Os Guinness Talks About Prophetic Untimeliness

Well, welcome everybody. You know, our next guest did undergraduate studies at the University of London, post-graduate studies at the University of Oxford. He has written or edited more than 20 books, including The American Hour, The Call, Time for Truth, and Long Journey Home. He’s Senior Fellow and vice chairman of the board at the Trinity Forum. His deep concern and calling is to bridge the chasm between academic knowledge and popular knowledge, taking things that are academically important and making them intelligible and practicable to a wider audience. In his newest book he addresses ¢€œ and I’m going to say Evangelicalisms, but it’s much broader than that ¢€œ the current quest for relevance, which he argues has left us more irrelevant than ever. There’s that law of unintended consequences again.

Q. Our guest is Dr. Os Guinness. His most recent book is Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, published by Baker Books. Os, great to have you with us today.
A. My pleasure, Dick, as always.

Q. So I know that this started as a lecture series for the C.S. Lewis Institute. I saw Stan Mattson’s name in there.
A. Well, yes, it was the Oxbridge, 2002.

Q. Oh, excellent.
A. C.S. Lewis and time, and this was my contribution.

Q. Now, what’s interesting about this book is it is a book about time, but it really is setting the issue of time in this much broader context of prophetic untimeliness. And you-you start in the introduction by talking about the problem of comments from Christian leaders, the kind of proclamations we’re prone to make, our attempt at-at becoming relevant, making us irrelevant. If you had to kind of just, at the outset, define the problem as you see it, and what you wanted to try to get at in this series of lectures which became the book, what is the problem?
A. Well, I just start with a very simple irony. We’ve never had Evangelicalism chasing relevance more determinedly. And yet at the end of it, we’ve never been more irrelevant. Now, that could be purely accidental, and other factors are behind it, but I would argue no. We’ve pursued the wrong type of relevance. And actually, we’ve fallen captive to modern views of time and progress and timeliness and relevance, and they’re leading us down a garden path. And in fact, liberalism ¢€œ and you can see the chaos of the Episcopal church in the last month ¢€œ liberalism has gone down this path for 200 years, and we should open our eyes and be very, very careful. The gospel, of course, is truly relevant. There’s nothing wrong with relevance. But modern views of relevance are dangerously distorted and they’ll lead us into trouble.

Q. You have this comment that relevance is not the problem, but we have a crying need to be faithful as well as relevant. Talk a bit about that tension.
A. Well, let’s say relevance isn’t a problem. The gospel, of course, is relevant.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s good news. In other words, it meets every person’s needs, it addresses every time.

Q. Yeah.
A. It’s never out of date, never old fashioned, it’s always relevant. So I’m not attacking true relevance. But it’s this modern idea of relevance. And I’ve argued in other books that the church is being shaped by the Modern World. But in this book I’m not looking at the modernity as a whole, but the modern view of time. Because in many ways the machine that’s shaped the Modern World, you know, as much as any other machine, is the clock.

Q. Yeah.
A. And it’s so obvious in our world that people just don’t see the impact of it.

Q. You-you talk about the ¢€œ and I found this book so timely ¢€œ when you and I first talked about doing the interview I hadn’t read the book yet. And I kind of skimmed the-the basic premise and thought, oh this is going to be great, as always. But interestingly enough, I made a decision at-at, after vacation this year, which was about eight weeks ago, that I was not going to wear a watch anymore. And-and it was because I found myself for a couple of weeks in the southwest, traveling around with my family, and I intentionally took off my watch. And I found myself so much more relaxed and-and really more able to kind of march to the beat of the drummer that I want to march to. And-and so it’s for people that are wondering, Why in the world is Os Guinness starting a book about-about relevance with a discussion of the issue of time? I mean, we have really very little self-conscious awareness of how our lives have shifted because of what you call “a tool that turned into a tyrant.” Talk about some of the different faces of time and how it has changed our lives.
A. Well the, you know, the invention of the clock in 1400 in Europe, is probably the most important machine in the West.

Q. Yeah.
A. The obvious consequences everyone’s aware of, you know, one is the wonderful thing of precision.

Q. Yeah.
A. For the Romans, they had to have A.M. and P.M.

Q. Yes.
A. The periods. But we have people billing us by the minute, or maybe by the second, and so on. Ours is a world of incredible precision. And obviously, the feature that most people are aware of is pressure.

