Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Idol of Relevance

C.J. Mahaney @ reviews Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance (Baker, 2003). by Os Guinness,

He notes that
The book is a piercing critique of the church’s uncritical pursuit of relevance for the sake of relevance. His argument: “Never have Christians pursued relevance more strenuously; never have Christians been more irrelevant” (p. 12).
Guinness explains it like this:
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. (p. 11)
He covers:
Escaping the Cultural Captivity
Without God, our human knowledge is puny and perverse, limited on the one hand by finitude and distorted on the other by sin. That said, and that said humbly, three things can help us cultivate the independent spirit and thinking that are characteristic of God’s untimely people. In ascending order, they are developing an awareness of the unfashionable, cultivating an appreciation for the historical, and paying constant attention to the eternal. Each is crucial for effective resistance thinking. (p. 96)
Guinness then develops each of these points:

1. Awareness of the Unfashionable
2. Appreciation for the Historical:
Mere lip service to the importance of history will not do. We each have to build in a steady diet of the riches of the past into our reading and thinking. Only the wisdom of the past can free us from the bondage of our fixation with the present and the future. C. S. Lewis counseled, “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” (p. 104)
3. Attention to the Eternal:
How then do we lift ourselves above the level of the finite and the mundane to gain an eternal perspective on what is true and relevant? The biblical answer is blunt in its candor. By ourselves we can’t. We can’t break out of Plato’s cave of the human, with all its smoke and flickering shadows on the wall. We can’t raise ourselves above the level of the timebound and the earthbound by such feeble bootstraps as reason. But where we are limited by our own unaided efforts, we have help. We have been rescued.…God has broken into our silence. He has spoken and has come down himself. And in his written and living Word we are given truth from outside our situation, truth that throws light on our little lives and our little world. (p. 107)

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