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Charles Colson & Timothy George: Churchless Jesus
Charles Colson & Timothy George: Churchless Jesus

Chuck Colson, who died on April 21, wrote Christianity Today's longest-running column. His colleague Timothy George will continue Contra Mundum in our September issue, the 27th anniversary of Colson's first column. Please see our editorial and biographer Jonathan Aitken's reflection on Colson's contribution to contemporary Christianity.

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You may not be able to pick Jefferson Bethke out of a lineup, but your kids probably could. He is the creator and star of the YouTube video "Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus."

The video took the concept of "going viral" to an entirely new level: Just four days after it was uploaded in January, it had been viewed more than 10 million times, a number that has doubled since then.

It's easy to see why the video went viral. It's well done and clever, and Bethke's passion and sincerity are obvious. We understand why the video struck a chord. But it's a chord that's missing some important notes.

The video begins with the line, "What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?" Religion, Bethke tells us, is about appearances and respectability, not real transformation—a state of affairs he compares to spraying perfume on a casket. Jesus, we are told, is the "work of God," while religion is a "human invention."

There is something to be said for this critique, for religion without the gospel, ritual without conversion, is a spiritual dead end. In this sense, Jesus did not come to found a "religion." He came to establish the church.

The fastest-growing demographic in American religious life, the "nones," includes many young people who are drawn to a churchless Christianity. A better word for this group might be the "liminals," as the recent book American Grace suggests. These folks, say ...

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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.

Previous Contra Mundum Columns:
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Charles Colson & Timothy George: Churchless Jesus
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June 2012

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