The Call to Remember and the Christian Faith (Guinness)

God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt by [Guinness, Os](This is a re-post from April, 2010)

This section of Os Guinness’ book, God in the Dark, came to mind when I was recently studying the repeated command of YHWH to his people: Remember the day you came out of Egypt…  Remember that the LORD your God redeemed you… Do not forget the LORD your God (Deut 5.15, 7.18, 9.7, etc).

“Clearly, memory for a Christian is not nostalgia or historical reverie.  It is far more profound than having a mental skill or a better-than-average ability to recall.  There is all the difference in the world, as G.K. Chesterton pointed out, between tradition as the living faith of the dead and traditionalism as the dead faith of the living.”

“The redeemed memory, as it works under God’s Spirit, keeps the living awareness of the present in line with a living awareness of the past.  Thus our gratitude and thanksgiving, which are spurred by a knowledge of the past, are linked to our faith and hope, which engage the present and look toward the future.  This gives continuity and wholeness to the life of faith that are indispensible to its growth and maturity.”

“Ideally the ministry of remembering should be a bright thread running through all our Christian living – individually, corporately, publicly, privately; in the quiet moment of the intimate prayer as well as in the open statements of public thanksgiving…”

These excellent quotes are taken from chapter 3 of Os Guinness’ God in the Dark.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

The Tension of Unbelief (Guinness)

Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion Fool’s Talk by Os Guinness is an excellent resource for thoughtful Christian apologetics.  I’ve mentioned it here before so I won’t go into details.  But there is a section I was recently reading again – a section which is well worth posting here.  It’s based on Romans 1:18ff:

“At the core of unbelief is ceaseless, unremitting and inescapable tension and conflict.  Unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness, but it is still always the truth, so they can never completely get away from it.  An unbeliever’s view of the world without God may contain many deep truths and have all sorts of genuine merits.  But that view of the world can never be completely true, because the unbeliever will not accept God, without whom it will always be finally false at some points.  Yet at the same time, the unbelievers’ views of the world are never completely false, because they can never get away completely from God and his truth.  Unbelief is therefore always an inherently in tension, and it can never escape this conflict.  Whatever view of the world unbelief espouses, it is always partly true but twisted, and it is always twisted, though never other than still partly true.”

Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk, p. 93-4.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Operation Gravedigger (Guinness)

As many of our readers know, I (Shane) always enjoy reading Os Guinness.  One of his books that stands out for me is The Last Christian on Earth (the original 1983 title was The Gravedigger File).  This book is something like C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters – only better in my opinion because it deals with more modern cultural issues and does so with more detail than The Screwtape Letters.  Furthermore, Guinness is more theologically sound than Lewis.  Comparisons aside, here is how the demonic enemy of the church explains the strategy of “Operation Gravedigger” to his apprentice in Guinness’ book:
“The Christian faith has contributed to the rise of the modern world, but the Christian faith has been undermined by the modern world it helped to create.  The Christian faith thus becomes its own gravedigger.

The strategy turns on this monumental irony, and the victory we are so close to realizing depends on two elementary insights.  First, the Christian faith is now captive to the modern world it helped to create.  Second, our interests are best served, not by working against the Church, but by working with it.  The more the Church becomes one with the modern world, the more it becomes compromised, and the deeper the grave it digs for itself.

Having joined the Operation when it was well underway, my own contribution has all been in the execution, not in the planning.  So my use of the word ‘we’ in these memos is the broad organizational sense.  But as you will come to recognize, the very restlessness of the way the strategy is being carried out betrays its mastermind.  Only one mind is capable of such audacity of vision and sheer force of will.  ‘The devil is in the details,’ people say casually.  If only they knew.”
Shane Lems
Hammond, WI


The Christian Faith Is True Regardless… (Guinness)

Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion Here’s a great reminder from Os Guinness that the Christian faith is true despite the fact that our attempts at defending it sometimes fall flat.  It’s also a great caution about putting too much stock in apologetic debates:

“…Faith in God is true because it is true – not because we, or David, or Elijah and Luther defend it successfully.  If the Christian faith is true, it is true even if no one believes it, and if it is not true, it is false even if everyone believes it.  The truth of the faith does not stand and fall with our defense of it.”

“A good or bad defense of the faith may be helpful or unhelpful, but in each case that is only corroborative.  The Christian faith is not true because someone argues for it brilliantly, nor is it false because someone defends it badly.  …Faith’s certainty lies elsewhere than in the rapier sharp logic or the sledgehammer power of the apologist.  At the end of the day, full certainty comes from the conviction of the Holy Spirit.”

“That is often the problem with the public debate format so loved by Christians today.  Some Christians are superbly gifted in using this format.  Others are less so, but the problem lies in the assumptions of the format itself.  The expectation is that the apologist is brought in to trounce the enemies of the gospel publicly.  Yet in such a win-lose situation, the danger is that some apologists are tempted to speak so as to with the debate but lose the audience, or to lose the debate and appear to let down the faithful – as if the faith were no more certain than one particular defense of it.”

“We [apologists/Christians] are not out to prove something new through the brilliance of our arguments.  Our calling is to point to something old, or rather to bear witness to the established facts of the story of the gospel, though in the process clearing up anything and everything that may obscure or block a person’s understanding.”

Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk, p. 58ff.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI

Love, Faith, and Apologetics (Guinness)

Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion I very much enjoyed Os Guinness’ book, Fool’s Talk, which is an intelligent discussion on Christian apologetics.  The section where Guinness talks about love in apologetics is a good example of why I appreciate this book.  Here it is:

“…A key part of the moment of commitment [to Christ] is when a person’s seeking suddenly blossoms into knowing, knowing into trusting, and knowing and trusting into loving God and the unmistakable knowledge and experience of being loved by God.  What perhaps started out only as desire has become satisfaction.  What may have been purely theoretical has suddenly merged into living reality, and what was once only a matter of curiosity h as been transformed into love.”

“This means that we must never let apologetics become dry, for love should be the alpha and the omega of all our endeavors.  Love is the source, and the means, as well as the goal of apologetics.  If love is not the climax of the journey toward faith, Christian persuasion lacks its essential spirit and its true goal.  As apologists we are never out simply to establish an idea or to prove a theory.  We stand as witnesses to a Person who is love, and out of our own love for him we are introducing others to being known and loved by him, so that they can know and love him in their turn.  Without love, as St. Paul has told us, apologists too are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.”

Well stated!

Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk, p. 248-9.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Is The Church Ours To Reinvent? (Guinness)

  I love the subtitle of Os Guinness’ 2003 book, Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of RelevanceIn this book, among other things, Guinness talks about how the church often assimilates modern assumptions and practices which lead to worldliness.  Speaking of the church assimilating modern practices, Guinness writes this:

“The last generation of evangelicals provides clear examples of this.  The air is abuzz with the future.  The ‘coming church’ and the ’emerging church’ are everything.  The talk is all of new ways of ‘doing church’ through reinventing, revising, innovating, borrowing, mixing, and experimenting.  Everything now has to be ‘intentional’ and ‘on-purpose.’  Ministers are no longer theological authorities but the ‘chief story-tellers’ and ‘facilitators of a joint spiritual journey.’  ‘Dysfunctional churches’ that are not ‘attuned to the world’ are ‘reinvented for the present age’ in a myriad of ‘intentional’ ways, all with their ‘value propositions’ clearly specified and their ‘measurable outcomes’ clarified in advance.  Music and worship services are designed for audiences as if congregations were ‘specialized niches on music sales charts’ or the newly discovered fruit of demographic research.”

“But where in all this movement is the prayer to match the punidtry?  Is the church ours to reinvent, or is it God’s?  Does the head of the church have anything to say, or do the consultants have the last word?  Shouldn’t ‘doing church’ follow from what we believe is the church’s being?  Was the first church invented by a previous generation, so that it is our job to do it again, or is the church’s real need for the revival and reformation that can only come from God?”

“…Is the culture decisive and the audience sovereign for the Christian church?  Not for one moment.  God forbid.  The client and the consumer may be king for free-market enterprise.  Serving the shareholders may be obligatory for the directors of corporations.  But the church of Christ is not under the sway of market totalitarianism – even in America where capitalism is king, pope, and emperor all rolled into one.  From the prophets’ ‘This is the word of the Lord’ to the reformers’ ‘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” (p. 65-6).

Os Guinness, Prophetic Untimeliness (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003).

Shane Lems

Three Essentials For Apologetics

Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion I’ve not yet been disappointed by a book Os Guinness has written.  Fool’s Talk is no exception.  This is one of the best books on apologetics that I’ve read.  Fool’s Talk is the product of many years of study, reflection, dialogue, and prayer: Os Guinness waited a long time to write this work, and I’m glad he did!

In the second chapter Guinness talks about the technique(s) of apologetics (defending the faith).  It’s a brilliant chapter that really criticizes apologetic methods that are preoccupied with technique (he calls this “McApologetics”).  He also gives three great – and essential! – reminders about apologetics and persuading people of the Truth of Jesus.  I’ll summarize these three points below:

1) No One Way: As with almost everything worthwhile in life, there is rarely just one way to do it.  The same is true of persuasion.  There is no single right way that it should be done.  There is no one-size-fits-all approach that will work with everyone.  To be sure, there are some ways that are not Christian and some that are not effective, but there is no single way that alone is Christian.  …As we need to remind ourselves again and again, and then again, Jesus never spoke to two people in the same way, and neither should we.  Every single person is unique and individual and deserves an approach that respects that uniqueness.

2) An Art, Not A Science: Christian persuasion is an art, not a science.  It has more to do with theology than technology.  …Creative persuasion is a matter of being biblical, not of being either modern or postmodern.  The Bible is both rational and experiential, propositional as well as relational, so that genuinely biblical arguments work in any age and with any person.  Just as no two painters or sculptors are alike, so each person’s apologetics will be refracted through their own personalities and life experiences.  People who forget this tend to present apologetics as a chess game in which our task is to figure out all the moves, countermoves and counter-countermoves that would help us checkmate all objections and make us invincible Grand Masters in argument.  Christian persuasion addresses the human mind, heart, and emotions.

3) An Art For Lovers: The third reminder is that Christian persuasion is for those who love God, who wish to make the best possible case for the one they know and love, and who appreciate that love is an essential part of the knowledge that stems from true seeking and finding.  Persuasion is for followers of Jesus who love him because they know him, and therefore need no convincing of their unspeakable privilege of knowing him and making him known.  Love is the ‘alpha and the omega of apologetics’ in the sense that all we say must come from love, and it must lead to love and to the One of love.  In other words, Christian apologetics moves from our love for God and his truth to our love for others.

Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk (Downers Grove: IVP, 2015), chapter 2.

shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi