Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Chuck Colson responds (response #3)

Welcome back, Chuck.

I’m writing because, in church this morning (August 15), I started thinking about your comment about my being so certain in my convictions that I came across as somewhat arrogant. I think you’re probably right. And the reason, I realized as I was thinking about it, is that I have spent much time over the years pondering this question rationally. If you would have read my book Born Again you would know that my resistance to the gospel was exactly what yours is. I didn’t want to do something out of emotion; I wanted to be able to reason it through. I wanted evidence. That’s why reading C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity was such a help to me. I encountered in that book an intellect the match of anyone I’d known, and I found really solid reasons for believing.

(Previous messages: Kazim's review of The Faith; Chuck Colson's post #1; Chuck Colson's post #2.)

I have to admit I wasn't expecting another one; I figured part 2 was the final response. I realize I've been conspicuously silent in following up on the Chuck Colson posts, and as a result the previous responses have become something of a free-for-all where the commenters are concerned. I do want to take this opportunity to state that I've haltingly started my own comprehensive longer reply to both (and now all three) posts from Mr. Colson. At the moment, I'm feeling like I wish to start with the third post and work my way backward. It may take some time to finish, obviously, but then I'm sure this won't be a problem since it has now been two and a half months from the time I first discussed Chuck's book to the most recent post.

To you folks at Zondervan, thanks for keeping me notified on the new posts, and you'll be hearing back from me sometime in the future.


  1. Mere Christianity?!? He found that book helpful?

    Last year, I heard Francis Collins interviewed, and he mentioned that Mere Christianity was his biggest reason for converting to Christianity. I figured I owed it to myself to read it or listen to it. So I downloaded the (free) audiobook, and could only take 2/3 of it. You know how you see someone making a fool of himself, and feel embarrassed for him, and it makes you uncomfortable? That's how I felt for C.S. Lewis - I was embarrassed for him. The logic in that book is so pathetic that I don't see how anyone who hasn't already drunk of the Flavor Aid could find it worthwhile.

  2. Curt speaks for me in his first line as well. The reality that there are still people who consider Lewis' arguements to be compelling makes me want to force logic and philosophy as high school required courses.

    >I wanted evidence. That’s why reading C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity was such a help to me. I encountered in that book an intellect the match of anyone I’d known, and I found really solid reasons for believing.

    What else is sad here is that my own conversion was similar--except plug in Josh McDowell's Bible classes instead of CS Lewis' apologetics (which I saw was flawed even as a child).

    I think the main difference is that I kept learning. And McDowell couldn't bear up under scrutiny. He crumbled in the face of adult criticism (although he was very convincing to me as an adolescent). If Colson were to devote himself to adult reading, he might find the overwhelmingly valid rebuttals to Lewis' stupidity. A Middle Schooler could spot the flaws.

    Lewis is as much an adult writer as JK Rowling. Just because a lot of adults read it doesn't make it adult literature.

  3. Mere Christianity was a pivotal book for me as well, although in a different way. I was a Christian for years before I read it, but I went through periods of doubt. My doubts ran along the lines of "Do I belong to the right religion?" because even as a teenager I could see that other religious adherents used the same reasoning as Christians, so how can I decide which religion is better? (The question of God's very existence hadn't entered my worst nightmare yet.)

    I avoided most of C. S. Lewis for all of my teen years because other people said he was so intellectual that I was intimidated. When a friend finally convinced me to read MC in college, it was like scales fell off my eyes. Suddenly I had a reason to be a Christian--it was the rational and logical superior to all other religions!

    Of course, in my attempts to use MC to witness to Kazim and other atheists, I was soon shown the problems behind the book--the logical fallacies, the false trilemna, the question begging. But until I was in my thirties, MC was the first book of apologetics I had ever read entirely, so of course it was the best.

    I suspect this is the case for many others as well. MC is a easy-to-read apologetic work. It doesn't dive deep into logical terminology and other philosophical esoterica that the field of apologetics requires. Most people are not trained in logical thinking enough to properly evaluate it.

    Over time, it's developed such a self-reinforcing reputation. "It's a good book because everybody likes it and everybody likes it because it's a good book." I don't know of a single Christian who has ever criticized MC, even one trained in philosophical criticism.

