Pop Culture Isn’t the Source of Theological Truth

It strikes me as more than odd that some ‘theologians’ are more interested in talking about the ‘subtle themes of redemption’ in films than in talking about scripture.  The very ‘theologians’ who talk most about theological themes in pop culture tend to be the ones least familiar with what scripture says, and means.  What they don’t realize is that pop culture isn’t the source, or even a source, of theological truth.

‘Theologians’ who draw their material from the well of pop culture are drawing mud and trying to convince people that their buckets are filled with sparkling pure spring water.

20 thoughts on “Pop Culture Isn’t the Source of Theological Truth

  1. well, ben, this is a blog, not a book. it’s not a place for sustained reflection but a place for thought-experiment. genre matters.

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  2. how about theological expression and not source… Like the jugular vein is not the origin of the blood flow but you can detect it there.

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    • Having said that, perhaps it can be a source of ill-theology or to recognize poor -theologies specially in the west. It would matter what is understood as “pop culture” as all cultures are population dependent but not populists.

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      • Paul’s speech to the Athenians is one such example. He uses well known sources from Greek popular culture, not scripture per se, to frame his theology (e.g. the poet Epimenides).

        Why does Paul do this? Because he starts with what the Athenians know best – and that’s not the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul shows us it is helpful, indeed crucial, to know how find the gospel in popular cultural examples.

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        • your example proves my contention. paul recognized the failings of his mars hill method, shortly after which he wrote back to the corinthians, asserting that from thence he would preach nothing but jesus christ and him crucified. paul failed on mars hill and he knew it. he failed because he preached philosophy and tried to prove the gospel from cultural examples.

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      • How was it a failure? Apparently several Athenians were very interested in what Paul had to say & wanted to hear more.

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        • it was a failure because paul declared it such. read 1 cor. carefully. it is written in the aftermath of the debacle.

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      • Apparently I’m not able to read it carefully. Can you tell me exactly where Paul specifically cites that his approach in Athens was a failure?

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        • apparently not. what exactly do you think paul means when he says (1 cor 2) –

          ‘2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature ; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away ; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory ; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood ; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory ; 9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit ; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God”

          what, in your learned opinion, would provoke paul to such a decision?

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        • he wrote corinthians after he visited athens. you still haven’t explained his comments. how do you? what provoked them?

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      • Hey Jim,
        I might have missed something reading this but Is there a specific verse you see in Acts 17 of Paul’s speech to the Athenians that was unbiblical in it’s method or content?
        I agree with you that Pop culture should not be the source of theological truth nor the source of the Gospel because the Gospel has been revealed via Special Revelation and not Natural revelation!

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        • his appeal in acts 17 isn’t to the God of revelation but the gods of athens. he’s attempting to make their ‘unknown god’ into the god he knows. the problem, as i think he comes to recognize by the time he writes the corinthians, is that the attempt was misguided. his ‘point of contact’ wasn’t the God self revealed but the god invented.

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  3. I was especially aggravated several years ago when I heard someone talking about what we could learn about heaven and salvation from the Narnia Chronicles.

    That would be … nothing. What you can learn is what C. S. Lewis thought, right or wrong. He can illustrate some things, He might have made it easier for some people to understand in some cases, but in terms of absolute truth … there is none there.

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  4. vs. 23 (ESV) “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.” – How could Paul say that they were worshiping the same God as he was, but unknowingly? – Isn’t the logical conclusion here “we worship the same God and you just don’t know it”. Paul wanted to be sympathetic using a culturally accepted notion… in today’s terms, he may wanted to be “cool” –a must in to be accepted in pop culture– a method which in 1 Cor 2 as Jim pointed out, he abandons and apparently even regrets.
    I am loving this conversation!

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