OS Guinness – Civilitate, cum sa fii un cetatean bun intr o era a globalizarii

Os Guiness, vizita in Romania-

Conferinta sustinuta la Facultatea de Stiinte Politice Administrative si Ale Comunicarii din Cadrul Universitatii Babes Bolyai. „Civilitate, cum sa fii un cetatean bun intr o era a globalizarii „.

VIDEO by Credo TV

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Tim Keller – Humble Cultural Engagement

Also from the same conference, watch – Os Guiness – Engaging an increasingly post-Christian culture in the west (Gospel & Culture Lectures)

Dr. Tim Keller speaks on cultural engagement with practical insights on how Christians should relate in the culture, and especially at their workplace.

Tim Keller is Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Dr. Keller:

I am here to talk about how a Gospel changed heart makes a difference, how a Gospel changed heart is crucial to a cultural renewal. In the last couple of years, some of the books I have been reading on cultural renewal have been moving towards a consensus. The consensus goes something like this, and this is an oversimplification: When it comes to how Christians relate to the culture- on the one hand, you’ve got a withdrawal mentality, that says, „Christianity is not really here to mend the world.” There is a liberal version of that, that basically accommodating culture? Why would Christians want to change things? There’s a conservative version of that that says that as Christians of the Church what we ought to be doing is just building up the church,  evangelizing, discipling. In other words, there’s the withdrawal mentality that says it’s not the job of Christians to try to mend the world.

On the other hand there is an extreme, which you could call triumphalism. And again, there’s a kind of liberal and conservative version of that. The liberal version is what you call liberation theology, which is a form of marxism. The conservative version is the idea that Christians ought to take power and make society the way that Christians think it should be. In both cases there is talk of some kind of triumphalistic kind of talk of transforming culture- we’re gonna make culture the way it ought to be.

All these writers are saying that this doesn’t fit in with what the Bible says and what the Gospel is. If you think about this, the Bible is a third way between legalism and what you might call license, the theological term is antinomianism. Legalism says: We can change ourselves with our own power, our own strength. Antinomianism , or license says: We’re just fine the way we are. The Gospel is: You’re saved by grace, through faith. You’re not saved by your own efforts and power, but, at the same time, once you’re saved, it changes you.

There is a consensus developing that humble, faith work integration- engaging culture as Christians, but, still working together for a common good,  a kind of cultural engagement that avoids these extremes. And it’s analogous to the Gospel itself. But, if you’re going to engage in this way, the Gospel has to change your heart.

  1. The Gospel actually gives your heart the humility  to appreciate the contributions of everyone out there in the field- christians and non christians. It enables you to humbly cooperate with others, who aren’t Christians to work for the common good.
  2. On the other hand, the Gospel gives you courage and insight to humbly and respectfully provoke the culture and to say, there’s a lot of ways in which work needs to be done in a different way, and public life needs to be conducted in a different way. There needs to be humble cooperation, respectful provocation and then
  3. Last of all, the Gospel shapes the way in which you lead in your vocation.

1. Gospel gives you the humility to work with others. There is a rhetoric out there that says, „Christians ought to go out and take back their culture.” And very often, the critique of that view is that it is not appreciating the fact that the world is filled with the glory of God, that God is at work out there, and through all kinds of people’s work, whether people are Christian or not, that He is doing His work.

Martin Luther had some fascinating stuff to say about this. Luther says: When you pray, „Give us this day our daily bread,” instead of God just having the bread appear on your table, what He is actually doing is He is working through the bakers, the merchants, the people who transform the flour. In other words, what God does is He in fact answers your request , and He gives you food through the work of other people. At one point, Luther looks at all the jobs that are out there and he says, „These are the masks of God, behind which He wants to remain concealed, and do all things. Christians have to be profoundly appreciative of good work done on absolutely everything. You need to be looking out there and seeing God working in all kinds of people.

And, some of you heard that this is often called common grace. Common grace means that God gives good gifts and He works through people. It’s common grace, not special grace. But, the fact is that if you know you’re saved by grace alone, and if you’re a Christian, you know that God is at work in your life, despite the fact that you’re not great  in a lot of ways. He didn’t save you because you are a better mother or father. He didn’t save you because you are a better business person. He saved you just by grace. And you know that God works in people’s lives, even though they’re flawed. And that means that God really does do everything by grace. And out there, there are people who don’t believe what we believe. And yet, God has given them gifts of wisdom and of skill, and of beauty, and of excellence. And through their work, the human race’s life is better than it would have been otherwise. And we have to realize that those are real gifts.

Through the Gospel, Christians should be humbled, enough to see that God always works through grace, and always works through gifts. And when you look out there, you see the whole society, the whole world aflame with the grace of God- all over the place. There’s a tendency for Christians to be so negative about society, so negative about culture. And there’s a self righteousness in that that does not behoove people who understand they’re sinners saved by grace. So, the Christian Gospel teaches you to enjoy God’s gifts, wherever they are, and make you humbly cooperate with other people for the common good. (10:00)

2. Gospel gives you the courage & insight to humbly and respectfully provoke the culture. Christians know that all work is done for some reason. It’s either done for God’s glory, or it’s done for something else. And when work is not done for God’s glory, it’s distorted. When work is done for your glory, or for your status, or for your success, or for your particular tribe’s status and success, rather than for everyone else, there’s all sorts of ways then , that work is distorted in this world. It’s distorted by sin. The Gospel gives you the courage and the insight to tell the world that there is a way to work that is shaped by what we know is the character of God.

So you go out there humbly, respectfully. But, at the same time you have to have the courage and you also have the insight to know that the Gospel shapes the way in which you work, because the glory of God shapes the way in which you work. Everyone works for some reason, everyone works from a particular worldview. And when Christians move out into the world because they believe the Gospel, they think Gospel wise. They’ve got the courage and the insight to change the way work is done from the inside. Not in a triumphalistic way, taking over. Not failing to appreciate the fact that all kids of people who are not Christians, who don’t have a better world view might be doing a better job in your work than you are because of the way God tends to operate, because of the way God gives His gifts of grace all over the place.

Do you see the way God operates? You know you’re a sinner saved by grace, you know you’re completely sinful, and completely loved. There’s a paradoxical balance in the way Christians think. The longer you’re a Christian, and the more and more you learn to think in a kind of Gospel way. And, therefore, not only does it humble you to appreciate what other people do, but it actually emboldens you to say, „We’ve got to change things, the way they are.” There’s plenty of places where the way work is done and the way public life is ordered, changes need to be made so it’s more in line with justice, more in line with the common good.

3. The Gospel changes the way you relate to people in your profession. If you actually do have a Savior who saved you, by taking the blame for what you did; if you have a Savior who saved you, by putting your needs ahead of His own; if you have a Savior who saved you by substitutionary sacrifice- look at that and how you were saved and how you can actually relate to people. The Gospel creates a kind of transformational leadership pattern, in which you give credit instead of always taking it, in which you bear blame instead of always making other people take the blame, in which you lift up others instead of trample on people, so you can get up the ladder. You lift up other people instead. You don’t think people notice that? Oh, they do! You could call it the ethical side of work- Gospel wise. Not so much the shaping of the work through the world view, just the ethical side.

Putting all that together – If you see the implications of the Gospel, if your heart’s really been affected by the Gospel, so that you have this humility, that you wouldn’t have had, unless you knew you’re a sinner; and a boldness you wouldn’t have had, unless you knew you were completely affirmed by God, and therefore, what really matters is not your status, and not your success, and not how much money you make, but, just do a good job. If the Gospel has shaped you, so your relationships are such, that you know how to serve instead of use people everywhere, you’ll engage the culture. A Gospel shaped heart will create culturally engaged Christians that really will change the world.

 Uploaded by RedeemerCFW September 2012

Os Guiness – Engaging an increasingly post-Christian culture in the west (Gospel & Culture Lectures)


~~You can always look at what conversion means at any moment by whether the church is likely to be worldly or not.

~~The key test is conversion. Conversion should be the radical break that is the bridge between an old way of life and old culture, and a new way of life and a new culture. And when conversion is as radical as it’s supposed to be, that radical about turn of heart-mind-spirit lifestyle- everything, then the church leads on to a new way of life that’s shaped by the Word and not by the world.

~~Now, let’s be blunt. The church in America is numerically large, compared with Europe and many other parts of the modern world. But, it is culturally desperately weak, because it’s weak and worldly. At point after point, after point, the church in America is shaped by the modern world. The world and not the church.

via www.churchleaders.com and photo via www.amginternational.org Video (47 min) from RedeemerCFW (Tim Keller’s Church).

One of the great turning points of World War II was the battle of Britain. And, both before and after that battle in June 1940, Winston Churchill made two of his greatest speeches. The speech before it is the more famous, and is recalled by the words of the last line: ‘their finest hour’. But, after the war was over, certainly after the battle was won, there was a burst of intellectual activity among some of the leading Christian intellectuals in Europe about another line that Churchill had said, in a speech not so famous. Churchill simply said, „The battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon the outcome of this battle depends the future of Christian civilization.”

And after the war, T.S. Elliott, Jack M., Christopher Dawson, Emil Brunner and a whole host of the Christian intellectuals had a strong debate: What was particularly Christian about the victor? What did it mean that any civilization was Christian? How was it that the Christian faith was linked to civilization?And what were the prospects of restoring a genuine Christian influence in civilization today?

What’s interesting is that the same debate broke out after World War I, although a much more secular discussion. Historians who picked up H.G. Wells and many others, asked the question about civilization again. As we look book after 60 years of the second of these debates, you can see on the one hand where they were exactly right. They were at a moment when a fragility of the civilization showed through. And the underlying barbarianism was obvious. But, on the other hand, any hope they had of restoring civilization has not worked out.

Can we, should we really seek to change the world?

We are today, a long way from a christian civilization in the West. Many, for 30 years have blithely talked about turning America around, making a difference in culture, changing the world. But, can we, should we really seek to change the world? What I am not speaking to is  the crisis. You can easily argue at many levels of a divided West, of an American republic on the verge of potential decline, about the weakness and worldliness of the church in America. We could look at the various aspects of the cultural crisis, particularly in the West. But, I want to assume much of that, And, if that is so, what should our attitude be?

Is it that we resort to nostalgia or defeatism? No, obviously not as people of faith. But, what does it mean, to move potentially into something of a new darker age, if not a new dark age itself?