    Now that I think of it, that might be an effective litmus test to evaluate the quality of an apologist's arguments. Ask the Christian, "What is your opinion of Mere Christianity?" If, like Colson and Collins, she is favorable toward it or claims it as the reason she converted, then the rest of her arguments are to be heavily suspected as well.

  4. "I wanted to be able to reason it through. I wanted evidence. That’s why reading C. S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity was such a help to me."

    I'm so glad that I never had your problem, Matt. Always having been an atheist, I've sometimes looked into other ways of seeing things, even to the point of forcing myself to reevaluate my standards of reason. Fortunately, unlike Chuck here, I was coming from a childhood spent learning about all things science, and studied history, especially the history of science.

    Now, if you want to find faults in scientific theories, there's a whole world in which to look and ample evidence of any number of past theories that have been disproved and swept into oblivion. I also found the same thing with religions, and, like Chuck, I even looked into C.S. Lewis' "magnum opus" for reasons to consider that route. If I hadn't looked at science first, I probably would have had a reaction not too different from his; the work seems well posed. Yet, as you surely know, it makes the fatal flaw that science never does. It presumes the validity of its arguments, then sets about to prove them on that basis. Anyone getting into mathematical proofs, let alone applied scientific theories, can tell you that this is precisely the wrong way to go about it. You must presume that a hypothesis is true then try very hard to disprove it according to unbiased outside research (preferably in multiple labs by people in competition to get your job by showing that you're wrong). Lewis was a great intellectual, but as a logician he was a hack. The scientific approach accounts beautifully for all the failures of past theories, but also accounts for the triumphs of those that have replaced them. What accounts for the failures of extinct religions and the triumphs of their modern counterparts? I'll give you a hint: Constantine.

    I can only imagine that Chuck thinks that he has a foot in the door with Kazim, and that's probably why he persists. Try not to laugh at him too hard. ;)


    Get a proper understanding of theory of evolution and the Big Bang or DON'T MENTION THEM!!

  6. Ironically, "Mere Christianity" played a role in my apostasy. Of particular significance was Book 3, Chapter 8: "The Great Sin" - which is, of course, Pride. Lewis did a fine job of explaining the problems with self-conceit, or narcissism, as differentiated from benign vanity. He pointed out that pride is easy to spot in others, but very, very difficult to recognize in oneself; if you don't think you suffer from it, that's the surest sign that you do.

    That was a hard message to swallow at the time, but I took it to heart. I forced myself to become more comfortable with the possibility that I might be mistaken, and redoubled my efforts to discern truth, whatever it may turn out to be. It didn't take much longer to realized just how flimsy Christian apologetic arguments were, especially in comparison to secular counter-arguments.

    I strongly encourage Christians to read that chapter, and refuse to give in to the prideful urge to dismiss it. Acquaint yourself with the possibility that your deeply-held beliefs might be mistaken. That's right, even your beliefs, despite how smart you think you are for accepting common apologetic arguments, how infallible you consider your personal interpretation of scripture, and how personally important to the almighty creator of the universe you presume to be. You might suffer from Pride, and, you might be mistaken.

  7. Hi,

    I've recently come across your blog, have been lurking for a few weeks and am finding it very enjoyable.

    I agree with everything that is being said here about Lewis. I've spent over thirty years listening to evangelicals bray about him, and I've had just about as much of it as I can stand. In the first place, they've convinced themselves that this obscure English Lit professor - who, in middle age, began as a sideline delivering poorly constructed lectures on theology to working class Brits - came up with the definitive refutation of any challenge any skeptic ever has posed or ever could pose. In the second place, for some reason, they all seem to see him as "one of them". Lewis, despite his rather unfortunate religious choices, was an intellectual, and the notion that he would have found any common ground with most American evangelicals - particularly fundamentalists - is ludicrous.

    Also, may I say - Colson is a colossal tool. He is the poster boy for the "Christianity as addiction" argument; he has simply traded his addiction to one authority figure (Nixon) for an addiction to an even more grandiose, egotistical authority figure. I picked up a copy of his recent book in the New Releases section of the library and read a few pages of a section in which he attempts to defend his obscene belief system. I then had to go home and lie down for a while.

    We were talking about him recently at Friendly Atheist, and I said that I had mixed feelings about him. He's certainly a moron, and his beliefs are revolting; however, he does have his prison ministry, and if he's able to make the lives of people living under unbearable conditions in our disgraceful penal system more bearable, and to help them to turn their lives around, who am I to criticize?

