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2000 Gold Medallion Award winner!
Christianity is more than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is also a worldview that not only answers life's basic questions—Where did we come from, and who are we? What has gone wrong with the world? What can we do to fix it?—but also shows us how we should live as a result of those answers. How Now Shall We Live? gives Christians the understanding, the confidence, and the tools to confront the world's bankrupt worldviews and to ...
2000 Gold Medallion Award winner!
Christianity is more than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is also a worldview that not only answers life's basic questions—Where did we come from, and who are we? What has gone wrong with the world? What can we do to fix it?—but also shows us how we should live as a result of those answers. How Now Shall We Live? gives Christians the understanding, the confidence, and the tools to confront the world's bankrupt worldviews and to restore and redeem every aspect of contemporary culture: family, education, ethics, work, law, politics, science, art, music. This book will change every Christian who reads it. It will change the church in the new millennium.
In Ecuador, the peaks of the Andes jut more than two miles into thinning air. Within their cratered throat, the green incisor-shaped mountains hold the old colonial center of Quito, its ornate Spanish architecture surrounded by poured-concrete high-rises. Puffy clouds drawn through high mountain passes drift low over the city. Beneath them, banks of pink and white houses scatter like petals over the base of the mountains.
From the air, Quito is an exotic jungle orchid, appearing suddenly amid the foliage. But in its center is a place where the two forces vying for allegiance in the human heart become dramatically visible in an allegory of good and evil, heaven and hell.
In December 1995, I traveled to Quito with a group of Prison Fellowship friends to visit the deteriorating Garcia Moreno Prison, one wing of which had been turned over to Prison Fellowship. We were met at the airport by one of the most remarkable men I've ever known: Dr. Jorge Crespo de Toral, the chairman of Prison Fellowship Ecuador.
Though now seventy-five, Crespo remains an imposing figure, tall and patrician, with silvery hair and ruggedly handsome features. Born into aristocracy and educated in the law, he seemed destined for a life of affluence and power. Instead, Jorge Crespo became a labor lawyer and took up the cause of the poor, battling the monopolies that enslaved the workers and filled the pockets of the ruling elite. He became so well known as the champion of the poor that during one case an owner shouted at him, "So, Dr. Crespo, you are our guardian angel?" Indeed he was, although the industrialists were unwilling to admit it.
During Ecuador's tumultuous transition from military rule to democracy, Jorge Crespo was twice arrested and imprisoned. But the democratic forces ultimately prevailed, and in the 1960s, he was selected to help draft Ecuador's constitution. He was also a candidate in the nation's first presidential election, finishing a strong third. In the midst of all this, Crespo found time to write and publish poetry as well as literary criticism, winning a well-deserved reputation as a writer and a statesman.
But it was not his literary or political accomplishments that drew me to Ecuador. By the time I met him, Jorge Crespo had forsaken a personal career in politics and was engaged in what he considered the most important task of his life: reforming Ecuador's criminal justice system and its prisons.
I will never forget the moment we arrived at Garcia Moreno Prison in the center of Quito. The sights and smells are seared indelibly in my memory.
The prison's white baroque bell tower hovers like an evil eye, while its heavy dome seems to be collapsing into the sprawling old building. Jorge Crespo elbowed his way through the ragged crowds clustered outside-families waiting in hope of a brief visit-and led us to the front entrance, a small doorway at the top of a few steps. On each side of the steps were huge mounds of garbage, decaying in the heat, and the putrid odor was nearly overpowering. The uneven steps were slippery in places, the top step splattered with fresh blood.
"Someone was beaten and then dragged over the threshold," said Crespo, shaking his head. Such things were routine at Garcia Moreno, he added.
We passed from the sun-drenched street into the dim, narrow passageways in the first section of the prison, known as the Detainees Pavilion, where Crespo pointed out several black, cell-like holes in the concrete walls. These were the notorious torture chambers. They were no longer in use-thanks to his work-but still they gaped there, grotesque evidence of their bloody history. Knowing that Crespo himself had twice been cast into this prison, I watched him, wondering what horrors this sight must bring to his mind. At one point his self-control slipped when he told us about a torture cell that was actually a water tank; prisoners had been kept there until their flesh began decaying and sloughing off the bone-a means of extracting confessions.
