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20 Quotes from Tony Reinke’s New Book on Treasuring Christ in the Media Age

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The following quotes caught my attention as I (Ivan Mesa) read Tony Reinke’s fantastic new book, Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in a Media Age (Crossway, 2019).


Visual images awaken the motives in our hearts. Images tug the strings of our actions. Images want our celebration, our awe, our affection, our time, and our outrage. Images invoke our consensus, our approval, our buy-in, our respreading power, and our wallets. . . . Why do we seek spectacles? Because we’re human—hardwired with an unquenchable appetite to see glory. (17–18)

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. (19)

As we watch others watching us, we get caught up in the energy of becoming the star. We become spectators of our digital selves. . . . We become actors before our own phones and the phones of our friends. We modify our self and filter our appearance. And then we become spectators of ourselves, because “each selfie is a performance of a person as they hope to be seen by others.” As blobs, we seek an identity projection that others will celebrate. Our camera-ready culture has changed us. . . . Image is everything, and social media is where we craft the spectacle of ourselves. . . . Our digital self is now editable by endless filters and lenses and bitmojis—a unique plasticity for self- sculpting offered to no other generation in human history. (23–24)

In the tele-visual age, our eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth in godlike omniscience, with endless options offered to us in our handheld phones. (32)

Whenever video technology advances, the pornographer’s profits spike. . . . With an endless buffet of digital pornography for the spectacle-seeking eyes, sexual lust today becomes chains of addiction that cannot be broken, apart from resolute resistance and supernatural power. The proverbial king on his rooftop, with unchecked lure of lustful eyes, has become every man and woman with a moment of leisure and the unchecked curiosity for new pornography. The web offers ten thousand bodies, ready to digitally perform, a harem of Solomonic proportion (times ten!). . . . The smutty pornographer, the risqué ad man, and the naive woman each wield wattage of lust-awakening power with charged fallout that none of them fully understand—grabbing eyes and attention, yes, while also hardening hearts, eroding marriages, objectifying the female body, and impeding the private sanctuary of sexuality necessary for marriages in any culture to endure and thrive. (60, 61–62)

Into the spectacle-loving world, with all of its spectacle makers and spectacle-making industries, came the grandest Spectacle ever devised in the mind of God and brought about in world history—the cross of Christ. It is the hinge of history, the point of contact between BC and AD, where all time collides, where all human spectacles meet one unsurpassed, cosmic, divine spectacle. . . . The supreme spectacle of the cross brings a cosmic collision with the spectacles of this world. And we’re in the middle. I have now been crucified to the world, and the world has been crucified to me. Our response to the ultimate spectacle of the cross of Christ defines us. (77, 79–80)

Christ risen up at Calvary marked the pinnacle spectacle for which all other spectacles in world history will never reach, the preeminent spectacle of divine life and divine love, freely offered to the gawking world. . . . [The] wrath-bearing burden of Christ, invisible to the naked eye, is the truest Spectacle within the Spectacle, a climactic moment in triune history when the full cup of God’s wrath was handed to the precious Son to drink down to the dregs. (80–81)

[T]he cross is the pedagogy of faith, not of sight. At Calvary, “Satan triumphed visibly, but Christ triumphed invisibly.” This is why Bible movies and cinematic recreations of the cross add nothing to the spectacle of the cross and too often take away from it, leaving us with graphic imagery of a man’s defeat and physical torture but deflating the spectacle of its most striking glories—unable to depict for the screen Christ’s divinity or his unique work as atoning priest, wrath-bearing Savior, Passover lamb, crushed servant, Serpent smasher, cosmic warrior, forerunner of the second exodus, and alpha of the new creation. (84–85)

The crucifixion may have looked like a horrific spectacle of a defrocked king, mocked as a powerless and kingdomless fraud. But the true spectacle of the cross and resurrection was a three-day conquest march of Satan and all his powers, a triumphal procession far beyond the scope of anything Rome had ever seen. The cross was not Christ’s defeat but his triumph, his march of victory. (87)