Let me lay out some thoughts arguing for a Christian renaissance:

1. Bear in mind the first, global task of the church in the global era.

As we look around the world today, the Christian faith is the world’s first, truly global faith. We are the most numerous faith on earth, the church is the most diverse community on earth. In many, perhaps most parts of the world the fastest growing faith on the face of the earth, not Islam. And our faith is through conversion, not demographics. And the Bible is quite simply the world’s most translated  book in all Christian history. But, the church is doing magnificently well in the so called global south and far from well, in the advanced modern world- the so called global north, Europe and the United States in particular. That leaves us with 3 grand global tasks:

  1. To prepare the global south. What is done in the church in the west is capitulation to the modern world the church helped to create. Much of the global south is premodern. So their challenge is coming. And anyone who sees the remarkable growth of the church through the Gospel in China, for example, where I was born is the epicenter of an explosion of the house church movement. Or in SubSahara Africa. Anyone who knows that story, which is real, encouraging and inspiring, knows that much of the growth is a mile wide and an inch deep, as the arch bishop of Uganda put it recently. You can see, the crying need in the global south is for discipleship to match the evangelism. And a discipleship that is aware of what’s coming, with all the challenges, subtle and overt of modernity.
  2. To win back the West. Many people look at the discouragement of the church in the west, and are discouraged and defeatist. But, if you think we are the product of 2 earlier missions of the West. The first of course was the conversion of Rome. Three hundred years- an incredible achievement under the Holy Spirit. But the faith that the Romans had conceived of was provincial misfits. We have replaced the ideology of mighty Rome itself. When the western empire fell, so did most of the western church. And less well known to Christians in the west today is the second mission to the west. The so called conversion of the barbarian kingdoms. What we Europeans need to acknowledge is that while the Chinese were civilized for thousands of years, we were the barbarians. Violent, war thirsty, warring, tribal, and it was the Gospel that gentled us. But the winning of the barbarian people to Christ is an extraordinary story. Patrick in Ireland. Columbo in Scotland. Columban, down through Gaul, and so on. But, of course we are now living in the twilight of that second mission to the west. And the challenge before us today: Do you commit yourself to  a third mission to the west? Do you believe that we could win the West back for our Lord again?
  3. Contribute constructively to the human future. We’re moving into what’s called the crunch generation. For those of you in your 20’s, in your adulthood, many of the world’s questions, global issues, demography, economic and environmental questions, nuclear… many, many issues are coming together. They will have to be answered wisely and well by your generation. Now, at such a moment, we followers of Christ are usually good at fighting evil. We have a long record, unprecedented in human civilization of reforms, of standing against injustice and oppression. But, today we are less good at getting into the thick of any of the great issues of human kind, not just the great evils. Conceiving and articulating, and struggling for constant solutions to guide human kind forward to the future.

2. Explore relationship between Christian faith and civilization

Explore the somewhat surprising relationship between the Christian faith  and culture in civilization. You can define culture very complexly. And the same for civilization. You can equally put them very simply: A culture  is simply a way of life, lived in common.  So you can talk about the youth culture, hippie culture, etc..- a way of life lived in common. A civilization, put simply  is a culture with sufficient extension (it spreads widely enough), sufficient duration (it lasts long enough), and sufficient elevation- it produces sufficient excellence.

If you think about it that way, the Christian faith is actually the decisive factor in what’s now described as the world’s most powerful civilization. If only because our civilization is globalizing the entire world and is not limited to any region or time. But, that’s surprising. We’ve first got to admit that the Christian faith is unnecessary to culture. Can you be good without God? Can you create a civilization without Christ? Some Christians have argued ‘No’. But, I think many have understood that all human beings, whether they recognize God or not are made in His image, living in His world, there is such a thing as common grace, and so you can have ‘good pagans’  who may be better artists than another Christian artist, or better husbands than another Christian husband. And equally, you can have great civilizations that have never had any regard for God, like the Chinese, or the Mayan or Greek, or Roman. Photo below http://www.mbconf.ca

Culture Gospel and ChurchYou can go further though, and say that the Christian faith is unlikely, as a faith to produce civilization. Jesus says, „My kingdom is not of this world.” And He is relatively indifferent to most of the issues we talk about today in political and global affairs. He repudiates and renounces force, which you need to establish any culture. And you can see that neither He, nor His first followers had any discussion or effort to build a culture or create a civilization.

And yet, it is undeniable that the Christian faith is the decisive force in the world. Of course, if we look at our western civilization, we owe a great amount to the Greeks: Philosophy, Science, Democracy, Drama, Tragedy, Literature. And the Greeks were the fist Europeans to have the self awareness that they were not in this case Asians. We owe a great deal to the Romans, particularly in America who prizes the Romans above the Greeks. Whereas in Britain, we prize the Greeks above the Romans. But, law, stability, order, empire lie much behind the American founders understanding of the American republic. And of course, we owe everything to the Hebrews: Supremely to their understanding of God, and all the difference that a radical, ethical monotheism makes. And his view of history and human agency  and a dozen other things.

We owe a lot to all of these. But, if you think we talk of western civilization- all of those were Mediterranean. What was it that made it European, and then Western? It was the church and the Gospel. And particularly, the winning of the blood thirsty barbarian European tribes.And there’s no question. If you look at the rise of western civilization, the church and the Gospel were the decisive factors in creating what we see today as the West.

You look at western civilization and say: What’s distinctive? Our reforms, our philanthropy, the rise of the modern universities, the rise of modern science, human rights, an indirect link to capitalism, an indirect link to democracy, and so on.. all going back to the Gospel and the Scriptures. (18:00)

3. Let’s acknowledge a paradox of our reformation heritage

Don’t misunderstand, I am an anglican out of the reformed heritage and a proud  and grateful heir of the Reformation, as an evangelical. It is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. We owe to the Reformation the rediscovery of the Gospel, the restoration of the Scriptures, and the reemphasis on lay people. And through that many historians have said- creation of the modern world. But, we have got to acknowledge with realism and humility that the story is a little deeper than that. And I add some factors, not to debunk the reformation, but to remember that God’s sovereignty in grace and sin, and the fact that as we work today in culture, we too must be realistic about what we are doing, and deeply humbled, because nothing we work at comes out as humbly as we had hoped. (continued below video….)

1. The Reformation’s complexity – There were 4 reformations. Most of us are from the 2nd Reformation of Jean Calvin. But, there was Luther, there was Zwingli, and there were the Anabaptists. Of course, now we recognize that the so called counter reformation was itself a reformation of sorts. So, you take even the 2nd Reformation, it has extraordinary sins of commission. Take the iconoclastic movement, which at the time destroyed the arts in various cultures.

Or you take the sins of omission: It is almost unbelievable today that the Reformation rediscovered the Gospel, but never rediscovered mission. The counter Reformation rediscovered mission.  And Matteo Ricci reached China in the name of the Jesuits. And the Reformation had no missionary movement to speak of. Or you look at one of the great blind spots of the Reformation. The whole notion of the cessation of the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Reformation reacted rightly and understandably against the superstition before it, the way that healing and deliverance had become specialized- you went to a saint, or a shrine that was specialized and commercialized and exploited. The Reformation threw out the bath water, and sadly the baby and said that the work of the Holy Spirit had stopped with the Apostles. Clearly it didn’t stop with the Apostles in the New Testament and it didn’t stop with the apostles in the early church and is one of the great mistakes of protestantism to keep that belief alive today. If ever we need both the word and the Spirit,  it’s today. The Reformation in many circles has lost that. Photo from http://theresurgence.com

2. Or, take, let’s be honest- the Reformation’s entanglements. The greatest 2 corruptions of the Christian Church in 2000 years are with political power  and financial (economic) power. The Renaissance papacy showed both and the Reformation attacked both, rightly. But, we had our own political entanglements. Thank God for Frederick the Wise,  who helped Martin Luther. But, Martin Luther got into bed with Phillip of Hesse’s bigamy and even bypassed his bigamy and moral flagrant sins because he was supporting Luther. And you can see, flowing right down to the 19th century, many of the great protestant nations created great nationalistic religions and clearly, the political power was the ruler and the church was the tool. So, Christian American exploitations are not new.But, the Reformation has led to its own political entanglements, from which we’ve got to break free.

3. The Reformation’s ironies, unforseen consequences- We say rightly that ideas have consequences and they do, but, never simply and straightforwardly .   There are always good ideas, bad ideas, mixed ideas and ironies. The Reformation talked about restoring unity to Europe. And some reformed people are fighting and splitting ever since. The Reformation talked about restoring a ??supernaturality??. In some places they did, but they’ve also produced in certain places the most secular societies  the world has ever seen. They’re enormous ironies and we’ve got to face the heritage of the Reformation as paradoxical, so that we go in today with all that we try to do with a realism and humility. Nothing ever works out quite as we intend in a fallen world. (24:00)

4. Explore these secrets of the cultural dynamism of the Gospel. Getting more constructive and positive here. Why is the Gospel in the church, so powerful in culture? Well, of course you say, „It’s the Lord! The power of His Word, the power of His Spirit.” That’s true. But, what is it when the Gospel and the culture, the Word and the Spirit work in us? That makes even frail sinners like us, together powerful in culture?

There is a key principle that people have noticed. When the church is true to this, the church is truly culture shaping. The key principle goes back to our Lord’s call that we are to be ‘in the world, but not of the world’. In, but not of. Or, as Paul picks it up, „Be not conformed, but transformed, by the renewing of your minds.  And when that’s lived, it is called social dualism- a tension with culture that makes the church powerful in culture.

C.S. Lewis put it one way: He said there are many religions in the world which are world affirming. Say- Confucianism, or humanism. They are world affirming, they only have this world and their whole emphasis is on this world. Then you have other religions in the world that are world denying. Take Buddhism, described as a world gigantic NO human aspirations in all of history. But, Lewis pointed out, the Christian faith is unique. It’s both world affirming, and world denying. The world was created good, very good. And the church has gloried in all sorts of positive things, humanity above all. But, there’s also fasts as well as feasts, sacrifice as well as fulfillment, and denial and so on. And the Christian faith is uniquely both.

The secret of the cultural dynamism of the Gospel:

The social tension of being in, but not of the world

marks the church when it is most powerful.

city of God augustineBut, the deepest formulation of the social tension was St. Augustine’s, in his great book „The City of God’. And that is so important to us because he lived in a time rather like ours. You remember that the conversion of Rome was not actually in 312 A.D. The Christians were allowed and favored after 312 A.D. But, the real declaring of the Roman Empire Christian was 388 A.D., under Roman Emperor Theodosius. And from 388 A.D. onwards were called the Christian times. And believe it or not, they thought the emperor was the second King David. And that Rome would conquer the world and the church through Rome would conquer the world. That was the new understanding under that commission. So these were the Christian times, with the church now identified with Rome.

