Culture, Relevance, and Faithfulness: Good Words from Os Guinness
Given the great discussion taking place over at the T4G blog, I thought I would add a little contribution to the issue of relevance. Actually, I am not contributing, but Os Guinness is as I want to share some quotes from his recent book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance (Baker, 2003). I was introduced to this book when it was extra-credit reading in my OT class with Dr. Block my first semester in seminary. Since then, I have gone back to it time and time again. It is well worth reading. Here are a few quips from his book which I think are fruitful to the discussion of relevance. Enjoy.
“We who follow Jesus must always be relevant because we must always be bringing him to every new person and situation we encounter. Down the running centuries the new wine has called for countless new wineskins and endless creativity and innovation” (14).
“By our uncritical pursuit of relevance we have actually courted irrelevance; by our breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness, we have become not only unfaithful but irrelevant; by our determined efforts to redefine ourselves in ways that are more compelling to the modern world than are faithful to Christ, we have lost not only our identity but our authority and our relevance. Our crying need is to be faithful as well as relevant” (15).
“We are twenty-first-century Christians who must constantly define ourselves by the gospel and remain faithful to Jesus Christ in the twenty-first century. Only then will we be truly relevant” (18).
“Centuries ago the prophet Isaiah of Jerusalem charged that the false prophets of his day were ‘the tail’ of
’s society. They were not simply behind; they were behind because they were the tail that followed the dog. Without the decisive authority of the word of God that defined the true prophet, false prophets were simply captive to the culture they reflected. They were popular, they were entertaining, they were soothing, they were convenient, they were fashionable—and they were utterly false. In today’s world, the stance of the wagging tail has been elevated to the level of a creed” (63). Judah
“A great part of the evangelical community has transferred authority from Sola Scriptura to Sola Cultura” (65).
“From the prophets’ ‘This is the word of the Lord’ to the reformer’s ‘Here I stand; so help me, God, I can do no other,’ the message, not the audience, is always sovereign, and the culture is always potentially the world set over against Christ and his kingdom. To think and live otherwise is to recycle the classic error of liberalism and to court the worldliness, irrelevance, and spiritual adultery that it represents” (66).
“The crying need of the Western church today is for reformation and revival, and for a decisive liberation from the Babylonian captivity of modernity. In other words, what followers of Jesus need is the freedom from the forces of the modern world that prevent independent thinking and living with integrity. Our deepest necessity is to be shaped by our faith father than by the pushes and pulls of the world” (71).
I think I will do a part 2 to this post as I see more quotes I would like to include. Got any reflections/responses to what Guinness has written? The issue of Christianity and culture is a huge one—one which includes faithfulness and relevance. I look forward to discussing this more in the future.