by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey
©1999 by Charles Colson Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois.
Reviewed by Martin Green

“True Christianity goes far beyond John 3:16 beyond private faith and personal salvation. It is nothing less than a framework for understanding all of reality. It is a worldview.”

A worldview is how our ideas about the world determine the way we live. It is the foundation upon which we base our beliefs and our lives. For the Christian, this foundation has come under the most vicious attack in the last hundred years.

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
Psalm 11:3

How Now Shall We Live? decisively addresses and convincingly answers the question. Charles Colson says that this book is the most important work of his career. The inside cover says “it is a defining book for Christians in the next millennium.” It is certainly the most penetrating and insightful book I have ever read concerning the challenge facing those who embrace the biblical worldview in the midst of a culture that has largely discarded the idea that there is a relevant, personal Creator and a transcendent code of morality to which we are all accountable. It not only clearly defines the issues facing us, but equips us with rational arguments founded in biblical truth which will enable us to fulfill the mandate given us by God to be agents of redemptive transformation to our culture.

The title of this book is a borrowed and updated version of the title Christian philosopher and theologian Francis Schaeffer used for his book, How Then Shall We Live?, which itself was taken from a passage in Ezekiel 33:10 describing the plight of the nation of Israel under Babylonian captivity:

… Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we live?

The cry of the people of Israel at the time of their captivity was, “How are we going to serve and remain true to our God in the midst of a culture in which every facet of life is arrayed against the very things we hold dear?” The stark realization had hit them that they had failed to take their beliefs and heritage in Yahweh, the God of the universe, and translate them into a lifestyle that would affect the world in which they lived. Instead of profoundly affecting their world with the truth, they had instead allowed their belief in the one true God to be relegated to mere religious observance devoid of the power to redeem and transform society.

As Christians today, we find ourselves in a very similar predicament. We have allowed a culture that is hostile to the God revealed in the Bible to cloister us within the walls of religion. “You can believe in your God, sing your songs, “go to church”, and have your holidays, but don’t you dare think for one minute that you’re going to bring your gospel out of the church building and expect to change us with it.” And in return for the acceptance and comforts of society, we have compromised the truth and bargained away our ability to bring the relevance of the gospel and the biblical worldview to every aspect of life.

Colson, who is perhaps one of the most outspoken and articulate prophetic voices of our generation, along with co-author Nancy Pearcey, a former student of Schaeffer, pick up where Schaeffer left off. Their whole premise is that our Christian faith is supposed to affect every area of life and culture - what is referred to as our worldview. They assert that we live in what is called a post-modern or post-christian culture which refuses to admit the existence of the God of the Bible outright, or at least denies His relevance to and supremacy over His creation. The authors clearly demonstrate not only His desire, but our responsibility to restore and redeem culture-everything from politics and education, to science, art, music, and even, well, television. With expert legal precision and logical analysis, Colson, an attorney and President Richard Nixon’s former “hatchet man”, masterfully argues a convincing case with overwhelming evidence in favor of the biblical or Christian worldview.

So, how now shall we live? This is the challenge Colson and Pearcey take on as we enter the new millennium. They do this in three ways. First of all, they define the biblical worldview by describing it through the analytical framework of creation, fall, and redemption. In other words, where did we come from (creation); how did we get into the mess we’re in now (the fall); and where are we going (redemption). In the same way that those who are trained to recognize counterfeit money must first become familiar with the real thing before being able to easily spot that which is false, the authors demonstrate the utter rationality that has as its heart the concept that there must be an intelligent Creator and Designer of the universe. This is the real thing.

Secondly, they identify the different worldviews that are prevalent today and give a history of each and how they have come to dominate and pollute our very thought processes “like a toxic oil spill” that has invaded every area of life. They then, through this analytical framework, stack these opposing worldviews up against the Christian or biblical worldview to show their absurdity and failure in the light of truth.

Are you tired of being philosophically outgunned in the public square or in the classroom, knowing you’ve got the truth but are at a loss as to how to articulate it? Colson and Pearcey teach and equip us to accurately handle truth and to practically be able to give a defense for the hope within us.

