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Wed, 16 Jan 2013 - 1:14 PM CST

Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective

Ted Turnau (P&R Publishing, 368 pp., paperback)

According to Ted Turnau, in the last 100 years, pop culture has emerged as perhaps the most significant influencer of worldview and values in the West. Yet studying pop culture often leads to conflict. The problems often arise from different views of pop culture, interpretation of Scripture, and the interaction between the two. In Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective, Turnau discusses how Christians should engage non-Christian popular culture.

Part one lays the groundwork by defining popular culture and worldview, examining their interaction, engaging apologetics, and providing a biblical theology applied to pop culture of creation, fall, and redemption. Although Turnau’s theory includes a Calvinistic view utilizing common grace, this ideology does not overly influence the practical applications presented later in the book.

Part two critiques five Christian responses to popular culture: nonresponse, moral rejection, we’re-above-all-that, imagophobia, and postmodern theological thought. Turnau believes, “These approaches oversimplify the nature of pop culture; they tend to gloss over the messy complexity that is popular culture.” 

Turnau provides a framework for processing pop culture and applying the gospel, broadly defined as the doorway into everything made new. “The way to resist responding to the pattern of this world is by engaging and wrestling with the voices, images, and stories that make up the pattern of this world. You need to read and respond to them with a Spirit-guided, Christian-critical imagination.”

In part three, Turnau does not prescribe a one-size-fits-all perspective on pop culture. He proposes five diagnostic questions, or steps to thinking about a particular piece of pop culture.

1. What’s the story?

2. Where am I (the world of the text)?

3. What’s good and true and beautiful about it?

4. What’s false and ugly and perverse about it (and how do I subvert that)?

5. How does the gospel apply here?

These five questions form the Christian-critical imagination. Turnau demonstrates the process with examples from movies, music, anime, and even Twitter.

Finally, Popologetics provides a lens of pop culture as a mission field. Popular culture apologetics can build bridges and produce a “renewed appreciation of the gospel among those who have been estranged from it.” Cultural cheerleaders, cultural critics, and those living in the tension between the two can all find a framework to evaluate the pervasive influence of pop culture in light of Scripture.

Reviewed by Steve Pulis, national Student Outreach and Youth Alive Director, Springfield, Missouri.

 


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