And St. Augustine said: No- in, but not of. He said, „There are two loves: Love of God and love of the self. And because of that, two humanities: To love God supremely and those who love themselves supremely. And because of that, two cities: The city of God, typified by Jerusalem and the city of man, typified by Rome, Babylon earlier. And Augustine’s point was that the city of God and the city of man are inexplicably entangled, intertwined. But ultimately, they are mutually exclusive. And when Christians live in the kingdom to the city of God- in, but not of- the are powerful. It was his breaking with those Christian times and putting the kingdom of God first, ‘in, but not of’, which lay the siege of the church that took us through the dark ages that were to come. (29:20)

That’s the key principle. But, there’s a key question. We can easily say ‘in, but not of’. ‘Not conformed, transformed’.  Against the world, for the world.  All sorts of nice, fancy formulations to roll off the tongue. Nice balance for the mind. But they don’t make any difference if we’re not living them. So, the key question to ask of the key principle: Is it any one moment in the church which is dominant? Is it the Word or is it the world? Is it the Spirit of God, or is it the spirit of the age? (30:00)

photo from pray-america-pray.org

Now, let’s be blunt. The church is America is numerically large, compared with Europe and many other parts of the modern world. But, it is culturally desperately weak. Because it’s weak and worldly. At point after point, after point, the church in America is shaped by the modern world. The world and not the church. That’s not my central point today (though).

The key test is conversion. Conversion should be the radical break that is the bridge between an old way of life and old culture, and a new way of life and a new culture. And when conversion is as radical as it’s supposed to be, that radical about turn of heart-mind-spirit lifestyle- everything, then the church leads on to a new way of life that’s shaped by the Word and not by the world. And so, you can always look at what conversion means at any moment by whether the church is likely to be worldly or not. That’s why I think the Insider Movement mission in Islam is so dangerous. Encouraging people to come to Christ and stay in the mosque. 31:50 It’s those who have broken with the mosque courageously, sometimes at the cost of their life. The faithfulness and the fruit afterwards are 100 fold different.

But, the same challenge comes to church in America. Look and say on the gay movement. Many of you are on the tail end of that. It started very early with Jimmy Carter’s election to the presidency. Chuck Colson’s conversion, his book ‘Born Again’.  But much of the ‘born again’ movement, looking back, you can see this whether you examine it sociologically or spiritually- has been a form of religious conformism to the American culture, and not a radical breakthrough into a new way of living that marks the kingdom of God. So, explore that with great depth. The secret of the cultural dynamism of the Gospel. It’s the social tension of being in, but not of the world which marks the church when it is most powerful. (33:00)

5. Count on the unique dynamics of the kingdom. I say this because the huge discussion that took place last year was half correct. It put in place a good understanding of the secular dynamics of how cultures are changed. You can read a book, for instance, like Randall Collins’ ‘The Sociology of Philosophies’ (800 pages). If you boil it down to the core of the points made, and they’re all good points, you can see how ideas shape culture and they’re easy to say. There are three principles:

  1. Through leaders, rather than followers
  2. Through the center of a culture, rather than periphery
  3. Through networks, rather than just through individuals or institutions

We as Christians and evangelicals have a lot to learn form that. Our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters are much better at the first- they always go for leaders. Now, their danger always is falling over into elitism. And we, evangelicals, since the second awakening first was led by real leaders and intellectuals like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and so on. The second awakening- the Cambridge Revival in Kentucky, you can see the populism, the suspicion of leaders, the resentment of discipline, the throwing off of hierarchy. Everybody wanted it all to be easy, instant and available to ordinary people. Since then we’ve relied on mass movements and we’ve been unable to change culture, one of the central weaknesses of the Christian right.

On the second point, too, we’ve got a lot to learn, although not you people here in New York. In other words, you change culture through the key cultural centers. Again, evangelicals have missed the boat here. It is often said, „Where are the Jewish people strong? New York, L.A., Chicago, which are the leading cultural centers of America. Where are Christians strong? Colorado Springs, Orlando, Wheaton. Thank God for what’s happened here in the last 20 years (New York), but this is rather different.

The third point we’re much better at. The networks, the disciples, the benedicting, the Moravians, the Wesley cell groups, the Clapper circle of Wilberforce, we’re better at that one. But, all those 3 together are only the secular ways of how ideas change culture.

The apostle Paul is aware of that. In his own way, he is always aiming (for example) for Rome. And he finally gets there. But, you can also see in the Scriptures, the unique dynamics of the kingdom which are different. And it’s not one or the other, it’s both and.

