The Faith

I just went through Charles Colson and Harold Fickett’s The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters.

It’s mostly basic conservative Christian doctrine and apologetics, laced with Colson’s personal stories to show that Jesus saves etc. etc. Nothing complicated or remarkable as far as that goes. There were a couple of noteworthy aspects of the book, however.

First, it’s very ecumenical in the context of conservative Christianity. The political convergence of conservative Catholicism and Protestantism in the past few decades here also takes a popular apologetic shape. There’s a lot of emphasis in the book about the disagreements between conservative Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox being about inessential details. Their core beliefs—the faith given once and for all—are supposedly the same. All conservative Christianities are legitimate expressions of the same faith.

This desire for unity is reflected in a second notable aspect of the book. The best way to unify people is to give them a common enemy. Colson gives them two: Islam and atheism.

The Islamophobia is standard-issue. Conservative Christianity is, apparently, the only force able to resist an aggressive and wicked religion. “Millions of fascist-influenced jihadists, feeding on revivalist teachings as a counter to Western decadence, seek death for infidels and global rule for Islam” (page 27). Europe is being overrun, collapsing due to its secularism. And so forth. Islam-bashing isn’t a major theme, but it regularly appears as a reminder of why the true faith matters. If Christians don’t hold fast to the faith, those evil Muslims will triumph.

Colson and Fickett also set up the “new atheism” as a contrast. It’s interesting how they refer to Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris with great frequency, throughout the book. There isn’t much substance in their response to atheism; following the typically poor scholarship found in popular apologetics, they often misrepresent and demonize opposing points of view. Still, it is interesting to see a prominent Christian writer and leader like Colson regularly attack atheism in a book not written specifically for that purpose. It is, perhaps, a sign that some conservative Christians think that the new atheism has had some influence even within their subculture.