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The Global Public Square: Religious Freedom and the Making of a World Safe for Diversity Paperback – August 1, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books (August 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830837671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830837670
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"One of the foremost religious-liberty thinkers of our time, Os Guinness sets a soaring goal for this book: establishing a vision of religious freedom ('soul freedom') that accommodates competing truth claims about who man is and why he exists, guarantees freedom and justice, and builds stability amidst a fragile world order. Guinness succeeds magnificently. This book should be required reading for the secularist and the theocrat alike. Its Global Charter of Conscience is a blueprint for all the peoples of the world—both in the West and beyond—struggling to achieve for themselves just and lasting regimes of ordered liberty." (Thomas F. Farr, director, The Religious Freedom Project, Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs)

"For a generation now, Os Guinness has stood as one of our most consistently prophetic voices. In this latest book he returns to a lifelong concern: the precarious status of religious liberty in a fractured world. Drawing on a breadth of insights from history, philosophy, sociology and theology, Guinness makes a compelling case for the primacy of 'soul freedom' as the only enduring foundation for securing peace and human flourishing in our fractious era of unprecedented pluralism. And he does so in his inimitable way, with passion, eloquence and civility. It is a challenging yet ultimately hopeful message that demands to be heard, and to be acted upon." (William Inboden, University of Texas-Austin, former senior director, National Security Council, the White House)

"Os Guinness consistently tackles salient and difficult issues and, while giving due recognition to their complexity, analyzes them in clear argument and expounds them in lucid prose. In The Global Public Square, he does so again. Contemporary problems of diversity and religious freedom are massive, urgent and growing, but our deep differences are seldom addressed in other than a shallow way. This short but wide-ranging and eloquent defense of freedom of religion and conscience, and civility and plurality—which the author summarizes as 'soul freedom'—provides much-needed insight and guidance in our common future." (Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and coauthor of Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide)

"This is a closely reasoned and eloquent defense of religious freedom (Guinness calls it 'soul freedom,' because it refers to the rights of secularists as well as people of faith). This is not just one right among many, but a fundamental right rooted in the dignity of every human being. But it is also a right essential to the maintenance of a public space in which people with widely diverse worldviews can live together with civility. This is a book that should be read by everyone concerned with freedom of conscience, not only in the face of murderous persecution as still exists in many places, but also with the more subtle threats by political orthodoxies in Western democracies." (Peter L. Berger, professor emeritus, Boston University)

"Os Guinness is a prolific writer and commentator and in his latest book he also takes on the mantle of prophet, a point noted by William Inboden in his support for the book. Indeed, Guinness issues a powerful prophetic statement: that the freedom of conscience, belief, religion and thought on which modern democracies and international human rights covenants are built are increasingly being eroded, if not destroyed, and that it is in the interests of both the religious and non-religious to protect those vital freedoms. This effort is a massive undertaking for any group of people willing to operate in the media-driven, hate-filled alarmist culture wars, let alone the often-violent relationships between religious, ethnic, and political identities prevalent throughout the world. But we should make no mistake, Guinness argues; all interested in justice and human dignity must explicitly protect these freedoms. This is an important book and it makes a vital contribution to the field. It is characterized by Guinness' deep concern for civility that runs along that sharp edge between liberal and conservative, religious and secular." (Nicholas Kerton-Johnson, Christian Scholar's Review, Summer 2014)

About the Author

Os Guinness (DPhil, Oxford) is the author or editor of more than thirty books, including Renaissance, The Global Public Square, A Free People's Suicide, Unspeakable, The Call, Time for Truth and The Case for Civility. A frequent speaker and prominent social critic, he has addressed audiences worldwide from the British House of Commons to the U.S. Congress to the St. Petersburg Parliament. He founded the Trinity Forum and served as senior fellow there for fifteen years. Born in China to missionary parents, he is the great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer. After witnessing the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, he was expelled with many other foreigners in 1951 and returned to England where he was educated and served as a freelance reporter with the BBC. Since coming to the U.S. in 1984, he has been a guest scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the lead drafter of the Williamsburg Charter, celebrating the First Amendment, and has also been senior fellow at the EastWest Institute in New York, where he drafted the Charter for Religious Freedom. He also co-authored the public school curriculum Living With Our Deepest Differences. Guinness has had a lifelong passion to make sense of our extraordinary modern world and to stand between the worlds of scholarship and ordinary life, helping each to understand the other—particularly when advanced modern life touches on the profound issues of faith. He lives with his wife Jenny in McLean, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In years past I had a major presence in that segment of Evangelicalism devoted to apologetic confrontation with new religions ("cults") and certain world religions. After undergoing a paradigm shift I moved away from this type of understanding and way of engagement, and in more recent years have been involved in interreligious encounters that, while not compromising my convictions, are more civil and diplomatic. This has included personal friendships and interactions with people across a religious spectrum, from Mormons to Pagans, Muslims, and atheists. This personal journey of life and faith provides me with the perspective that I bring to my review of Os Guinness' new volume, The Global Public Square.

