February 2009 - Vol. 27

Living in the New Dark Ages, by Charles Colson, cont.

The monastic orders of the Dark Ages could not have modelled communities of character if they had looked like the troubled world about them. Today, in a new age darkened by the collapse of character and the dissolution of faith, the church cannot model the kingdom of God if it is conformed to the kingdoms of man.

Too often in recent years the church has suffered from the same collapse of character that is so widespread in our culture. Too often the church has been apathetic, marked by individualism, and constrained by the love of self rather than the love of Christ. 

If the church today is to be the church, it must diligently protect its spiritual integrity. This begins with what the Greeks called metanoia, which means a “change of mind” and is translated in the New Testament as “repentance.”

No less mysterious than God’s dealings with nations is the inexorable operation of his Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals. When a person repents – changes his or her mind – God takes control of even the most indomitable spirit. No one exhibits this more clearly and dramatically than G. Gordon Liddy, as colourful a character as any Hollywood director could order up from Central Casting.

A student of Nietzsche, the German philosopher who venerated the will to power as the highest of human goals, Liddy saw the world as a challenge to be conquered. Even as the Nixon White House tumbled around him [during the Watergate political scandal during the Presidency of Nixon in the 1970s that resulted in the indictment of several of Nixon's closest advisors, including Liddy and Colson], Liddy would not be broken.

Eventually Gordon was sentenced to twenty-one years in prison for his role in Watergate. And when I visited him there, he was as tough and unrepentant as ever. As he tells it in his autobiography, titled, of course, Will: “Chuck asked me if I had ‘seen the light.’ ‘No,’ I replied. ‘I’m not even looking for the switch.’”
Liddy served four years and was released. 

Then Liddy and his wife moved to a different state, and in the process renewed a friendship with former FBI colleagues he had known for thirty years. Liddy had always been drawn to these people; they were intelligent, compassionate, well-read. So when they asked him to study the Bible with them, he agreed – but only after spelling out his terms. “I’m an agnostic,” he said. “I’m here because I’m interested in the Bible. Period. Please do not try to convert me. I don’t want to be bothered.”

Liddy, you see, felt no compelling need for God in his life. His interest in the Bible was purely historical. But then he thought about his friends and their thirty-year example of Christian love and excellence. “If they are persuaded of the correctness of this,” thought Liddy, “then maybe I should take another look.” 

Many people, says Liddy, experience a “rush of emotion” in conversion. Yet for me there came a “rush of reason.” He realized Christ was who he claimed to be, and Gordon Liddy became a Christian.

Since then, the man who wrote Will has said, “Now the hardest thing I have to do every single day is try to decide what is God’s will, rather than what is my will. What does Jesus want, not what does Gordon want. And so the prayer that I say most frequently is, ‘God, first of all, please tell me what you want – continue the communication. And second, give me the strength to do what I know you want, what your will is, rather than my own.’ I have an almost 57-year history of doing what I want, what my will wants, and I have to break out of that habit into trying to do the will of God.”5

Repentance is a rare message in today’s church because it requires confrontation with an uncomfortable subject – sin. And sin does not sell well in our feel-good culture. When sin gets personal, people get skittish. Only the conviction of personal sin, however, brings us to Christ.

G.K. Chesterton observed that the doctrine of original sin is the one philosophy empirically validated by 3,500 years of human history. Certainly the Middle East, South Africa, Central America, Northern Ireland, and the streets of America testify to that fact. Yet we are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. Unless the church recognizes this and preaches it, there is no way it can be a strong model of an alternative community of character to a culture corroded by sin.

Communities of Light
The monks and nuns of the Dark Ages acted out of obedience to God, and God used their faithfulness – without their knowing it – to preserve culture and ultimately restore Western civilization. As Christopher Dawson [an early 20th century Christian historian who wrote many books on cultural history and Christendom] has said: “The culture-forming energies of Christianity depended upon the Church’s ability to resist the temptation to become completely identified with, or absorbed into, the culture.”6 Only as the church maintains its distinctiveness from the culture is it able to affect culture.

Out of tiny monastic outposts come education, moral endurance, and artistic excellence that can save a civilization. And out of holy obedience today, in communities of light, will come what he wills, as we are faithful.  > Return to Page | 1 |

[Excerpt from Against the Night © 1999 by Charles Colson. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

| Current Issue | Subscribe | Invite a Friend | Archives | The Sword of the Spirit |

 copyright © 2009 The Sword of the Spirit  | email: living.bulwark@yahoo.com
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom