Quick Book Review: “Renaissance” by Os Guinness

I picked this book up for three reasons: it was written by Os Guinness, it was endorsed by Tim Keller and it was cheap (I picked it up used at Covenant Seminary). These are not necessarily good reasons for choosing a book, but I’m glad I did.836714_f450

Os Guinness is an English social critic who has a PhD from Oxford, worked with Francis Schaeffer and is the great-great-great-grandson of the Irish brewer. Years ago, I read his book, The Call, and still recommend it for anyone wondering what to do with their life.

The subtitle of Renaissance is “The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times”. This fairly short read of 149 pages is intended to answer the question, “Is there hope for societal redemption and renewal?”

Guinness’ answer is a resounding yes, but…

After setting the stage for the book in chapter 1, Guinness articulates three great challenges for the current global church in chapter 2:

  1.  “to prepare the Global South for the challenges that are coming along with the forces of development and modernization”
  2. “to win back the Western world to Jesus”
  3. “to contribute constructively to the human future”

In chapter 3, Guinness makes an argument for importance of Christianity upon Western culture, all the while understanding that “all Christian cultures will be flawed like the Christians who create them…but Christian faithfulness will always have cultural consequences.”

Chapter 4 is entitled “The Secret of Cultural Power”.  What is that secret? Quoting C.S.Lewis, Guinness argues that there is an “underlying paradox” in the fact that the Christian faith is “both ‘world-affirming’ and ‘world denying’ at the same time.” A full Christian understanding of reality recognizes that the Creation is both good AND fallen.

The final two chapters work out the details of what it means to live in a world that has been created good but is corrupted by sin. Christians must always strive for peace and justice in the here and now, but hold onto hope knowing that we will only see perfect peace and justice by the mighty hand of God.

In wrapping up, Guinness sounds the call for faithful Christian cultural engagement: “The time has come to trust God, move out, sharing and demonstrating the good news, following his call and living our callings in every area of our lives, and then leave the outcome to him.”

At the end of each chapter are several discussion questions making this a appropriate book for a small group to study. “Renaissance” is written in an understandable prose but with deep concepts which defy simplistic answers to complex cultural questions. I would recommend this book to any Christian seeking to understand how to live faithfully in today’s day and age.

The Evangelical Manifesto makes up the final 30 pages. This 2008 document seeks to define and redeem the word “evangelical” as an adjective for followers of Jesus.

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Chris Hatch

Seeking to love God and neighbor