Q. Yeah.
A. You know, time is just harrowing us all around. But I would argue that some of the deeper consequences are more important. So if you look back when clocks came into the West, there was a subtle change. For example, to be civilized or to be a barbarian, for a Greek, was a spatial idea. If you were inside you were civilized, if you were outside, beyond the pail, you were barbarian. It was a matter of being beyond.

Q. Yeah.
A. But in our world to be civilized, or whatever, is a matter of time. And the uncivilized, they’re retarded. They’re reactionary, they’re Neanderthal, and so on. And you can see that time underlies so much in ways we’re hardly aware of. Now that, of course, comes into our world. So the idea that change is what matters, progress is what matters, and so the latest is greatest, the newer is truer.

Q. Yeah.
A. Keep up with every emerging trend and keep on top and keep in touch, and then-then you’ll be savvy today. So we have a breathless view of time as progress which, much of which is absolute folly.

Q. Oh, man. You talk about the tyranny of labeling. Talk a bit about that.
A. Well you take, say, categories we have, and we don’t think about them as categories. They shape our thinking. People talked about the Dark Ages and then the Middle Ages.

Q. Yes.
A. And then the Modern Age.

Q. Yes.
A. Well, if you say it’s the Dark Age, there couldn’t be anything good there. The Middle Age? Well, it’s only a transition to the Modern World which, of course, it’s a build up to us. And so Heidiger, the German philosophy, calls now, the present moment, as “the strutting point.”

Q. Yeah.
A. Because we think that the whole of history and everything in the world leads up to you and me.

Q. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I-I loved a comment that you quoted somewhere near the end of the book about-about Billy Graham being criticized for turning the clock back 50 years. And he said, “I only regret I didn’t turn it back 200 years.”
A. I know. But you-you-you see, so many pastors today and pundits today, they’re saying, we’ve got to re-invent the church and get it moving forward, a new kind of Christian for the new kind of age, as Bishop Sean says. But the fact is you look at the scriptures and Christian history, the church always goes forward by first going back. And what we’re after is not re-inventing the church, but reviving the church. And part of revival and reformation is always going back to God’s standards.

Q. You-you talk about being “shorn of our secret strength.” What is our secret strength? What has been the secret strength of the-of the Christian in the church?
A. Well, it’s well-known that Jesus called us to be in the world but not of the world.

Q. Yeah.
A. You know, one theologian put it, We’re against the world for the world.

Q. Yeah.
A. Now, in most of history, that tension we realize only one person has done it perfectly, the Lord. And Christians have been sometimes so much in it, they’re of it and wordly, or so much not of it that they’re other-worldly. But what’s changed is the Modern World. The rise of the Modern World through the Industrial Revolution, it is so powerful, so pervasive, it’s everywhere, and so pressurizing, you can barely get away from it. How long will you keep your watch off? You know, you can see that the old ways of aligning up, in terms of not in but not of, have broken down.

Q. Interesting.

We’ll pick up there when we come back. Our guest is Dr. Os Guinness. The book is Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. As always, Os challenges you to think, and does so in a very provocative way that looks at things slightly differently, but always coming out with something that provokes me to-to think through my faith and then live out my faith in a more consistent way. We’ll be back with more of Os Guinness. The book is Prophetic Untimeliness, published by Baker. We’ll be right back.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. We’re visiting with Os Guinness. His most recent book is Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, published by Baker Books.

Q. We’ve been talking about the secret strength of the church, which has been in this world-affirming and world-denying stance, which is very different from other world religions, Buddhism, and others. And-and we end up in-in trying to live out our-our-our Christian life and faith in the world with a variety of responses. And Os, you go through and talk about some of those responses that are really impossible. You start with resistance. What’s that one about?
A. Well, resistance is those who take sort of cultural defiance seriously, because we must flee the world. We’re in the world, but we’re not of the world.

Q. Yeah.
A. But the world is so powerful today that what’s surprising is there’s almost no world-denying branches of the Christian faith left. I mean, there’s a few, like the Amish, and so on, determined to resist. But Evangelicalism used to be very attentive about worldliness, no longer cares about it much today.

