Friday, December 09, 2005

Chuck Colson's Dark Night

Writing in Christianity Today:
I am a product of the best in evangelicalism: converted 32 years ago in a flood of tears after hearing the gospel, discipled by a strong prayer group, taught by great theologians. I know the strength of evangelicalism in bringing people to an intimate relationship with Jesus.

But what happens when you have relied on this intimacy and the day comes when God seems distant? What happens in the dark night of the soul?

I found out this past year. Weeks after finishing The Good Life, my son Wendell was diagnosed with bone cancer. The operation to remove a malignant tumor took 10 hours—the longest day of my life. Wendell survived, but he's still in chemo.

I had barely caught my breath when my daughter, Emily, was diagnosed with melanoma.

Back in the hospital, I again prayed fervently. Soon after, my wife, Patty, underwent major knee surgery. Where was my good life?
Very powerful stuff. [snip]
The point of these older traditions is that faith becomes strongest when we are without consolation and must walk into the darkness with complete abandon.

Faith isn't really faith if we can always rely on the still, small voice of God cheering us on. A prominent pastor once told me he experienced the Holy Spirit's presence every moment. Contemporary evangelicals regard this as maturity. Perhaps it is—or maybe it is a form of presumption. True faith trusts even when every outward reality tells us there is no reason to.
I was reminded of Mother Teresa's "dark night" that pretty much lasted most of her life. That still blows me away!

Over at Open Book, this post has lead to a nice cyberfight (in the blogosphere? Never!). Old Zhou, a prolific and extremely wise commentator at Open Book has some very good insights.


assiniboine said...

Yeah, right. With all due respect to Mr Colson's presumably sincere faith (which he came to in jail, be it said, after his conviction for Watergate shenanigans: hmmm...heard that before) he still adamantly condemns the journalists and others who exposed his evil deeds as having, when all is said and done, underminded the good works of a great president. Not good enough, Mr Colson. The more we know of President Nixon the more we realise that even those of us who had reached the age of majority when Watergate hit and were at the time minded to give him the benefit of the doubt were far too charitable.

I well recall the Dean's sermon in the cathedral where I was the organist on the Sunday after President Nixon's resignation. "So here we have the story of a truly evil man finally brought to account." I thought that excessive and said so over martinis in the deanery that afternoon. Nixon, I thought, was certainly a complicated man, but surely it was over-the-top to describe him as evil!

Well, I guess I was sure wrong, eh? But Mr Colson seems not to see that there was anything wrong at all with the Dirty Tricks and so on. Born-Again he may be, but I don't see any sign at all that he has ever demonstrated contrition for his sins or sought and obtained remission of them: he has done the easy thing and opted for a form of religiosity that enables him generally to consider himself among God's elect merely because he has felt his heart "strangely warmed," in John Wesley's terminology.

If anything, Mr Colson is James Hogg's "Justified Sinner" and it's just not good enough.

Gashwin said...

Well what do you know? I knew nothing really of Mr. Colson's involvement in Watergate. The only time I've heard of him was because of his involvement with ECT -- Evangelicals and Catholics Together -- the initiative that he and Fr. Neuhaus spearheaded.

Actually, my knowledge of Watergate itself is rather meagre. You know, part of that arrogant, "oh, it was before my time" thing we all (ok, I) fall into at times ...