Is the Pursuit of Relevance Producing Irrelevant Christians?
This is my third and final post covering the issue of relevancy, faithfulness, and the gospel in Os Guinness’ book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance. As in my first post, I am simply going to provide some excerpts with a concluding paragraph myself. May these quotes stimulate us to this about this issue more.
“The Christian church has been taken over by this frenzy as deeply as anyone. The past is seen as beside the point, outdated, reactionary, stagnant. In a word that is today’s supreme term of dismissal, the past is irrelevant. Everything Christian from worship to evangelism must be fresh, new, up-to-date, attuned, appealing, seeker-sensitive, audience-friendly, and relentlessly relevant, relevant, relevant. ‘All-new,’ ‘must-read,’ ‘this sequel that is more than equal’—the mentality is rampant and the effects are corrosive” (76).
“In the name of the most-favored opinions of our modern culture, some evangelicals have even abandoned the clearest, strongest, most unambiguous truths about God himself. Some are now trying to shrink the sovereignty of God, for example, to allow more room for the vaunting pretensions of free human choice. And many other evangelicals are too confused or too afraid to challenge such a feckless betrayal of faith” (98).
“In an age when comfort and convenience are unspoken articles of modern bill of rights, the Christian faith is not a license or entitlement, a prescription for an easy-going spirituality, or a how-to manual for self-improvement. The cross of Jesus runs crosswise to all our human ways of thinking. A rediscovery of the hard and the unpopular themes of the gospel will therefore be such a rediscovery of the whole gospel that the result may lead to reformation and revival” (100).
“We have to face the fact that the pursuit of relevance as being constantly timely is a mirage. When relevance is invoked as a self-authenticating concept, it becomes meaningless and dangerous because it begs the questions, Relevance for what? Relevant for whom? Such questions are commonly ignored in today’s headlong rush after the unholy trinity of the powerful, the practical, and the profitable. But if we don’t ask them, the constant appeal to relevant becomes an idol, a way of riding the slipshod over truth, and a means of corralling opinion deceptively. Until, that is, we finally deceive ourselves” (106).
“To think or do anything simply ‘because it’s relevant’ will always prove to be irrational, dangerous, and a sure road to burnout. It may taste like unpleasant medicine to our practical modern thinking, but in fact it’s a powerful antidote to perpetual folly: There is an irrelevance to the pursuit of relevance just as there is relevance to the practice of irrelevance” (106).
“We redeem the time by living out our lives according to our gifts and callings, thus serving God’s purposes in our generation. Those who live our their lives in this way do justice to the best of their time; and they live before all time because they live before God” (118).
I think some may conclude that Guinness is against being relevant to our culture and world, but I don’t think this is the case. He is writing more about how one goes about being relevant. I remember when Relevant magazine first came out, and all I ever heard from college students was about being relevant, relevant, relevant. What they did not realize was, the pursuit of relevant was making their Christianity irrelevant. I think this is where Guinness is targeting. Other aspects in his book which I encourage you to check out is his comments on “chronological snobbery,” “resistance thinking,” his argument for the unfaithful approach to adaptation (assumption, abandonment, adaptation, assimilation),misfits and maladjustment, and the “challenge of the difficult.” Much like David Wells, Os Guinness has given some keen insight on untimeliness of our timeliness. May God raise up more modern-day prophetic voices to speak to our trendy world with the unchanging, everlasting Word of God. Previous Posts: