Starting Point

The fellas at Team Pyro are organizing a witch-hunt... ahem... just kidding... book discussion in the next few days that should be fairly interesting to follow. They'll be comparing "The Courage to be Protestant" by David F. Wells, to "Pop Goes the Church" by Tim Stevens. I've read both books - actually reviewed Tim's book for him before he published it. But I have a feeling the discussion is going to get pretty ugly over there, so I thought I'd post my thinking here and stay out of the mayhem over there (we'll see if I can resist).

Basically, Tim's thesis is that the Church can (and should) engage Pop culture as it communicates Truth. Wells believes this type of thinking amounts to "marketing the gospel," and that the "methodology [transforms] the faith that is being sold" (p 28).

Well's prefers the traditional church - rails against preachers who preach from barstools, churches that abandon the hymns of the faith, and where "organs have become as rare as dodo birds" (p. 29). The options for him seem to be either the church modeled as a "business enterprise," or "very traditional."

The problem for me in this whole deal is that I don't think it has to be an either/or. It's worth remembering that pulpits, Luther's hymns, and organs were all once contemporary - yes, even pieces of pop culture. The organ was en vogue in saloons long before it made its way into the Church. Many great hymns of the faith are simply rewritten words to common pop-culture tunes of the 15th century. So, we have to be careful saying that there is nothing in pop-culture that can be redeemed.

We also have to be careful with the way we use Pop culture.

The bottom line for me is the starting point. Pop culture can and should be used illustratively, but not instructively. Songs, movie clips, etc... are helpful in communicating the Truth because they contain some of the most helpful illustrations of how desperately the pop culture needs redemption. Pop culture contains references and illustrations of Truth, but it does not reveal Truth.

The starting point has to be Scripture. If our question is, "what can pop culture teach us about God?" we have a huge problem. Pop culture reveals quite a bit about man - our selfishness, our desires, the gods we serve, and our desperate need for a Savior.

The Scriptures reveal God.

When our starting point is the Scriptures, we begin with "What does the Scripture say?" Then we're able to examine pop culture for illustrations and ways in which the culture around us reveals our need for Truth, or our response to Truth. The Scripture is authoritative, the culture is illustrative.

The Church doesn't need to market Truth to make it relevant - God's word is always relevant (Hebrews 4:12). We do, however, need to make sure that we communicate in a language that people understand, using illustrations and applications that help the believer understand how the already relevant Scripture applies to the life who walks out of the church building and into pop culture.

The difference is the starting point.


Unknown said...

Well spoken, my friend!

Matt S.

P.S. I saw over on fb that you're learning to drink coffee. My joy over that fact is tempered only by the sadness that you've missed out on so much for so long...but better late than never..