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Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective

Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective [Kindle Edition]

Ted Turnau
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

It’s everywhere . . . all around us . . . so widespread it’s like part of the air we breathe. Some people love it, some people hate it, and some just try to shrug it off or pretend it’s not there. But, like it or not, notice it or not, popular culture plays a huge role in our day-to-day lives, often influencing the way we think and see the world.

Some people respond by trying to pull away from it altogether, and some accept it without question as a blessing. But Ted Turnau reminds us that the issue is not so black-and-white. Popular culture, like any other facet of society, is a messy mixture of both grace and idolatry, and it deserves our serious attention and discernment.

Learn how to approach popular culture wisely, separating its gems of grace from its temptations toward idolatry, and practice some popologetics to be an influence of your own.

“Ted Turnau does a great service toward helping Christians engage their culture with both conviction and open-mindedness . . . and offers excellent practical application for how to both appreciate pop culture and fairly critique it.”
—Brian Godawa, Hollywood Screenwriter, Author of Hollywood Worldviews

“This is one of the freshest and most original books I have read in ages. . . . A fine blend of worldview apologetics and cutting-edge cultural analysis. . . . I thoroughly commend it.”
— Richard M. Cunningham, CEO, Intervarsity UK

“Turnau recognizes the vitality of popular culture and knows that because God has spoken in Scripture we have a plumb line by which to uncover the idolatries that seek to seduce us away from the truth.”
—Denis D. Haack, Director, Ransom Fellowship

“A tour-de-force. Written incisively, with appropriate humor, and especially using up-to-date examples from the field of popular culture . . . there is nothing remotely like it in print today. I recommend it enthusiastically."
— William Edgar, Professor of Apologetics, Westminster Theological Seminary

Ted Turnau is a teaching fellow at the International Institute for Christian Studies. He currently teaches cultural and religious studies at Anglo-American University and cultural studies at the Social Science Faculty of Charles University in Prague.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 985 KB
  • Print Length: 369 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1596383895
  • Publisher: P&R Publishing (27 April 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008HT2IXI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #167,065 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pop-cultural game-changer and must read 5 July 2012
Every now and then a book comes along which demands serious attention. Ted Turnau's Popologetics is just such a book. Hence this serious, extended review. I should be up front at this stage and declare that he is a friend, so perhaps some will merely assume this is a question of mutual back-scratching. I can assure you it's not (I've received no commissions... as yet). But still, this is a great book. For a whole range of reasons: it is very readable and lucid; it makes its case with wit and self-deprecating humour; it is a model of how to handle disagreement (theological and otherwise) with great grace and generosity; and it demonstrates extensive appreciation of the field and offers a rich mine of treasure to any reader.

But first things first. What does Turnau mean by pop-culture?

So here is my working definition of popular culture: Popular culture is made up of cultural works whose media, genres, or venues tend to be widespread and widely received in our everyday world. ... Popular culture has to do with access. It dwells in spaces not too far from where we live. (p7)

He recognises this is not a watertight definition, but it at least shows why pop culture is important and demands our attention.

In analysing and engaging with this new Babylon, the book is divided into 3 main sections:
"Part 1: Grounding" - fairly standard (esp if familiar with the likes of Schaeffer and James Sire - e.g. The Universe Next Door
"Part 2: Some Not-So-Helpful Approaches to Popular Culture" - the real heart and gold of the book.
"Part 3: Engaging Popular Culture: Why Critique Popular Culture?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Biblical, generous, readable 18 Jun 2012
I really enjoyed this book and found it very helpful for thinking about how to engage with culture in order to engage our culture with Jesus. Engaging our culture with Jesus seems to be one of the thrusts of the book. It can be fun to engage with popular culture as a Christian as a form of intellectual exercise, but what I really need to do, so often, is to be better able to chat to the person sat next to me at work for 9 hours a day about the latest film / book / hit song and be able to talk about it as a Christian and hopefully share something of my hope in Jesus with them.

This book is great because it helps to have that missionary mindset because it is (among many other things), biblical, generous and readable.

