Tim Challies, a blogging machine, evaluates Colson’s legacy. For him Colson’s role in Evangelical Catholics Together is just too big of a black eye. In classic understatement Challies writes, “Don’t hear me say that Colson was a complete villain…” Complete villain? Villain? Are these words even to be used when discussing Colson’s legacy? Too much darkness in those words, too big of a hint of sedition and subterfuge, Screwtape like.
How about an honest difference? How about unnecessary accommodation? How about an unwise shortcut? But villain? Even if not a complete villain? Challies goes on to write,
At heart, ECT made the Reformation a mistake or an over-reaction and sought to draw Protestant and Catholic back together. It made little of the gospel, suggesting that there was no unbridgeable difference between the gospel of the Reformation and the gospel of Roman Catholicism. This had potential to do terrible damage to the church and its gospel witness. Remarkably, the obituary at The Gospel Coalition mentions ECT along with Colson’s other accomplishments as if it is substantially the same as Prison Fellowship. Most others do not mention it at all.
Some of the Neo-Puritans cannot comprehend that the straw they use to drink from the well that is Christ is not the only straw. They attempt, as do others, to do the best they can do to understand how salvation in Christ operates. In large measure, in a Reformation way, I am on their side. I remain convinced that my Arminianism is Reformed theology, not in the Theodore Beza sense or Turretin sense, for neither Beza nor Turretin speak for all of Reformed Theology. I continue to believe, as Wesley did, that classic Arminianism is but a hairbreadth of distance from classic Calvinism. But exactly how Christ saves is not the exact thing as Christ saves. Sure, there must be content to the “how” or otherwise we are left with a crossless Christ. But to identify the Gospel in such a way that only a very few million across the globe are biblical “gospelers” is a circle too small. On the face of it, it can’t be true.
Colson pressed at the boundaries of that circle in a way that pointed to the saving Christ. I think the unintended consequence of Challies’ type of approach is to push people, not to Christ, but to a formula that the large swath of Christians, who deeply love Christ and trust in him alone for salvation, will see as a good faith effort to comprehend Christ but for all that only one of many efforts.
Challies can’t see it. And once again a Neo-Puritan rejects its humble place at the Evangelical round table.