A Final Word from Chuck Colson

Empire State Building in New York City. Photograph taken by Randy Scott Slavin.

Empire State Building in New York City. Photograph taken by Randy Scott Slavin.

My Final Word Cover PhotoThere’s a new book just published, written by Charles Colson (posthumously, since he died in April 2012) with Anne Morse, who worked at Prison Fellowship Ministries for nearly eighteen years as a writer for the radio program, BreakPoint, and it is titled, My Final Word: Holding Tight to the Issues that Matter Most,” published on August 4, 2015. For those who might not be familiar with Charles Colson, the following brief bio is taken from Wikipedia:

Charles “Chuck” Wendell Colson (October 16, 1931 – April 21, 2012) was an Evangelical Christian leader who founded Prison Fellowship and BreakPointPrior to his conversion to Christianity, he served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973.

Once known as President Nixon’s “hatchet man,” Colson gained notoriety at the height of the Watergate scandal, for being named as one of the Watergate Seven, and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for attempting to defame Pentagon Papers defendant Daniel Ellsberg.[1] In 1974, he served seven months in the federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama as the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges.[2]

Colson became a Christian in 1973. (Colson was born into a Christian family and so did not convert to Christianity). His mid-life conversion to Christianity sparked a radical life change that led to the founding of his non-profit ministry Prison Fellowship and to a focus on Christian worldview teaching and training. Colson was also a public speaker and the author of more than 30 books.[2] He was the founder and chairman of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, which is “a research, study, and networking center for growing in a Christian worldview”, and while he was alive included Colson’s daily radio commentaryBreakPoint, which was heard in its original format on more than 1,400 outlets across the United States.[3][4] (Quote source here.)

The following is taken from the inside front flap cover of the book:

The issues you can’t ignore from the voice you will not forget. Based on previously unpublished material written during the final years of Chuck Colson’s life, “My Final Word” highlights twelve key issues for vital Christian witness in the 21st century.

Issues that include:

  • Crime and Punishment
  • Natural Law
  • Islam
  • Same-Sex Marriage
  • The Persecution of Christians
  • And More (from the Table of Contents): Apologetics, Bioethics and Life Issues, Christians and Public Life, Church and Culture; Crime, Punishment,and Justice; Happiness, Judicial Usurpation, War of the Worldviews

If you’re new to Colson’s writings, you will be struck by the power and immediacy of his arguments. If you’re a longtime fan, his intelligence and insights have never been better on display.

Ultimately, “My Final Word” offers one last opportunity to hear in Colson’s own words his passionate, focused, pertinent vision for a socially engaged church that brings about good for all of society. (Source: Inside front flap cover to the book.)

The brief quote below is from the forward to this book by Eric Metaxas, Senior Fellow and Lecturer at Large for the King’s College, New York Times bestselling author, and along with his colleague, John Stonestreet, he is the voice of BreakPoint, which broadcasts on 1,400 radio outlets with an audience of eight million:

What this book contains is vintage Colson. There is so much here on such a breadth of vital topics that I pray Americans would read this book and reread it and study it in small groups until they know it and are as passionate about these things as Chuck was himself. In fact, I would dare say that if enough Americans familiarized themselves with what’s in this book, the American church would dramatically change for the better, which would mean that America would dramatically change for the better. That’s not some vain hope; there is gold in these pages. Avail yourself of it. (Source: Forward to the book, page 9.)

One of the endorsements for the book is from Franklin Graham, president and CEO, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; Samaritan’s Purse:

Chuck Colson’s voice is still heard on the issues of today. In “My Final Word” he has addressed every issue that confronts the world today. In addition to his wealth of knowledge, experience, and love for Christ, his archival material reveals prophetic insight into how believers in America are going to face persecution because of their faith. Dr. Colson sounds the alarm for the church to ready itself for battle–a necessary part of standing for Jesus Christ and the Word of God in the last days. You will be challenged in your Christian faith, but you will also be blessed by understanding how the gospel is moving forward in troubled times, to bring others to salvation for the glory of our Lord and Savior.