Turnau very clearly brings the Bible to bear on popular culture and immediately gets us thinking about our biblical worldview. This is where the strength of the book lies - it doesn't just take verses and bring them to bear on bits of culture - e.g. do not murder vs a film full of killing, and say don't watch this, instead watch this. Instead, Turnau encourages us to think in terms of worldviews - bringing the Biblical story, from creation to new creation to bear on the worldview of the cultural text in question. This exposes the idolatry of the text for example and causes us to see the hope held out in the Gospel.
What I like about this approach, is that it leads to the possibility for a conversation rather than, "I didn't like that film, it was too gory." It avoids the trap of seeing, for example, "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire hunter" as demonic and evil and "The Wizard of Oz" as good and wholesome. "The Wizard of Oz" worldview is about as far from the gospel as you can get - "Abraham Lincoln" on the other hand I'll wait and see...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding 23 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There can't be many scholars who have thought more deeply about the interface between Christian theology and popular culture than Ted Turnau. He challenges the historic snobbery which, in some quarters, still surrounds the 'high culture'/'popular culture' distinction. In so doing he helps a lot of ordinary Christians finds ways to thoughtfully enjoy and celebrate the ways in which God's common grace is seen in so many examples of popular culture, yet also engage critically with the idols of our age.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Positive Engagement 24 May 2012
By Dr Conrade Yap - Published on
This is one of the clearest and well laid out book on how to engage popular culture from a Christian perspective. Ted Turnau cleverly combines "pop culture" and "apologetics" to produce a term called "popologetics" that essentially engages popular culture from a Christian apologetics perspective. It is an optimistic one that gives Christians an impetus to go out into the world to engage popular culture. It is also redemptive and puts a lot of faith in the naturally good part of the world. One can easily tell that Turnau begins with a "half-full" perspective of popular culture. Perhaps, the push to engage culture in apologetics may have tilted Turnau's hand in providing more optimism in his approaches. He seems to have a disdain over cultural critiques like Postman and McLuhan for reasons mentioned. If Turnau can be faulted, it will be his over-enthusiasm for the good in popular culture may have blurred his sensitivity over some of the nuances that McLuhan and Postman have written extensively about. For example, on the phobia of images, there is a particular principality that philosophers like Jacques Ellul have pointed out, that is on an offensive against Christianity and whatever good that Turnau has said. They are on the attack against truth. They are not misguided or passive elements in popular culture. Instead, they have an evil agenda. Turnau has described popular culture so optimistically that he may have underestimated this evil.

My feel about this book is that it has a strong redemptive element but puts up a weak defense against the principalities of evil. Having said that, it is an extremely readable book and is an excellent resource in terms of reading culture with positive eyes. However, let this book be read together with Neil Postman's or Marshall McLuhan's resources. After all, a country cannot simply survive on hospitals, caregiving units, or recreational centers. It needs a strong military too as a deterrent. Turnau has a good optimistic look on the goodness of people in the midst of popular culture. Unfortunately, such optimism risks understating the sinful inclinations that can easily sway popular culture into a culture of evil principalities.

Rating. 4.25 stars of 5


This book is provided to me free by P&R Publishing and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Helpful Tool for Discerning Pop Culture 9 May 2012
By Housewife Theologian - Published on
Popologetics is a word describing how Turnau believes Christians should critically engage popular culture. He encourages us to know our own faith well enough, as well as the worldviews that are competing against it. Thus, "the job of apologetics is to build a bridge between hope and the non-Christian" (Loc 795). We all know that popular culture profoundly influences the way that we think of ourselves and our world. But many of us are overwhelmed with what to actually do about it. It has caused a range of reactions from ignoring the problem to trying to isolate ourselves from its mediums. Ted Turnau comes to our rescue with this wonderful tool for discernment.

This is a very comprehensive book; it's like taking a mini-course on worldview, pop culture, and Christian apologetics. You can tell that Turnau is a teacher by the very organized and instructive way the book is formatted. He clearly defines all his terms, and even gives us visual learners a few pictures (my favorite is his worldview tree). He teaches us that in many ways, popular culture is like a mirror that reflects the popular imagination, but then further informs and shapes us. "Through this dialogue, this listening to and shaping the imagination of its audience, popular culture's influence runs deep (far deeper than we realize) and wide (it is nearly ubiquitous, like something in the air we breathe). And it affects us at the level of worldview, how we understand the reality around and in us. The influence on our worldview is simply undeniable" (Loc 526-537). Turnau's passion and style are very Schaeffer-esque. Francis Schaeffer's books introduced many of these ideas to me in my early college years, so I am very happy to see a modern-day approach targeted to the popular culture of our time.

