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This time of year, good works are as plentiful as Christmas lights. The joyful sounds of Salvation Army bell-ringers are matched with the cheerful clink of change. The same person who cut you off in traffic last month may be ladling out soup at the local homeless shelter. Our favorite Christmas movies and stories are rife with examples of generosity: Ebenezer Scrooge buying the Cratchits a Christmas turkey twice the size of Tiny Tim, and George Bailey giving away his honeymoon money for the folks of Bedford Falls.

Every year I get a front-row seat to witness the amazing generosity of Christians participating in Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program—purchasing gifts for hundreds of thousands of prisoners' children and delivering them along with the Good News. While I'm always moved by the kindness of believers, quite frankly, I'm not surprised by it. Jesus called us to a life of good works. And at Christmas we are especially reminded of the generosity of God in providing his own Son to take on flesh for us. It stirs in us the desire to put flesh to our good works as well.

But it's the generosity of unbelievers that does at times take me aback. A recent book, Who Really Cares, by scholar Arthur C.Brooks, reveals that religious conservatives donate far more money to charitable causes than do secular liberals. Still, the fact that secularists can sometimes give quite generously, even self-sacrificially, is an undeniable fact—and one that is difficult to reconcile with the basic tenets of their worldview.

I was struck by this when attending a special-needs basketball game for my autistic grandson, Max. He played alongside about 30 children who suffered from autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other conditions. ...

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Contra Mundum
Chuck Colson & Timothy George

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.

Timothy George is the dean of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University and a member of Christianity Today's Editorial Council. His books include Reading Scripture with the Reformers and Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Like Colson, George has been heavily involved in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together discussions. George began cowriting "Contra Mundum" with Colson in 2011.

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December 2009

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