I have been evangelizing on College Campuses for the past fourteen years. It’s an environment that provides a wonderful opportunity to employ Christian apologetic. I must admit though that the older I get the less frequent apologetics comes up compared to my younger days of being a rabid cage stage Presuppositionalist. When apologetics conversations do occur I notice that most of the time I’m not necessarily dealing with the nitty gritty detail of some obscure historical point of Christianity or area of science. What I have found instead is that practically most of my discussion often occur at the level of worldviews. Apologetics’ discussion concerning worldviews seems to pay greater dividends at the end of the day because: (1) everyone has a worldview, (2) most people’s rejection of Christianity is driven more by their ultimate commitments rather than serious, rigorous research in a specialized field of study (3) and of course, lest we forget, one’s presuppositions shapes how one determine and dismiss what are evidences.
While discussion of worldviews can easily become abstract sometimes illustrations are helpful to get the point across. Movies are often invoked by those whom I am witnessing towards. For some reason when I talk about metaethical issues the person of Joker gets brought up more than anyone else from Popular Culture. I have taught apologetics in Christian setting where believers have also brought up Joker. Somehow he pop up during worldview apologetics’ discussion! Perhaps the allusion to Joker has something to do with young Millennials with their Graphic Novels and Netflix and how the Joker appears to be an ungodly incarnation of certain non-Christian ethical systems.
Given the fact that nonbelievers sometime allude to certain films and entertainment characters does that necessarily mean we must watch every movie and read every comic book to fulfill some kind of prerequisite in order to effectively evangelize the unbeliever? My answer to that would be no. In an earlier post, “Is it ever appropriate for Christians to view sexual sins in film?” I argued that Christians shouldn’t compromise their sanctification in the area of entertainment. With the instance of Joker, I haven’t read enough comic books to know first hand but I think I can say not all of those movies and comic books are sanctifying; even if theoretically they are not all bad, it might not be the best use of time to become an expert on Joker in order to evangelize and speak to our age. The same concern applies to other Pop Cultural figures.
Nor do I believe we should be ignorant about Pop cultural references such as Joker. I think there is a way where we can be biblical, engaging, and informed in our cultural apologetics while achieving that without sacrificing our sanctification on the altar. How can we hold on to these four highlighted aspects without compromise?
- First, to be biblical means one must know the Scripture well–and know it well in its application as one’s worldview. The Bible should shape one’s outlook of life–for instance, the Word of God should shape one’s view of ethics, sin, man, God and Salvation, etc. The Word of God should dictate our norms. It should also dictate what we should and shoudn’t do in terms of entertainment.
- Secondly, to be engaging means practically loving the person you are witnessing to. You must love them enough to be concerned for their salvation. This is the existential aspect we can’t neglect; after all, no Christian wants to be labeled as the guy who only wants to argue but not care about people’s soul. To love them also mean you want to know where they are coming from; it means listening to them. As you listen to them you will hear what “their own prophets” and poets might say.
- Thirdly, our engagement with the lost and our desire to see them get saved compels us to be informed. We want to handle our unbelieving friend’s perspective accurately and not misrepresent them. This might require further understanding of the situational context of their cultural allusion.
- Fourthly, one way to not compromise our norms while also being informed is to see what other informed social critics have to say about a particular pop figure or cultural phenomenon. I think one doesn’t have to experience every form of media and entertainment to critically reflect upon it as a Christian. An example of how a Christian can be informed and reflect critically without “seeing” something is with the current crisis with ISIS. You do not have to watch the beheading of 21 Egyptians or the burning of a Jordanian pilot to be informed about it; one can find detailed written analysis of the videos, scholarly evaluation of it’s meaning, purpose, etc. If one put the effort one might find in-depth evaluation of ISIS militarily, geo-politically, economically and theologically. I can’t imagine many people looking down on someone who is informed about ISIS while making the deliberate choice of not watching ISIS’ sick videos. To demand that one can only intelligently talk about something through the experience of watching it it is really a form of audio-visual Gnosticism.
Be on the lookout for reviews, critical essays, editorials and documentaries as aides. Even when a film or comic is appropriate for a Christian to enjoy I still find interacting with such resources from a Christian worldview can at times be insightful.