Wednesday, March 18, 2015

[Opinion] The Global Charter of Conscience

Os Guinness

1. I have been thinking about the relation between my Christian faith and Chinese religions and have been looking at ways to relate them.

In this regard, I am presently reading the books of two authors who have done serious thinking in this area.

One is the Swiss theologian Hans Kung and the other is the British Evangelical Os Guinness.

2. Of the 10 to 15 books that have a formative influence on me is Os Guinness's The Dust of Death (1973).

I read The Dust of Death (1973) in the late 1970s and this book made sense of the counter-cultures of the 1960s and the 1970s for me.

When I read The Dust of Death (1973), my heart wept for the hippie, the LSD and the flower generation that were searching for meaning in life but could not found it.

Like his mentor at that time Francis Schaeffer, Os Guinness has a sensitive soul.

But I have lost track of Os Guinness's writings for many years and have only recently rediscovered him.

3. ("Os Guinness", Wikipedia):

"Born in China, he is the great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer. He was a witness to the climax of the Chinese revolution in 1949, and returned to England in 1951, where he went to school and college. He received a B.D. (honours) from University of London in 1966 and a D.Phil from Oriel College, Oxford in 1981."

"In the late 1960s, he was a leader at L'Abri, and after Oxford a freelance reporter for the BBC. In 1984 Guinness went to the United States, where he was first a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and then a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the lead drafter of the Williamsburg Charter, celebrating the genius of the First Amendment and setting out the signers' vision of a civil public square. He was also the primary drafter of 'The Global Charter of Conscience,' published at the European Union Parliament in Brussels in June 2012. He founded the Trinity Forum in 1991, and served as Senior Fellow until 2004. Guinness has written or edited 30 books. He currently lives in McLean, Virginia with his wife Jenny."

4. Os Guinness is the primary drafter of The Global Charter of Conscience (2012).

(The Global Charter of Conscience (2012) is available for download:

The Global Charter of Conscience (2012) is a document of 29 Articles in 14 pages.

There are many things to like about this document but I will just name three:

(a) ("Article 2 - Birthright of Belonging", The Global Charter of Conscience):

" ... Freedom of conscience is the right of believers, not beliefs, and a protection for human beings rather than ideas."

Just yesterday, BBC News carry an item (BBC News 2015):

"A New Zealander and two Burmese men have been found guilty of insulting religion in Myanmar over a poster promoting a drinks event depicting Buddha with headphones."

Apparently, Myanmar's law and judges do not understand that it is human beings rather than ideas that are protected.

(b) ("Article 15 - Differences Irreducible", The Global Charter of Conscience):

"Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion means there is a beneficial value but a definite limitation to the approach that seeks unity and resolution through dialogue and co-operation between religions and worldviews. In the end, the decisive differences between the world's ultimate beliefs are ultimate and irreducible - and these differences are crucial for both individuals and societies and civilizations. This realistic recognition of the limits of dialogue is rooted in the constraints caused by deep commitments to truth claims. Religious freedom is the freedom to be faithful to the faiths in which individuals and communities believe on the basis of the dictates of conscience."

I very much appreciate that the Charter does not sacrifice truth for harmony.

Hans Kung, in his attempt to dialogue with Judaism, has watered down the doctrines of the Trinity and of the two natures of Christ to such an extent that what is left is not orthodox Christianity anymore. (cf. Kung 1992, Part Two.B chapter VI)

(c) ("Article 25 - Claim to Universality", The Global Charter of Conscience):

"The Global Charter of Conscience asserts its claim to universality in terms of its scope, though not its observance. It is universal in that it is grounded in the dignity and equality of all human beings, and it is addressed to all the citizens of the world, on behalf of all the rights-respecting citizens of today's world. We make this declaration with the full realization that to speak from nowhere is impossible, and to speak from everywhere is incoherent. We speak from somewhere, and in our own time, but with the sure confidence that these declarations, agreed on by people of many traditions and perspectives, are universal affirmations that speak to and for all human beings across all continents and all centuries - even to those who now resist the equality and universality of human rights."

The current power in Beijing, in order to control the Chinese people, has labelled universal human rights as western values that do not apply in China.

5. Besides being a public intellectual who writes books, Os Guinness is also a very good speaker.

For an introduction to his speaking style, please try watching the following YouTube video titled "A Free People's Suicide":


BBC News. 2015. Myanmar court finds trio guilty of insulting religion. BBC News Asia, March 17.
(accessed 2015-03-18).

Guinness, Os. 1973. The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Establishment and the Counter Culture and the Proposal for a Third Way. Downer's Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Kung, Hans. 1992. Judaism: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow. New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company.

"Os Guinness", Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia,
(accessed 2015-03-18).