Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Book Review: Competing Spectacles

Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age. Tony Reinke. 2019. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Never in history have manufactured images formed the ecosystem of our lives. They do now.

In Tony Reinke's newest book he seeks to answer a timely question, "in this age of the spectacle, in this ecosystem of digital pictures and fabricated sights and viral moments competing for our attention, how do we spiritually thrive?"

Reinke defines the word spectacle and clarifies his use of the word for this book. It does have two meanings; but the definition he is using is this one, "a moment of time, of varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event, or moment."

Another definition one might find helpful is attention which he defines as, "the skill of withdrawing from everything to focus on some things, and it is the opposite of the dizziness of the scatterbrained spectacle seeker who cannot attend to anything. Thus, attention determines how we perceive the world around us."

Here's a scary thought to process: "We are creatures shaped by what grabs our attention—and what we give our attention to becomes our objective and subjective reality. We attend to what interests us. We become like what we watch." He also mentions that human attention can be split into nine-second intervals which can lead to our attention being "willingly shattered into a million pieces."

He spends the first half of the book on worldly spectacles--for better or worse. The things that grab our attention and provide endless distractions. The things that shape us because whether we are mindful or mindless of the process we are captivated and consumed by the spectacles around us.

He spends the second half of the book on spiritual spectacles--namely on Jesus Christ our ultimate treasure. If our attention is Christ-centered, if we are captivated by the glory of Christ, then our hearts, minds, souls can be renewed and transformed. We 'become' by 'beholding.'

I liked the first half. I did. I found it relevant. But I really enjoyed the second half. I found it a compelling read. I'd just recently finished John Piper's God Is The Gospel. So I made an almost immediate connection between the two books. Here Reinke is encouraging his readers to see and savor Christ above all.

Reinke writes, "His glory is the centerpiece of our daily spectacle appetites. Into every age of spectacles—from biblical Colossae, to imperial Rome, to Puritan London, to our digital world today—the recelebration and rearticulation of the glory of Christ must be set before us, over and over, and fed to our souls day by day. Christ feeds our faith through words written and proclaimed."

Later he concludes, "We are called to recognize what is worthless and develop personal disciplines to resist the impulse to fill our lives with vain spectacles. The message of the cross tells us that we are free in Christ to live for something greater! We are free to center our lives on him, to enjoy him, and to glorify him by fixing our attention on things above, where we find our superior Spectacle, our greatest treasure."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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