How Now Shall We Live?
by Chuck Colson and Nancy Pearcey
Is Charles Colson the reincarnation of Francis Schaeffer? No, and that’s a good thing. Not that I don’t love Francis Schaeffer—to suggest otherwise is to blaspheme the whole concept of worldview. But Schaeffer has one glaring weakness that we need to admit: he couldn’t write his way out of a wet paper sack. I wish I could have heard Schaeffer lecture or, better yet, sat around the kitchen table and run fumbling questions by him. There’s no doubt that he was brilliant, and that someone asking good questions would get to bask in the full force of that brilliance. But for those of us who only get to read him, he’s no C.S. Lewis. Or Charles Colson.
None of which makes it strange that Colson would consciously reference one of Schaeffer’s most important works—How Then Shall We Live?—in the title of his own, much more readable, book. Colson knows that Schaeffer pioneered the modern understanding of the Christian faith as a total worldview, and he wants to underscore this. What’s strange is calling Colson a better writer than Schaeffer, when in fact I really can’t judge. It may simply be that Nancy Pearcey is a better writer than Schaeffer, and that Colson is only a good thinker who hired a good writer and then got out of the way (Colson has relied on Pearcey for several of his works, with obvious success).
Whatever the case, Colson certainly understands one thing, and it is not a small thing: stories matter. I’d like to type that in all capital letters, but then it might seem strident. So I’ll just say it again: stories matter. If you want someone to understand something on merely an intellectual level, you can be direct and avoid illustrations. But if you want your reader, or your student, to own a concept—to understand it intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually—then you must use stories.
I first noticed how wisely Colson used story in one of my personal favorites, Loving God. There are plenty of books out there that tell you what it means to live the Christian life, but most of those left me cold. They might impart more head-knowledge, but they didn’t seem to help me actually behave better. Loving God actually made me live better, because it clearly illustrated how challenging, and how compelling, the Christian life is. The stories of Christians living like Christ made me hunger and thirst to do the same. Plenty of arguments can illuminate, but only stories can truly persuade.
This is the strength of How Now Shall We Live? as well. Colson doesn’t provide a dull analytical discussion of why worldview matters—he illustrates it, step by step. And then he created a study guide to accompany the book, providing teachers with an excellent resource for teaching the basics of the Christian worldview.
Can Colson write? It doesn’t matter. He is thoughtful and he is wise, and his collaboration with Pearcey has resulted in a gem of a book.
-by Jeff Baldwin