This is by far the best defense I have ever read, but it was not written for the purpose of maintaining a defensive posture. One piece of weaponry with which they arm us is the idea that “we are not to combat science with religion, but poor science with better science.” They also unmask the underlying reason for “modern” concepts such as evolution, humanism, Marxism, communism, the deification of personal comfort and freedom, new age and eastern religions, muticulturalism, and values clarification: it is nothing less than the age-old sinister agenda of the kingdom of darkness opposing and trying to exalt itself against the kingdom of light. Part of the deception lies in the fact that these ideas, which are built on faulty foundations, hide behind the cloak of science, education, or salvation. Put to the touchstone of creation, fall, and redemption, they all fail the test.

Thirdly the authors interweave throughout the book absolutely gripping and fascinating real life stories of individuals who themselves were transformed by the gospel and were then used by Him to bring restoration into the spheres of influence in which he had placed them. Do you have any idea who St. Patrick was and the far reaching influence he had on European life? You gotta check it out. The book is loaded with marvelous surprises that pay tribute to the love and power of Jesus Christ brought into the nitty gritty of daily life.

These are stories that demonstrate that human life is worth saving and redeeming because we bear the divine image of our Creator. For example, there is the story of Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a Jewish abortionist and founder of the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), who presided over sixty thousand abortions, including the aborting of two of his own children. With the development of the technology of ultrasound that vividly reveals the reality of life in the womb, Nathanson, the author of the film, The Silent Scream, comes face to face with the horror of what he has given his life to in the name of personal freedom. Is there hope for him and the crushing guilt under which he finds himself? This particular account traces God’s progressive revelation of Himself in Nathanson’s life through the creation, fall, redemption framework until the most outspoken champion of abortion rights comes to faith in Jesus Christ.

Then there’s Ken McGarrity, a helicopter gunner who is blinded and loses both legs in Vietnam. When he arrives at the army hospital in Pleiku, Dr. Kenneth Swan and his team of surgeons do all they can to save McGarrity’s life. The next day, Swan’s commanding officer grills him about why he decided to treat the case so aggressively:

“There was no other way to treat his injuries,”
Swan replied, surprised at the question. His superior looked him squarely in the eye. “Look, Ken, why send blind, double amputees with significant brain damage back to their parents? What were you thinking?” Swan found himself responding from his gut. “I was trained to treat the sick. It’s not up to me who lives and dies. That’s God’s decision.” “As the surgeon on duty, it was up to you,” said his commanding officer. “The next time you make a call, ask yourself what kind of life you’re condemning someone to.” He paused. “Of course, he may die yet.” He sounded grimly hopeful.

Ken McGarrity does not die. He comes back to the United States, and because of one surgeon who believed in and dedicated himself to the sanctity of human life, goes on the become a lover of Jesus, a husband and father of two girls, a college graduate, and scuba diver.

And author Colson is himself an example of someone rescued by the gospel of Jesus Christ who, after being incarcerated for ten months for his role in the Watergate scandal, returned to prison, but this time to found Prison Fellowship and become an agent of redemptive transformation in the prison systems of the world. There are other wonderful stories in the book that illustrate the ability of the gospel not only to save, but also to redeem, restore, and transform human lives and societies. However, the best account of true life restoration, and perhaps the most moving I have ever read, is saved for the end of the book. Don’t read ahead! You’ll rob yourself of the challenge, equipping, and information that is so vital if we are to be salt and light to this generation. Salt and light both radically change their environment, and so should we. This book, full of truth and hope, is highly recommended for any Christian who yearns to fulfill God’s purposes in the culture in which we have been placed, as well as the person who is seeking the answer to where did we come from, how did we get to this place, and where are we going.

No worldview is merely a theoretical philosophy. It is intensely practical, affecting the way we live our lives, day in and day out, as well as the way we influence the world around us. If we adopt a false worldview, we will inevitably find ourselves going against the grain of the universe, leading to consequences we cannot live with—as millions of Americans are discovering. If, however, we order our lives in accord with reality, we will not only find meaning and purpose but also discover that our lives are healthier and more fulfilled. Christianity is an accurate road map of reality, and we must be ready to make the case to those who are growing increasingly aware of the futility of the other worldviews.