Founders Journal


Book Reviews

Against the Night: Living in the New Dark Ages by Charles Colson; Ann Arbor, MI: Vine Books, 1989, $12.95.

Reviewed by Tom Ascol

The title and subtitle of this book are both significant. Colson, who since his conversion has been favorably influenced by R. C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries, provides a convincing analysis of the modern "Dark Ages." He does so while calling upon the Church to stand against the benighted American culture in which we live. Much of this book has an unrelenting postmortem tone to it. Those who have judged dubious the cheery pronouncements that a great revival has swept across our country during the last decade will find here well-reasoned arguments for maintaining a healthy skepticism.

Colson compares our current scene in America to the destruction of earlier civilizations. He writes: "I believe that we do face a crisis in Western culture, and that it presents the greatest threat to civilization since the barbarians invaded Rome. I believe that today in the West, and particularly in America, the new barbarians are all around us. They are not hairy Goths and Vandals, swilling fermented brew and ravishing maidens; they are not Huns and Visigoths storming our borders or scaling our city walls. No, this time the invaders have come from within . . . They inhabit our legislatures, our courts, our film studios, and our churches. Most of them are attractive and pleasant; their ideas are persuasive and subtle. Yet these men and women threaten our most cherished institutions and our very character as a people" (pp. 23-24). Radical individualism and moral relativism are identified as damaging diseases which have infected civilization. The cure, which must be sent from above, will only come through an authentic Church declaring and embodying the authoritative truth of God's Word.

This is, beyond question, Colson's most significant book. Reflecting a wide range of insights (from Calvin to Mother Theresa), Against the Night is a very readable, sane, yet alarming evaluation of the challenge which is thrust upon God's people in the closing years of the 20th century in America. If indeed we are living in a new Dark Ages (and I, for one, agree that we are), then we must pray and labor for a new Reformation. This book (written, incidentally, by a fellow Southern Baptist!) is a helpful ally in demonstrating the need to call for biblical reform in the faith and practice of churches. It should be read by pastors and thoughtful church members alike.