Q. Yeah, very interesting. Another one is negotiation.
A. Well, that’s the middle one. In other words, testing the spirits, being discerning. And the trouble with that one, I think, that’s the one we should all be. But the trouble is, the world’s happening so fast, it’s being fired at us point blank, that to keep up with all the changes and all the new information, none of us can do it on our own.

Q. Yeah.
A. And we need a group of friends around us to help us discern.

Q. Yeah, absolutely. In the section on adaptation, you talk about this cycle that moves from assumption, abandonment, adaptation, to assimilation. We’ve mentioned briefly resistance, negotiation. What happens in the adaptation part of this cycle?
A. Well, you can see this from the early stages of liberalism in the 18th century, like Schlamacher, we must reach the culture despises of the gospel. He reached them and joined them.

Q. Yeah.
A. Liberalism has become like them, and sired many more like them, since then. The trouble is that Evangelicalism is doing the same. And it usually begins with an assumption. Here’s something in the Modern World which is valuable. Okay, maybe superior. We’ve got to look at it. Certainly, all truth is God’s truth. But when people take on that assumption, uncritically, that’s the key thing, and then anything that doesn’t fit in with it, they abandon.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. One can no longer believe this. And then they adapt what’s left of the faith to the new assumption.

Q. Yeah.
A. And at the end of the day there’s a cultural compromise and surrender.

Q. Yeah.
A. Liberalism is the extreme of this, but Evangelicalism is catching up fast.

Q. When we think about that, that starting with the assumption something is valuable, something that’s even possibly superior, you end up with this, you know, we, Protestantism, was birthed with the notion of Sola Scriptura. We’ve now become Sola Cultura. Clever idea. Flush it out a bit. What does it mean in practical terms for Evangelicals to be Sola Cultura versus Scriptura?
A. Well, let me take a practical example. I was in a mega-church in California, not Saddlebag, which is very much better, further north. And in a couple of sermons in the two Sundays I was there, there was hardly a reference to scripture. There were references to George Barna, references to George Gallup, who’s a great friend of mine. There were far more references to Barna and Gallup than either the Bible or God. And you had powerpoint expositions with flashing screens with how many people in the Modern World will listen, and so on, and so on, and so on. And you realize sociology had taken over the authority of scripture.

Q. Yeah.
A And that was quite, you know, unwitting. But the effect was the same.

Q. You know, it’s interesting because most, many people that are in that kind of genre will say that it’s a communication style, not a substantive style, to change. In other words, they’ll say people are, you know, they’re more familiar with today’s movies, they’re more familiar with George Barna or Gallup than they are with-with scripture, that the seeker-sensitive approach is to speak the language of culture, et cetera. They would say, but underneath it all it’s undergirded by scripture and eventually the person will get into a small group and become part of a Bible study, and so forth. What do you make of that kind of distinction drawn between kind of public communication to seeker and-and more private rigorous Biblical exposition?
A. Well, a couple of questions I’d raise. One, is worship. Worship is for the Lord and his people. And worship isn’t primarily for seekers, although suddenly we take them into account. And too many of the seeker-sensitive services have gutted the heart of worship.

Q. Yeah.
A. The other thing is, in following Paul ¢€œ and after all we are following Paul if we follow Jesus ¢€œ you know, he became a Jew to the Jews, Greek to the Greeks, a Gentile to the Gentiles, and so on. And that’s what we should do. A hippie to the hippies, a boomer to the boomers, and so on. We’ve got to start where people start. But the point is, we must never end there.

Q. Yeah.
A. And the best people don’t end there. But some of the extremes are beginning to look more like the world. There was an article just recently in GQ magazine ¢€œ not one I read, but I just saw it in the dentist’s office in the last month ¢€œ it talked about the so-called malling of Christianity. It argued that the Christian faith, in the Evangelical tradition, was virtually a Xerox copy of the world.

Q. Yeah.
A. And in many ways it is.

Q. And GQ is noticing this.
A. Exactly.

Q. But Evangelicals often don’t. It’s crazy. You-you-you speak about the calls to captivity, and it’s almost scary when you read them because we can see it all around us in American Christianity. You talk about conformity, popularity, fashionability.
A. Well, conformity is obviously the lure of the appeal of others. And the odd thing is that Tochfield pointed out long ago, is Americans love to think of themselves as rugged individualists. But in fact, this nation is incredibly conformist.

