Os Guiness


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

Author Quotes

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.

Sometimes when I listen to people who say they have lost their faith, I am far less surprised than they expect. If their view of God is what they say, then it is only surprising that they did not reject it much earlier.

The Protestant Distortion: ?is a secular form of dualism, elevating the secular at the expense of the spiritual?and reduces vocation to an alternative word for work.

We are not wise enough, pure enough, or strong enough to aim and sustain such a single motive over a lifetime. That way lies fanaticism or failure. But if the single motive is the master motivation of God's calling, the answer is yes. In any and all situations, both today and tomorrow's tomorrow, God's call to us is the unchanging and ultimate whence, what, why, and whither of our lives. Calling is a 'yes' to God that carries a 'no' to the chaos of modern demands. Calling is the key to tracing the story line of our lives and unriddling the meaning of our existence in a chaotic world.

If liberty is to endure, the twin bulwarks of the Constitution and the golden triangle of freedom must both play their part. To replace virtue alone with no virtue at all is madness, and what the Wall Street crisis showed about unfettered capitalism could soon be America's crisis played out on an even more gigantic screen.

Supporters of school prayer have found themselves on the horns of a dilemma of their own choosing. Insisting on official Christian prayer in such pluralistic settings, they either ignore the diversity and pray as if everyone shared their faith?thus scandalizing those who do not; or they respect the diversity and pray in an inoffensive way that tries to appeal to as many faiths as possible?thus secularizing their own faith while still offending those who reject public prayer of any kind.

The rewards of freedom are always sweet, but its demands are stern, for at its heart is the paradox that the greatest enemy of freedom is freedom.

We betray our modern arrogance and forget the place of mystery in God's dealing with us.

In many intellectual circles in this country you don?t have the philosophical or cultural climate in which the Framer?s understanding could even get a hearing, let alone could be carried on.

Surrender to the spirit of the age,

The tea party movement, dangering on things like the massive deficit, is really referring to the crisis of the republic, as the framers set it up. Whereas, the Occupy Wall Street movement, with its stress on the savage inequities between the rich and the poor, or the one-percenters and the 99 percenters, is focusing on the crisis of democracy. American democracy in the past has always been known for its large middle class and its relatively few very wealthy people and very few very poor people, but that is gone to today and the middle class is shrinking. You can see that the extremely wealthy are at a distance from most Americans like you've never seen in American history before. So I think both of the movements, with all their failures and flaws, are incredibly revealing.

We cannot find God without God. We cannot reach God without God. We cannot satisfy God without God ? which is another way of saying that all our seeking will fall short unless God starts and finishes the search. The decisive part of our seeking is not our human ascent to God, but his descent to us. Without God?s descent there is no human ascent. The secret of the quest lies not in our brilliance but in his grace.

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