Cultural Apologetics: Seeing the Truth of God in Cultural Expressions in the Wider World

Cultural apologetics is the practice of using truth that finds expression in culture, and directing a person’s attention to the fact that the truth only fits in a Christian worldview. That means that I can take truth wherever it is found and show someone who is familiar with that cultural expression that such an idea only finds its meaning in light of the Christian gospel.

For example, read this astounding quote from a commencement address given by novelist and essayist, David Foster Wallace, to Kenyon University in 2005:

Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.

If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth.

Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Wallace committed suicide three years later, at the tragically young age of 46 (my age). As a Christian, I recognize there is much truth in this address. I can use this utterance by unbeliever because it is true, even though he didn’t fully understand what he was saying. I can show an unbeliever that what the Bible says about life apart from Christ has been proven true time and time again.

The power of cultural apologetics is that cultural expressions (movies, television, songs, novels, art, architecture, fashion, etc.) cannot stop proclaiming the truth because those who produce it are made in the image of God.

Part 2 of this essay picks up this idea and shows how human culture is inexorably revelatory of the truth of God

About Mark Farnham
Associate Professor and Coordinator of Pastoral and Pre-Seminary Majors at Lancaster Bible College, Lancaster, PA. Founder and Director, Apologetics for the Church (apologeticsforthechurch.org). PhD in Apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; ThM in New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

2 Responses to Cultural Apologetics: Seeing the Truth of God in Cultural Expressions in the Wider World

  1. Josh Farr says:

    Thanks, my teen ss class usually begins with a blog post reading, this one is next!

  2. Bob Metze says:

    Thanks Mark – very helpful, and tragic about Foster Wallace who never understood the Source of Truth. A stirring reminder.

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