apologetics, gospel, popologetics No Comments

Ted Turnau has written a book titled, Popologetics.  Turnau develops a method for analyzing our current culture and evaluating it from a Christian Worldview.  He defines popologetics as the “use of the imagination and intellect to critically engage popular culture in order to open a way of worship of the true God.”  Turnau suggests five questions to ask about a piece of popular culture.  The goal is to be able to discern between the good and the evil present in popular culture and to hold to that which is good while rejecting the evil.  Here are the five questions.
What’s the Story?
Popular culture comes to us in many different stories.  What is the overall narrative?  If we were to ask this question about the Bible, we would be able to answer that the Bible is the story of the redemption of mankind through Jesus Christ.  Every book in the Bible relates some aspect of this story.  The overall narrative is called a metanarrative.  Politicians attempt to develop  a story or metanarrative about war, climate change, immigration, etc.  Fascination with celebrity lifestyles is driven by our addiction to story.  Movies, television shows, books, songs, etc. tell stories.  The object is the discover the overall story presented in these various forms of popculture.  In order to do this, we must break down the story into its constituent elements.  Summarize the plot.  Isolate the different elements that make up the story:  main characters, major conflicts, and plot points.  Look for the main theme.  Consider the main character.  Does he/she attain his/her goal?  Look for broad themes.  Look at the structure of the story: the setting, the narrator’s point of view, prominent symbols, and repeated motifs. The overall goal is to be able to give a solid interpretation of the story.
Where Am I?
Examine the world of the text.  The worlds depicted by popular culture are ways of seeing reality.  Popcultural texts proposition our imaginations, displaying to the imagination different ways of seeing the world and of seeing ourselves.  We interpret our own lives through the metanarratives that we come to accept.  So, our own worldview is shaped by them.  The story is shaped by style.  Style involves some type of medium: music (gets under your skin and haunts your memory); cinema (embraces us.  We are sucked into the story); novels (embraced in a different way–through imagination–we supply the images); television (intimate worlds and very personal); computer (interactive and immersive).  The story is guided by conventions.  Conventions are time-honored rules and expectations that guide how the story is told.  How fast and lose does the author play with the rules?  You can go against the rules or you can go with the rules.  Here are some questions to ask:  What counts as good or evil in this world?  What is beautiful in this world?  What makes relationships work or fail?  Where is God?  What is worshiped?  What makes life worth living?  We need to pay particular attention to the texture of the worldview.  It is here that our own worldview intersects with the worldview of the popular culture event.  Every experience shapes us in some way.
What is Good and True?
The third question focuses on what is good in the popular culture event.  There will be moments when good and beauty shine forth in popular culture.  Those who make culture also bear the image of God (are created by God in His image).  Some truth will come forth.  In the world of popular culture, there will always be a mixture of good and evil.  We may have to look hard to find what is good.
What is False and Evil?
The fourth question forces us to probe popular culture events and discover what is evil or idolatrous.  Where does popular culture lie about the truth?  A good knowledge of the truth/scriptures is indispensable to discovery of error or evil.  The Christian Worldview is established by God’s Word.  God’s Word gives us an objective means to analyze the different aspects of popular culture.  We must prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.  At the same time, we must abstain from every form of evil (I Thess. 5:21-22).  Satan transforms himself into an “angel of light” (II Cor. 11:14).  Can you detect the “angel of light” that is really Satan in disguise?  Some questions to ask:  What does “salvation” look like in this story?  Is it all about getting the girl?  or, getting rich?  What isn’t portrayed as sin that God says is sin?  Satan is a parasite.  He takes the good and distorts it. He represents the good and then lies about it.  This is the classic bait and switch.  Idolatry sells.  Idolatry seduces and tempts.  Idolatry appeals to the flesh.  Beauty and sex are both gifts from God, but Satan corrupts both through pornography.  Making money into a god that you live for will pierce you through with many sorrows.  Romance and sex without commitment and authentic love (agape) in marriage is another distortion.
How Does the Gospel Apply?
The final question focuses on the gospel.  The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).  A biblical perspective responds to popular culture by providing exposure and giving answers.  True love, reconciliation, contentment, security, justice, family and forgiveness are defined by and found in the gospel.  Popculture may distort these and offer something else (an idol) instead of God.  The Christian Worldview is not a dry set of theological propositions.  It is rooted in the astounding reality of the gospel and touches on our deepest desires–desires for relationship, for truth, for forgiveness, for healing, for peace, for justice and much more.  The gospel is not small.  It is all-encompassing.