"There are three major models on offer in today’s world, the first two being the dominant models in most countries at the present moment....The sacred public square....The naked public square [secularism]....The civic public square" - Os Guinness
In this excerpt from his little book Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance,1 Os Guinness puts his finger on a key issue in the conservative Christian sub-culture. His comments are even more interesting when you consider the book was published in 2003:
It’s sad to say that rarely has the church seen so many of its leaders solemnly presenting the faith in public in so many weak, trite, foolish, disastrous, and even disloyal ways as today. Such leaders do not speak for most ordinary Christians I know. I suspect the press and media invite them to fulfill a stereotype rather than represent a serious position, but again and again for those who hold the faith with all their hearts and minds, the outcome is anger or sorrow.
But this is no time for logging dead horses. What we need to do is not only explore how this self-inflicted stupidity has happened, but how we can do better in a day that is hungry for a word from God …
Curiously, an embarrassing fact confronts those who inquire into the problem. This monumental and destructive carelessness has coincided exactly with a mania for relevance and reinvention that has gripped the church. So a disconcerting question arises: How on earth have we Christians become so irrelevant when we have tried so hard to be relevant? And by what law or logic is it possible to steer determinedly in one direction but end up in completely the opposite direction?
Os Guinness’ book The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity is an important book … and a frustrating one, too. It’s important because Guinness analyzes the culture wars in light of the eternal need for freedom of conscience for all. It’s frustrating because I have little hope his rousing call for civility, persuasion and responsible engagement in the “global public square” will actually happen. I’m not sure he’s so sure, either.
This book is really an exposition of a document I’d never heard of: “The Global Charter of Conscience.” This document was published in 2012, and it’s designed as an addendum to the United Nations’ 1948 “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” another document I’d never heard of. Some readers may be put off by United Nations resolutions, and ecumenical documents about freedom of conscience. If that’s you, then don’t go away!
Any Baptist should be interested in this book. If you have visions of poor Felix Manz in your head, or vaguely remember reading about the Acts of Uniformity in Leon McBeth’s Baptist history textbook, then it’s time to broaden your horizons a bit. Guinness’ main concern is to protect the right of soul freedom for everybody: