The Good Life (Part 2) - Chuck Colson
Do the truth claims of Christianity make rational, logical, reasonable sense?
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The Good Life
Day 2 o 2
Guest: Chuck Colson
From the Series: A Life Well-Lived
Bob: Do the truth claims of Christianity make rational, logical, reasonable sense? Chuck Colson says they do.
Chuck: I've gotten so convinced of the truth of the biblical worldview as applied in life against any other worldview, and I'm convinced if I could argue the case that the biblical worldview is the only one that conforms to reality, that I would win that case, hands down, intellectually – by reason, by arguments, by logic. But that doesn't get you to God. As a matter of fact, sometimes the more you know, the tougher it gets.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 30th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What can we do or say that will persuade a watching world of the reality of who Christ is?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You know, the guest we have with us this week – I don't know – in fact, I'm curious – it's obvious, as you read through what he's written, that he's been influenced by C.S. Lewis and by Francis Shaffer, and I just wonder who wins the battle there – Lewis versus Shaffer? Who has had more influence in Chuck Colson's life – C.S. Lewis or Francis Shaffer?
Chuck: I would hate to answer that question, Bob, because both of them have had a huge influence on my life. Lewis would probably, however, if I had to chose between the two, would be number one because it was his arguments in "Mere Christianity," that persuaded me that Christianity is rational, reasonable, sustainable, as a matter of fact, nothing else makes sense. And so you'll see a lot of Lewis through this book.
In terms of my theology, Shaffer; and, before him, Abraham Kiper, influenced my perspective on Scripture and the relationship of the church and Scripture to the world. So in two different areas, I am profoundly grateful to those three men.
Bob: Was Shaffer still alive when you came to faith?
Chuck: Oh, yes, I knew him. Oh, sure, I went to LeBrie [ph] and visited with him at his invitation. We spent a day together. It was a wonderful time. He was a very humble man, and then I visited with him a number of times when he came to the States and was at speeches and conferences. I was at his funeral, the first person to come in and view the body, as a matter of fact, when he laying in his living room.
Bob: I kind of just jumped in. I guess most of our listeners probably know our guest.
Dennis: I think they recognized the voice of Chuck Colson. Chuck, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Chuck: Thanks, Dennis, nice to be with you.
Dennis: Chuck has written a book called "The Good Life," and you don't have to turn but a couple of pages before you read a quote by Pascal, who said, "The supreme function of reason is to show man that some things are beyond reason."
Chuck: Blaise Pascal is one of the most interesting men ever, and his writings have affected me greatly, as well, particularly his Pensees. But Pascal died in his late thirties, and was the inventor of the computer. He did the first crude calculating device.
Bob: This isn't some Al Gore thing you're just making up?
Chuck: No, no, this isn't Al Gore inventing the unit. Blaise Pascal, 300 years ago, came up with the concept that has become the computer. He was also a great philosopher and great Christian. What he's basically saying is that reason is a gift of God, and we can use reason to pursue with our minds facts and truth, and the more we look for the facts and truth about life, we will eventually get to the point where we realize reason takes us only so far.
Chuck: And the more we reason – and that's what I do in this book – the more we reason, we get to the place where we have to end up in faith.
Dennis: You tell a story at the beginning of your book that beautifully illustrates that. It's about your daughter, Emily, who is a single parent raising an autistic child, Max.
Chuck: Yes, she's a great heroine to me, and Max is the most lovable kid in the world. And I tell the story of why I wrote this book, basically, this book is to try to show people how the world works and how they fit into it, and it's to be non-threatening. It's a book for seekers. That's why it relies on reason for the first two-thirds of the book before it gets to Scripture and faith, because I want to draw people in.
But one thing about autism, as most people perhaps are aware, everything has to be orderly in just perfect arrangement for an autistic child. When Max comes to our house – he's 14, he's getting to be a big kid. Emily does a wonderful job managing him. When he comes to our house, he checks where all the pictures are. Are they all on the wall, in the same place? Does the stove work the same way? Has anything changed? And then as long as he knows everything is okay, he's at peace.
Well, one night we had a visitor come to the house, and it was unexpected, and he brought a Christmas gift for me, and when he came in the house, Max started to get agitated, and you could see he was going to have what euphemistically called a "meltdown," and they go out of control, they have a tantrum. So Emily grabbed a pad and sat down with Max and drew pictures. She's a good artist. She drew little box pictures like a comic strip. And she would say, "This man knocking on the door, he's a friend of Grandpa's, they go fishing together," and then she'd draw a little sign of a fishing boat, and then "They work together, and it's Christmas, and he's brought this gift." She drew the picture.
