Christians Are the True Progressives: On The Colson Way

Christians Are the True Progressives: On The Colson Way July 28, 2015

the-colson-way-bookI am excited to share that today marks the release of my brand-new book The Colson Way: Love Your Neighbor and Live with Faith in a Hostile World (Thomas Nelson). Here is the specially-created webpage for the book, too, with a free chapter to read and more.

The Colson Way is my humble attempt to call the church to a fresh season of gospel engagement with the secular public square. I tell the cinematic story of Chuck Colson’s life–from rise to fall to rise once more in Christ–and share my perspective on how the church today can shape a fresh witness in our unique season.

A major point I make in The Colson Way is that, though we are often cast as crusty curmudgeons (and sometimes can be), Christians are truly progressives. We are more progressive than progressives. Why? Because we believe in conserving and promoting the good in order that future generations can flourish. We do not believe the future lies in demolishing the past. We believe the future is brightest when the wisdom of the past is handed down. It is of course true that not everything about the past is good. Christians, to our shame, have historically been on the wrong side of some social

debates. Women have not enjoyed the freedom they should have, despite the way Jesus enfranchises women as full citizens of his kingdom. A good number of American evangelicals supported slavery, to our everlasting shame. If we reach back in history to events like the Crusades, we see an unholy alliance of church and state that Christians cannot scripturally support.

Young Christians can be honest about these failings. Our doctrine of sin comprehends all of life as under the sway of depravity. Yet though our past is not pure, Christians historically have been a force for social good. We have opposed social and cultural evil over the ages, offering a sacrificial witness unto life. The Christian moral tradition is rich and multitextured. The early church saved the lives of babies who were left to die in the cold night air by the pagan Greeks. Telemachus, a young monk, shut down the horrific gladiator games in the fifth century. When Christians stayed to care for the sick in times of plague, they showed the world that they did not fear death and were willing to risk their lives to care for the needy. Many evangelicals campaigned zealously against slavery in Europe and America.

These and other acts of courage show that evangelicals are a kingdom people with protest instincts. Our primary purpose is to proclaim the existence of a hidden kingdom, one that offers humanity all it could ever want: justice, righteousness, grace, and hope. For this reason the church exists: to proclaim the good
news of this kingdom ruled by a slain but risen Messiah. But we are also well versed in protest. We do not only speak positively what should be; we also decry what is wrong.

Recovering the kind of vision laid out here (an adaptation of material from The Colson Way) will go a long way to drawing younger Christians into public-square causes. Local churches, Christian schools and colleges, and non-profit groups should make clear that the gospel does not dull our convictions. It doesn’t leave us catatonic, able only to sing a few songs about how God loves us. The gospel unleashes us. It calls us to stand down evil and to promote the good.

Too many evangelicals think the only options today are to be either quiet as church mice or to roar like the Moral Majority 2.0. In 2015, we need to recover what it means to be salt and light and to love our neighbor (Matthew 5:11; 22:37). It doesn’t simply mean baking cookies and politely asking people how their day is going. It also means contending on behalf of the weak, speaking on behalf of virtue, and acting in love to lift up the fallen.

We have domesticated the gospel and privatized the good news. Christ was crucified publicly, we must remember; the gospel, in other words, was fashioned for collision with a sin-stricken world order. We do not enter the public square as Colson did to crush those who disagree with us. We enter the public square out of love–love for God, and love for mankind, lost just as we were.

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