The material throughout the book is written in short one- to three-page segments within the specific chapter titles. Easy to read and understand, the book can be read at just about any point within it’s pages due to the layout. To whet your appetite, I’m including two short segments from the book, and the first one is from a chapter titled, “Church and Culture,” on pp. 77-79, titled, “The Ties That Loosen.”

The Ties That Loosen

To say that Chuck was a huge C.S. Lewis fan would be a massive understatement. Outside the biblical authors, I wouldn’t doubt that Chuck quoted the Oxford don more than any other source. Lewis had much to say about the right way to live our lives, and Christians who believe they can get by on reading the Bible alone are missing out on great wisdom.

Rereading C.S. Lewis recently has reminded me of how enormous the cultural shift has been from the forties and fifties until today. In the long span of history, that’s a pretty short period of time. And yet the world has changed dramatically. 

Now, people my age always say things have changed, and they always seem to think change is bad, but I’m not saying that. I think we’ve experienced an unusual shift, similar to a tectonic shift in the plates of the earth. For instance, we’ve gone from a community-centered culture in the West to being so self-absorbed that we can best be described as narcissistic. Christopher Lasch‘s book on the culture of narcissism was dead on, and that was nearly forty years ago. How much worse this problem is today.

Here’s my question as I think about that shift. Why is it that, all of a sudden, the United States, which has the safest currency in the world and the strongest economy in the world, is absolutely shaking? We don’t have long before debt payment will reach a percentage of the GNP that makes it impossible for us to maintain our ratings with Moody and Standard and Poor’s. That’s not far off. And any slight increase in interest rates, and it’s “Katy bar the door” because we can’t pay the debt. But it’s not just us; the same thing has been happening in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and of course in Greece. And what we’re seeing, when benefits are cut, are riots in the street–everywhere from England and Greece to Madison, Wisconsin.

Is this debt crisis just the 2008 bubble bursting, or is it something deeper? Is it possible that what is happening to free societies in the West is that we are so focused on ourselves, so determined to get “what we’re entitled to,” so absorbed with our own desires and interests that we can’t see the greater good of the community?

Alexis de Tocqueville believed that the great cardinal virtue that dominated America was the idea of civic responsibility and civic duty. Our founders steeped us in that tradition. That’s basically gone; it has disappeared, and not just here: It has disappeared in Europe as well. In the more rural cultures in Europe–Italy, Germany, England, and Ireland–communities banded together. They all worked together and then met in the pub at night.

I haven’t observed those cultures closely enough in the last ten years, but I suspect those ties that bind us together are loosening. It’s the inevitable consequence of rampant individualism, what Robert Bellah calls “ontological individualism.” But free societies simply cannot survive this way. If people aren’t willing to take care of their own responsibilities, if they are not concerned with their neighborhood, their states, and their society, if it’s all about them and nothing else, then we’re going to have debt crises, because we’re not going to have responsibility in how we spend money. We’re going to depend on trying to get somebody else’s money to do it for us.

I’m wondering if what we’re seeing in the world is not a terrify manifestation of what C.S. Lewis saw coming in “The Abolition of Man,” when people lost their respect for “the Tao,” a shared set of traditional moral values, and began to look out only for themselves. Man’s conquest of nature becomes nature’s conquest of man. Lewis really nailed it. And when it got to that point, how did he say we would see people behaving? We’d see free societies running wild, unable to control themselves, their appetites, or their passions, and beginning to self-destruct.

Is it a stretch to say that’s what is happening in the Western world? It’s not happening in China or India; it’s happening in the West, the very foundation of what we call Western civilization, which we’ve always considered the most humane and liberal society ever created.

One thing is certain: We have lost the capacity to restrain our baser passions and instincts. What remains of the free societies of the West? We’re dealing with the consequences of false ideas being lived out, false worldviews having taken over the hearts and minds of people in the advanced societies of the world. Tragic to watch, isn’t it?

faith_hope_and_love_by_elfred09The job of the church, of course, is to counter the false worldviews gripping our culture and to defend what is true, beautiful, and just. It almost seems like an impossible task, and it is, without God’s intervention. But nonetheless, that’s the job we’ve got to do.