Suddenly, Max understood how his little world at that moment worked, and he calmed down immediately. And what I'm doing in this book is drawing a picture for people the same way Emily drew a picture for Max of how the world works. What things are true, what things aren't true, what can you find about life, and most of which is through paradoxes. What can you find out that's true about life, and then figure out how you fit in. And, of course, the ultimate question is what is true? Is there truth, and is it knowable?
The second half of the book is devoted to that question which, to me, is one that we Christians desperately need to understand how you make that case and then make it with our friends. And, particularly, get your kids to understand there is truth, and it is knowable, and here is how it's knowable before they go to college or before they leave the home, because the first thing they'll be assaulted with is the statement, "There is no truth."
Bob: Do you remember when Timothy McVeigh was executed, and he read, as his final statement in life, the poem, "Invictus," which ends with I am the captain of my own destiny. Do you think most people think that that is what life is all about?
Chuck: Well, I think a lot of people would say that, because I would have said that before I was converted, and that's a statement of pride. In the case of Timothy McVeigh, it was insufferable arrogance. He was captain of his own ship, master of his own destiny, he could control life. That was Nietzche – the world of power. You can will yourself to this position.
A lot of people imbibe that because they think that's what they're supposed to think. Deep down inside, no, they cry like a baby inside, because they know they need other people, they know they need things. One of the great studies I cited in this book was down at Dartmouth, and it discovered that human beings are wired, literally, the way we are genetically disposed – the way our brains work, we are wired to connect. In other words, we don't live alone. We live in community, we live with family, we live with friends, we live in a nation.
And, secondly, we're wired for God. We are actually searching for a meaningful relationship with the One who created us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, and most people out of pride won't acknowledge it, just like I wouldn't. But, oh, I was so desperately hungry, and as soon as I let those defenses go, that guard go down, that night in the driveway in that flood of tears – sure, it came to me.
So I'm trying to walk people through that same question in this book.
Dennis: Reason can only take us so far; faith is what finishes the connection between the human soul and God.
Dennis: And what you've attempted to do is exhort us to come to the truth. One of the things I want you to comment on – you just alluded to it briefly a few moments ago – you say that today there is no such thing as reality or, capital T, Truth, in our culture today. And I think, for the average mom and dad who are raising kids, I don't think they realize, Chuck, what a battleground this is around truth.
Chuck: This is the battleground. This is the battleground. Is there any reality, is there any ultimate reality …
Dennis: Or is it just opinion?
Chuck: Yes, it is just your preference versus my preference, and that's what they're being taught in college. They're sawing off the branch on which they sit, and so what I'm trying to show in this book is that there is reality, there has to be reality, we know there is, we know there are certain things that conform to the way they truly are, which is the classical definition of truth. The job is to find it. But, Dennis, you hit the nail on the head – you get to the point where you can prove it.
I've gotten so convinced of the truth of the biblical worldview as applied in life against any other worldview, that my great dream, as I write in "The Good Life," my great dream is someday to be able to stand in the Supreme Court – every lawyers dream – and argue His case in the Supreme Court. And I'm convinced if I could argue the case that the biblical worldview is the only one that conforms to reality, that I would win that case, hands down, intellectually – by reason, by arguments, by logic. But that doesn't get you to God. As a matter of fact, sometimes the more you know, the tougher it gets. That's why the last chapter of this book is about faith as the step we have to take.
And people say, "Well, I can't profess faith because I have doubts." Good. If you didn't have doubts, faith wouldn't be required. If God were as obvious as the tree in the yard, you wouldn't have to have faith.
Dennis: You know, it's interesting to hear you say that, because you're a very bright, intellectual man – well-educated. You continue to study the world religions throughout the scope of your life, and yet as you move toward the last phase of your life, you are more convinced not less.
Chuck: I remember many years ago hearing Malcolm Muggeridge – I don't know how many of our listeners will remember that name, but he was a great writer, a great journalist, who converted late in life. And he said, "I'm more convinced of the reality of Jesus Christ than I am of my own reality." And he was a colorful guy – white hair going all over the place, and he'd always have a wonderful chuckle. I was with him once for tea, and he was talking about this, and I thought, "Well, he's an old man." At that point, he was the same age I am now. And I said this is a bit of hyperbole. You know, it isn't.
I'm convinced that the logos means all the intelligence, all that can be – but to the Greeks, everything that could be known or is known. But the logos basically programs the little computers in the billions of cells we have within us called DNA, which has information like 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica four times over is the information in one of the DNAs that program ourselves. Bill Gates, he's never designed as sophisticated software as the DNA.
And I think the logos programs that. I think we are kept alive by God because He – the spiritual world – and a British physicist converted and has written books about this – the spiritual world actually animates the physical world. So I think it's right. I think we're more convinced of the reality of Christ than unreality. And the more I study the more convinced I get.
