Few things are more ubiquitous or more divisive than popular culture. That said, what is it, and why should Christians worry about it or even have anything to do with it? Ted Turnau, a Christian teacher and thinker who lives in the Czech Republic, believes not only that Christians should think about pop culture, but that we should use it as a way to present the Gospel to our friends and family.
This is no easy task, but Popologetics is a very helpful training manual to help readers learn to identify pop culture, think about it from a Christian perspective, and use it as part of a robust apologetic method. After all, Turnau points out, there is basically no one living in a Western country today that isn't deeply affected by pop culture. We can't run from it, so we'd better engage it.
And it's not all bad. There's plenty of stuff we should steer clear of, for sure, and there's no pop cultural text (whether it be a video game, comic book, novel, movie, anime show, song, social networking site, etc.) that doesn't have at least some bad elements, but most of them also have some good elements.
Popologetics (a combination of "popular" and "apologetics") involves identifying the bad elements and subverting them, and using the good elements as a springboard for talking about the Gospel. Subverting the bad elements means using them to show how the worldview assumed by the author is inconsistent and in fact relies on biblical truths for its very existence; using the good elements as a springboard to the Gospel means just what it sounds like.
Those familiar with presuppositional and covenantal apologetics, the method developed most thoroughly by Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen, will recognize the basics of the transcendental argument here, and Turnau is open about this influence. In fact, the entire book is largely structured along presuppositional lines.
The first section of Popologetics is mostly theological. Turnau presents his own theology of creation, human nature, common grace, pop culture, and many points in between (Turnau is Reformed). Theology of popular culture? Certainly—there is a theological way to think about anything, and since pop culture is so pervasive there is a great need for a reasoned Christian approach to it.
In the second section, Turnau looks at a variety of Christian approaches to pop culture that he finds unhelpful, and in some cases even dangerous. These range from those who think there's no reason to think about pop culture, those who prefer high culture and look with disdain on its "lesser" cousin, and those who uncritically embrace all things pop cultural in the name of postmodern diversity and openness. This section will be a bit tedious for some, but it is an essential part of Turnau's message.
The third and final section takes a long, serious look at Turnau's own approach to pop culture reading and response. He applies the presuppositional and transcendental approach in language anyone can understand, though aspects of his arguments will require special concentration.
He ends by applying this method to five pop cultural texts: the Eagles song "Heartbreak Tonight," the documentary film Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog, the manga/anime series One Piece, the cartoon family film Kung Fu Panda, and Twitter. This is extremely helpful, and the one thing lacking in many books about apologetics.
This book is for every Christian. We can't afford not to think about pop culture for two reasons: we are all affected by it and Christ calls us to take every thought captive, and we are surrounded by people who are affected by it and who need the Gospel clearly articulated to them. What better way than to use the pop culture texts with which they're already familiar?
At the risk of sounding redundant and overly enthusiastic, Popologetics is essential reading in our pop culture saturated society, with its emphasis on entertainment, technology, and even mere spectacle and sound. Turnau will help you think as a Christian about these issues, guide you toward sharing your faith through them, and ultimately encourage you toward the end goal of all Christian endeavor: worship of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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