Q. Yeah.
A. And if we do that as Christians, we have our own version of theologically correct or politically correct, and so on. But the really key one, in terms of this book, is fashionability.

Q. Yeah.
A. This craze to be relevant. And words like re-inventing, and so on, everywhere. And we’ve got to examine these and ask what we’re really doing. And I point out simply, you know, when I first came to the faith, if the church was in bad shape, there would be prayer for revival.

Q. Yeah.
A. Today if the church is in bad shape, we talk about re-invention. But what the church needs is revival, not re-invention. It’s not something we do by getting up-to-date, it’s something the Lord does by bringing us back to the power of his truth and his Spirit.

Q. It’s interesting, the other day Henry Blackaby was on and he was talking about Samuel, and how Samuel didn’t cast a vision and didn’t write a mission statement, Samuel waited for revelation. And it’s interesting because I’ve talked to some friends about that who are kind of from the business, management-by-objective approach, and it almost, that notion of revelation sounds quaint to them, whereas to people that are-that are hungering for God’s voice, it’s essential. It’s the water and bread, it’s what they live by to-to-to find God’s direction in their life, whether it’s through scripture or the Holy Spirit, or through the counsel of other wise brothers. But-but we have so adopted a kind of a different mission, vision, casting kind of approach and a managerial approach that-that when you bring in a Biblical notion it almost sounds completely out-of-date to these many people.
A. Exactly. But I think they’re the ones who’ll soon see they’re relevant. For instance, 20 years ago when I first started saying some of these things, many of them treated me like a Neanderthal. But the funny thing is today, and certainly out on the west coast where you come from, Dick, so many of the younger generation, they want history, they want liturgy, they want richness again. They’re going back to the early church fathers and the scriptures, and so on. And they want symbols, like the cross and the worship. And the people who cut out all that stuff in the name of relevance have suddenly found themselves washed up.

Q. And rootless.
A. Exactly.

Q. Which is sad.

We’re going to be back with more of Dr. Os Guinness. The book is Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. Os always makes us think, he always brings a cultural literacy, combined with Biblical literacy that really helps us understand the interrelationship and dynamic of the two, and leaves us in a place where we’re better prepared to know what it means to serve and honor God. We’ll be right back. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. Our guest is Dr. Os Guinness. His most recent book is Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, published by Baker Books, available at your local bookstores.

Q. We’ve been talking about the call to captivity, more specifically in this book addressing the issue of fashionability, a quest for relevance that has, in many cases, left us Sola Cultura instead of Sola Scriptura. Shorn of our inner strength, Christians once understood that we were both world-affirming and world-denying. We once understood that a part of our calling is resistance to culture. And today, the notion of resistance is viewed as-as kind of passe. Although, just before the break, Os was talking about a younger generation that-that wants some roots, wants some tradition, wants to be reconnected with the faith of their fathers. I just find it fascinating, younger generation folks who are reading the early church fathers to find out what they had to say about things that were so close to, much closer to Jesus and understanding our culture through the way they dealt with theirs, and the value of that. In-in part, this is¢â‚¬¦ There is a turning away in part of the church from-from the effects of-of fashionability. And you talk about those effects as making us trivial and transient. Talk about some of the marks and effects that you see within today’s church and Evangelicalism that-that have come out of our fashionability.
A. Well, some of the lesser consequences are things like trendiness and burn out and transience. You know, the famous line by Dean Inge that, “He who marries the spirit of the age soon becomes a widower.” But you can move up to some of the really deeper consequences. And the first great one is a loss of authority.

Q. Uh-huh.
A. Once culture becomes authority, then you’re always shifting in terms of the latest trends and the winds of fashion. The scripture is no longer authorative. And that’s¢â‚¬¦ You can see it in the extreme in the Episcopal church now in the way they’ve, you know, elected an openly gay bishop. It’s-it’s the winds of culture that are decisive, not the scriptures. And a good bit of Evangelicalism is drifting down the same road. So the first issue is authority.