Bob: As a dad trying to raise kids who will pursue the good life, as you've defined it there, in a culture that is increasingly trying to point them in other directions – I'll tell you how I became aware of the struggle that I was in the midst of. A year ago, when the issue of gay marriage was in the news, one of my children was asked to write a paper on it at school, and I could tell there was a real wrestle between the desire to be compassionate and the desire to be truthful, and I thought, "Where is this going to end up?" And I really do wonder where it's going to end up in the culture – not just with my kids but with all of our kids. How can we, today, point our kids in this direction?
Chuck: Well, I think this is, of course, a great question, Bob, and I was just talking with a fellow this morning about that very question. First of all, you've got to explain to them that there is an order to life. I mean, life does work a certain way. And sin is nothing but, as Neal Plantinga, the great theologian at Calvin Seminary says, "Sin is nothing but folly," foolishness, because it's like walking into a room blindfolded, and you don't know where you're going to hit the furniture. You've got to know how the world is organized in order to live rationally.
And your daughter writing that paper is going to have a natural tendency to say, "Well, if these people are disposed this way, why should we tell them they can't behave this way?" And if she were to answer that question in her paper saying, "Well, I feel sorry for these people, but the Bible says it's a sin." She wouldn't absolutely make any points at all with her classmates or anyone else, because they'd say, "Well, that's what the Bible says. You live by the Bible, I don't live by the Bible."
What you have to say is there's a natural order to life. Life works a certain way. Sex is for procreation. That's why we have that capacity. It doesn't work in homosexual sex. They cannot perform a natural act. It is unnatural, whether you like to use that word or not, it is. There is a natural order in life; there is a natural law. This was C.S. Lewis's great argument that had such an effect on me when he talked about this natural law and people know it, and they've known it through every culture in every generation. We know the world works a certain way, which is the very point I've been trying to make in here. We know the world works a certain way, and our job is to live our lives in accordance with what works, otherwise we're dumb, we're stupid, because Neal Plantinga puts it very graphically – "When you don't live the way the world works, it's like spitting into the wind or coloring outside the lines or cutting across the grain of the universe." So it's just good sense to figure out.
Now, the relationship between a man and a woman in marriage is the way you perpetuate the human race. You raise children in an environment where character can be cultivated and learned. It's never taught, it's learned. And you can't do that if the relationship doesn't conform to the way the world works. If everybody were homosexual there wouldn't be any children. So you can't tell me that it's normative. It isn't normative, it can't be normative by definition.
And I make the natural order arguments, which, over the years, Catholics are much better at than we are. Evangelicals always use the Bible because it is our primary source of knowledge, obviously, but it won't wash with people. The natural order argument is very, very important.
Bob: So that's where we've got to point our kids.
Chuck: That's where we point our kids – explaining the reality of the way the world works.
Dennis: You conclude your book talking about how the good life ultimately ends in death, which can result in new life. And throughout the book, you use illustrations of people who illustrate the good life positively and negatively, and as you talk about the end of a matter; that is, death, you use two illustrations. One is a funeral you and I attended where Bill Bright was honored for his life; and another illustration you use was a funeral neither of us attended, because there was none – John Ehrlichman, a Watergate figure. Just quickly contrast John's life with Bill's life.
Chuck: Well, John Ehrlichman, I went back to see – when he invited me to when he was in a nursing home in Atlanta, everything had collapsed in his life. He'd been through three marriages, his family abandoned him, he had nothing. He was penniless and powerless – once one of the most powerful men in the world. And he wanted to see me because the doctor had told him he had renal failure. He was on kidney dialysis. A doctor told him that he could get a shot of morphine and put himself out of the misery.
I was shocked. I spent an hour talking about the dignity of life and the meaning of life. I don't know whether it sank in or not. A friend of mine went back and prayed with him and hopefully he received Christ. I'd like to think he did before he died. But he died alone in the nursing home with nobody around him, having given up on life. I can't think of a more despairing story. And I tell it as a tragic story because he was such a good man until the collapse came in his life, and we said earlier what happens to you doesn't matter, it's how you react to what happens to you. Well, he reacted badly to what happened to him in the fall of Watergate.
Contrast that with Bill Bright. I remember being with you at the funeral, Dennis, and what a great experience that was, what a joyous day that was for Bill's celebration of his life. But, Bill, when he learned he had pulmonary fibrosis, which is one of the most difficult ways to die, you're slowly suffocating, and it's agonizing death, and the doctor told him how bad it was going to be, and Bill said, "Praise the Lord, this is what God wants."
