Dr. Os Guinness, noted lecturer, academic and author of some 25 books, spoke to Global Anglican Future Conference Pilgrims on “The Gospel and Secularism.
“The whole modern world represents the greatest opportunity for the Gospel since the apostles. It also represents the greatest challenge to the Gospel since the apostles,” said Guinness.
The good news is that in the midst of great upheaval in how people live, prophecies of the death of religious faith have not borne out. “Religion is as furiously alive as ever,” said Guinness.
The bad news is that the assumptions of modernism and other secular philosophies that now reign unquestioned in much of the western world and are migrating to other areas of the globe, are in many ways toxic to discipled and discipling Christians.
“Never under-estimate the profound anti-Christian assumptions of secularity,” said Guinness. Those assumptions have infected evangelicals as well as others in the church. At one time, what a person believed shaped how they lived. That day is gone. In its place, is a division between believing and behavior that has hobbled the transforming power of the Gospel.
“Never have evangelicals had higher, sharper views of the authority of scripture, but never on the ground has evangelical behavior been more chaotic and permissive than it is today… the link between belief and behavior has been broken,” said Guinness.
Christians, he continued, are called to meet the challenge of modernity, not by defying the world, nor by surrendering to the world, but by practicing “cognitive and cultural discernment” in our relationship to the world.
To defy the world at every turn runs the risk of turning Christians into religious fundamentalists. “Today fundamentalism has become a modern reaction to the modern world,” said Guinness.
To surrender to the world is at least as dangerous. Those who look to contemporary culture to guide their faith decisions lose the authority of scripture and “cut themselves off from Christianity around the world.”
The only path open to Christians is to discern step by step how best to share the Gospel, guard the faith and disciple new Christians in a world shaped by modernism and secularism. Speaking specifically to Christians from the Global South, Guinness said, “Those further behind are in many ways better off, but only if you use the time-lag to make your people prepared for what is coming.”
“I would say to you from the bottom of my hearts sisters and brothers, dare to look at the full challenge of the secular world. But when you have [looked], have faith in God, have no fear.”