Q. Yeah.
A. I think the second one is continuity. If you’re always changing the faith, eventually you have some new, trendy faith, but it’s no longer the faith of our fathers and mothers, and people are going right back to Jesus and the early church. There’s a real break in continuity. And then the final challenge is a loss of identity. Eventually people are believing things that have so little decisive Christian content, you know, that what are they really believing? It’s just the world beliefs dressed up. As the atheist philosopher Anthony Flew said, “That’s what the atheist, the infidel next door believes anyway.”

Q. Yeah.
A. And that’s the trouble with a lot of this process.

Q. How has commercialization been an effect of our desire for fashionability?
A. Well, I think a huge part because Evangelicalism is very entrepreneurial, very innovative, and so on, which is a strength. But the chronic weakness is, again and again, limited by the success of the communities it creates.

Q. Yeah.
A. So let’s take contemporary Christian music or the Christian Booksellers Association. They’re multi-billion dollar industries, but they’re incredibly contained by their success. And many of them are now driven by the market, not by mission.

Q. What do you mean “contained by their success”?
A. Well, in other words, they’ve become incredibly successful, and they’ve actually limited Christian mission. So instead of the church being salt and light, you’ve got Christians writing books to other Christians.

Q. Yeah.
A. Or Christians singing songs to other Christians ¢€œ

Q. Yes.
A. ¢€œ rather than getting in the mainstream.

Q. But even there, the-the book list is almost defined by what is viewed as popular. And what is viewed as popular is, unfortunately, often something that would be consumed only by a person who has a concern, more of a concern for fashionability than C.S. Lewis’s resistance thinking, which you referred to earlier in the book.
A. No, you’re exactly right. I walked through CBA, not this year but last year, with one of the heads of one of the leading publishing houses. He said, “You know, 95 percent of this is all about me, my, and that sort of stuff.” Narcissistic.

Q. Yeah.
A. Very little of it is serious Christian books engaging the culture.

Q. Yeah.
A. Now, I love Lewis’s idea. He called this resistance thinking. You know, he said if you only adapt the gospel to what fits your times, you’ll have a comfortable, convenient gospel. But it’ll only be half the gospel. And it’ll be irrelevant to the next generation.

Q. Yeah.
A. Whereas, if you follow resistance thinking ¢€œ and he says progress is only made into resistance thinking ¢€œ in other words, look into the gospel of things that are, he says, difficult, obscure. He even uses the word repulsive. And if you’re true to those, then first, you’re true to the whole gospel.

Q. Yeah.
A. And secondly, you’re relevant to any generation.

Q. What is the-the impact on the next generation if we do not, in fact, restore our calling to faithfulness over fashionability?
A. Well, we’ll just be marginal. And that’s the tragedy. Here we are in a globalizing world, where the West is the carrier of globalization, the Christian faith is the single strongest source of the West ¢€œ

Q. Yeah.
A. ¢€œ and yet we have virtually lost the whole of the West. We’ve lost most of Europe. There’s only one part of the West where the church is strong, ordinary people in the United States. And when you look at Evangelicals, because of the things that we’re talking about, they’ve become totally marginal and virtually irrelevant.

Q. When you-when you which, by the way, Evangelicals, many of them will argue with you on that point because they’ll say we’re a billion-dollar business in music and in books, and we have our own cruises, we have¢â‚¬¦ The ways¢â‚¬¦ We have, you know, fast-growing mega-churches. I mean, there’s a whole kind of way of-of propping up the idea that Evangelicals are extremely relevant, but I think you’ve already kind of dealt with the philosophical weaknesses of that position.
A. And living here in Washington, Dick, you can just see how incredibly irrelevant Evangelicals are.

Q. How so?
A. Well, on the serious issues taking place in politics and the media, the Evangelical voice is, by and large, scorned.

Q. Yeah.
A. There’s either anti-intellectual or populist. In other words, you can bring out thousands of people to plug a senator’s phone lines on school prayer, but can you change the senator’s minds? No, there aren’t thoughtful positions. I mean, we’re caricatured.

Q. But I don’t know if you happened to read Nicholas Kristoff’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal.
A. I did.

