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    Entries in Os Guinness (2)

    Thursday
    Sep222016

    The Church and the Collective Yes

    Is Jesus Lord, or are the forces of advanced modernity lord? The church that cannot say no to all that contradicts its Lord is a church that is well down the road to cultural defeat and captivity. But the courage to say no has to be followed by an equally clear, courageous and constructive yes--to the Lord himself, to his gospel and his vision of life, humanity and the future, so that Christians can be seen to live differently and to live better in the world of today.

    - Os Guinness, Impossible People: Christian Courage and the Struggle for the Soul of Civilization

    The claim that Christianity in Western civilization faces numerous challenges is uncontroversial, though the ways in which people respond to those challenges are broadly diverse. One option is retreat, the preference of some fundamentalists, who are too often content to create isolated subcommunities of doctrinal and moral purity that fervently condemn those on the outside. Another option is syncretism and assimilation, outcomes which are never embraced or intended outright, but reach fruition over time as Christian communities slowly accommodate themselves to the dominant cultural narratives, a reality that is all too often seen among milquetoast “mainline” Christian denominations. A third response is quietism, a way forward typified by withdrawal from public discourse that may be accompanied by dedication to private piety, but leaves the concerns of the present age largely untouched.

    I have immense respect for the work of Os Guinness. I have read his books and once heard him deliver a lecture while I was a student at The University of Kansas. Guinness works diligently to present orthodox Christian convictions in light of the foremost challenges (some will say threats) of our times, and to do so with a charity and winsomeness that is seldom found within evangelicalism. He also does his best to explain the causes of these challenges, whether they be political, philosophical, social, or theological, and to urge the church toward a steadfast faithfulness to the gospel.

    But the question that remains is that of how. It is one thing to tell people to be faithful, grow in knowledge of the Scriptures, and to pray fervently. Reminding Christian people of their calling to conduct their work to God’s glory or to engage in public discourse is a noble admonition. But what to say, and how to say it, and who to partner with are the practical considerations that most often go unanswered. That is not always their responsibility. The church must heed the voices of her prophets, and turn to the Lord for answers.

    Answers begin to emerge, in part, through local associations. For Christians, this is the church. Or, in any given community, the ecumenical efforts of the body of Christ who are connected within the business or professional communities. Intellectual theorists and academics serve the church well when they help Christians assess their moment, lend understanding, and offer prescriptions. But it is all talk until those prescriptions are field tested, either through action or in prayerful conversation.

    Individuals are not powerless. All of us can live according to Christian convictions. Private prayer is a powerful act. But our best "courageous and constructive yes" to our Lord Jesus Christ is a yes alongside others within Christian fellowship. Together we are better equipped to live according to the commands given by Jesus himself, and to embody his vision in this age and in preparation for the age to come. The church, to the degree we are faithful, also provides a more powerful and compelling no to the ways of the world. It is one thing for the world to be faced with a faithful individual, it is yet another to be confronted by a faithful community. To paraphrase Stanley Hauerwas, the church’s first task is to be the church, thereby making clear that the world is, in fact, the world.

    Challenges will not dissipate entirely and suffering may come. Jesus was plain on that point. But Jesus remains Lord. Take courage. Fear not.

    Tuesday
    Mar182014

    Experience, Reason, and Faith

    To come to faith on the basis of experience alone is unwise, though not so foolish as to reject faith altogether because of lack of experience ... the quality of a Christian's experience depends on the quality of his faith, just as the quality of his faith depends in turn on the quality of his understanding of God's truth. ― Os Guinness (Source: The Poached Egg)

    Experience isn't a bad thing, and can play a vital role in deepening our faith.

    We are not simply thinking things, and while reason is vital, so too is our experience. Mind and emotion belong together, reason and experience constantly interplay.

    I once heard Dallas Willard explain that we should believe our beliefs, doubt our beliefs, doubt our doubts, and, in some cases, believe our doubts. Those four processes, taken comprehensively, are all part of rational investigation and enterprise. Those beliefs which we believe have been found trustworthy and true, but even those must be tested through inquiry. All of our doubts may not be well founded--they must be examined. And some of our doubts, when accepted as valid, can serve as a springboard for important inquiry. The testing of our beliefs, and our doubts, comes through experience, categorized and processed by use of the faculty of reason.

    As Os Guinness suggests, the validity of one's faith, or lack thereof, must transcend experience, but can never circumvent it. The quality of both experience and faith, however, will depend on the depth and quality of understanding of God's truth, revealed in Scripture and seen in Jesus Christ.

    Engage the mind to frame the experiences, and allow the experiences we have in attempting to come to grips with God's revelation to enhance the quality of our faith.