Author and speaker Chuck Colson discusses the responsibility Christians have to live out their faith in the public square. (Part 2 of 2)
Mr. Chuck Colson: Reason, as well as Scripture, teaches us that life, marriage and liberty are absolutely sacred. Now don't listen to people who tell us just to go back into our ghettos and our churches, that we don't belong in the public realm. Of course, we belong in the public realm. We belong there as a citizen and a citizen moved by Love of God--
Jim Daly: Hm.
Chuck: --which should be making you a better citizen.
End of Recap
John Fuller: That's a great phrase, "citizens moved by the love of God" and a refreshing way to describe your role in politics today. It's a good word from the late Chuck Colson, who exemplified what it means to live out your faith in the public arena. This is "Focus on the Family." Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.
Jim: John, as we shared last time, I believe that Chuck Colson was one of the greatest Christian statesmen in living memory, not only because of what he experienced while working in the White House and that's the whole Watergate situation, but subsequent years of faithful ministry that he did among prisoners, who were often the lost and forgotten in our society. Chuck was gifted by the Lord with the ability to analyze and interpret the cultural issues of our day and apply a biblical truth to those situations, giving us a solid framework for our faith.
I can't think of a greater articulator of the faith and I used to love to just listen to what he had to say. Last time we began sharing a wonderful interview that we recorded with him several years ago and I found a comment from one of our listeners who heard that program and I think it illustrates the impact that this great man had on all of us.
This listener wrote, "As long as I have breath in my body and fingers to type, I will sing the praises of God and speak out when our nation needs my voice and my vote to preserve, protect and defend the freedoms we hold dear. For my children and my yet-to-be-born grandchildren, the first place to fight for our nation is on our knees in prayer. After that comes the public square and then the polling place. May God be with us as we fight to save what the Founding Fathers entrusted to us long ago."
What else can you say to that but "Amen, brother." I hope that comment inspires you as much as it did me and that you'll have a renewed commitment to pray for this country and for the election and to do your part as a Christian citizen this fall. If you didn't hear the program last time, I urge you to get the CD or the download, the app for the smartphone, whatever it takes. Contact us about Chuck Colson's book, God & Government: An Insider's View on the Boundaries Between Faith and Politics.
John: You'll find all of those resources and more to help you be engaged as a citizen at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we can tell you more, 800-A-FAMILY. And now the continuation of our conversation with the late Chuck Colson on "Focus on the Family."
Jim: Chuck, last time we were talking about orthodoxy, orthopraxis, really the orthodoxy being right belief, orthopraxis, doing the right thing. The Church, early in the church's history, had a wonderful balance in that regard. Perhaps over the centuries, we may have inverted that or may have lost our way a bit. And you're doing some wonderful work through the Colson Center. And in fact, www.colsoncenter.org has more information about this whole area of orthodoxy, orthopraxis. Talk a moment about your effort there.
Chuck: Well, I think when you realize that the marriage of the two--or orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right behavior, right actions)--the marriage of that comes when you see Christianity as a worldview. The writers of the New Testament used the word logos. In the beginning was the logos. The word "logos" does not mean "word" the way we commonly translate it in Bibles. It meant all truth that could ever be known.
Chuck: And so, Christ is a representation of all truth that could ever be known. I'm very influenced by Abraham Kuiper, [a] great Dutch theologian, who made that marvelous statement a century and a half ago when he dedicated Free University in Amsterdam. He said, "There's not one square inch in the whole domain of human existence, as to which Christ, Who is sovereign over all, does not cry out, 'Mine!'"
So, I'm giving these years of my life. The prison ministry's doing wonderful work around the world and I'm really trying to concentrate the final years of ministry with raising up disciples who can understand biblical worldview, how the Bible affects all of life and can find the right balance between orthodoxy, knowing what you believe and orthopraxy, living it out. And my big thing at the moment is to be arguing that among the competing worldviews today, only one is rational.
Chuck: There's only one, when you start with the presupposition, "God is;" that works out to be a rational life. Any other presupposition fails. So, I love to teach that to people. It takes me about an hour to do it, but I think you can prove that Christianity is the only rational way to live.
Jim: Chuck, I would agree and last time, we talked about this nexus between the public square and our faith and how does that work out? We are enlightened by the Early Church and how they overturned really the culture of Rome and the Roman Empire by doing orthopraxy.
