Read this if….
- you are interested in how Christianity fits into the American culture
- you are concerned about the moral decline in America
- you are passionate about engaging the world with the gospel in meaningful ways
The church in the West is at a critical moment. While the gospel is exploding throughout the global south, Western civilization faces militant assaults from aggressive secularism and radical Islam. Will the church resist the seductive shaping power of advanced modernity? More than ever, Christians must resist the negative cultural forces of our day with fortitude and winsomeness. What is needed is followers of Christ who are willing to face reality without flinching and respond with a faithfulness that is unwavering. Os Guinness describes these Christians as “impossible people,” those who have “hearts that can melt with compassion, but with faces like flint and backbones of steel who are unmanipulable, unbribable, undeterrable and unclubbable, without ever losing the gentleness, the mercy, the grace and the compassion of our Lord.” Few accounts of the challenge of today are more realistic, and few calls to Christian courage are more timely, resolute―and hopeful. Guinness argues that we must engage secularism and atheism in new ways, confronting competing ideas with discernment and fresh articulation of the faith. Christians are called to be impossible people, full of courage and mercy in challenging times.
Os Guiness’ Impossible People is an interesting commentary on the position of the church in an ever-changing social landscape. Despite a longstanding prominence of the Judeo-Christian worldview, Guiness points out the cultural shift that has drastically occurred over the past century. As powerful and impactful as various revivals have been over the millennia, the backlash and following philosophies have been just as gripping and perhaps even more poignant. Current Western Civilization has found itself immersed in humanism, secularism, and post-modernity; the post Reformation days of Europe have seen the continent thrust into a newfound philosophical emptiness and spiritual darkness. Guiness seeks a solution to the widening gap between Christian morals and ethics and the standard held by leading philosophers and political leaders of the world.
There are necessary corrections to both sides of this disagreement. While the secularist movement has no desire for religion, they also will often go as far as seeking the total abolishment of it. Guiness points out that religion fills a place in society that many secularists are beginning to recognize. The empty space left behind by religion has revealed issues of the human nature that a religion-free culture is ill-equipped to solve. Guinness also asserts that Christians must stop trying to restore the Judeo-Christian faith as the prominent faith of the nation and globe, and instead start learning how to work alongside of people with drastically different views than their own.
The first half of Impossible People can’t seem to get past its own social and political nature – a right wing, conservative, political commentary on the author’s disagreements and frustrations with the current political leaders of our society. The second half, on the other hand, was quite engaging – providing a much-needed challenge to the Christian reader. Guiness called his work Impossible People because the cultural, social, and spiritual standards to which he calls the Christ-follower to are truly high. Upon completion of Impossible People the only question remaining is whether or not the standards truly are impossible.
Impossible People certainly is not for everyone. Those who expectantly and assertively attempt to put the Christian faith back at the forefront of society will find themselves sorely disappointed. It will take a fair amount of work and determination to make it through the mire that is Guiness’ wordage on the political front. But those up to the task will find out a daunting and perhaps-impossible task lying before them: to approach a world with differing views with respect and grace, seeking to grant them the freedom they desire while still presenting the truth that is the Gospel.