Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charles Colson - From Watergate to the Pearly Gates

Charles Colson (1931-2012) has passed away after collapsing at a conference a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure that much of the mainstream news media will focus on his time as a leading figure in President Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal, but that will not define him. After being charged and before entering prison, Colson converted to Christianity through events documented in his book Loving God.

There were, and still are, those who believe that this was simply another jailhouse confession, but Charles Colson's life's work since leaving prison has borne evidence of a changed man - truly a trophy of God's grace.  In fact, after hearing of his conversion, the Boston Globe reported, "If Mr. Colson can repent of his sins, there just has to be hope for everybody."

While he only served seven months in prison for his role in the scandal, it was enough to motivate him to work to improve the lives of convicts. He started Prison Fellowship Ministries in 1976 and Justice Fellowship in 1983. Prison Fellowship now comprises tens of thousands of volunteers who visit prisoners, care for ex-prisoners and their families and who work to transform lives in 113 countries. Our local congregation has participated through Angel Tree, an outreach to the children of prisoners during the Christmas season.

Colson has also written more than 30 books, some of which are considered classics in Christian circles. He co-authored How Now Shall We Live with Nancy Pearcey, one of the most important works on the subject of Christian worldview. I have read numerous works by Colson, among my favorites are The Body and Kingdoms in Conflict.

Colson has also been a much sought after speaker, challenging the church to live up to its calling in Christ and often speaking out for unity among Christians. He most recently was one of the authors of The Manhattan Declaration, a document calling on Christians to defend the sanctity of human life, traditional marriage, and religious freedom.

An ex-marine, Colson was not one to shy away from a fight or to be intimidated by criticism. He regularly shared his views on radio and the web through his program Breakpoint, with more than 8 million listeners.
He also spent time developing and equipping young minds to understand and defend the Christian worldview through programs like Centurions.

In recognition of his work, Colson received the prestigious Templeton Prize for progress in religion in 1993, donating the $1 million prize to Prison Fellowship.  Colson's other awards have included the Presidential Citizens Medal, the United States' second-highest civilian honor (2008).

I have quoted Charles Colson often, I'll leave you with some of my favorites here. I'm thankful for the legacy that Charles has left behind. Thank God for grace.

"The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians - when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.”
"The Watergate cover-up reveals the true nature of humanity. Even political zealots at the pinnacle of power will, in the crunch, save their own necks, even at the expense of the ones they profess to serve so loyally. But the apostles could not deny Jesus because they had seen Him face to face, and they knew He had risen from the dead. No, you can take it from an expert in cover-ups -- I've lived through Watergate -- that nothing less than a resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and is Lord. Two thousand years later, nothing less than the power of the risen Christ could inspire Christians around the world to remain faithful -- despite prison, torture, and death."

"This is the great choice every human being has to make: Is the resurrection true or only a myth? If the latter, it is an abomination, taking away any validity to the Christian claim. Believing that the resurrection was merely symbolic doesn't create liberal Christianity or a more enlightened version of our faith as many argue; it reduces Christianity to something utterly vain, a belief system like paganism. For if we were to believe Christ was not bodily raised, then Christianity would rest on the belief in human sacrifice - offering an innocent man to die for our sins. This is not enlightened thinking; it is barbaric. It is why so-called liberal Christianity is untenable, no better than paganism."  
"We must not dilute the gospel by ignoring the Cross - or from the seeds of our evangelism will sprout followers attracted to Christianity for what it will give them, rather than out of love and service for a risen Lord. We follow Christ not because of His blessings, but because He is truth."

Related Articles:
The Great Debate
The Truth About Easter
Charles Colson - Condition Critical
The Manhattan Declaration

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