InterVarsity Press (IVP) has reissued Os Guinness’s book, “The Dust of Death,” published in 1973 . I read the book several times as a young pastor back in the early 70’s. Guinness gave me a confident voice in articulating the gospel. As a feeling-intuitive student of culture, I desperately needed a biblically-based analysis of the culture in which I was beginning my ministry.
I spent all of the 60’s receiving my education (Bible school, college and seminary). As a young pastor in the 70’s, “The Dust of Death” came as a breath of fresh air. Guinness gave me spiritual eyes to see how the culture was changing. “Although it wasn’t evident at the time,” notes Guinness, “the 60’s sowed the poison seeds that are producing today’s bitter harvest. The roots of those ideas predate the 60’s, but it was in the 60’s where these ideas became dangerous.” Guinness helped me to avoid those poison seeds.
In his preface to the signature edition, now 50 years later, Guinness said this about the 60’s: “It was the period that shaped the lives, faith, hopes and experiences and horizons of a generation – a generation that in the sixties and early seventies were students, but are now the leaders and gatekeepers of the nations. In one way or another we’re all children of the sixties today, and we need to assess the best and worst of the legacy given us by that decisive decade.” In other words, we need to be aware of the seeds that have been planted in our lives.
Guinness would make only slight changes in his analysis of the 60’s. He acknowledges that he would would use the term “Christian faith” rather than “Christianity.” “The reason,” writes Guinness, “is that the progression from “Christ” to “Christian” to “Christianity” is a movement toward impersonality and abstraction, both ideologically and institutionally.” We are to make the gospel personal.
I praise God that I journeyed through the 60’s and 70’s, being able “to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3). By the mercy of God, I have always tried to put the Lord Jesus first, both in word and in deed. I pray that I will continue to weed out any of the poisonous seeds still remaining. At the end of Revelation, Jesus declares, “Behold, I am coming soon. My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:12). Jesus is the whole story and the real revolution.
One area of hindsight has proved critical, “so much so,” observes Guinness, “that understanding it would make this new preface worth the price of the whole book.” The “long march through the institutions” is seen as “the forward progress of ‘revolutionary faith’ and its dream of world brotherhood, equality, and a politics to end all politics.”
Men, we are in the midst of a cultural revolution. It has been slow and methodical. Back in 1967 German activist Rudi Dutschke wrote, “Revolution is not a short act when something happens once and then everything is different. Revolution is a long and complicated process.” Fifty years later, the long march through the institutions has accomplished a great deal. Guinness believes “America has been bewitched. The great American Republic is in the process of switching revolutions from the American to the French.”
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16). Choose which revolution you will participate in.