“Admittedly, ecumenism has a bad name for many because it is associated with liberal attempts to reduce Christianity to its lowest common denominator. Orthodox ecumenism today, however, seeks only unity in the service of truth.” (Colson, The Faith, 143).
I’m a bit behind in my reading, but one gem I’m catching up on is Charles Colson’s The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters.
Colson is one of the most fascinating figures of the last century. Powerful right hand man to President Richard Nixon, Nixon’s hatchet man, according to media sources of the day, Colson shocked even the cynical when he committed his life to Christ.
He served a prison term for his role in Watergate and came out energized to go back in as a minister of the Gospel. And minister he did, to prisoners all over the world.
What I love most about Colson is his commitment to and his celebration of Christian unity. Unity within orthodoxy. Unity of the faithful without watering down our faith. Commitment to the doctrines of the veracity of scripture, the Trinity, the deity of Christ, His sacrificial death and bodily resurrection, the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit, and the duty of every one of his followers to love and obey God and love each other. Colson was committed to loving the Church in all its fullness.
His book lists several examples of unity that I found surprising.
I did not know that the great Protestant evangelist D.L. Moody had helped build a Catholic Church in his hometown in Massachusetts.
I did not know that Abraham Kuyper, whom Colson describes as a “hyper-Calvinist”, worked to bring Catholics and evangelicals together.
I did not know that J. Gresham Machen wrote a book called Christianity and Liberalism and called Christians of different traditions together behind the orthodoxy of Christianity that liberalism rejects.
Thanks to another book by Colson, The Body, I did know that followers of orthodoxy have crossed their denominational lines in times of trouble, for example, during communist oppression in Eastern Europe.
And I myself have also seen the joining of Christian hands through the pro-life effort here in America. Catholics, Orthodox, and evangelicals standing together on behalf of the the small, the weak, and the sick, young and old.
But Colson had one more surprise in store for me regarding something I’ve wondered about for some time.
In his role as the founder and director of Prison Fellowship, Colson visited Ireland during the warlike conflict between Protestants and Catholics. He even “witnessed homes exploding” in the conflict.
But he also witnessed explosions of a different sort. The love between a former IRA member and a former member of the Protestant paramilitary. A “raucous gospel” celebration between Catholics and Protestants.
Northern Ireland, 1983, Catholics and Protestants singing God’s praise together in love and joy. And Colson said that “the reconciling efforts of faithful Christians . . . played a key role” in the peace that has settled upon Ireland today.
The world is becoming more hostile to Christians. In the Middle East, Christians die for their faith daily. Many Americans, secular and religious, label Christians who embrace orthodoxy as “bigots”. To some, we are a scandal.
Colson said, “The scandal to the world must be the cross, not our division.”
So let it be.
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