Q. I found that an interesting piece because he-he basically, I felt, was attacking ¢€œ certainly no one’s going to argue that Evangelicals are the intellectual powerhouse of the 21st century. On the other hand, his-his kind of idea that liberals, good old fashioned liberals that don’t believe in miracles and do believe in evolution, those are the kinds of people that intellectuals today can do business with, a kind of desiring to hearken back to-to the liberal tradition, which I found kind of a naƒ¯ve position on his part.
A. Oh, extraordinary. I thought it almost comic what a poor argument he could use to be acceptable in the New York Times. The level, which was sunk.

Q. It reminded me of that Washington Post article about, you know, the Christian Coalition’s members being uneducated, poor, and easily led.
A. I know. Well, Mike Weiscoff has said that it changed his mind and that has much greater effect now.

Q. Absolutely.

Well, we’re going to be back in just a few minutes here with our guest, Os Guinness. You can spend more time with him by picking up a copy of the book, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. It’s published by Baker Books. And it’s just packed full of-of provocative, thoughtful analysis. And now we’re going to move into a few minutes of talking about what it would look like to be faithful, and how we can escape cultural captivity, and the reformation and revival that it will take to see that accomplished in our lifetime, something that I think we should be committed to. We’re going to be back with those final comments from Os Guinness right after this. Don’t go away.

(Break)

Well, this is Dick Staub back with you. Our guest is Dr. Os Guinness. The book is Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance.

Q. Our faith¢â‚¬¦ Jesus was so delightfully counter-cultural to both religious culture of his day and the broader culture of his day. He marched to the beat of a different drummer, and that drummer is one that plays an eternal sound that is ever relevant. And-and when you read Os Guinness’ book, you’re going to just be refreshed. He quotes the French philosopher who says, “To be always relevant, you have to say things which are eternal.” And here in our, you know, world’s hour of greatest need, we have bumper stickers and talking heads who don’t represent thoughtful Christian approaches at all. And Os, part of the problem when we talked about Nicholas Kristoff, is that the people who the media chooses to give a platform to, to speak on behalf of Christianity, by and large are-are sound-bytish, but not very thoughtful.
A. No, exactly. They want caricatures. You have Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, you’ve got to have Jerry Falwell.

Q. Yeah, exactly.
A. You just want caricatures for a little controversy, and that’s the media.

Q. I saw a piece today that Randall Terry wants to make a comeback, and he’s going to try to do it around the issue of homosexuality. And I kind of, you know, in a little sag of spirit there, recognizing that Randall Terry gets media attention.
A. Yup.

Q. And-and yet, this is not, as you say, the historic Christian faith that is finding representation. And somebody like Nicholas Kristoff needs to hear that faith.
A. Yeah. I think we’re in a moment where, you know, orthodoxy, by and large, doesn’t engage public life. The Catholic church has a massive crisis with authority because of pedophilia. Protestant mainline has virtually committed suicide, in terms of public life.

Q. Yes.
A. Evangelicals have painted themselves as extremists. It’s a day for, you know, what Lewis called “mere Christianity,” people who follow Christ, who love the classic historic understanding of the faith, to stand now.

Q. Now, let’s talk about some, just in conclusion here, just to give people a sense of hope. If somebody says, I want to live with that kind of prophetic untimeliness, I want to¢â‚¬¦ I’m willing to be a misfit and counter-cultural for the gospel’s sake. You say that it’s going to take a commitment, a willingness to be unfashionable through radical obedience, an appreciation of the historical, and attending to the eternal.
A. Yeah. Those, to me, are the three greatest antidotes. The first, an awareness of the unfashionable, be true to the parts of the gospel that just don’t fit today. Have the guts to speak on truth in a day of relativism on hell, in a day of, you know, open inclusivism, et cetera. When we’re really true to the unfashionable parts of the gospel, then the power of the gospel will be on us.

Q. Yeah.
A. The second thing is really appreciate history. You know, instead of this fascination with the future and this carelessness about the past, there’s a whole stretch of verses in Deuteronomy that say, remember, history, as C.S. Lewis says, is “the clean sea breeze that blows through our thinking,” so we don’t become captive to our local culture and captive to our generation, and so on. But we really have the independence because we’re lifted above America and the West and the 21st century, and so on. We see things with God’s perspective. And that’s the third thing. Really being in touch with the Lord, the eternal. And I think, say preaching, when I was a boy a great preacher was John Stott.

