First things first
Before we can ask what God has to do with popculture, we have another question to ask first:
What is popculture in the
first place?
Defining pop-culture
Wikipedia defines pop-culture (or popular
culture) as “the entirety of ideas,
perspectives, attitudes, memes, images, and
other phenomena that are within the
mainstream of a given culture.
Wikipedia is itself now part of pop-culture.
The Christian’s conundrum
The Christian’s conundrum
If pop-culture is all of the media and ideas of a culture,
how should Christians interact with it?
We’re supposed to be “in the world, but not of it.”
“They are not of the world just as I am not of the world”
(John 17:16).
The Christian’s conundrum
“Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this
world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind.” – Romans 12:2
Think differently.
The Christian’s conundrum
“Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will
is—his good, pleasing and
perfect will.” – Romans 12:3
It’s nothing new. Christians
have been trying to “think
differently” about popculture for a long, long
Not everyone’s a fan
Tertullian (also not a fan)
Alcuin (not a fan)
Why are we even here?
What has Ingeld to do with Christ?
What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?
Pop-culture: What’s God got to do with it?
A lesson from St. Paul
While Paul was waiting for them [Silas and Timothy] in
Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full
of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and
the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by
day with those who happened to be there.
A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to
dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler
trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating
foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the
good news about Jesus and the resurrection.
A lesson from St. Paul
Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the
Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this
new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing
some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what
they mean.” (All the Athenians and the foreigners who live
there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and
listening to the latest ideas.)
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said:
“Men of Athens, I see that in every way you are very
religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your
objects of worship, I even found an altar with this
inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship
as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”
A lesson from St. Paul
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the
Lord of heaven and earth, and does not live in temples built
by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if
he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and
breath and everything else.”
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they
should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times
set for them and the exact places where they should live. God
did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out
for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of
us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some
of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”
A lesson from St. Paul
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think
that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image
made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked
such ignorance, but now he commands all people to repent.
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with
justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of
this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of
them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on
this subject.” At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became
followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a
member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris,
and a number of others.
(Acts 17:16-34)
What can we learn from St.
1. What is the first thing Paul does in this story?
He starts letting people know he’s a Christian. He’s not
hiding that; it’s central to who he is, and people know
that right off the bat.
2. What can we learn from Paul here?
We need to make our faith obvious to the people around
us too. That doesn’t mean preaching on the street. It just
means letting people know.
What can we learn from St.
3. Who does Paul talk to?
The Jews and God-fearing Greeks in the synagogue, and
the Athenians in the marketplace.
4. Who do we talk to when sharing Christ?
Family, friends, and occasionally strangers. We let them
know about our faith, and ask God to work in their
hearts, so that they’ll invite us to explain our message
more clearly.
What can we learn from St.
5. How does St. Paul use the Athenians’ culture to
share the Good News?
He finds the good things in their pop-culture. He talks
about his big idea in the places they talked about ideas.
He speaks encouragingly about the good things in their
religions. He quotes their poets.
6. How does he go beyond their pop-culture?
He finds what’s good (and thus God-inspired), but then
adds what they’re lacking. “Some of your poets have
said, “We are God’s children.” If that’s true, then…. etc,
What can we learn from St.
1. Be open about your
2. Build relationships with
people, so that they’ll
invite you to share that
3. Find what’s good in the
pop-culture around you
to open the doors to
conversations about
4. Show how the Good
News of Christ goes
beyond what the culture
Back to
What Beowulf did
in a story, Christ
did in real life – for
you and me.
John Ronald Reul Tolkien
JRR Tolkien
What’s God (and Christianity)
got do with The Hobbit?
The Eucatastrophe
“Eucatastrophe is a term coined by J. R. R.
Tolkien which refers to the sudden turn of events
at the end of a story which ensure that the
protagonist does not meet some terrible,
impending, and very plausible doom.”
The Eucatastrophe
Harry Potter
Shadows of truth
Not allegories, but glimpses of truth wrapped up in popculture.
They give us the opportunity to talk about Jesus: the
true answer to evil, the true defeater of death, the true
Sacrifice who died and rose again to save us when
everything seemed hopeless.
Miley Cyrus
And now something a bit more challenging.
The Sacrifice of Isaac
Genesis 22:1-19
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him,
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac,
whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.
Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the
mountains I will tell you about.
The Sacrifice of Isaac
Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey.
He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he
had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the
place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked
up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants,
“Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there.
We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on
his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As
the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his
father Abraham, “Father?”
The Sacrifice of Isaac
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and the wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the
lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the
burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together.
The Sacrifice of Isaac
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham
built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his
son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he
reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the
angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham!
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to
him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not
withheld from me your son, your only son.”
The Sacrifice of Isaac
Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught
by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as
a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place
The LORD will provide. And to this day it is said, “On the
mountain of the LORD it will be provided.”
The Sacrifice of Isaac
The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second
time, and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that
because you have done this and not withheld your son, your
only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as
numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the
seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of
their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth
will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.
Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off
together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
Why do you think they made changes?
Are they important?
Why or why not?
Noah 2014
Get ready to
ask the same
type of
questions in
2014, when
Noah comes
Go with what you like
You might not be interested in medieval legends, Greek
poetry, fantasy, pop-music, or biblical epics. That’s fine.
Find what you do like, and go with it. I’m a big fan of
Doctor Who. You might enjoy Monsters University. Or
maybe you’re a country music buff. But whatever popculture you consume, think differently about it. Think
Christianly about it. And share your insights with your
non-Christian friends. You’ll be surprised how effective
pop-culture can be as a tool to share the Gospel.

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