Inter-Varsity Press, 2014
This is a book I only discovered recently—based on the recommendation of a friend—who suggested that I’d really like it. He was not wrong. But it also made me reflect on how much things have changed in the past seven years since it was published. There have been massive socio-political upheavals, especially in the West. As such, this particular book by Guinness is both a prescient warning and encouragement.
One particular quote that Guinness refers to throughout Renaissance is by G.K. Chesterton. “At least five times, the Faith has to all appearances gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases, it was the dog that died.” It’s a great reminder that despite the numerous tumults we are witnessing, the Lord Jesus remains on God’s throne. And it is often just before the light of dawn that the night is darkest.
While Guinness is not saying that Christians should focus on saving Western civilisation—but promoting the Kingdom of God—he argues for every believer using their gifts to be a blessing to the world.
Like with all of Guinness’s books, there are a plethora of great quotes and cultural insights. Here is an example of some of the more memorable, all from the 20th century:
The task of redeeming Western society rests in a peculiar sense upon Christianity.Reinhold Niebuhr
Turning and turning in the widening gyre,W.B. Yeats
The falcon cannot hear the falconer.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and the
Ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lose all conviction, and the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
There still remains only God to protect man against man. Either we will serve him in spirit and in truth or we shall enslave ourselves ceaselessly, more and more, to the monstrous idol that we have made with our own hands to our own image and likeness.Etienne Gilson
Ultimately, Guinness argues for Christians to re-engage in participating in the public square with whatever gifts they have – e.g. speaking, writing, artistic endeavours. There is much to benefit from Guinness’s book Renaissance. But the most important aspect of all is hope. Hope that the Gospel of Christ will ultimately triumph, despite the various assaults upon the faith. That just as the LORD showed his prophet Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones, so too, he can do again in our day. He can make these dry bones live! (Ezekiel 37:1-10)