And yet, sometimes when we're in these battles in the political arena, are you concerned about the temperament and what we might be losing as a faith? Are we investing too much in what politics can deliver? And furthermore, I'd love your answer on the definition, the issue of government. Government is established by God, really to defend righteousness, in other words, justice in the culture. If you've done something like murder or other things, the government is established by God to deal with you. The church is there for a renewal of spirit. Is that fair?
Chuck: It's renewal of the spirit in the conscience of society. It's always been the conscience of society. From the very beginning, it was the conscience of society in the First Century, for which people got thrown into the lions' den. They got thrown in the lion's den, not because they wouldn't obey Caesar, but because they said, "Jesus is Lord."
Chuck: They wouldn't say, "Caesar is Lord." That's why they went in the lion's den. So, that's the first conflict of church and state, goes back to the very beginning. But it's so important, Jim, to understand that we have responsibilities as citizens, but we must not be taken in by the myth of our culture. The myth of our times is that there are public policy solutions to all problems. That's not true. Many problems of the heart aren't ever gonna be touched by politics. I learned this in prison.
Chuck: You can have all the regulations and all the punishment and all this. Guys come out worse than they went in. It's the human heart that has to be dealt with. So, the Christian cannot be "inculturated". We have been "inculturated" to believe that there are political solutions to every problem we have.
Jim: We've bought that, as well.
Chuck: We bought that. We bought a lie basically, what I mentioned in the earlier broadcast is called "The Political Illusion" by one scholar. The illusion that politics will solve all our problems leads to tyranny--
Chuck: --because all of a sudden every solution is a political solution. So, Christians who invested themselves over the last 40 years, coming out of the fundamentalist wilderness, they started to get more involved in politics. They did it the wrong way. They organized. Maybe they organized as political movements. Here's the difference. A political movement is basically ideological. I resist ideology.
Chuck: Ideology is a man-made formulation. I don't care whether it's on the Left or the Right. Ideology is wrong. We as Christians, live by revealed truth.
Chuck: And "Ideology is the enemy of the Gospel," Russell Kirk once wrote, because it is the enemy of revealed truth. It is man saying in his hubris, his excessive pride, "I can create the perfect utopian society." Folks, don't buy that. Human beings can't do that. The perfect utopian society is exactly what you were saying a minute ago, Jim and that is, God's justice lived out in life. That leads to the perfect society. And the great goal of God's justice is to create shalom, which is a word the Jews used, which we misuse today as simply meaning a greeting. It meant concord, harmony and conditions in which human beings can flourish.
Jim and John: Hm.
Chuck: That's God's justice. That's what we need to be working for. Man's justice will always be imperfect, always, has to be. So, we're dealing with a way of thinking that we gotta bring into the mainstream of life, but don't let the mainstream and what the culture's believing influence you.
Chuck: Start thinking as a Christian. That's what I try to do with the Colson Center.
Jim: And in that, you're not saying and I know people, you're hearing both of us say, you know, politics has no answers. There is a role for the political sphere. I mean--
Chuck: Oh, absolutely.
Jim: --Christians need to--
Jim: --be engaged, as you've said throughout today and last time. Christians need to be engaged. It's just that we can't put our hope, our trust and our faith in those solutions.
Chuck: That's a very good way to sum it up. Those solutions will always be temporary, because they're always of this world. And you know, C.S. Lewis said, "The person who will make the greatest impact in this world is the person who's mind and heart is in the next world."
I know there are a lot of Christians listening to us right now, Jim. I can just see young families and everybody's stressed and everybody worried about the economy and they're saying, "Oh, my. All this is sophisticated talk about orthodoxy and orthopraxy and Christians engaged in politics and I don't really want to get involved in all this."
Folks, this is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of whether the church can really be the church in today's culture, whether you as a Christian can really be a Christian in today's culture and live your faith out. So, I know it may sound complicated, but it's worth investing a little bit of time to think these things through, because what has been a scandal of the faith in the last 50 years is we don't think first.
Chuck: We shoot off our mouths. We start talking like, you know, we've got political power and we flex our muscle and we'll organize this political block. Nonsense! We are humble citizens, wanting to be the best of citizens because we love God. And so, we want to bring the common good to bear. We'd like to see shalom or at least signs of shalom brought into our society. That's really what it's about. So, folks, I know you're stressed, but listen to this stuff and think it through with us.
