“Dr. Guinness is a skilled tour master, pointing out to us the byways and highways along the journey through our times “
Dr.Os Guinness is a national treasure.
He calls himself an author and social critic. He certainly is. But that’s too modest. He’s also a philosopher, theologian, historian, and more. Few writers and thinkers in the last thirty years have so accurately detailed the dilemmas of modernity in this twenty-first century. Fewer still have done so in the straight-forward, conversational writing style that doesn’t bury truths under a mountain of words.
Dr. Guinness is a skilled tour master, pointing out to us the byways and highways along the journey through our times that connect one piece to another, or one thought or action to another. And, Dr. Guinness always references us back to the Master Plan, informing us where a turn was overlooked. A road not explored. Or, a life spent without living.
Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the Times (Carpe Diem is Latin for “seize the day.”) is the thirtieth-odd book by Dr. Guinness, published in September 2019. I stuck it on the “too read” list and only now managed to push it to the top.
However, it happens that was neither chance nor coincidence. A microscopic invading RNA strand and the shocking swiftness of catastrophe around us create the perfect introduction for this book.
The Wuhan COVID-19 crisis is gripping the planet and driving both the U.S. and world economies to the point of collapse. Untold millions of people are desperate – desperate for security, for understanding, for purpose, for hope, for inspiration, for certainty. None of which can be provided by a government, a relationship, a family, or even a church community.
The circumstances of the crisis awaken the truth that our time is measured by something beyond ourselves, which we can neither grasp nor control. We can’t create more or less of it, nor can we bend its path that will meet us at our last breath in this life.
The question becomes, how will we live, what will we live for, as we fill those days, years, or decades?
First, Dr. Guinness reminds us that we are here as a single flame in a bonfire, briefly reaching ever higher until retreating and then disappearing within a moment. He takes us on an inventory of time, the very force that drives the imperative of Carpe Diem.
“Time is at the heart of existence,” writes Dr. Guinness as he introduces us to the three historical views on time. In Eastern religions, there is the cyclical view of time, that goes beyond the cycles of nature we can observe, an “ever moving wheel.” In secularist “faiths,” time is chronological, linear, and covenantal, yet without God or eternity. “[If] cyclical time view[s] eternity within time, [the secularist] view[s] time without eternity at all.”
Dr. Guinness offers a treatment of the covenantal view of time that is both a refresher and advanced instruction on the Biblical distinction of time, and our ultimate purpose because of that. “[The Abrahamic] family of faiths does not claim to be an understanding of the system from within the system,” he observes. It is the result of Biblical revelation, not human reflection.
He explores the importance of this in the context of our response. “The truth behind this truth is this sovereign freedom of God and the fact that human beings, created in the image and the likeness of God, are also free.”
Space doesn’t permit, but Os Guinness is at his finest here with the contrast and the truths that tell us that time and history and human freedom have meaning, and that we have a unique and significant part to play. They command the present, all that we have for sure. Also, he informs this Christian about the Sabbath and its essential place in the present.
Dr. Guinness takes the reader on a fascinating examination of the tyranny of modern time organized around the clock and its demands for precision, coordination, and the resultant pressure applied to the individual life. He scrutinizes the contemporary political constructs, laying out how they interact with the truths of time and how their promise of progress works against them. What is progress? And if it is so valuable, why?
Carpe Diem is slim at 170 pages, well-written, thoughtful, and sweetly reflective in places. The reason we must “seize the day” Dr. Guinness states is “sharply different from the direction to which most people take the ideal – toward the selfish, the short term, and the purely spontaneous. There is no surer foundation, no stronger propulsion, and no more soaring vision of carpe diem that within the biblical or covenantal view of time.”
Dr. Guinness doesn’t leave us without a map for the practical application of how we “do” Carpe Diem: walk before God, read the signs of the times, and serve God’s purpose in your generation. He lays out all three in wonderful detail. He finishes this new book by looking at faith in the modern era, and how the church is functioning and what drives it if it isn’t a passion for seizing the day.
I do Carpe Diem no justice in this short review. It’s an encouraging and inspiring read that reconfigures how we look at our lives and our culture and our faith. If you’re ready to seize the day, to rejigger, your walk with God, and to see a bigger purpose for your life; then Os Guinness offers just the battery jump you need.