on 18 June 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...
Turnau makes his position clear throughout, but is very generous in his critique of other Christians' views and in his critique of pop culture itself. Turnau is clear that some parts of culture are more corrupted than others, but in viewing the world we inhabit as a 'messy mix' it means that rather than being prescriptive, i.e. read this, don't read this, Turnau encourages us to think critically about what it is we are hearing, watching or reading and to engage our minds - again, it leads to conversation - both with oneself, with our children, and with our friends and colleagues.
Finally, this is also incredibly readable (in the space of about four pages Turnau referenced both the Smashing Pumpkins and MacGyver - my teenage self got way too over excited at this point!). I'm a slow reader with a short attention span, but I got through this rather quickly, and wanted to read the next chapter straight away.
In being so readable, it struck me how useful this book would be for young Christians - by which I mean Christians who haven't been so for very long or haven't thought through what it means to have a "Christian worldview". Throughout Popologetics, Turnau effectively gives us a Bible overview - tracing many of the key themes of the Bible and God's redemption / salvation story (Creation - Fall - Redemption - New Creation). This is something that many Christians just do not have - a joined-up understanding of how the Bible fits together and the grand story of salvation and thus how to understand the world in which we live today (The now and the not yet of being new creations living in the old creation). I think this book would be very useful for those who are particularly interested in culture, but who might shy away from reading something exclusively "theological".
on 23 January 2013
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.