Spotlight Interview: Os Guinness on Carpe Diem Redeemed
What does it mean to seize the day as a Christian? How do we embrace a biblical view of time and our place in it as it relates to the culture we are living in? Os Guinness again joined Carmen recently to discuss his latest book: Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times.
Transcript (begins at 20:13):
Carmen LaBerge: Os Guinness is a scholar. I would describe him as one of the preeminent social commentators of our generation, and he is just a delightful conversation partner. You know him as the author of many, many books. Impossible People, Fool’s Talk, Renaissance, on and on. We recently talked, I don’t know, I feel like maybe it was just last year about his book last call for Liberty. Also the Case for Civility, one of my favorites. Today he is back to talk about his latest book, Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times. Os Guinness, welcome back.
Os Guinness: Thank you, Carmen. Pleasure to be with you again.
Carmen: I felt like that you and I could probably just to spend our time roaming around in the first 14 pages because there… Literally, it’s almost as if in these first 14 pages, before the book actually gets started, you bear witness to the fascination, almost the consuming concept of time over time. Everybody from Dr Seuss to Augustine to every thinker that we could probably come up with a recognizable name of throughout the course of human history has made some kind of comment on the subject of time. Why are we so fascinated by this issue?
Os: Well, simply because time is so important to all of us. We’re living in it. Our lives are incredibly short, if you think of it, and the challenge is how do we make the most of it? For all of us, we are followers of Jesus, but for other people too, for every human being, life is short and vulnerable, and the question is how do you make the most of it? And the huge differences between say the Jewish and Christian, the biblical view of time, which is by far the richest and deepest, and say the Eastern view of time, where time is a circle, a wheel, and then the secularist view of time where there’s no real ultimate meaning. So I put all those quotations in. Some are deep, some are funny. They almost tell a whole story by themselves.
Carmen: I love what authors do outside of the content of the book. I love appendices. I love these 14 pages of quotes because I know that for you there’s something there, there’s some there, there. And so I wanted to highlight that and appreciate that. The Dr Seuss quote is probably one of my favorites in that long laundry list of quotes about time. Let me ask you to do this. Let’s start with carpe diem. We probably all recognize that concept of seizing the day, making the most, let me make the most of the time I have. But there is a reason… This is almost like you’ve finished somebody else’s book. There’s a reason you wrote this particular book.
Os: Well, the reason is simply that we all face the challenge, of course that’s the deepest reason. But also the simple fact is that you know there’s a wrong view of carpe diem today. I read a book by an Australian philosopher, bestselling book called Carpe Diem Regained, and as an atheist it was basically grab it while you can, and that’s a terrible view. It leads to the spontaneous sometimes, but the selfish and the shortsighted, and the biblical view is so much richer and deeper. When I read his book, I thought, “My goodness. Time to put the contrast of the biblical view.” And the biblical view is not only different from the atheist view, it’s different from the Eastern view, that life just goes round and round and round, reincarnation and so on. I just love the biblical view and it’s time and a Western culture to relay the foundations, the biblical foundations because they’ve given way, and one of them is the view of time and history, which has real meaning in the biblical understanding.
Carmen: Again, I’m talking with Os Guinness, you can find him at osguinness.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter @OsGuinness. We are talking about Carpe Diem Redeemed, his newest book, Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times. Os, I felt like, based on the conversation that we had after the publication of your last book, and I know you well enough to know you’re already working on the next one because you do not have an idle mind. I was kind of anticipating a lot more on the covenant section, but I was very satisfied with the part that was in there on the subject of covenant. Talk a little bit about the biblical understanding of time.
Os: Well basically time and history have real meaning because they’re going somewhere. We don’t always see it. We don’t always have a full life to achieve what we’d love to, but over everything is God’s covenant and his providence, and one day the meaning of history will be revealed. The biblical word apocalypse sounds like catastrophe at the end of time, but it actually in Greek means the unveiling, the decoding, the explanation. So time is going somewhere, but amazingly as we come to know the Lord and discover the calling and the gifts that he’s given to each one of us, we enter into that covenant of covenantal partnership and do our part in the restoration of His purposes in the will. Then you have the deepest sense of using, making the most of time.
Carmen: So we’re going to take a very brief break. When we come back, I’m wondering, can we turn together to page… I really want to turn to the first page of the conclusion, because there’s a question there that… I want to tell you what I thought when I read that page the first time, and then I want to ask you a question about it. When we come back, we’re going to turn with Os Guinness to the first page of the conclusion of the book and that will be on page one 135 of Carpe Diem Redeemed. We’re going to continue this conversation in just a moment.
Carmen: Continuing my conversation with Oz Guinness, most recently the author of Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times, in which he says in short, seizing the day, making the most of life and understanding the meaning of life are inseparable. All three require that if we are to master time, we must come to know the author of time, the meaning of time, and come to know the part he calls us to play in his grand story, which makes the deepest overall sense of time and history, even more wonder of wonders, we are then invited to live lives that align our individual hopes and destinies with the very purpose and destiny of the universe itself. Big calling, big invitation. Os, when you think about this book, what is your hoped for takeaway and then I want to turn with you to the conclusion.
