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Literary Apologetics Key to Turning the Tide

Hat tip to Charles for pointing this article out to me.

Recently ChristianityToday had an excellent article on the use of science fiction to communicate a distinctly secular and atheistic world view.  If you are a Christian that cares for the state of the Church today and our modern challenge, you should read the article.

The article correctly says:

… viewers don’t leave movies such as Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Hancock, X-Men, and Contact—or television programs such as The X-Files or Heroes—scratching their heads in confusion. We are intrigued, but not surprised. Why? Because stories of advanced extraterrestrials, ancient human-alien contact, superior intelligences roaming the universe, and emerging super-races have grown familiar through repeated exposure. Thanks to the longstanding efforts of a wide range of artists, popular writers, and even scientists, we immediately recognize intelligent aliens and advanced humans. We now see space and the future as sources of hope.

One of the things that I’ve noted (see this blog entry on Heroes and Philip Pullman) is that the modern method is to denounce anything we might call supernatural as nonsense in one breath, and in the other breath re-issue the same phenomena but provide a naturalistic explanation for it.   Heroes is a great case in point, as most of the ‘heroes’ have powers that, if we ever met them in real life, we’d instantly conclude were supernatural.  But Heroes prepares the way for 2 Thess. 2:9-10 in that it provides a ‘plausible’ explanation for how even the miraculous is merely natural.  (In my discussions with atheists, no evidence for natural explanations is necessary- plausibility is sufficient.  See, for eg., abiogenesis, and Dawkins hemming and hawing at the end of Ben Stein’s Expelled).

Another case in point is Carl Sagan’s Contact, where scientists are able to scientifically detect intelligent design.  We are told today that this is impossible;  the implications involved in conceding even the mere possibility of reliably detecting design are too frightening to be allowed by our ‘methodological’ naturalists.  So, Contact would not have been written today, but even so it served to show how ‘advanced’ information is no evidence at all for God, and can be- and should be- interpreted in natural terms.  With this method in mind, it is no wonder that atheists conclude there is no God.  They are merely ahead of the pop culture trend, prepared to interpret all facts in naturalistic terms and then smug in their conclusion that no facts exist to support supernaturalism.

So how does one combat this?

Christians are not losing on facts, argument, logic, evidence, and reasoning.   We are losing because we are not effectively transmitting the faith to the next generations and probably haven’t been doing so for some time.  With more nonChristians in society, logically enough, this is manifested in pop culture.  Fixing how we pass on the faith is one of the most important things Christians must do.  With more informed and grounded Christians in pop culture, this will have its logical effect.

The second thing is we have to fight fire with fire.   The author of the ChristianityToday article doesn’t make this point and I am at a loss as to why not.  He does say, correctly:

“…the church needs to broaden its apologetics work to include serious analysis of and response to popular culture, now our most potent form of religious persuasion. Frankly, we have given these narratives a free pass in our eagerness to appear culturally savvy. But we must be clear: Arguments against Christianity and in support of rival worldviews now arrive daily as embedded components of visual and written fiction. Pop-culture fiction, not academic nonfiction, is now the cutting edge of public discourse on spirituality.

You might expect the author to draw the conclusion that we too should be using ‘pop-culture fiction’ but surprisingly he doesn’t.  Perhaps an oversight?  Or perhaps I missed it.

At any rate, our apologetics cannot be confined merely to ‘serious analysis and response to popular culture’ at the level of discernment and confrontation.  Our response must be in kind.

This is why I have been changing the direction of my own apologetics ministry.  As much as I’d love to keep banging heads with atheists and secular humanistists, that is not where the battle is being won, even if that is often where it is fought.  I don’t know if my own Birth Pangs series succeeds on this score at the level of the greats like Lewis and Tolkien but it is at least an unashamed attempt to convey Christian attitudes and beliefs and perspectives in a format that is more palatable to the people of today.

It is also why my ministry is hosting a Christian writing contest.  We need to encourage Christians to write, and write well.  We need them in our newspaper conference rooms, as producers on TV and cable networks, writing sitcoms, in Hollywood, and as always, as authors of books competing against great secular authors.

If you would like to join me in this effort, I invite you to contact me.  I don’t believe it is too late (yet) to make a difference.

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