A second segment that also hits the mark (well, actually, they all do) is from a chapter titled “Suffering” on pp. 200-201, titled, “Holy Abandon.”

Holy Abandon

Another quote from “Streams in the Desert”: “the capacity for knowing God enlarges when we are brought by Him into circumstances which obliged us to exercise our faith. So when difficulties beset our path, let us thank God that He is taking trouble with us, and lean hard upon Him” (Quote from L.B. Cowman, “Streams in the Desert,” Zondervan, 2008, p. 415).

This is precisely what Bob Rowling, the founder of TRT Holdings, said in a conversation with me, and I think it’s a parable for what is happening in our culture today. People are going to become deadly earnest about their faith when they realize there are difficulties that they can do nothing to control. What’s happening around us in culture is simply beyond any of us to fix. I hate to say it, but it looks as though it’s beyond the ability of government to repair. So could God be putting us in a position where we have to depend on Him?

Trials and difficulties also make us confront the danger of anxiety, worrying, and fretting, which throughout Scripture we’re told not to do. And it makes good sense that you wouldn’t do it, because, as the very next “Streams” devotional said, “Worrying over what we have lost or what has been taken from us will not make things better but will only prevent us from improving what remains. We will only serve to make the rope around us tighter if we rebel against it.” (Quote from “Streams,” p. 416).

This is incredibly profound if you think about it. The harder you fight to get yourself out of something, the more you strain against the ropes that are around you, the more you hit your head against the wall in utter frustration, the deeper you fall into the hole. It’s the time to lean back and really trust God, to really put your problems before Him. What this does, of course, is to not only lead to a solution; but the very act of doing it is the solution. Your faith is strengthened, and you’ve got some confidence about the future, without which you’ll never accomplish anything.

People today are overwhelmed by anxiety. The people I talk to are really feeling it in terms of unemployment in their families, or the danger of seeing businesses lost, or philanthropic fortunes depleted. It’s a really scary time.

This is precisely the situation in which Christians should do the very best of things. Because we do not let the circumstances control us, we do not succumb to anxiety. Anxiety leads to despair; despair is a sin because it denies the sovereignty of God. And how often do we have to keep repeating this? Fear is the enemy of faith; anxiety is the anti-God state. Despair is a surrender of faith.

How is this going to work out in a practical impact? If Christians really had this state of mind, if we really looked with total confidence to God, if we really lived lives of faith–reckless, holy abandon, if you will–would not the world see something really different in us, particularly when the world is cringing in fear, when so many people think everything is collapsing around them? In their fear, they would see us calmly, serenely, trusting in our Lord. And that’s not some blind pacifism. That’s faith. And if we live it out, think of the impact we’ll have on people.

Circumstances are driving us to this. We either have to start helping our neighbors and doubling up on things, bringing the kids home, if necessary, from their newly unaffordable apartments and ensuring a place for them to live, or we’re denying the reality of our faith.

There is so much more in this book on so many more topics as Eric Metaxas stated in his forward to the book. The two segments above are examples of the lengths of all the individual readings in the chapters, so they can easily be read individually in a few short minutes, and yet give us much food for thought on living our lives in the midst of our ever-changing cultural landscape that we find ourselves in here in America today.

I hope these two samples from the book will whet your appetite for more. Knowledge is power, and without it we flounder. And as Dr. Dennis Rainey, host of FamilyLife Today,” stated in his endorsement for this book:

Every man’s “final words” are important, but Chuck Colson was no ordinary man. Chuck’s “words” slice through the fog and clutter of this culture and authoritatively speak to a dozen of the most compelling issues of our day. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to survive the current cultural tsunami.

Enough said . . . .

Get the book . . .

You won’t be disappointed . . . .

YouTube Video: “That’s How You Change The World” by the Newsboys:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here