As we moved along, we seemed to be descending into darkness, our eyes straining to make out the contours of the narrow passageways, until we came to a series of cells that were still in use. They were eerily illuminated by narrow shafts of light penetrating downward from tiny orifices high on the mold-covered limestone walls. From the walls of each cell hung four bunks, which were nothing more than iron slabs. Twelve inmates shared each cell, so the men had to sleep in shifts or stretch out on the floor, thick with grime and spilled sewage. There was no plumbing, and the air was fetid. Water was brought into the cells in buckets; when empty, these same buckets were filled with waste and hauled back out.
I was stunned. I've been in more than six hundred prisons in forty countries, yet these were some of the worst conditions I had ever seen. Worse than Perm Camp 35, one of the most notorious in the Soviet Gulag. Worse than prisons in the remotest reaches of India, Sri Lanka, and Zambia. Even more startling, the prisoners here had not been convicted of any crimes. The cells in the Detainees Pavilion were for men awaiting trial. In Ecuador, as in much of Latin America, there is no presumption of innocence nor any right to a speedy trial. A detainee can wait four to five years just to come to trial-and sometimes even longer if no one outside is agitating for his rights, knocking almost daily on some prosecutor's door, or paying off some official. There are palms to be greased at every level. In such a system, the poor are powerless, cast into dungeons and easily forgotten.
The guards urged us onward from the cells to a courtyard, where we could see inmates milling about in the open air. The yard was bounded by high-walled cellblocks and monitored by armed guards patrolling the parapets. As we gazed into the courtyard through a barred iron gate, the image was so surreal that I felt I had been transported to a scene of human desperation out of a Dickens novel. The men shuffled around the yard, many dressed in rags and wearing a vacant look of hopelessness on their pale, drawn faces.
A group of garishly made-up women huddling together against one of the walls caught my attention. "What are the women doing in there?" I asked Crespo.
"There are no women in Garcia Moreno," he replied. "When we first started working here, the fathers sometimes brought their children in with them, even little girls, because there was no one else to take care of them. But now we have a home for the children."
Puzzled by his answer, I nodded toward the wall. "Over there. Those women."
"Oh," said Crespo. "Those are transvestites and male prostitutes. They usually stay together for protection from the other inmates."
My heart sank. Truly this was a kingdom of evil. Hell on earth.
Crespo began talking with the official standing at the gate, and he appeared to be arguing with him. Finally Crespo turned to me, shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm sorry. The guard says it's impossible to enter the compound. Much too dangerous."
"Tell him we insist, Jorge. Tell him the minister of justice promised us access."
No doubt there was a bit of bravado mixed in with my adamant persistence, but I was certain that God had brought us here for a purpose. Crespo resumed his animated conversation with the guard until finally the man, shaking his head in disgust, unlocked the gate.
In the New Testament, Jesus described the gate into heaven as narrow, but this gate into hell was narrow as well. We could pass through only one at a time. Crespo stepped briskly into the yard before I could even collect my thoughts. My heart racing, I moved in behind him.
As we walked to the center of the compound, conversation ceased, and the inmates turned to watch us. I prayed a silent prayer for grace and started speaking. As I did, the men began shuffling toward us. Several were limping; a man who had only one leg had to be helped along by another prisoner. Directly in front of me was a man with an empty eye socket and open sores spotting his face. Several men had scarves covering most of their faces, perhaps to cover sores or to filter the vile smells.
Suddenly, despite the wretched scene before me, I felt the same freedom I've known thousands of times in the past years, whether in palaces, universities, or television studios-but especially in prisons. It is that special anointing God gives us to communicate his boundless love to even the most pitiful souls. I will never know who responded to the invitation to receive him that day, but afterward, scores of men reached out to us, many smiling. Yet no one broke the sacred canopy of silence, the sense of God's presence, that seemed to settle over the courtyard.
As I shook hands or just reached out to touch the shoulders of the men clustered around us, I kept thinking of the time John the Baptist asked whether Jesus was the Messiah. "Tell him," Jesus replied, that "the blind see, the lame walk, ... and the Good News is being preached to the poor" (Matt. 11:4-5, NLT).
The holy silence held as the guards led us out of the yard and through heavy iron gates into another darkened corridor. Crespo told us that we were approaching the prison area that had been turned over to Prison Fellowship. We walked through a wide door and were ushered into a huge, triple-tiered cellblock.
All at once, we stepped out of the darkness and into a radiant burst of light.
"This is Pavilion C," Crespo said proudly with a wide smile.