This book addresses a pressing challenge to everyone in our postmodern, post-9/11 world. Guinness summarizes the questions succinctly in the book's opening pages:

"How do we live with our deepest differences, especially when those differences are religious and ideological, and very especially when those differences concern matters of our common public life? In short, how do we create a global public square and make the world safer for diversity?"(13)

Guinness is not the first one to raise such important questions, but as an Evangelical, his willingness to address them and provide the responsive proposal that he does is rare. Evangelicals have shown more interest in evangelism and apologetics as ways of engagement, in proclaiming and defending our faith and its subcultural boundaries than we have in tackling the pressing matters of religious and ideological difference with concerns for civility and diversity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Thomas A Wiebe on August 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book oscillates between a Utopian call for a universal human rights and a sectarian application of those rights, as if the author was of two minds, wrestling with the views of Roger Williams and James Dobson.

- "No fish caught in any river or ocean was ever gutted with such clinical efficiency as these [gay] activists are intent on gutting freedom of thought and conscience now." (page 117) -

Perhaps it is most instructive to treat the book as an actual exercise in global soul freedom. As such, it reveals an admirable goal to extend human freedoms and some skill at making an argument for it. It also serves to underscore that, when the very advocates of soul freedom struggle to live up to the rules they themselves propose, while in the process of proposing those rules, we still have a long way to go to achieve a universal freedom of conscience.

The book's strengths are its clear and admirable formulation of the global right for the exercise of individual conscience, its description of some of the worst international violations of soul freedom, and some thoughtful suggestions for means to extend the global public square.

Its weaknesses are its lack of careful consideration of the limits of universal rights, its sectarian and exaggerated arguments, and its choice to place its main emphasis on the U.S., Britain and Europe, relatively healthy in their soul freedom.

There were a number of lucid passages describing the historical development of today's freedom of conscience.
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Part way through I decided that it wasn't worth finishing. The premise is promising, arguing for freedom of discourse, religion, and conscience, regardless of religion or no religion at all. He acknowledges some of the excesses done in the name of religion. He states that freedom of religion and belief "is absolute at the point of belief but qualified at the point of behavior."

In spite of the promising foundation, he spends too much time arguing that the United States (and Europe) is controlled by secularists who trample on religious freedom. This is supported by anecdotes which often reflect fringe elements or stereotypes. A frequent target is universities/professors as well as gays. In his condemnation of the ACA for including contraception, he takes a gratuitous swipe at the "LGBT lobby," though why he thinks gays would set that as a priority is a mystery. He completely ignores that the American health care system is largely employer-based, contrary to much of the world, and a single payor system would take companies out of the role of deciding who gets what kind of benefit.

Of greater concern are statements where be bemoans the loss of religion as the foundation of human rights, and says “Every desire morphs into a right” …“The more rights we promote, the less they will mean.” He cautions that we risk turning into "Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, or Mao's China." It is alarming that the author chooses to equate that kind of tyranny to the absence of a religiously based society. Keeping rights to a manageable minimum sounds more like a formula for tyranny. The book will get head nods from those who see themselves as victims in a culture war, but doesn't add much substantive to how to peacefully coexist.
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More About the Author

OS GUINNESS (DPhil, Oxford University) is an author and social critic. Born in China, he was educated in England at the Universities of London and Oxford. He moved to the United States in 1984, and has been a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the lead drafter of both the Williamsburg Charter and the Global Carter of Conscience, as well as the founder of the Trinity Forum. He has written more than 25 books, including The Call, The American Hour, Time for Truth, Unspeakable, The Case for Civility, A Free People's Suicide, and his latest: The Global Public Square. He lives with his wife Jenny in McLean, Virginia..