After defining important terms, motivating the reader for this significant task, and giving us a strong theology of culture, Part 2 of the book addresses the different reactions Christians have regarding pop culture. With funny headings like, "Don't Touch that Dial: It's Dirty!" to "It's All Good," we see the reasons why some of us have taken these approaches, and are challenged to open our eyes to the bigger picture.

Part 3 gets to the business of engaging pop culture. He encourages us to use our "critical imagination...We need to listen to our culture and argue with it a bit before we are ready to speak creatively to it" (Loc 3720). And just like a good teacher, Turnau gives us five questions to ask ourselves in this process (stay tuned, I will be using them in my next article). They are very helpful and easy to remember. Just like Schaeffer, Turnau reminds us that the imaginative worlds that popular culture creates are trying to live in God's world, and as Christians we have both the privilege and responsibility to point out their inadequacies according to the real story. Not only does the author teach us a method, he practically applies it to some popular movies, songs, shows, and even the Twitterverse. Good stuff. Turnau ends the book with more practical tips on how to engage our peers, learning about their views, and having compassion on those we challenge.

While I have many praises for this book, I do have a bit of critique as well. I'm not sure that everyone is going to want the 300 level course that Turnau is offering. While it's not a difficult read, it is a long one--368 pages. The author's voice is not "professorly" but the footnotes are. One chapter had as many as 111. I understand that this topic requires a lot of research, and even enjoyed reading and learning from many of the footnotes, but there were times I felt like he was having a conversation with himself in some of them. I'm just afraid that many who would be interested in this topic will not want to invest in the book's girth of knowledge. That would be a real shame. While Part 2 is well written and informative, I'm wondering if condensing those chapters into summaries would have served a wider audience of readers. My suggestion for those who may be intimidated by the size is to read Part 1, the summary at the end of Part 2, and then all of Part 3. The book is well worth it. Part 2 is like a book on its own, and you can go back and read that as a bonus later.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor foundation for a confessional Protestant theology of culture 20 July 2012
By A reader - Published on
For this book to have been successful, the author would have had to attempt a refutation of the major Christian critiques of popular culture--from conservative perspectives such as the intellectual right (from Intercollegiate Studies Institute-type conservatism to Allan Bloom to Roger Kimball and the New Criterion to the "crunchy conservatism" of Rod Dreher); evangelical approaches from people as diverse as Ken Myers, Marva Dawn, Richard Winter, Michael Horton, Shane Hipps, T. David Gordon, and Gregory Reynolds; non-evangelical perspectives as diverse as Jacques Ellul, Stanley Hauerwas, Albert Borgman, Wendell Berry, E. Michael Jones, and the Pope; and culture critics such as John McWhorter, Neal Gabler, Carson Holloway, Thomas de Zengotita, Walter Ong, Daniel Boorstein, et al.

Instead of attempting to refute these perspectives that are more cautious and critical of pop culture, the author simply dismisses them. And he dismisses them by caricaturing them. The most blatant example of this is how he falls prey to the fallacy of excluded middle and sets up a false dichotomy between "high" and "low" culture, accusing authors such as Ken Myers and Neil Postman of perpetuating this dichotomy and even unwittingly being racist in the process!

Our author cavalierly dismisses Ken Myers's nuanced construction of "traditional" or "folk" culture, sweeping it under the carpet in one footnote. But this component of Myers's approach is the very thing that defends him against Turnau's false dichotomy. The folk culture of the immigrants that Turnau says wealthy Victorian elitsists were trying to suppress in their defense of high culture is the very culture that Myers and Postman extol--traditional, communal cultures that were the product of multi-generational folk traditions and ways of life, not that of mass-produced, generationally targeted, niche-marketed consumer entertainment products hatched in the boardrooms of Hollywood and Madison Avenue for mass consumption.

