Tony Reinke, Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age (Wheaton: Crossway, 2019)

“In this ecosystem of digital pictures and fabricated sights and viral moments competing for our attention—how do we spiritually thrive?” posits Tony Reinke in the opening chapter of his book, Competing Spectacles. This is a question that all Christians in our media-saturated culture must answer. The digital platform professionally manufactures countless spectacles that are specifically designed to captivate our attention. Although these spectacles are not a new phenomenon, it is especially pertinent for us to consider how best we might navigate these ever-evolving spectacles in our Media Age, so that we are not swayed into unconscious conformity to the world by way of incremental compromise and an inundation of unwise digital consumption. 

To be clear, Reinke isn’t saying that media consumption is inherently immoral, but rather, he is urging readers that a sober self-awareness of one’s own internal inclinations to sin must inform media consumption and self-imposed limits. There are two opposite errors into which we can fall into in this Media Age. One is to embrace some form of legalism by gloating over our rejection of all media as evidence of Christian holiness. The other is to slide into some form of antinomianism by watching anything and everything without caution or discernment. The solution, however, is to enjoy with thanksgiving, the spectacles that are true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy without usurping Christ’s rightful place as the greatest spectacle that our hearts desire (Phil. 4:8). 

This book examines our tendency to behold a multitude of visual spectacles produced in the Media Age, while simultaneously illustrating the necessity to behold the glory of Christ, such that we are transformed into His image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18). Reinke, in his sober analysis and lucid readability, engages our minds to be alert, stirs our hearts to cherish Christ, and activates our will to gaze on the beauty of Christ. The driving force of this book is the amalgamation of Reinke’s forthright tone, theological precision, and the depth of sociological research presented in spectacular brevity. Part one is a broad diagnostic overview of the cultural phenomenon that he seeks to object—that is, the lesser spectacles that reduces life to a multitude of fleeting visual stimuli. In part two, Reinke delineates a superior spectacle: “the great spectacle of Christ crucified”, which is “a spectacle for the ear” (p. 85). In essence, Reinke argues that without the superior vision of the spectacle of Christ, we will continue to seek after vain spectacles that are unable to satiate our heart—for “the eye is not satisfied with seeing” (Eccl. 1:8). 

This book encourages Christians to treasure Christ by enjoying the deep riches of his beauty—and by extension, his creation—instead of buying into the constant urge to settle for the vain spectacles that our culture offers. Readers who are willing to be challenged for a greater affection for the Lord Jesus will find this book challenging, indeed one not to be put down. 

Koh Saito is studying English and History with a Bachelors degree of secondary education at the University of New South Wales. He is also the President of a university ministry called Student Outreach to the World (SOW) at UNSW.