Jim: Chuck, I think that's well said and in practical terms, I'm thinking of the two big issues of our day: the issue of the sanctity of human life and also, traditional marriage. Let me ask you a practical application of our faith. These are not new things. I mean, it's amazing that we're still dealing 2,000 years later with the same situation that we found in Rome.
Jim: And you're right. Human sexuality was out of control in that context. The issue of abortion, infanticide was rampant in that culture. And here we are 2,000 years later, nothing new under the sun. We're still battling these same things. How do we apply our orthodoxy, what is truth and our orthopraxis in this context?
Jim: How do we defend traditional marriage in a more effective way?
Chuck: Well, if you look at the Manhattan Declaration and I think I might challenge you and say there's three great issues today. One of them is human liberty and--
Jim: That's true.
Chuck: --religious liberty, 'cause that's freedom of conscience.
Chuck: Our Founders said that was the first right granted to people, first right that they would recognize, not grant, recognize because it was given by God. But the way we approached it in the Manhattan Declaration, which is forty-seven hundred words, very carefully and deliberately written by a couple of great scholars who worked with me. I mean, Timothy George at Beeson is a man without peer in theology in American today. He's the leading theologian and Robbie George, who I think is the leading legal thinker in the world.
And we drafted that so that it couldn't offend anybody. And I'll tell you a little illustration of how important it is that we present our case well. We received a letter from a professor at Cornell, who said, "I hate the religious right. When I saw your new tract come out about the Manhattan Declaration, I swore I wouldn't read it, waste my time." He said, "Then I got curious" and he said, "I read it. And it's the first thing I've ever seen written by Christians that I couldn't find anything in it that I would take issue with." He said, "I'm an atheist," but he said, "you presented your case in a very compelling manner."
Chuck: Now that's what we want people to say to us, isn't it?
Jim: It is.
Chuck: We want to be able to explain things, not just by saying, "The Bible says and therefore, you have to do this" and hit 'em over the head with a Bible. You want to say, "This is good for our lives together, because this works and the other solutions don't work."
Chuck: And in that paper on the Manhattan Declaration, we start out by saying, we don't blame the gay community for the breakdown in marriage in America. It's our fault, because we've had no-fault divorce. We've been much too casual about our commitments. So, we blame ourselves, the church and the church needs to take blame for this.
Chuck: We are responsible. We're not holding people to biblical standards and we're not holding them to accountability. And we express concern for the welfare of homosexuals. And we do not attack them because they're homosexuals. We show great sympathy and respect for them and for those who have worked their way out of that lifestyle, we applaud them. For those who haven't, we pray for them and we respect their human dignity.
Jim: Yeah, absolutely. One thing, Chuck, recently some Christians have suggested that if we simply can elect more Christians into the political process, more political representatives who are Christian, that, that would solve the problem. How do you feel about that? Do you agree with that?
Chuck: No, I don't agree with that, Jim. That's a mistake the church has made over the years. You elect people to public office for their abilities. They've got to administer justice. They've got to preserve order. They've got to do the biblical responsibilities in public office. And so, if they happen to be Christians that's great. But I tell you, if I ever need delicate surgery on my brain, I'm not gonna necessarily look for the best believer; I'm gonna look for the best surgeon.
Chuck: It'd be wonderful if he was a believer. So, the idea that we can do that is a very simplistic notion. That's just false. It doesn't work. Never has worked.
Jim: Chuck, the other key thing in my mind is this idea, when it comes to the issue of life for example, ideally for all of us in the Christian community who believe in the pro-life perspective, it's not a political issue. We would love both Republicans and Democrats to embrace the sanctity of human life because of the things that we talked about in early Rome. How do we manage that? If we're too wrapped around the axle of a given political party, that can hurt our faith, as well.
Chuck: Well, I'm a Conservative in the sense that I believe that we're governed by what's happened in the past, the wisdom of those who've gone before us. We live by revealed truth. But I'm not a partisan in the sense that partisanship is ideology. It's man-made formulations.
And so, I don't carry the water for either the Left or the Right ideology. In fact, I'm suspicious of ideology. I want to live by revealed truth. So, I'm not taken in by people because of their party labels. Nor do I think I'm gonna be less likely to be let down. A lot of my friends who are Republicans got elected [and] disappointed me terribly.
Chuck: So, the party label isn't the critical thing. The critical thing is, what is their view on government preserving order, doing the right thing, justice, their abilities and do they understand the transcendent moral issues, which are life, family, marriage and liberty. That's the Manhattan Declaration. Those are transcendent. Those are pre-political. Those are above politics.
