The Results from Pursuing Relevance
A couple of days ago I provided some quotes on culture, relevance, and faithfulness. I am concluding with this post and a third for this discussion on the issue of relevance and the gospel.
Os Guinness, in his book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance, asks the question, “What are some of the effects of our unthinking pursuit of relevance?” Guinness reveals five effects from this pursuit which I would like to share with you.
- Much Christian pursuit of timeliness has become trivial. Following trends passionately but promiscuously, many Christian leaders have become trendy. Obsessed with the new, they have produced only novelty. Staggering from one high of excitement to another, they have become jaded. Evangelicals were once known as the “serious people." It is sad to note that today many evangelicals are the most superficial of religious believers—lightweight in thinking, gossamer-thin in theology, and avid proponents of spirituality-lite in terms of preaching and response to life. What started out as breathless and excited is ending as exhausted and out-of-breath.
- In the pursuit of timeliness some Christian spokespersons have become deceptive—or at least have promised far more than they have delivered. As George Orwell said, futurism is “the major mental disease of our time.” A quack science, it picks up current trends, projects them into the future, and then pretends that the results are predictions.
- The recent Christian pursuit of relevance has all too often led to transience. . . .He [Nietzsche] realize that with this modern obsession for change, the traditional human perspective of “under the aspect of eternity” (sub specie aeternitatis) had become “under the aspect of two hours.” . . . “He who marries the spirit of the age soon becomes a widower.” – Dean Inge of
’s Cathedral in St. Paul London
- The Christian pursuit of relevance is so commercially profitable in the short term that we would be wise to look out for the salesman’s agenda and his bottom line. . . . In other words, in a world of experts, specialists, and consultants, pundits have become the prime idea-mongers and secular prophets of our day. Once they achieve celebrity, they pronounce on all subjects and are quoted on all occasions. . . . Forgive me, but has no one noticed that trendspotting itself has become a trend? And that trendspotters tell our fortunes, they make theirs?
- The recent Christian obsession with relevance and the future ideals all too often to moral and intellectual cowardice. Afraid to challenge the power of progress and the lure of the latest, or to delay the arrival of the brave, new future, we bite our lips and cave in weakly to what we know in our hearts is neither right, nor wise, nor lasting.
(these passages can be found on pages 77-79 in Prophetic Untimeliness).
I think Guinness has made some good points here, especially number 1 and 5