At the far end of the corridor was what looked like an altar, with a huge cross silhouetted against a brightly painted concrete wall. Gathered in an open area before the altar were more than two hundred inmates, who rose up out of their seats, singing and applauding. Some were playing guitars. All were glowing with joy and enthusiasm. Within seconds, we were surrounded, and the prisoners began embracing us like long-separated brothers.
In Pavilion C, Prison Fellowship volunteers and inmate leaders provided rigorous instruction in Christian faith and character development to inmates who were brought out of the other pavilions, including the Detainees Pavilion. Regular worship services were led by a variety of priests and ministers. This was a holy community, a church like none I had ever seen.
Yet Jorge Crespo was quick to point out that Pavilion C was only a stop on the way, a place of preparation. The ultimate destination was Casa de San Pablo (St. Paul's House), so named because of Paul's imprisonment in the Philippian jail (see Acts 16:22-34). This was a prison wing for those who had been received into full Christian fellowship and who ministered to the rest of the prisoners. Crespo hustled us on to see it.
Like Pavilion C, Casa de San Pablo was spotlessly clean, with the added beauty of tiled floors and separate dormitories, furnished with wooden bunks made by inmates. Beneath a flight of stairs, the inmates had partitioned off a small prayer closet containing only a bench with a cross on it. Because of the low ceiling, the men had to stoop down upon entering the room, then remain on their knees inside. The prayer closet was in use all day.
Pictures of Christ and other religious symbols were everywhere, and I momentarily forgot that we were in a prison. In fact, it wasn't called a prison, but "the Home," and it was populated not by prisoners but by "residents."
The means by which the Home came into being is nothing less than miraculous. When Crespo first approached authorities about taking over a wing of the prison, these facilities were considered unfit even by Garcia Moreno standards. The bright and airy main room where we now stood, Crespo told us, was once scarcely more than a cave, dark and unlit, shrouded with spiderwebs. Once he got the go-ahead, however, Christian inmates and an army of volunteers from local churches went to work with shovels and tools. Tradesmen volunteered their services, as did local contractors. Many churches raised money. And overseeing it all was the tall, imposing figure of Jorge Crespo himself, the visionary who could see what others could not-a church inside a prison. It took several years of sweat and sacrificial labor-and no end of Crespo's cajoling the officials-but eventually the vision became a reality.
That afternoon, as we assembled with residents in the meeting room, I noticed that the windows were barred on only one side: the side facing the main prison compound. The windows facing out to the street were open-a powerful symbol of trust and hope.
The meeting room was dominated by a huge mural, painted across the main wall by the prisoners themselves, depicting the emerging freedom of life in Christ. On the left, a ragged figure huddled in a blue shadow of despair. The next figure turned to the rising sun, and the next traveled toward it. Finally, a figure lifted his hands to heaven in praise of his Creator. The men in this room knew exactly what those symbols meant, for once they had been just like the men in the Detainees Pavilion, without hope and left to rot like garbage. But now they were new creatures in Christ.
As we worshiped together, several men gave stirring testimonies. "Coming to this prison is the best thing that ever happened to me," said one man, who had been a high-ranking operator in a drug cartel. "I found Jesus here. I don't care if I ever leave. I just want others to know that this place is not the end. There is hope. God can change us even here-especially here."
The inmates included both Protestants and Catholics, but they drew no distinctions. Bible studies were led by Protestant ministers and by Father Tim, the resident Catholic chaplain. They loved the same Lord, studied the same Word. It was the kind of fellowship one longs for (but seldom finds) in our comfortable North American churches. Perhaps only those who have plumbed the depths of despair and depravity can fully appreciate the futility of life without Christ and can thus learn to love one another in the way Jesus commanded.
Father Tim summed it up best, speaking in his charming Irish lilt. "I never learned about God in seminary," he said, embracing Jorge Crespo. "I learned about God through this man."
We, too, had learned about God from this man and the transformation he had helped work in this place. From the time we entered Garcia Moreno, we had not traveled far in physical terms-mere yards. But in spiritual terms we had made a great journey: from the hell of the Detainees Pavilion to Pavilion C, an analogy of the church here on earth with its struggles, and then to the Home, a foretaste of heaven. A world transformed within a single building. It was nothing short of miraculous.