  1. The first dynamic of the kingdom is the leader: Is the Spirit. Take the book of Acts. How does the Gospel get to Africa? The Spirit tells Phillip to go to a certain crossroads and he meets the eunuch and it gets to Ethiopia. How does the Gospel get to Europe? Paul is sure the next place should be Bythinia in Asia minor and he cannot get in. Frustrated, the Spirit speaks to him and he goes from Troas to Philippi. One historian says that when that little rabbi (Paul)  crossed unknowing from Troas to Philippi, that was more history changing in one moment than the great battle of Actium which took place just 20 miles away. How did the Gospel get to the Gentiles? The Spirit speaks to Peter. In other words: Not vision, mission, all these grand things we have today. our strategic understandings of timelines and next steps, and all that. FOLLOW THE SPIRIT, AND THEN WE’LL REALLY MOVE.
  2. Another unique dynamic of the kingdom are surprising reversals. I love Luke 3;1 The day when the Emperor was Tiberius, and the Governor of Judea was Pontius Pilate, and the tetrarch of Galilee was Philip… rolls on like that into the high priests. And then it says, „The Word of the Lord came to John in the desert.” It bypassed all of them and went to a nobody. And of course, the whole teaching of our Lord: The first- last. The humble exalted. The high and mighty brought down. We’re in the upside down kingdom and we know that God always works through extraordinary reversals and surprising moves, if we’re open to him.
  3. The third principle you can see in the unique dynamics of the kingdom is that culture is usually almost always a by product. It’s not a goal, it’s not a name, it’s a byproduct. We do have some near exceptions, like William Wilberforce, who at 28 sets out his 2 great objects and for 47 years pursues them. But, as one historian says, „How extraordinary.” And remember that he died just 3 days after slavery was abolished. So, here’s his whole life work and at the end, just 3 days apart. And as one historian says, „How rare that anyone’s termination of their life  and determination of their labors exactly coincide? But, actually, many of the greatest influences in history have been unknown to the people that did it. They’ve been a byproduct. Culture most often is and our Lord’s view of the kingdom is organic, not organizational. It’s like a seed that grows surprisingly in the night. That notion of the organic invisible secret, unstoppable growth is at the heart of so many of them. And you can see today that we tend to ignore that in our organizational frenzied type world. T.S. Elliot said in the previous discussion- You don’t build a tree, you grow it. And the same is true of a great Christian culture. „Seek first the kingdom of God- living the way of Christ in the world today- and all these things are added to us. We don’t necessarily aim for those as the goal. We seek, we’re faithful in our lives, in our callings in whatever sphere of our society we are called to be in and we leave to God the results.

6. Think through some of the enduring lessons of Christian engagement with culture. It is clear that there is no one Christian culture. There is no golden age behind us. It’s ahead of us, when Christ comes. Every period in the past, however great had it’s flaws. But, there are certain lessons of the enduring relationships of the church with the culture.

  1. Success often carries the seeds of failure. I talked about the church at the time of Rome. If you think, ‘How extraordinary that the church would become identified critically with Rome, when Rome was alien”, what is less surprising, but in even greater capitulation, was when the church capitulated to its own culture: Christendom. And one writer at the time of Christendom says, „I started the story of two cities and now I am only writing about one city- the Christian city of Christendom. But that’s precisely why they lost this social tension and it’s not surprising that out of CHristendom came the greatest evils the church has ever produced in the world. Take the Inquisition. Take the wild slaughter of the Albigenians. Take the excesses of the crusades, in the name of Jesus. Many of the evils of Christendom we are still living down today. But, at the time of Christendom they lost the cultural tension, the social tension, „the in, not of”,  and so, they never criticized their own culture and the truth is that the moments of success are often carrying the seeds of our failure, cause we who succeed are sinners. And the one thing that very few of us can argue against, ever, is our own success. That convinces us. 
  2. The second of the enduring lessons sounds like a cliche but it does prove that the darkest hour is always before dawn. That is true of every revival. Five minutes before the SPirit speaks, things look terrible. Five minutes after the Word speaks, everything changes. Take Jefferson’s prediction that evangelicals will disappear and enlightenment would sweep America. Then came, within one year, the second awakening and Jefferson died a disappointed man. The same is true of the so called dark ages. We’re often blamed for the dark ages. „The church created the dark ages.” Nonsense. The Dark Ages were very dark. But, what carried through the light of civilizations of the Dark Ages was the Gospel and the Church. And even historians like H. G. Wells that Christianity „saved learning and saved civilization.” Christopher Dawson says, „Church was the ark of which it was saved through.”
  3. The third principle, also counterintuitive, is the church goes forward best, by going back first. That sounds crazy in a day of innovation. everything’s gotta be new. The newer, the truer, the greatest. No one wants to be left behind technologically. That’s all wrong for the church. Revival and reformation  are actually going back. The two greatest movements in the west, of ideas were the renaissance- largely pagan, and the Reformation. Both of them were movements that were going back. And the simple fact is, as you see in the Scriptures and as you see in history- the church of Jesus goes forward best, by going back first.

Karl Barth  described Martin Luther with this wonderful little picture. He said: Martin Luther was this man, groping his way up dark, steep steps of a medieval Cathedral to the top. Pitch black. Afraid of stumbling, he reached out, he found the stair rope in the circular stairs. He found the rope and pulled it to steady himself, and to his amazement heard a bell ringing above him, which woke up the whole countryside. It wasn’t the stair rope, it was the bell rope. In other words, Luther didn’t say, „REFORMATION. Mission, timeline”, and all that sort of stuff. Luther wrestled with God, wrestled with his conscience, wrestled with his times, wrestled with his church in his times and out of that great man’s grappling came what we call THE REFORMATION. I believe we go forward, each of you  with your faith in God, with your calling in the world- in the arts, in politics, in finance, whatever you’re in. Each of you, so wrestling with the Lord honestly, totally, and together, that the Lord knows what may fall out. Christopher Dawson says, „Is it possible to think that for a third time, the church might be revived in the West, having come to the end of the second time? Then he says, „Of course.” Every Christian would answer in the affirmative. But he says, „We mustn’t answer it too quickly and too easily because what’s at stake today is potentially the whole future, not just of the West, but of humanity.