Os: Well, it’s both personal and broader. In other words, each of us individually faces that challenge of the challenge of mortality. Life is short, and how do we make the most of it and live really well? Most people don’t even think about it, sadly. You know what Pascal calls diversion, people surround themselves with busy, entertaining distraction, never have there been more of what’s called weapons of mass distraction, cell phones and so on. You see people just don’t think about life. So that’s one hope, but also to show the contrast, apologetically, between the wonderful biblical view and the rather hopeless views of the Eastern view where history is going nowhere, round and round and round, going nowhere. And then the secularist view where history means nothing. You know, Shakespeare’s word, a tale told by an idiot, sound and fury signifying nothing. You can see the biblical view is the most wonderful one. So I hope people will look at it in personal terms, but also look at the wonder of the gospel in today’s culture in contrast with the other views.
Carmen: And that is where I felt like, as I was reading the opening paragraph of the conclusion. When you talk about, really, the culture of death, I wrote in the margin the culture of Darwin and I had already written in the margin abortion, suicide, and euthanasia. So as I’m reading the introduction to the conclusion, which is entitled choose life, which I just think is exactly the invitation of this book and it comes from, as you note here in the conclusion, both Deuteronomy 30 and John 10:10, this is the calling. This is the invitation that we would, today, in the time that we have, spend the time that we have choosing life and pointing other people or inviting other people into life.
Os: Well Carmen, you put the heart of our current challenge because we can say quickly the culture of death, which is Pope John Paul II’s great term, but we’re facing, if you look at American culture, we’re facing a horror of great darkness, and really at its heart is a rejection of creation. We’re created in the image of God, and people want to say, “No, no. God is rivaling and restricting my freedom. I want to be free and to be free, we’ve got to be autonomous, absolutely free to be ourselves.” So we cut off history, cut off the past, we cut off others, and we’re condemning ourselves to what is becoming the culture of death. You know, abortion at the beginning, euthanasia at the end, but lots of other things in the middle.
You know the old saying, the worst is the corruption of the best. People say, how could Germany, the reformation country, the best educated, most of civilized, most cultured country in the world, how could it produce Nazism? The was worst the corruption of the best. And America has the seeds of the horror of great darkness, and all of us who follow Jesus have got to look at that. It’s got to be fought intellectually. It’s got to be fought politically. It’s got to be fought spiritually in prayer. But what you’re putting your finger on, the deepest challenge we face, the different names, the Pope’s was the culture of death, but there’s something horrendous coming and we need to have the full biblical response to it.
Carmen: I love the invitation in here, and when you wrote “in the meantime,” which I’m going to read a paragraph here from page 137, I write in the margin these are the mean times. These times are mean in ways that I don’t think we often pause and consider that the darkness is dark, and I loved the image, I feel like it’s at the very beginning of the book, where you’re describing… It’s hard for a fish to describe the water that they’re swimming in, and in much the same way, it’s very, very difficult for me to discern the times in which I live and it’s also hard for me, Os, when I’ve been raised in a culture that’s so polluted. It’s even hard for me to imagine what it would be like to live in an environment of real light and real freshness and genuine beauty because I’ve been raised in a culture that is in many, many ways very, very polluted water.
So I just want to share with folks, that’s all in here. This is really rich material, and in the context of one interview, we don’t have time to till all of that soil, but I’m trying to do my best until as much as we can. So you say in here, “Let us seize the day humbly as we walk before God, endeavoring to read the signs of the times, seeking always to serve God’s purposes in our generation and working together with all who placed their hope in the great messianic day of the Lord that is coming.” That, for me, is living in the midst of the meantime with a focus on the end time, but recognizing that it’s not all vanity right now.
Os: Well thank you, Carmen, you’ve put it absolutely magnificently well. Often you appear on the radio, and you know people have only just read a few lines of the publicist stuff, and they haven’t even dipped into book at all. So you’re really engaging with the real thing. As an author, I deeply appreciate that and congratulate you.
But you’re right, we’re in the most extraordinary generation. Here we are, the decline of the Western world, the United States, the Republic facing its greatest crisis since the Civil War, and many Christians are asleep, which is tragic. The scandal of the American church is that this is the one country in the West where Christians are a huge majority but aren’t influential. In other words, not salty, not light bearing. And tiny groups, our Jewish friends are 2% of America, but they punch well above their weight intellectually, financially, in all sorts of ways. Whereas we are a huge majority. We’re more sugar than salt. And that’s a tragedy. And you really understand and express things well.
Carmen: Well that’s high praise coming from you. Because I know you well enough to know that you are already working on the next thing. Would you like to give us a glimpse or whet our appetite?
Os: Well, I was going to turn actually to an apologetic book, but the outline of a big summary on freedom came to me. I’m plucking out my courage and exploring that, both as a summary of the biblical view of freedom, because we who follow Jesus and our Jewish friends, we are the champions and the guardians of views of freedom and justice and human dignity and so on, which the world simply doesn’t have. There was a dreadful case in England in the last month where someone resisting the transgender movement quoted Genesis 1:27, “We’re made in the image and likeness of God,” and the legal founding decision against him said that that was against human dignity. Well that was absolutely ludicrous. Without Genesis 1:27 there would be no human rights, no sense of human dignity. And of course we as followers of Jesus, we’re defenders of these great truths, and so we need to know where we are and where we stand.
Carmen: Amen. Os Guinness, thank you so much for being such a faithful guide in this generation. I’m going to have this be our walk off. Our God. Oh God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come be thou our guide while life shall last in our eternal home. Os Guinness, thanks so much.
Thanks for listening to this podcast of Mornings with Carmen LaBerge from Faith Radio. If you haven’t, you can subscribe to automatically receive the podcast through iTunes or the Google Play Music app. That way you never miss an episode. It’s also available anytime myfaithradio.com.