This is the last post in my engaging with popular culture series (try to not be too sad!). In these last few posts we've been thinking about some (hopefully!) helpful questions to ask of pop culture to enable us to think about how it interacts with Christianity. So here's the final thing to think about:
How does the gospel apply? It's here that we need to make sure were not thinking of the gospel in too narrow a sense. The gospel at the core is absolutely that Jesus was fully God and man, lived a perfect life, died a death he didn't deserve taking our punishment so that we can be forgiven if we have faith, rose from the dead and is now Lord.
But the gospel is much more than that too. The gospel has good news to inject into every area of life.
Pop culture is most successful when it stimulates desires for good things, and we're left with a thirst for love, justice, meaning, or whatever. Pop culture almost always puts an idol as the source of these things. Our job is to show how the gospel answers these desires. So when we have the desire for justice stimulated, we don't ultimately look to government or the courts, or a charismatic public figure or superhero like the fictional character in the film. We recognise the deep seated need to see the world made right and we show how justice ultimately can only be met in God, and that in the meantime his people are to work for justice in his world.
The gospel explodes into all sorts of areas of life, and so we can often get to some aspect of the gospel through engaging with pop culture. The gospel provides profoundly satisfying and consistent answers to the deepest desires and longings of the human heart. It provides meaning in a meaningless world, hope in a hopeless world and eternity in a temporal world. In engaging with popular culture we can take the partial truth recognised by someone's interpretation and fill in the blanks with the truth of the gospel.
But people are also blind to certain areas. They are blind to the judgment of God at the sin of the world, for example. They're blind to the reality of the wrath-taking sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. But they're not blind, for example, to some of the consequences of sin - even if they don't know the original cause. In popular culture we see the damaging effects of sin all the time, and the creator of a given piece of pop culture may rightly demonstrate the incongruity between these consequences and how the world should be. The gospel can speak in to this.
Engaging with popular culture may give us chance to demonstrate to people even the truths that they're not seeking after - the truth of Jesus and the cross - truths only understood and discovered through hearing and the work of the Spirit.
So that's it! Finally though, let me make a quick but important point. We do all of this in the context of an ongoing relationship. We don't feel like we have to get the “full gospel” out every time (as if we could!). One time we might show what the Christian worldview says about justice, the next about relationships, and so on, and over time people will get a feel for what the Christian worldview is. As they increasingly understand the Christian worldview, I believe that they will gradually see how it is profoundly attractive, as it's God's view of the world and he knows what he's talking about! There will be times when engaging with pop culture will lead to a direct conversation about the core of the gospel (two ways to live type stuff) which is great and necessary - but don't feel pressured to always go there!