Description for Redeemer church Youtube video:

As we discuss how the church can engage an increasingly post-Christian culture in the west, it is helpful to take a step back from our own times and historically examine how Christianity has dealt with cultures that seemed implacably opposed to it. Christianity was never expected to convert the Roman empire; nor was it expected to convert the barbarian tribes after Rome fell. Yet, it both cases it succeeded despite the odds. Similarly today, Christians must hold onto hope for a revival in the modern west.

This lecture was given as part of the Gospel & Culture Lecture series featuring Os Guinness. Os Guinness is an author and social critic. Great-great grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer, he was born in China in World War Two where his parents were medical missionaries. A witness to the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to Europe where he was educated in England.

To view more resources, please visit http://www.faithandwork.org/resources.

Published on May 23, 2012 by – http://www.faithandwork.org/gospelculture

Ravi Zacharias – „If the foundations be destroyed…” at Trinity International University Feb. 9, 2012

 Dr. Ravi Zacharias, an alumni of TIU,  returns to TIU for another lecture and an update on his ministry – RZIM. He announces that Os Guinness and John Lennox have joined RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) as they further train 3 young phD’s coming out of  prestigious universities in order to ensure the next generation is prepared in biblical apologetics. Three young phD’s coming on board at RZIM are experts in Islam, with one being expert in Sharia law (whom the House of Commons and the House of Lords are using as a consultant in the UK). RZIM’s North American base will be at Trinity International University (TIU) in Deerfield, Illinois (a short drive from Chicago). Dr. Zacharias aim is to develop as many young apologists as possible.

The first post modern building

Many years ago at an open forum at Ohio State University, with Alvin Plantinga and Hugh Ross, as this businessman was driving us to the venue, past a new building, he informed us that it was the Wexler center for the Arts. He informed us that Time magazine described it as the first post modern building. I asked him, „What is a post modern building?” He said, „The architect believed since life itself has no purpose or meaning, why should our buildings have any purpose and meaning. So he designed the building without any particular purpose in mind. There are stairways that go nowhere, there are shapes of rooms that are absolutely unusable.

People come to see this building but, it serves no particular purpose. When asked what I think I said, „I have only one question for the architect. Did he do that with the foundation as well?”  Did he just do it whimsically? Or did he have to follow certain guidelines because the infrastructure can look magnificent, but, if the foundation doesn’t hold the whole thing will collapse and there’s no city council that I know that will allow you to do it on a whim, without having a purpose to sustain what you are putting above it. This is the backdrop to Dr. Zacharias’ lecture.

In the Scriptures we are reminded that if the foundations be destroyed, what should the righteous do? Last week I was  in Belgium. What a scene in Europe and Belgium is at the helm of that. Fascinatingly, 25% of the population of the city of Brussels right now claims to be Muslim and the rest of them are of an anti theistic mind. You should have seen the questions. They were actually in a state of shock that you are presenting a defense for the existence of God. I had a 20-30 minute conversation with a doctoral student who was just astounded that I actually believed there was such a thing as a moral  framework to reality.  And you tend to say to yourself, „What foundation does this person use to really build his or her life upon? What is the point of reference from which they make their choices? Is every choice ad hoc? Do you just face the options of the day and determine at whim- this is the  path I’m going to take, this is what I’m going to choose?”

Uploaded by  on Feb 23, 2012

Solzhenitsyn: It is because we, have forgotten God

You know, the entire economic crisis today, globally, was built upon a false premise that you can borrow without necessarily having to be able to afford it. That you can keep printing an instrument of trust with nothing to really back it and you watch this implosion taking place globally and when you talk to political leadership and others in high office ….I’ll never forget the scene on television when Mr. Paulson was literally kneeling in front of Nancy Pelosi saying, „I beg you, please pass this bill or  we’re finished… I am not an economist, I don’t understand all of these theories and I say to them, „How did we get here?” We wake up one morning and we find that the whole globe is in a financial mess.

There are some foundational issues about life itself and I often hark back and think about Alexander Solzhenitsyn when he gave his talk at Harvard, which wasn’t very welcomed. Here’s what he said in the midst of that talk, „The West is on the verge of collapse, created by its own hands. Between good and evil there is a unreconcilable contradiction. One cannot build one’s national life without regard for this distinction. We, the oppressed people of Russia watch with anguish the tragic and enfeeblement of Europe. We offer you the experience of our suffering. We would like you to accept it without having to pay the monstrous price of death and slavery that we have paid. This was somewhere in the 70’s. Solzhenitsyn would tell the story of his memories of his grandfather whose ideas as a child he didn’t quite understand. However, the one phrase his grandfather repeatedly said, „It’s because we have forgotten God”, stuck with him to old age. In his old age, when asked what has gone wrong in europe and the world, he said he would give the same answer his grandfather gave, „It is because we have forgotten God”.