Throughout that two, three-year period that Bill knew he was dying, maybe the most productive period in his ministry. He wrote all kinds of things, did videos. I'd go see him in his apartment, and he had the oxygen strapped to him, and he never was without a smile and always giving me ideas and "Here's something you can do in the ministry, Chuck." He was an extraordinary man. And when he died, Vonette was with him, and whispered to him, "It's all right," and he turned his head, and he died peacefully.
John Paul II, the pope, gave the world a similar lesson in how to die in the midst of suffering, constantly issuing statements saying, "Suffering will be redeemed," and Christians have to know that suffering will be redeemed, and we have to know if you're going to live the good life, it contemplates a good death. It contemplates facing it with equanimity, because you know you're going to be with the Lord, and dying with grace to the extent you can. And, obviously, some people are in terrible pain. But Bill Bright set the gold standard for me.
Dennis: He really did. He showed us how to live and how to die.
Chuck: And how to die, yep.
Dennis: There may be a man or a woman listening to this broadcast, perhaps a boy or a girl, who goes, "You know what? It's time for me to have that faith experience that you talked about where you had to pull the car off to the side of the road and receive Christ." Would you explain to them what they need to do? Just at their point where they are right now – how they can connect with God and know they're forgiven all their sins.
Chuck: It's maddeningly simple, and the problem with it is that people think, "There's got to be more to that. I've got to do some good works, I've got to do something to show that I'm a good person. I'm really not. My life is a mess right now. I'll clean up my life first before I come to God." Wrong. You can't clean up your life, you're incapable of cleaning up your life, and God doesn't want you to even try. What He wants you to do is surrender – the humblest possible surrender. Get rid of your pride, which is the great enemy, and simply say, "Lord Jesus, I want You in my life. Forgive me of my sins." Let Him worry about cleaning them up. When I came to Him, I had a ton of sins, and there were some He could immediately erase, there were some he had to work on with me for a while, and that's part of the process of sanctification. It's a joint process between us and between God.
But what it takes is a simple act of faith, recognizing that your doubts are a good thing. I loved what you said about Tom Skinner [ph], that was a marvelous quote. Your doubts are good things, because if you didn't have doubts, you wouldn't take God seriously. You wouldn't need God. We need Him because He settles the question for us, and He's made it so easy for just us to turn to Him as long as we are generally repentant and ask Him to come in and take our lives.
Dennis: And He'll take us at our word at that point and make us a new creation in Christ.
Chuck: You know, people say, "Does God answer prayers?" He answers the prayer of every single person who says, "Jesus, take me."
Bob: And that puts you on the path for a good life.
Dennis: It does, it does.
Chuck: It is the good life.
Dennis: Yeah, it is. Chuck, I want to thank you for being on FamilyLife Today. And, you know, someday I hope you get a chance to go to the Supreme Court and argue …
Chuck: … argue that case …
Dennis: … argue for Jesus Christ and why Christianity should be the worldview of every living human being.
Bob: I'm just afraid you'd still get a five to four against in that verdict. With this Court I would get it exactly right.
Chuck: Thanks for being, God bless you guys.
Bob: We've got copies of your book available in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Again, the book is called "The Good Life," and I want to encourage our listeners – it makes the case – you don't need to hear the arguments before the Supreme Court. The book lays out the case, and it's pretty clear, and, in fact, it's pretty tough to refute. I think you can give this book to somebody who doesn't know Christ and just say, "I'd be interested in your thoughts as you read through this," and it could spark quite a dialog.
Again, we've got copies in the FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button at the bottom of the screen, and that will take you right to a page where you can get more information about Chuck Colson's book, "The Good Life."
We also have the book that was instrumental in you coming to faith in Christ, and that's the book by C.S. Lewis called "Mere Christianity," which is another apologetic for the reasonableness of Christianity – a classic book. If you're interested in ordering both Chuck's book and "Mere Christianity," we'll send you at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week with Chuck Colson.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com. Click the "Go" button at the bottom of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you can get more information about these resources, or you can order online, if you'd like. If it's easier, you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, and there is someone on our team waiting to help you with an order. Again, it's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
And let me say a special word of thanks to those folks who have gotten in touch with us over the last several weeks, Dennis, and have made a donation to FamilyLife Today. We're listener-supported, and we depend on donations to keep FamilyLife Today on this station and on stations all across the country. We hope that folks who donate to our ministry have first been faithful in donating to their local church. That ought to be your first giving priority. But in recent weeks, as some of our listeners have been aware that we are ending our fiscal year, and that summertime is coming to a close, we've had folks calling not only to make a donation but to challenge others to make a donation as well.
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Well, tomorrow Lisa Bevere is going to join us, and we're going to talk about why it is that women wind up losing when they give in to pressure from men. She'll share some of her own story and some warnings for women. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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