Excerpted from How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson Copyright © 1999 by Charles Colson. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted June 12, 2001
The dust jacket flap on the inside cover calls this 'A Defining Book For All Christians.' I can't say that I disagree. In this book, Mr. Colson and Mrs. Pearcey attempt to guide the reader in attaining a full Christian worldview. Christianity is much more than what goes on in church on Sunday, but too many Christians don't live like it is. I have heard it said that Christianity is not a religion, but rather a life-style, and that thought dovetails nicely into the themes in this book. The authors tackle issues from abortion to evolution to music to politics and points in between. The main message here is one of hope. Hope that in Christ we can take the gospel into the world without fear of refusal or retribution. Hope that we can make a difference in the culture around us, without being 'pushy' and alienating the people we are trying to help. I highly recommend this book to Christians everywhere, as it does a great job of arming you with solid facts (the last 65 pages contain index notes and a recommended reading list; someone did their homework on this one!) to use when others challenge you while taking Christ to the world.
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Posted November 11, 2002
Chuck Colson's book helps shed a lot of light on today's society and helps everyone develop a strong worldview. I recommend this book to all who are serious about wanting to know what to believe and what is truth.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 7, 2001
Although a promising study, Colson seems to palm off the thoughts of many others as if they were his own unique contributions. As a popular piece, however, it is adequate for uncovering some issues, but frankly his message is preached to the choir and will be essentially incommunicable to the present postmodern mindset. Read Gene Veith for a better perspective on current apologetic strategy (his book, 'Postmodern Times' is an easy introduction). If you read this book, bear in mind that Colson's arguments most likely will appeal only to those who still buy into the 'modernist' project of attempting to explain and defend the faith using the tools of the Protestant Western European male mindset.... (not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but Colson seems oblivious to his own presuppositions).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 14, 2000
Though publisher's weekly thought that Colson and Pearcey were 'Narrow-minded' in this book, evidence seems to point otherwise. When he wrote this book he consulted other scientists, etc... to make his arguments sound, and he did it well. His comparison of Christianity to other theories/world views and their structure, Such as Naturalism with evolution, shows how logical Christianity is, not just some pass-me-down religion taken to be true. I find it sad that so many scientists brush many of these arguments aside as 'unresearched', 'old and out of date idea', or 'not completely true'. It seems our general scientific community is resorting to road blocks or theories even more 'bizarre' than a personal Savior, when in fact, science supports and upholds the basis of Christianity. If your serious about your faith, or want to know more about this area that influences every aspect of our lives, (or if your not, for that matter) then get this book. If you're going to be narrow-minded and convicted, you need a basis behind it, this book is a strong starting point. It is thoughtful, researched, logical, and provocative.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 15, 2000
Colson and Pearcey cover a myriad of subjects related to one's worldview and demonstrate how that effects every area of life. It shapes what a person thinks and how they behave. In clear and concise fashion the authors lay the framework for a Christian worldview beginning with three basic questions: (1) Where did I come from?, (2) What went wrong?, and (3) What is the solution? The authors compare the answers that science, evolution, The New Age, psychology, philosophy and political science give to those of Christianity. Along the way they interject personal, real-life stories to illustrate the points being made. The authors show that the Judeo/Christian belief system not only answers all three of life's fundamental questions adequately, but more importantly, that it does so in a fashion consistent with reality. A must read book for those who are looking for ways in which to answer the skeptic and provide evidence to the truth seeker.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 20, 2000
Colson explains so clearly how rational the Christian worldview is and the lie of Darwinism (naturalism) that is being shoved down our childrens throats in the public school systems. How great it is to know that there is a Creator, because of EVIDENCE! not some bankrupt philosiphy as Darwinism is. I hope people the world over will consider truth based on EVIDENCE!!
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Posted January 5, 2000
This could have been an excellent book. Seems that the author(s)got a lot of their information from other books (this biblo is about 3/8' thick). It would have been better if the authors would have been more passionate on their work and not depend so much on the scholorship of others. The short stories of folks who are in 'the trenches' trying to make a better world kept this book from being a complete disappointment.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 1, 2000
Having grown up in the sixties, and being influenced greatly by writers such as C.S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, I have made my way through the secular 80's and immoral 90's, confident that the Bible is true. Charles Colson gives the most compelling and reasonable defense of the Bible and Christianity that I have read to date. This is a 'must read' for anyone who is genuinely seeking for truth and personal peace.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 29, 1999
This is a must-read book for any Christian wanting to really view life with a Biblical worldview. Starting with creation vs. evolution, the author makes a compelling case for Christianity and how we should view the world, while also clearly articulating the worldview of those who reject God. I'm about 90% through the book and can't wait to finish it. Heads up that it's an intellectual book, so don't expect a quick skim, but it's been worth every second. I encourage you to buy one for yourself and one for your minister.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.