Book Review

The Body: Being Light in the Darkness by Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Word Publishing, Dallas, 1992, 455 pp. Reviewed by Thomas Vanden Heuvel.

Charles Colson, well-known in Christian circles as the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries and former presidential aide, has teamed up with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, vice-president of executive communications for Prison Fellowship, to publish a book which may well be the most influential book for evangelical Christians in recent memory. It is about the church of Jesus Christ. It is a practical textbook on ecclesiology spiced with “powerful, moving stories from Christians in Eastern Europe who defied communism and lived to see its collapse, to believers in inner-city Los Angeles, Midwest suburbs and on Death Row in South Carolina.”

What is urgently needed today is a recovery and restoration of the Biblical view of the church. This is what THE BODY gives us.

The church is not incidental to the great cosmic struggle for the hearts and souls of modern men and women. It is the instrument God has chosen for that battle. To bring hope and truth to a needy world the church must be the church (p.32).

Colson is a modem d ay prophet whose warnings we must take to heart. The church is called by Christ to be salt and light. Independence from the culture is what gives the church its reforming capacity and enables it to point society toward the truth (p. 239). Today the church is in Babylonian captivity, not in the clutches of a pagan emperor or a corrupted ecclesiastical hierarchy as in the early church and the church of the middle Ages, but rather in its easy acquiescence to the values of a thoroughly secularized culture (p. 246).

Colson challenges the church to get out of captivity to the secularized culture. His call must be heeded by every particular church which claims Christ as its Head.

This challenge is summarized in the following six commitments:

1. There must be a commitment to the truth, that is to God’s inerrant Word.

2. There must be a commitment to the fact that the church is the people of God and the church must be the church.

3. There must be a commitment to the fear of God.

4. There must be a commitment to the realization that God is sovereign over all and that we must, therefore, have a Biblically informed view of all of life.

5. There must be a commitment to be agents of God’s justice in society at large and to see His whole world from the perspective of His truth.

6. There must be a commitment to have Luther’s courage to declare our independence from culture and take our stand.

What a refreshing challenge! James L Packer writes about this book: “With punchy prose and haunting stories, Colson challenges, humbles and inspires. If you are willing to be made uncomfortable in the cause of real and deep church renewal this is the book for you. It comes from the heart; may it go to the heart.”

This book is must reading for everyone who wants to be part of the body.