There are foundational issues that this world has to cling to

One thing we have to give credit to Friedrich Nietzsche for is that he realized, when he popularized the phrase „God is dead”, that something ominously  (was) ahead of us. Remember the metaphors he used? Who gave us a sponge to wipe away the horizon? Is there any up or down left? Will lanterns, now, not have to be lit in the morning? Poignant ideas. What he was really saying was that we have eroded distinctions. We have nothing by which to make our judgements. Then he said this, „What sacred games will we need to invent?”

Foundations that God has laid in Scriptures

Who gave us the power to do this and to remove the greatest belief that the world has ever held. When you open the Scriptures and see the foundations that God has laid. What is it that God wants of you? I present to you 4 dimensions that he wants to have to the foundation of your life :

1) The dimension of eternity defines existence.

To build your life on eternal values. To build your whole value system on that which is not merely temporal, but that which will outlast merely what time has to offer. However we define time, what it boils down to is really a calibration or measuring change. But, the sense of the eternal, of the awe inspiring vision of ultimate reality.

C.S.Lewis’s book Apologetics was actually launched form one word – „longing”. He saw the sense of longing. He talks about how sometimes when you listen to music, it throws you back into a memory years and years ago and it plants in your mind afresh a longing that you had. It’s for a city you never been to. It’s for an experience you never had and therefore commenting on that same sense of longing in his writing on heaven he says this, „In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves, even now I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I’m trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you, the secret that hurt so much that you take revenge on it by calling it names like „nostalgia” and „romanticism” and „adolescence”.  The secret which also pierces with such sweetness that in very intimate conversation on a dimension of heaven when it becomes imminent we grow awkward and in effect laugh at ourselves. The secret we cannot hide and we cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of the name „heaven”.

That glimpse of the future, that glimpse of the eternal…When you understand eternity you define existence!

2) The dimension of morality defines essence.

Moral reasoning. The sense of ought. The sense of right. The sense of wrong. As long as there are men and women that are totally in the naturalistic framework, they try to do away with the causal argument, with the design argument. They only do it in the particular aspect to do with creation, but they will never do away with the causal argument in the laboratory. They will never do away with the design argument and try to express whenever they see intelligibility deposit intelligence. It is only in this cosmic scene of the world itself that they like to get rid of a causal connection and they’d like to get rid of a design connection. But, this keeps haunting them: the whole idea of a moral framework and that’s why maybe the Da Vinci Code and others come along because if you can push a hatpin into the heart of morality of Jesus Himself, then you’ve probably done away with the moral argument as far as the Christian world is concerned. They would have no problem finding moral duplicity if they went to the founders of the other religions, but, they want to live longer, so they don’t attack those. They will go for the Christ.


When you take the 10 commandments, what is it that is really summed up in that, in one word? Sacred. Sexuality is sacred. You remarriage is sacred. Your property is sacred. Your word is sacred. Your worship is sacred. Your time is sacred. That is what it was all about. Moses had to write 613 laws in order to try to rescue them from the one law that they broke in the day that they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and became as God and redefined  everything. It took about 613 laws  and each one dying the death of a thousand qualifications because people end up justifying everything, by qualifying it. All it boils down to is that the human heart is desperately corrupt and the moral reasoning abused again and again.

3.) The dimension of accountability defines conscience

The dimension of accountability, whether in a vertical direction when your’e talking just about moral reasoning, right or wrong. I remember  a 3 hour discussion with the leading Shiite Cleric Hussein in Damascus, after which he said, „Maybe it’s time for us in the Muslim world to stop asking „if” Jesus died on the cross and to start asking :why? And, as men like him are probably looking out of the window and seeing lives slaughtered in Syria, and men and women just mangled on the streets for political tyranny, all over again, I wonder whether he is thinking now, himself, as the cross for he answer for the evil that is in the heart of man. For forgiveness. For grace. For transformation.

For those of you studying here (TIU), no matter where you defend the faith, no matter where you present a defense of the Christian faith, never end without telling them about the cross. At the heart of the Gospel is precisely that message that your heart and my heart are desperately wicked and the son of man came into this world to seek and to save that which was lost. To offer you and me that forgiveness and that grace and that cleansing and the imperative of transformation. This is at the heart of the Gospel message. Forgiveness is a gift, unearned. You and I are accountable before God, and there’s a cross offered for you and me for redemption and that daily reminder that, „but for His grace, we would be condemnable, also”.

 4) The dimension of charity defines beneficence

It is very easy in our time to get angry with the opposition. You look at those who seek to eradicate what we believe and that anger wells up within you. You know, apologetics, if it’s not undergirded by love is really nothing more than a sword intended to decapitate the person in front of you. That’s not what apologetics is all about. It has to be undergirded by love. I love the way the Lord handled the woman at the well. So gently, so graciously so that she goes and says, „Come and see the One who knew everything I had done. Maybe Messiah has come.”

There is the gift of love in the Gospel and one of the main reasons the church suffers today, often, is that we have not even displayed that love to each other; let alone to the world. If we are going to win this it will be with the conquering, disarming love of Jesus Christ. Life is not gratuitous and purposeless. It is built on the foundation of an eternal God who revealed to us a moral law and reminded us of how we had fallen and would love to reach out to us again and bring us back to Himself.

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