Q. Yes.
A. And you could go behind the scenes. John was prostrate ¢€œ I know him well as a friend now ¢€œ but he was prostrate before he entered the pulpit. The solemnity of bringing the Word of God from the presence of God to the people of God.

Q. Yeah.
A. He was prostrate. He didn’t say, “Thus saith the Lord,” but you just knew where it had come from.

Q. Yeah.
A. And a lot of the trendy powerpoint-type of exposition today, it lacks power totally. And the same is true of something like our daily devotions. The old quiet time has become far too casual. We need to begin and end the day from the perspective of eternity.

Q. Yeah. Well, and-and you know, as I think about this and the Christians that have influenced my life from-from the previous generation, everything that you’re talking about they understood. They understood the importance of-of resistance, they understood the notion of being a misfit, they understood what it meant to affirm the world and deny the world. They lived in that tension, and they had a full devotion to their faith at a-at a deep and powerful level. And they understood that it was to equip them to go into the world, which was their calling. You wondered where a younger person listening right now goes to get that mentoring today. In other words, when I think about it I almost feel like the faith of my fathers has, is going to have to skip a generation. This younger generation is going to have to find it in ways other than turning to boomers, because boomers are not there.
A. No, you’re dead right Dick. And we need never be discouraged by the church. And I love¢â‚¬¦ I quote G.K. Chesterton in the book, that wonderful line, when he looks at all the chaos in the church he says, “Five times the church has gone to the dogs, but each time it is the dog that died.” In other words, the church has in it the seeds of its own self-renewal under the Holy Spirit.

Q. Yeah, absolutely.
A. So we need never fear, but we’ve got to go backwards to go forwards.

Q. Yeah. And-and when you talk about the-the ultimate conclusion of this is-is fresh and creative resistant thinkers and, at its very heart, a revival and a reformation. How do you see that taking root? How does that happen?
A. Well, I think¢â‚¬¦ You know, I quote the French resistance leader who said ¢€œ he wasn’t heroic ¢€œ he was just maladjusted enough to know something was wrong.

Q. Yes.
A. So he got up and did something. There are enough people today who know that the craziness of Evangelicalism simply can’t be the way. It’s neither effective, more importantly it’s not the gospel. And you can see the hunger growing around the place. There’s an increase, I think, wonderfully, in a desire for prayer.

Q. Yeah.
A. And out of this is going to come much, much deeper impulses to reformation, in terms of truth and structure, and revival, a rediscovery of the power of the Holy Spirit. So I think it’s growing out of the craziness, is a great desire.

Q. We have¢â‚¬¦ What would you say the-the prime error of-of people who have kind of an accommodationist view towards culture is, it’s as if they believe that culture is simply neutral, something to be used, something that you can put your hands on without getting burned, a fire that you can touch without being burned. There was within that kind of resistance understanding of the world a recognition that there was a world system that was, at a cosmic level, at war with-with God and-and with the spiritual life that he wants to bring into our lives and onto this planet.
A. That’s right. Now again, when I first came to faith a lot of people had a view of worldliness that was trivial. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t do the other.

Q. Yeah, yeah.
A. And people were glad to be released from the legalism of those little do’s and don’t’s.

Q. Yeah.
A. But a real Biblical worldliness is a very, very profound thing.

Q. Yeah.
A. The world, in the sense that you’re talking about and that I’m talking about, is that whole kingdom set over against Christ and his kingdom.

Q. Where do you see signs of hope and-and renewal today?
A. Well, in many individuals and in communities. But, as I say, on a large level no huge movements I think that are encouraging except the discontent. Because the only thing we really contribute to reformation and revival is need, that when we get to a certain stage of need we turn to the Lord because we know we simply can’t do it, with all the mission statements and the re-inventing and punditry and so on.

Q. Yeah.
A. So we’ve got to see through much of this stuff is not only bankrupt, it’s totally worldly. But when we get beyond that, then the need will drive a huge number of people back to their knees.

Q. Yeah. Well, and you’ve written elsewhere about the West’s fascination and obsession with materialism and consumerism and the fact that that runs out of gas eventually as something that’s not satisfying. And that is happening currently with a restlessness within our own faith journeys.

We’re going to be back in just a minute. You can spend more time with Dr. Os Guinness by picking up a copy of Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, published by Baker, available at your local bookstore or online. We’ll be right back.

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