If you go back 100 years to the early 20th Century, the question of how you engaged with the culture had a simple answer “you don’t.” Christians were expected to separate out from the world and so worldly things like cinemas and dance halls were out of bounds.
We have come a long way since then but is that a good thing or a bad thing? How do we know whether or not to participate in activities? How do we know whether or not to watch a film, read a book or listen to a particular band?
Dan Strange answers “It depends…” and argues for careful, thoughtful engagement. Here are some of the gems which he expands on in his boo
- Culture is a good thing. Humans are made to cultivate, to create culture.
- Culture in a fallen world is idolatrous. We worship the creator instead of the created.
- The risk therefore is not just of obvious danger in watching or listening. We can be alert to the affect of graphic sex scenes and extreme violence and miss the many other ways in which culture distorts the truth about God.
At the heart of Dan’s thinking is an apologetic method based around the idea of “subversive fulfilment.” Following JH Bavinck, Dan argues that people are longing and hoping for things that can only be bet in Christ. However, before we can show people how these good desires can be fulfilled, we must recognise that even the good desires expressed are distorted and sinful. They need to be subverted and transformed to healthy, God glorifying desires.
In order to engage culture in a healthy way, Dan proposes a step by step process where we Engage (Step into the world), Explore (search out for positive things). Expose (show up how idolatry falls short) and Evangelise (Show off the beauty and glory of the Gospel and take people to Jesus).
This is a fantastically helpful, easy to read book which will help you to engage with God’s World in a new way. It will enhance your personal enjoyment of culture and help you to connect not just with the culture but evangelistically with others.
If I were to suggest two challenges or developments, I would say first of all that the Engage process is something I believe to be helpful not just for evaluating the culture around us and engaging others but also for self-evaluation as we consider the state of our own hearts.
Secondly, Dan’s process takes us to Jesus in the final stage. The step of taking people to the Cross and to Christ is often the hardest in evangelism. It feels like there is a great bridge to cross. I am persuaded by Paul Williams’ approach (If you could ask God one question) which encourages us to start with Jesus. I think that combining the approaches would enable us to start by engaging and exploring the culture through his eyes.
One of the particularly helpful parts of the book is the practical case studies at the end. It is delightful to see Dan encouraging others to speak at this point as the case studies are provided by former students.
Plugged In is available from