    Someone then informed me that there is now evidence that his program doesn't have anywhere near the kind of success he claims for it - something along the lines of a higher-than-reported rate of recidivism - so, again, I have mixed feelings. I'm sorry that people aren't getting the help they need - but I love the fact that he's shown up to be a failure and a fool.

  8. Cipher: If you haven't already, go to the top of this post, and click the link that takes you to my original critique of Colson's book. You'll find most of what you need to do about the real effects of his prison ministry from there.

  9. Well, there you go. Thanks for doing the research. Of course, facts never trouble Christians much.

    This one paragraph,

    "It was the first empirical evidence that this faith-based approach to corrections works -- in other words, that the Gospel is true. And that's when Barry Lynn of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State decided to sue. To prove our truth-claims proved an outrage that tolerance could not abide."

    encapsulates so much of their delusion - drawing unwarranted conclusions (one program works, so the Bible is literally true in its entirety), the "tolerance" of secularists is a facade, secularists can't stand for anyone to know this, so they all hide behind the ACLU... . As I said - he's a colossal tool.

    At first, I clicked on "Welcome back, Chuck" and went to Zondervan's blog. There's a few minutes I won't get back. I wish it were illegal for evangelicals to talk publicly about science and about Asian religions; they don't understand either well enough to even have opinions, let alone express them. I left a comment there to that effect.

  10. Not so fast Bucko. In one of the comments it was stated that Coulson went into prisons and made the inmate's lives more bearable. This is flatly not true, and is born out by the research, whose design was to determine if, or not, Faith-Based Groups involved with prisoners...a) lowered prison did not, b) upon release from prison, lowered re-arrest and recidivism did not.

    The facts are what we have observed, that religion is a belief in magic, and lessens or inhibits functional executive thinking skills in the "believers." Like a "drug," religion does in fact, cause more problems in prison. It is not a coincidence, that 97% of all felons are christians.

    It is my observersation that christian felons committed crimes, because of the escape hatch of "christian forgiveness" concepts. One can basically do what one likes, because an imaginary god will ultimately forgive them if they believe in jesus.

    Back to prison "fellowship" and faith-based therapies. They simply do not work, and it was found that just like studies of prayer research, those who did not participate in religious fellowships in prison, have lower re-arrest and crime rates after leaving prison. (In a similar study of prayer, it was found that in two prayer groups, those who were NOT prayed for and did not participate in religion lived longer and lower "second" heart attacks.

    There is becoming a body of evidence, that religion makes people sick, crazy, and inclined toward criminality. I first noticed the correlation when I drove through some of the poorest parts of my city...and there was one, and sometimes two churches on every block, along side a liquor store. Both are forms of escapism.

    So, Coulson raises a lot of money, he feels he's on a special mission from god, one of god's chosen, and therefore, superior to the rest of us. The problem is, that the research shows that prayer in prison makes criminals more irrational and more likely to commit second crimes and have a poorer adjustment to prison life.

    I predict at sometime in the future, there will become an overwhelming amount of research evidence to show that "faith-based" programs do not work and should not be supported by our tax dollars. I can't wait.

    DeeVee PhD

  11. The entire "faith-based" therapy and solace programs do not work. Coulson is a sham. Comparative research of two faith-based prayer and preaching groups in prisons found that a) prisoners who were involved in faith-based ministeries had a harder time adjusting to prison life, b) committed more crimes while in prison, and c) upon release, had higher re-arrest and recidivism rates...proving like the study on prayer, that it does not work.

    Could is a snake oil salesman, making big bucks off this program, because its primarily paid for by our tax dollars. Some one really has to sue these people to get rid of such programs in prison and elsewhere because they simply do not work, and in fact in the case of prisons...make the inmates more dangerous and prone to being arrested when released.

    Felons already have difficult times with reality and reality-based decisions, and religion makes it worse by giving them false hopes, instead of teaching them critical, executive thinking skills. Religion further promotes inmates to live in a magical, cartoon world and leads them to blieve, jesus is their good buddy who is going to save them. Thus, they sit around waiting for jesus to "do something," as promised by the likes of Coulson..and when jesus doesn't deliver, they go whacko.

    Its all a sham and its about money...Someone has to sue the religious and demand they show proof of improvement, or that they at least don't make people worse off. I can't wait....

    DeeVee PhD


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