The mainstream media seems content to focus on Colson’s involvement in the Watergate scandal and his subsequent conviction, while Christian reports and blogs have offered nothing but pure praise for Colson and his post-conversion life.
Until Tim Challies offered this balanced post, it seemed as though the Christian community had altogether forgotten about Colson’s detrimental contributions to the Body of Christ.
To be sure, we may be thankful for the conversion of Colson and his concerted efforts through his Prison Fellowship ministry. Yet, to simply ignore not only Colson’s ecumenical perspective, but his ecumenical endeavors, is to stand silent in the face of an attack against the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As Tim Challies notes,
The fact is that as we remember this man, we remember someone who labored to strike a significant blow against the gospel, and who time and again called on the church to do the same. And this is what is absent in so many remembrances. He labored for good and positive causes, but he also labored for outright sinful causes. (Source)
Charles Colson was a leader and drafter of the 1994 document Evangelicals and Catholics Together. In essence, this document undermined the Reformation as it affirmed that there was little difference between the gospel of Roman Catholicism and the gospel of the Reformation (i.e., the Biblical Gospel). Sadly, as noted by Challies, the obituary for Colson found at The Gospel Coalition actually seems to celebrate his efforts with ECT. Both Dr. James White and Dr. John MacArthuroffered extensive responses to ECT at the time of its appearance. White states:
The document also asserts “All who accept Christ as Lord and Savior are brothers and sisters in Christ. Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.” This is probably the key affirmation of the document, and everything else hinges upon this statement. We could wish to ask what the authors mean by “accept Christ as Lord and Savior,” and if this would also include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Bahais. Given the fact that the Apostle’s Creed is included as a basic confession that all sides can accept, we would suspect that they would exclude these groups. But if a Mormon understands the Apostle’s Creed in an LDS-fashion, would they then have to accept this confession, and embrace such a person as a brother or sister in Christ? Such problems are glossed over by the document. But most importantly, every other issue, including, as we shall see, the very nature of the gospel itself, is subjugated under the affirmation that “Evangelicals and Catholics are brothers and sisters in Christ.” No amount of doctrinal difference can do away with the ultimate belief that Evangelicals and Catholics are both Christians, and are both members of the Body of Christ. (Source)
In 2009, Colson appeared at the helm of the drafting of another ecumenical document, The Manhattan Declaration. This document, though standing against social ills such as homosexual marriage and abortion, did so at the expense of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his response to The Manhattan Declaration, John MacArthur explains:
Instead of acknowledging the true depth of our differences, the implicit assumption (from the start of the document until its final paragraph) is that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant Evangelicals and others all share a common faith in and a common commitment to the gospel’s essential claims. The document repeatedly employs expressions like “we [and] our fellow believers”; “As Christians, we . . .”; and “we claim the heritage of . . . Christians.” That seriously muddles the lines of demarcation between authentic biblical Christianity and various apostate traditions.
The Declaration therefore constitutes a formal avowal of brotherhood between Evangelical signatories and purveyors of different gospels. That is the stated intention of some of the key signatories, and it’s hard to see how secular readers could possibly view it in any other light. Thus for the sake of issuing a manifesto decrying certain moral and political issues, the Declaration obscures both the importance of the gospel and the very substance of the gospel message. (Source)
As MacArthur would later state in a radio interview on Chris Fabry Live, ”I just don’t think you fight the spiritual war by conceding ground to the enemy and redefining him as your friend.”
Christians ought not ignore the detrimental influence wrought by Charles Colson on American evangelicalism. To do so is akin to ignoring the call to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Colson’s leadership and promotion of these ecumenical endeavors undermined the precious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. To acknowledge this is not to be unkind or unfair, but rather to be honest. We ought never to shirk from exposing those things which attack the Gospel of Christ.
May this be a reminder to each Christian to review what his own legacy might be upon passing away from this world, and may it ever encourage us to uphold the Truth above all else.
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