The Christian’s great problem is not Hollywood or Bollywood; it’s the unchecked earthly desires that operate within our fallen selves. The earthly spectacles of lust and material greed feed the earthly desires inside us. The spectacle of the cross is an earthquake that reverberates through our lives and breaks the chains of our earthly spectacle addictions. (89)

The world watches the slandered church as something of a vain curiosity, but in reality the church is a spectacle of her own—a large cast collectively playing the starring role as bride in the human drama for which all of creation was made as a theater to display. (102)

We should watch with awe, but we must never watch naively. The Creator has carved out in every human soul a vast interior room for Christ’s ravishing glory, and we fill this storehouse with worthless trinkets like a hoarder. Every spectacle of human glory attracts glory seekers who are God rejecters, who find in entertainment a spectacle that drives their self-crafting and their self-ambition. The world’s spectacle industry is potent with allurements that can mesmerize the eyes and lead the heart toward a toxic and soul-destroying grasp for fame and wealth. (111)

Idols are forbidden because idols always demand something from us. . . . The expanse of our soul’s cavernous appetite is opened and entered by new images and spectacles that grab our hearts. The human heart bends toward what the eye sees. Today’s image makers fling into the world digital spectacles of sex, wealth, power, and popularity. Those images get inside us, shape us, and form our lives in ways that compete with God’s design for our focus and worship. (118)

Feeding on sinful media will annul your holy affections. Yes. But pampering yourself with a glut of morally neutral media also pillages your affectional zeal. Each of us must learn to preserve higher pleasures by revolting against lesser indulgences. (122)

Overconsuming on amusement drains our soul’s vigor. Just as my time is a zero-sum game, so is my “spiritual energy”—my affections and my bandwidth for awe. (123)

With so much media in our lives, we are perpetually moved by one spectacle, then another, then another. What was maybe once too shockingly immodest, or too intense for the eyes, is now made tolerable in the age of hyper-expiring spectacles. Images come and go in a sensation shower that washes over us. What’s the problem, we might ask? It’s all so cheap. So fleeting. Nothing shocks us. A new module of lust or gore hits and then disappears. We don’t need spectacles to last beyond the shocking thrill. We don’t ask them to linger. New spectacles are surely headed our way already. . . . [W]hen we ignore a spectacle, we unplug its power. Digital spectacles share this trait with ancient handheld figurines of wood and silver. In themselves, they are powerless objects, void of meaning—until their worshipers invest them with redemptive hope, at which point they animate into an idol with demonic potency behind them and divine condemnation against them. (125–26)

[I]n a culture where relevance is measured by timely spectacle consumption, the spectacle of Christ’s death has severed forever our bondage to the world’s spectacle industry, this premier bondage of Satan. . . . While Christ is the supreme Spectacle, and we find a lifetime of his glory to be discovered in Scripture, he’s not the only divine spectacle. The local church is where we go to find the Lord’s Table and baptism and the preaching of the Word, where those repeated spectacles call us again and again for a response of worship and repentance and joy. And we should put ourselves often before God’s spectacles in creation. Creation spectacles also demand a response, for our worship and awe and gratitude to the Creator in the face of his awesome power and majesty. (133, 137)

We are called to recognize what is worthless and develop personal disciplines to resist the impulse to fill our lives with vain spectacles. In sum, all my concerns are dwarfed by this one: boredom with Christ. 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. . . . [S]pectacles taken in unwisely will make our hearts cold, sluggish, and dull to unseen eternal delights. (143)

The Christian’s high calling is to guard the heart and its loves and desires. The worst trade in the universe is playing in the shallow pools of the world’s spectacles instead of diving deep for the treasure of eternal worth. . . . The Christian’s battle in this media age can be won only by the expulsive power of a superior Spectacle. Christ is our safety and our guide in the age of competing spectacles, the age of social media. He is our only hope in life and death, in the age to come, and in this media age. (145)

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. Looking past the scintillating sights that consume this ocularcentric world, we hope for the Spectacle that we now can only see in glances and glimmers but one day will see in the splendor of his fully transfigured form, in full sight before our eyes. (154)

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