson and Fickett argue for truth as propositional above all else, because what sets this book apart from other doctrinal primers, like C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity or N. T. Wright's Simply Christian, is its emphasis on stories. 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. The chapter on the Trinity, for example, begins by presenting Muslim evangelists who focus their efforts on convincing college-aged Christians to doubt the doctrine.