Dining with the Devil by Os Guinness

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Dining with the Devil is not about the spiritual warfare movement, as some might assume, but rather deals with the megachurch movement as it “flirts with modernity”, as Os Guinness, the author, puts it. Guinness is very concerned about where the megachurch craze is taking the church, or rather how it is reshaping the church. Guinness is an intellectual (I am not quite sure who decides these things, but Os probably “are” one) and as such he is concerned not so much with the surface issues as with the history and foundation that undergirds the megachurches of America. He implies, from the title on, that this movement may be drawing more from the devil than from the Lord. An early quote says it well, “He who sups with the devil had better have a long spoon” (I love that kind of stuff, even when I am not certain what he means). This leads me to the weakness of the book — it is too general. Os does not want to deal with particulars; he is content with the philosophical issues. But until you name names, quote sources, and give particular examples, it is hard to tell sometimes how the philosophical relates to the practical.

Nevertheless, Dining with the Devil contains some great thoughts to ponder, such as:

1) “The early nineteenth-century change is a particularly important precedent because it was not so much from Calvinism to Arminianism as from theology to experience, from truth to technique, from elites to populism, and from an emphasis on ‘serving God’ to an emphasis on ‘servicing the self’ in serving God” (p27). (That comment tells us volumes about why Christianity is where it is today.)

2) “The problem is not that Christians have disappeared, but that Christian faith has become so deformed. Under the influence of modernity, we modern Christian are literally capable of winning the world while losing our own souls” (p43).

3) Guinness claims that the church-growth movement philosophy can be summed up in this all but canonical statement: “It is also critical that we keep in mind a fundamental principle of Christian communication: the audience, not the message, is sovereign” (p59).

4) “The Megachurches’ entire law, as one proponent puts it, is summed up in their two great commandments: ‘Find a need and meet it, find a hurt and heal it'” (p64).

Guinness saved the best stuff for the end of his book. There he borrows a short story from none other than Nathaniel Hawthorne entitled “The Celestial Rail-road.” This is an absolutely incredible sequel to Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress in which the hardships of Christian’s journey to the Celestial City have been modernized. The pilgrim now takes a comfortable railroad ride with all the difficulties removed, and all of the characters transformed. It is a warning to modern believers that needs to be sounded today. You must read this story — where has it been all my life!

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