The late Charles Colson established himself as a pillar of wisdom and insight within the Christian community. The struggles of his fall from grace in the public eye during the Watergate scandal, his subsequent conversion to Christianity, and his ministry through Prison Fellowship, were used by God to conform his heart and worldview to God’s Word.
If Mr. Colson were only able to leave us with one book from his heart, I suspect that How Now Shall We Live? may be the one he would choose. This book is truly a foundational book in terms of dealing with a comprehensive look at the Christian faith. With this book Mr. Colson has placed himself in the ranks of the truly great works from apologists like C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and Dr. David Noebel’s book, Understanding the Times.
Colson shares that any worldview must address the following questions:
- Where Did We Come From? (Origins: Naturalism vs. Divine Creation)
- Who Are We? (Ontological issues, Sociology)
- What Has Gone Wrong With the World? (The Fall, The Problem of Evil and Suffering)
- What Can We Do To Fix It? (Redemption: Salvation vs. Humanism)
One of the key premises of the book is stated in the introduction: “Evangelism and cultural renewal are both divinely ordained duties. God exercises his sovereignty in two ways: through saving grace and common grace.” Much of the book is dedicated to the practical application of how we can, as Christians, be part of redeeming culture, not merely souls. For those who may feel that this is a misguided approach, and that only the preaching of the gospel is important (we should avoid being involved in social activity), you may be disappointed that Mr. Colson doesn’t really prove this point Biblically, he merely presupposes it based on a long line of Christian thought from Augustine to Aquinas to Calvin, Luther, Kuyper, etc.
While Mr. Colson certainly believes that the Gospel is the only thing that can transform culture, he also believes, probably based in large part on his numerous experiences working in prisons, that there is a practical, human work to do. God has redeemed work (it is not a curse) and humanness. Giving a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus has an eternal reward.
It would be rare to find someone who agrees entirely with Mr. Colson on all points (particularly his alliance with some ecumenical movements), but one thing we hopefully can all agree upon is that he was remarkably redeemed by his Creator, and has put his hand to the plow, laboring unceasingly for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom. This book is perhaps the most comprehensive, start to finish, single book on a Christian worldview on the market today. (Understanding The Times by David Noebel is also in that category.) If you could only give a friend one book to define for them what a Christian worldview is, in a nutshell, this would certainly be one to consider.
The author is careful not to shoot over the heads of those not well-versed in Christian terminology. This book is well-suited for seekers as well as those who are mature Christians. He shares a wonderful bibliography and with the able help of Nancy Pearcey (a staggeringly fabulous thinker in her own right) he adds immensely to the library of Christian worldview resources. This is a book you simply must read.
To quote from the final page of the book, “Christianity is a worldview meant to be lived out in the crucible of a fallen world, and it comes most alive in the relationships in which we grapple to apply if day by day.” Reviewer’s note: Amen!
On a scale of 1-5, I’d give this a 4.5 overall.
Copyright 1999, Tyndale, ISBN: 0-8423-1808-9. 574 pages.
PS: As a postscript to this review, I have received some extra information about the background of this book that is important:
Of the book’s 45 chapters, Nancy Pearcey authored 27 or 28 (a few partial chapters). Harold Fickett, a novelist and fiction writer, authored the 10 chapters consisting of extended stories (see the Acknowledgements at the back of the book). Colson wrote the remaining approximately 7 chapters. So it would be most accurate to say the book represents the ideas and work of 3 authors.
For the sake of not causing confusion for those who read it previously, I will leave my original post intact, however, I apologize for not making this review more accurate to the facts of the situation. I hope I have remedied that.