Chuck: So, [the] more Democrats who share those issues with us, the more joyous I am. I pray every office holder to understand that those are transcendent issues that go to the viability of us as a civilization, that actually reflect the character of God, because He created us in His image. Therefore, life is precious and our Founders said that in the Declaration of Independence. Marriage, because it's the building block of every civilization, Christian or not. And liberty, because it's the natural condition of someone who is a believer or someone not a believer, because we believe that we're created with God's image in 'em, so they have a free will.
John: And while I hear what you're saying, Chuck, there does seem to be this vast difference between someone who says, "I believe those things" in their personal walk in life. What do I do with that?
Chuck: Well, you judge it the way you should judge it and that is to say, if a person is not living a life consistent with what he professes to believe, he's a hypocrite and you've got every reason to judge him accordingly.
I hold the church responsible for this one, when pro-life politicians get elected and then they compromise on their beliefs and they really won't stand up and be counted. Their own pastor should call into account and there's some of it going on in the Catholic church. There's not much of it going on in the Evangelical church frankly. I know Evangelical Christians who profess to be pro-life, don't act that way and we invite 'em to speak in our churches. I wouldn't, but we do.
Chuck: So, use discipline. I mean, what's the three elements of the church? Preaching the Gospel, administration of the sacraments or ordinances of the church, discipline. Discipline's inherently biblical.
Chuck: You can't have Christian life without discipline. So, we should be tougher on the politicians who aren't living up to what they say they believe. I don't care about their party. And frankly, over the last four years, six, eight years really, terribly disappointed with a lot of my Conservative Republican friends, because they've enacted that way. Most of the affairs that are celebrated up there [are] among people who say they're pro-family; they're hypocrites.
Jim: Chuck when we look at that high ground that we just talked about--the transcendent truths that rise above the political fracas that we see every day--yet, the moral issues are there, some will say it feels like you're going soft and that's not it at all, is it?
Chuck: Oh, no. You're getting serious and focused about what really matters. And our Founders understood this. That's why Jefferson, who was a deist--he really wasn't a Christian--but he nonetheless could write, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights--life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Pursuit of happiness meant, pursuit of "virtue.: It was the Greek word for "happiness." We confuse that with hedonism and feeling good.
Chuck: No! The whole idea of pre-political, nothing to do with politics, self-evident truths that we respect as people in political office--life, the dignity of human life and liberty and pursuit of virtue--living a good life.
Chuck: Those are transcendent.
Jim: Chuck, as we're coming to the end of this second day, we really want to touch base with the folks who are listening who are looking at the political landscape. We're engaged. That's one of the good things about the last 20, 30 years. The church has reawakened to the need to be engaged in the political sphere. But again, can you address the folly and this might, you know, it might hackle some people, because we're vesting a lot in the political outcome, but the folly of trusting too much in the political arena.
Jim: Hit that; hit that once again.
Chuck: --yeah, we should be investing in it, because politics is important. But the disaster is, if we ever think that, that's gonna be the ultimate answer or that we have the ultimate answer. We need to approach it with great humility. This is what we believe, that revealed truth teaches us. And it's in conflict with modern ideology of both the Right and the Left. So, we gotta be gentle, loving, the same way you'd go to your neighbor. If you wanted to talk your neighbor into something, how would you talk to your neighbor? Well, talk the same way in politics.
John: And Chuck, we can't lose hope, even if it looks like we're losing the battle. I'm reminded of the great saints who, as you said, gave their lives. By most accounting, that's losing.
John: And yet, Christ says, "If you lose your life for My sake ... "
Chuck: Yeah and I would have to add this, because it's really important today, because people are so fearful. We think the country's headed in the wrong direction. For a Christian, despair is a sin--
Chuck: --because it denies the sovereignty of God. The battle gets really tough at times and we all feel it personally, I think. I mean, I know I just had a little spell of it lately and [in] my daily devotional reading [the] first chapter of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.
And he talks about almost despairing of life and the battles he went through, horrendous. The whole second letter is about battles. And yet, in the end he said, "It was all to drive me closer to God--
Chuck: --and to make me rely on God and not on myself." And that's true. But a Christian has no excuse for giving up, no excuse for despair, because God's in control.
Jim: Chuck as we close today, I would love if you could pray for this nation and especially, for the church, to express our orthodoxy and our orthopraxis-- the knowing the right thing to do and to do the right thing.
