Os Guiness: "The Third Mission to the West"

The other week I had the chance to hear Dr. Os Guinness speak.

I haven't read any of his books. However, I have heard that he is one of the notible voices for evangelical Christianity.

He talks pretty fast, intelligently and passionately. My note taking could barely keep up and on many occasions didn't. What follows is my attempt to make heads and tails out my quickly scribbled notes.

The first part of his talk went by the title, "The Third Mission to the West."

Guinness began some opening remarks about where we are today with Christianity in the West.

He mentioned some Christians view themselves as a remnant and disengage from the culture at large.

Some see this new century as the Third Mission to the West. The First was the conversion to Christianity by the Roman Empire. The Second was the conversion of the barbarian empires that had defeated the Roman Empire. The Third will be the effort reach the West once again with Christianity in the Twenty-First century. As it is now, in Europe on Poland and Ireland retain strong Catholic faith while everywhere else Protestants are in decline.

In any case, Christians do face some anti-Christian prejudice and in some cases outright persecution. Why is that?

First, the Crusades and other folly done in the name of Christianity resulted in this bias among people. Second, some Christians repudiated the Enlightenment and the rise of scientific reasoning. Ironically, of course, without a Christian worldview, science probably wouldn’t have arisen. Third, the separation of public and private has marginalized Christian faith into a private matter leading some parts of Christianity to become extremist.

What shall we do in the face of this anti-Christian prejudice?

First, we simply have to expect it and bear it.

Second, we need to recognize some of the distortions within Christianity due to Modern thinking.

Modern thinking has shifted the balance to individualism over community.

It has diluted authority in the name of preferences, disconnected behavior from belief. As such the church has lost authority to influence behavior.

And finally, modern thinking has resulted in syncretism over exclusiveness in faith matters. Many people hold to a "cafeteria spirituality" mixing and matching elements form different religious traditions.

Third, modern communications has made things both easier and harder.

Inattention is a big problem today in that everybody is speaking and nobody is listening. It is as if the whole of the USA has ADD.

Technology has caused an inflation of sources of information and ideas. Who should we listen to? Can we trust what they are saying.

And finally, with a torrent of information, there is greater inertia. We can reflexively react to lots of information but it is hard to take time to truly reflect on things.

Fourth, we need to realize why some ideas are more powerful than others.

Ideas of leaders tend to be more powerful than ideas of followers. There is a tension between elitism and populism. But we should try to influence leaders.

Ideas at the "center" tend to be more powerful than the periphery. Influencing a cultural center like Paris, a political center like Washington DC or a financial center like New York has lots of impact. In the USA, Jews represent 2% of the population but they are in the big cities and have influence far beyond 2%. Are there centers of Christian thought? Doesn’t seem to be such a thing?

Ideas fed into networks are more influential than institutions and individuals.

Fifth, we must examine our options in the public square.

Some religious extremists will opt for "progressive universalism" where they will try to impose their beliefs on others by force. This is not the way of Christianity. Christians must be noted for their humility and sacrifice.

What the world has is "radical relativism" where the feeling of "Let’s do whatever" reigns.

Instead, Christians should push for and "examined pluralism."

Sixth, despite the anti-Christian prejudice, there are still openings. Admittedly, the academy is largely still closed. Also, activists against Christianity are obvioiusly closed to influence.

However, the West still has a lot of Christianity in its history. These things are still a part of society today and we need to use them as openings for discussions on faith.

Whenever people face a crisis, there is an opening. This era is no different than any other era.

Finally, people have a personal yearning and needs for family and these are openings for the Gospel.

Seventh and final point: what do we need to transform our society?

We need affirmation. We must say, yes to life. We must say yes to what is good and right.

We will need confrontation. We need to be able to say, no, that is wrong.

Finally, we need demonstration through our life behavior.


djchuang said…
good note taking, what do you think of his comments? agree or disagree?

I'm most curious to learn what an Asian culture that is transformed by Christianity would look like. Some have said that Chinese culture is largely shaped by Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.
Rene said…
Finally got around to writing some additional thoughts on Guinness' talk. They can be found here.