The author ought to have dealt seriously with the perspective to which he is setting himself up as an alternative, rather than simply caricaturing it. Instead, he simply zeroes in on Myers and Postman, showing a lack of awareness of the larger body of literature on which their critique is built. He (unwittingly??) builds his argument on the perspective of Lawrence Levine, the harbinger of PC multiculturalism on university campuses in the 1980s and 1990s. Levine famously disparaged Allan Bloom and William Bennett and Dinesh D'Souza for their defense of the "dead white male" Western literary canon and instead argued for the radical multicultural, race/sex/gender-oriented curriculum that was pushed at Stanford, when the radical multiculturalists promoted a change in the Western-Civilization-based core curriculum, shouting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go!"

This postmodern critique of the "hegemony" of Western Civilization is an unsure foundation for a confessional Protestant understanding of art and culture. Yet Turnau seems oblivious to the implications of his employment of this line of argument. Readers need to understand that the entire conservative argument against radical multiculturalism in the university curriculum is upended by Turnau's thesis in this book. His thesis simply flies in the face of the whole classical school movement that has arisen recently in various segments of evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Orthodox Judaism. Readers who are committed to a more confessional Protestant approach, and how that applies to forging a theology of culture, will need to look elsewhere. The sad reality is that Turnau's approach will only succeed in driving more and more thoughtful evangelical students who want to engage thoughtfully with the arts, culture, and humanities into conservative Roman Catholicism.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Learn a balanced approach to popular culture 6 Jun 2012
By H.J. van der Klis - Published on
Popular culture is everywhere around. You may love or hate it, but escape it is difficult, It's a major carrier of (western) values and world view. And that's where it meets Christianity. What is our response to popular culture, whether it's a movie, social network, music, sculpture, painting or tv series. How relevant is popular culture to a Christian believer, and what's our relevance in shaping culture? How should we engage in a non-Christian culture? Ted Turnau tries to formulate answers in Popologetics: popular culture in Christian perspectives. Apologetics crossed popular culture.
First the author does some grounding: what are popular culture and world view? And what does theology says about popular culture? Creation, fall and redemption revisited. In the second part he gathers 5 possible, but not so helpful approaches to popular culture:
1. What, me worry? Issues concerning popular culture aren't even a blip on your radar screen. Problem? What problem?
2. Ew-yuck! Popular culture is a breeding ground for spiritual pollution. Stay away from the dirt!
3. We're all above that. Dismiss and criticize popular culture as trivial and inferior compared to "real culture."
4. Imagophobia. You don't reject popular culture because it is popular per se, but because you fear that an image-based culture will undermine our collective social and intellectual health.
5. Cheerleaders of the postmodern. It's all good. God and the Spirit move in mysterious ways. Let's listen to them speaking to us through popular culture, and forget about the #1 position of the Bible as only source of truth.
In part 3 Turnau puts his own cards on the table and presents a more balanced approach to popular culture. He has a method of how to watch (or play or listen to or read) popular culture, and how to respond apologetically. Calling that approach popologetics it gives a way to explore how we ought to relate our faith to popular culture as cultural consumers, and how to respond thoughtfully to the worldview challenges presented in popular culture.
1. What's the story?
2. Where in the world am I?
3. What's good, true and beautiful in this world?
4. What's false, ugly and perverse in this world (and how can I subvert it)?
5. How does the Gospel apply here?
Turnau practices concrete examples of popologetics by examining the rock song Heartache Tonight by The Eagles, the documentary Grizzly Man (2005) by Werner Herzog, the Japanese anime series One Piece, the blockbuster family movie Kung Fu Panda. And finally, a nonnarrative example, the online social network Twitter. Learn how to approach popular culture wisely, separating its gems of grace from its temptations toward idolatry, and practice some popologetics to be an influence of your own.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No other book like it 5 July 2013
By Phillip S. - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is really no other books on culture, or worldviews, or apologetics that cover the topics covered in this book. Written by a professor of popular culture who has devoted many years of his life to this calling you will learn facts and be enriched with thoughts that you will find no where else. Turnau's book is theologically based through and through and has for me greatly reversed my own ideas on how I should view popular culture and has helped motivate me to take the initiative to learn all that I can on what shapes the majority of peoples worldviews the most. Other books, written by Copan, and Lane, and other leading apologists certainly emphasize the way Christian culture has been pushed into its corner of society and how it has shaped the evangelistic thoughts of many Christians, however I feel that this book helps the reader to know what to do immediately and how to do it to avoid this and to confront it. I can't really think of any aspects that I have disliked about this book, I hope that Turnau continues to write on this topic.
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