Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times by Os Guinness is an instant classic that captures Western culture in a way that only Os Guinness is equipped to do. Guinness uses his prophetic voice to alert the Church to its worldly and compromised trajectory. What makes Guinness unique as a social critic is his gospel-centered optimism that fuels his strategy for turning the ship around. Renaissance is a plea to Christians to pledge their service and hope toward kindling a modern renaissance in the face of a collapsing, dark world.
To Guinness, what we need “is a constructive overarching vision of Christian engagement in today’s advanced modern world, one that is shaped by faith in God and a Christian perspective rather than by current wisdom, and one that can inspire Christians to move out with courage to confront the best and worst that we may encounter” (p.27).
In an effort to encourage the Church toward renaissance, Guinness offers three major tasks for the global church in the twenty-first century: to prepare the Global South, to win back the Western world, and to contribute to the human future (p.35). Guinness explains how Christianity is flourishing in the Global South and is in dire need of assistance as it encounters “development” and “modernization.” He would have Western churches harness their newly acquired wisdom from facing the woes of modernization and use it to help the Global South approach the task constructively. Implementing evangelism, adequate teaching and discipleship, Guinness suggests, will help guard the Global South from submitting to the spirit of the age or a secularized culture.
His second task of “winning back the West” might be the most difficult, if not the most important, of the three tasks. Guinness quells the notion that he argues for Western-centrism or Western exceptionalism. Instead, he is compelled to win back the West because it is “our Jerusalem” and therefore, our duty to restore. Framing our perspective he states, “To Christians in the West, countries such as Korea and Kenya are the uttermost parts of the earth, just as we are the uttermost parts of the earth to them.” His argument is simple but profound—we must win the West because it is home.
Guinness’ third task for the global church is to contribute to the human future. Christians are called to do good (Gal. 6:9) which includes working hard for future generations and the restoration of the created order. Guinness advises the “coming generation of Christian men and women” to “tackle the even greater issues of the global era that otherwise threaten to call into question the very future of humanity and the planet itself” (p.50). Guinness names several issues facing the next generation of Christians including: a constructive Christian critique of capitalism, nuclear proliferation, reliable access to water, inequities between rich and poor, modeling a solid way of life for families, and much more.
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Renaissance is a summons for the Church to appear, once again and forevermore, in the pubic square as an example or embodiment of truth and love. The remainder of the book provides an outline for accomplishing a modern renaissance and offers historical examples of how God has brought light into the world when it seemed to only be getting darker. Pastors and laity alike can derive much from this book as we work in unison to bring about God’s Kingdom and a revitalization of the global church.