"Carpe Diem Redeemed" by Os Guinness. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
On the other side of mid-life I am feeling time racing by me like a bullet train into the sunset. I think of it regularly. I’ve already spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and retired, and now I’ve spent 20 years in Christian ministry, and my head is reeling a bit from the speed of it all! In many ways Os Guinness, prolific author, insightful social diagnostician, and one-time guest scholar and senior fellow of numerous institutions, has provided the public a valuable and venerable dossier built from his experiences and perceptions. “Carpe Diem Redeemed: Seizing the Day, Discerning the times” is a 176 page sobering hardback reminding readers that each of our lives is short and, realistically, will barely make a ripple in the cosmic pond. Further, that the sun doesn’t rise or set around our star. And yet, in spite of the brevity, we have the opportunity to do our part; “we humans are significant agents for either good or ill. Thus those who respond to God’s call, who come to know him and walk with him, become entrepreneurial partners with him in advancing his purposes in the world” (34). Written simply and sincerely, it is readable by anyone who will plunge into it’s depth.
Guinness takes up the task of deciphering what “carpe diem” should mean for men, women, girls and boys of all walks of life. Instead of being a motto for self-centeredness, or a meaningless mantra for absurdity, it is a valuable perspective for Christians. That “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” (9). The author, without mentioning it, is filling in the Apostle’s injunction, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5.15-17). One important healthy way this manifests itself is by truth “well-lived“ which “outweighs both a truth well-stated and a truth well-argued” (79). How important that thought is! Instead of fighting, scratching and clawing to win virtual debates and sound-byte skirmishes, come to recognize that life is short and the better approach is to actually reach a hand out to help a flesh-and-blood neighbor; to take a home-cooked meal to an acquaintance who has just returned from the hospital after her latest chemo session; to give a few moments a week aiding a local food bank; and the list could go on.
One of the other values of “Carpe Diem Redeemed” is how Guinness maps out the three major views of time. The eastern, cyclical view sees all time revolving unendingly in a circular fashion and the only hope is to escape. There is also the strictly modernist linear perspective, that all time progresses on without any meaning other than that which humans fabricate to sooth their angst. But then there is the covenantal outlook that sees how God began it all with a goal, how he guides time and creation and people toward that objective, and will bring all to their telos, their purposeful end. To have this final view of time becomes liberating and purpose-filling. I especially appreciated his unpacking of Sabbath and sabbaticals, their value, and how embracing these keeps us free of becoming modernity’s “time slaves” (39-40).
The sagacity between the covers of this book is rich; and in view of a quick and brief life, it is deeply wisening! As Guinness dealt with time and our place in it, he mentions how we handle the past: remembering the past with clearheadedness, keeping the door of forgiveness open so that our past (personally, socially, nationally, ethnically) does not tyrannically rule our present or future. That we then can be liberated from playing the more-victimized-than-thou card. For those “who perceive themselves as victims and respond by portraying themselves as victims end by paralyzing themselves as victims” because those who seek “to use the past as an instrument of power” causes them to “remain prisoners in their past and never become free...they become prisoners of their resentment” (92). Poignant and perceptive at several levels!
“Carpe Diem Redeemed” is a valuable book, and important in the face of each of our transient lives. Preacher, pastors and parishioners should run out and snag a copy quickly. It would be ideal for book reading groups, and personal reflection. I highly and happily recommend this volume. Seize the day and seize a copy!
My grateful appreciation that IVP was willing to send me a copy, at my request, used for this review. The publisher made no demands on me, and gave me no ultimatums. Ergo, all analysis In this short report is mine, freely penned and happily given.
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