Saturday, September 15, 2012

Book Review: Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective by Ted Turnau

Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective, by Ted Turnau is a masterful, engaging, and very helpful examination into how Christians can take too seriously Jesus’ teaching to be “in the world but not of the world” (John 15:19; 17:14-16). The book contains three parts with twelve chapters. The author in part one grounds his teaching in the Word by explaining in chapter four what creation, the fall, and redemption have to teach Christians about popular culture. In taking this approach (creation, fall, and redemption) the author grounds his teaching in the Word of God in order to help Christians to rightly engage the culture with the Word of God.

In part two the author goes through five not so helpful responses to popular culture: the first is “the what, me worry?” approach, the second, the “Ew-yuck” response, the third, “We’re above all that” approach, fourth, “imagophobia”, and finally “cheerleaders of postmodernism”. In the final section the author seeks to help us “think critically about popular culture and its worldviews, we are given the opportunity to reflect on God’s grace, expose idolatry (which shows the excellence and power of the true God by contrast), and shows the relevance and beauty of the gospel” (214). In order to do this the author explores five questions: first, “What’s the story?”; second, “where am I (the world of the text)?” third, “what’s good and true and beautiful about it?”; fourth “what’s false and ugly and perverse about it?”, and finally “how does the gospel apply here?” (215).

The approach of Popologetics will help Christians to “engage the broader culture conversations that involve you, your family, your friends, the folks you work with, and the folks you relax with. It will allow you to enter into dialogue with them and speak truth into their lives with sensitivity, insight, and grace. And maybe, just, maybe, it will help you love these people and be salt and light in the lives of those around you” (xix).

Understanding what apologetics is and what approach to take in apologetics is vital. In this helpful book the author points out weaknesses with other views of apologetics, and sets forth the following for engaging in apologetics:
“We need to understand the worldviews that filter the facts, the worldviews that render our evidence acceptable or unacceptable, credible or incredible, relevant or irrelevant to those we speak with. That is a far more subtle and delicate operation than simply announcing facts that you believe can be proved. We must take into account cultural authorities (for example, the scientific and scholarly community), the temper of the times, and the popular-cultural discourses that currently course through society like the blood through our veins” (33).
Engaging others with the Gospel means not speaking over the culture, but rather “listening to the worldview context, especially as it is expressed in and through popular culture” (34). All of this is important because “popular culture plays a major role in shaping the imagination, hopes, fears dreams and desires of our communities, which means it shapes worldviews” (36).

In the Book of Acts, the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit marches forward with the message of redemption. In the Book of Acts people gather together to hear the Gospel preached and then are converted. After being converted people scatter to proclaim the message of the Gospel to transform culture.  The Gospel is the power of God to transform people’s lives individually and people groups collectively, but only as individuals turn from sin and to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and repentance. Engaging worldviews is ultimately a concern of the Great Commission. The Gospel is the timeless message the Church is to proclaim. The Gospel is never to be compromised, but it is to be proclaimed, contended, and defended.

In this reviewers’ assessment, Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective will make an extremely useful apologetics textbook- ideal for Pastors, scholars, seminary students and serious laity.  First, Turnau examines the background and history of apologetic approaches while introducing the reader to leading thinkers in the field of cultural apologetics. In addition to this, the book is heavily footnoted which will help the reader to know where to turn to after reading this book in case he/she is interested in further study. Second, the book is very well-written, and at the end of each section the author summarizes each point in order to help the reader understand the flow and content of the argument of the book. Finally, reading Popologetics will help Christians to learn how to engage culture without compromising the Gospel. Engaging others with the Gospel does not mean accepting what they are teaching, but rather using what they are teaching as a vehicle to impact lives for eternity. Engaging differing worldviews will help Christians to be able to discern truth from error which is what every believer should be doing.

Popologetics is a must own book, and one of the best in this reviewers opinion on the topic of engaging popular culture while remaining grounded in the Word of God.

Apologetics 315 Book Reviewer Dave Jenkins is the Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, and a researcher for Docent Research Group. He enjoys biblical, systematic and historical theology and apologetics. More of his writing can be found at


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