Os Guiness


Chinese-born American Author, Social Critic and Senior Fellow with the EastWest Institute in New York

Author Quotes

Like a precious family heirloom, freedom is not just ours to enjoy, but to treasure, protect, and pass on to future generations.

The Catholic Distortion: Calling has often been distorted to become a form of dualism that elevates the spiritual at the expense of the secular.

There is joy... in fulfilling a calling that fits who we are and, like the pillar of cloud and fire, goes ahead of our lives to lead us... Our gifts and destiny do not lie expressly in our parents' wishes, our boss's plans, our peer group's pressures, our generation's prospects, or our society's demands. Rather, we each need to know our own unique design, which is God's design for us.

Making the world safe for diversity, is one of the greatest tasks we face in the global era.

The challenge of modern church growth is the problem of modern discipleship writ large-how to engage in the world freely but faithfully. Clearly, a tough blend of attributes is required: integrity and effectiveness, enterprise with humility, spiritual devotion along with common sense. To that end, here are two concluding reminders and two cautions to ponder. The first reminder concerns the paradox surrounding change and relevance. On the one hand, no one and nothing stays the same unless it is willing to change. On the other hand, no one and nothing becomes truly timely unless it is in touch with the eternal. The second reminder concerns the paradox surrounding success. On the one hand, in matters of the spirit, nothing fails like success. On the other hand, in matters of the spirit, nothing succeeds like failure.

There is no problem with the wider culture that you cannot see in the spades in the Christian Church. The rot is in us, and not simple out there. And Christians are making a great mistake by turning everything into culture wars. It's a much deeper crisis.

Modern life assaults us with an infinite range of things we could do, we would love to do, or some people tell us we should do. But we are not God and we are neither infinite nor eternal. We are quite simply finite. We have only so many years, so much energy, so many gray cells, and so many bank notes in our wallets. 'Life is too short to...' eventually shortens to 'life is too short.

The dilemma for man is not who he is but what he has done. His predicament is not that he is small, but that he is sinful.

They don't realize that, in their haste, they are borrowing not an isolated tool but a whole philosophical toolbox laden with tools which have their own particular bias to every problem (a Trojan horse in the toolbox, if you like). The toolbox may be Freudian, Hindu or Marxist. Occasionally, the toolbox is right-wing; more often today it is liberal or left-wing (the former mainly in North America, the latter mainly in Europe). Rarely - and this is all that matters to us - is it consistently or coherently Christian.

Negative freedom is freedom from - freedom from oppression, whether it's a colonial power or addiction to alcohol oppressing you. You need to be freed from negative freedom. Positive freedom is freedom for, freedom to be. And that's what's routinely ignored today.

The empire of consumerism has undermined the Protestant ethic, and virtues such as delayed gratification have been shouldered aside by the clamor for instant gratification.

This means that the accuracy of our pictures of God is not tested by our orthodoxy or our testimonies but by the truths we count on in real life. It is demonstrated when the heat is on, the chips are down, and reality seems to be breathing down our necks. What we presuppose at such moments is our real picture of God, and this may be very different from what we profess to believe about God.

Negative freedom is freedom from - in essence, freedom from interference and constraint. Positive freedom is freedom for ?in essence, freedom for excellence according to whatever vision and ideals define that excellence. [Constitutional] framers' position is clear and balanced, but contemporary Americans have abandoned it. They have voted unambiguously for negative freedom rather than positive and have therefore exalted freedom as an essentially private matter, for where else can a person be truly free from all outside interference.

The founders? first principles of religious liberty can of course be applied to school prayer in several ways. For example, the golden rule of equal liberty for all could be applied to school prayer as ?One in, all in? and respected by praying a different prayer every day of the school month?Christian one day, Jewish the next, Muslim after that, then Buddhist, Hindu, Mormon, Scientologist, Wiccan, and so on, until all the faiths in the school are covered. Such a policy would surely lead to chaos and indifference rather than tolerance.

Today our children have too much to live with?and not enough to live for.

One of the key places where sociology should be used is in analyzing 'the world' of our times, so that we can be more discerning. To resist the dangers of the world, you have to recognize the distortions and seductions of the world.

The greatest enemy of freedom is freedom. Now the reason for that paradox is that freedom requires an order, or a framework, and the only appropriate framework for freedom is self-restraint, and yet self-restraint is precisely what freedom undermines when it flourishes. You've really got to consider, what is ordered freedom -- in other words, a framework of freedom? Put differently, freedom is not just negative, freedom from, it is positive too, which means freedom to be or freedom for, but that means you need to know who you're supposed to be. So in a Christian understanding, Jesus says you will know the truth and the truth will set you free -- that is ordered freedom.

Together with the Constitution, these habits of the heart are the real, complete and essential bulwark of American liberty. A republic grounded only in a consensus forged of calculation and competing self-interests can never last.

Other people have a concept of God so fundamentally false that it would be better for them to doubt than to remain devout. The more devout they are, the uglier their faith will become since it is based on a lie. Doubt in such a case is not only highly understandable, it is even a mark of spiritual and intellectual sensitivity to error, for their picture is not of God but an idol.

The notion of calling, or vocation, is vital to each of us because it touches on the modern search for a basis for individual identity and an understanding of humanness itself.

Two things continue to surprise me...that the sole American answer to how freedom can be sustained is the Constitution and its separation of powers and that the rest of the founders' solution is now almost complete ignored.

Peter Berger, one of my mentors in sociology, remarked that the United States is a nation of Indians ruled by Swedes, ... By that he meant that the American people are as religious as the people of India-the most religious country in the world-but that American leadership is often as secular as Sweden, the most secular country in the world. And the tone deafness between these two groups causes a lot of national friction. The Trinity Forum was built upon Berger's remark-as well as upon the historical precedents set by William Wilberforce.

The problem is not that reason attacks faith but that emotions overwhelm reason as well as faith, and it is impossible for reason to dissuade them. ? [This kind of] doubt comes just at the point where the believer?s emotions (vivid imagination, changing moods, erratic feelings, intense reactions) rise up and overpower the understanding of faith. Outvoted, outgunned, faith is pressed back and hemmed in by the unruly mob of raging emotions that only awhile earlier were quiet, orderly citizens of the personality. Reason is cut down, obedience is thrown out, and for a while the rule of emotions is as sovereign as it is violent. The coup d?‚tat is complete.

We are never freer than when we become most ourselves, most human, most just, most excellent, and the like.

If everything is endlessly up for question and open for change, then everything is permitted and nothing is forbidden? nothing is unthinkable.

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Chinese-born American Author, Social Critic and Senior Fellow with the EastWest Institute in New York