Jim: Would you pray for us?
Chuck: I'd be glad to. Father, thank You for this wonderful, wonderful ministry of Focus on the Family and their love for You. And Father, we think about our country today and our hearts are heavy, because overwhelmed by secular thought and we see the Christian heritage, which has built this great civilization in the West being squandered.
And Lord, we recognize that it's our responsibility. So, forgive us, Father, when we have been casual in our attitudes toward marriage or life or liberty or the things that are really precious. Renew us. Renew the passion of the church. Renew our first love. Give us that sense of excitement.
All of us can remember when we first were born again, that wonderful experience of joy. Fill us with that today, Lord. And fill us with a renewed determination to know what is right and to have the courage then to do it--orthodoxy and orthopraxis together.
So, Lord, be merciful to our country and Father, get us as a church out of our comfort zone and out doing Your work, so that people may see it and bring glory to You. We pray these things in the name of Him, Who went to the cross in our place, Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
John: Praying for you and me about living out as a Christian in today's culture, that was the late Chuck Colson on today's "Focus on the Family." Your host is Jim Daly and for the past couple of days we've been sharing a conversation we had with Chuck a number of years ago. And all these years later, it's remarkable how relevant his insights still are, especially given that this is an election year.
Jim: Yeah and what a great reminder about the role of faith and responsibility within that political system. You know, unfortunately, we're often looking for quick and easy political solutions like goin' through a drive-through. We can't get enough votes. We can't get the right person elected, as if that will solve everything and it's not going to. Politics isn't the end-all solution that I think unfortunately, some believe in.
Politics certainly has a role, but it's human. It's not gonna deliver revival, which I think is the cornerstone of what we need in this country. These are complex issues that we need to study and wrestle with as a culture and we need to ask the Lord to give us leaders who have the gift of discernment to make the right decisions for this country. That's the role of government and that is to keep us safe from evil. And human beings need wisdom to do that.
Now we've got a great follow-up resource from Chuck Colson. It's a book he wrote called God & Government: An Insider's View on the Boundaries Between Faith and Politics. And I highly recommend this to you because of the keen insights which I think you've heard Chuck express here, those perspectives that he brings to these issues. And we've got other resources for you, as well, a special Commit to Vote website and a free election kit that's designed to help your family prepare for the upcoming election.
I know my boys ask me a lot of questions and sometimes I don't have the answer and hear me clearly here. We're not trying to tell you how to vote. We simply want to encourage and equip you to exercise your civic right and duty this fall to vote.
John: And you'll find a link to that Commit to Vote website and that free election kit, as well as other resources at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . You can also get the CD, the download or we'll link over to our mobile app, so you can listen on the go. All of that again at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And also can I ask you to remember Focus on the Family during this time. These programs we produce, the websites and the resources that we've put together all cost money to do and we can't continue to do this without your financial support. Let me give you a little investor feedback, if I can. When you support us, last year alone in the last 12 months, 1.3 million families told us that Focus on the Family had inspired them to transform the culture through civic engagement; 1.1 million families stepped up to engage their communities for Christ because of the work of Focus on the Family.
I'm very proud of that and this fits in that category. Let's be together on this, not tellin' each other how to vote, but how to encourage each other to engage. And I want to invite you to send a gift to Focus to help us in this way and if you can do that, we'd like to send you a copy of Chuck Colson's book, God & Government as our way of saying thank you.
John: And that phone number again is 800- A -FAMILY or donate online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio . And our program was provided by Focus on the Family. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller and next time, you'll hear about one woman's painful journey through a broken engagement and the impact that had on her faith.
Mrs. Laurie Polich Short: You know, it's one thing if you're single for a long time, but to get that close and then just have it stripped away like that, it really did feel like God was being mean to me.
End of Excerpt
John: It's a powerful story about learning to trust God, even when life doesn't work out like you planned, next time on "Focus on the Family," as we once again, help you and your family thrive.
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Charles ColsonView Bio
Chuck Colson (1931-2012) was the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, a Christian outreach to inmates, ex-inmates, crime victims and their families. He was also the founder and chairman of The Chuck Colson Center for Worldview which seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending the Christian worldview. Well-known as the aide to former President Richard Nixon, Chuck was also popular as an author, speaker and as a commentator for the nationally syndicated radio broadcast "BreakPoint." Chuck is survived by his wife, Patty, their three children and several grandchildren.