Book Review by Michael Goforth II:
“How can Christians thrive in this spectacle-saturated digital age?”
That is the question Tony Reinke attempts to answer in his newest book, Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age.
To answer this, Reinke uses 33 chapters that are short and to the point, with each one packing a punch.
The book is divided into two parts with section one entitled, “The Age of the Spectacle.” Here he introduces the topic of the book and surveys the current digital landscape. He discusses topics like social media, video games, television, politics, and more. Critical to understanding this section, and the rest of the book, is his use of the word spectacle. He defines it this way, “A spectacle is something that captures human attention, an instant when our eyes and brains focus and fixate on something projected at us.”
In part two, simply labeled “The Spectacle,” Reinke brings out some of the implications of our digital age, and makes some observations on how to navigate it as a Christian. Towards the end of this section, he gives some practical suggestions and then narrows in on what he calls his “supreme concern.” This is how he summarizes it, “In sum, all my concerns are dwarfed by this one: boredom with Christ.”
Since I only have one critique, I’ll air it out early. I wasn’t a huge fan of the flow of this book. Normally I enjoy books with shorter chapters because I can knock out a chapter each time I read and quickly scan them later for information. However, there were times while reading this book that I felt like I was lost in traffic. Each chapter was good, but they didn’t always seem to connect in a coherent way.
That being said, Reinke does call this book a, “theology of visual culture.” So it may have been his purpose to write this as sort of a collection of topics with a central theme and focus. Prospective readers may find it helpful if they slow down after each chapter to pause and reflect before moving on. Either way, the structure of the book in no way detracts from its vital message.
While it will be impossible to highlight all of them here, to the positives I now turn.
In this “age of the spectacle” this “ecosystem of digital pictures and fabricated sights and viral moments competing for our attention,” Christians need a wake up call. And Reinke does an excellent job attempting to sound that alarm.
He warns, “In the digital age, monotony with Christ is the chief warning signal to alert us that the spectacles of this world are suffocating our hearts from the supreme Spectacle of the universe.”
As I read, I felt an urgency in Reinke’s words. He’s burdened and concerned. He doesn’t want our glowing screens to distract us from the glory of Christ.
Like a lighthouse in the night, he shines a bright light on the catastrophic dangers of our age and attempts to guide the Christian to safety.
Competing Spectacles contains warnings that Christians everywhere need to hear, but it is not just a collection of warnings. Thankfully, the book offered biblical solutions as well. While reading, you may find yourself discouraged, but Reinke will not leave you hopeless.
He says, “When we turn our attention to Christ—our ultimate Spectacle—all the flickering pixels of our culture’s worthless things and beloved idols grow strangely dim.”
This solution is not original with Reinke, it’s from Scripture. And that’s exactly why it is so effective.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18 the Apostle Paul teaches that we become like Christ by beholding Christ.
When we gaze at the glory of the Lord, perfectly displayed to us in Christ, we start to change. Our hearts become captivated by the beauty, the splendor, and the majesty of Jesus. We’re amazed by His love, His mercy, and His grace as we behold Him. And even though we may not notice it right away, the Holy Spirit is working a miracle on the inside.
Reinke puts it this way, “As we feed on Christ, his glory satisfies our hearts as it enlarges our desires for more of him.”
So be sure to read Competing Spectacles, but don’t stop there. Pick up your Bible and gaze at the glory of Christ. Fix your eyes on Jesus, and treasure Him above all else, even in this media age.
Crossway provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through the Blog Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. To purchase a copy, or learn more about this book, click here.