In this episode, Kurt speaks with Paul Gould on cultural apologetics as evangelism.
Kurt: Thanks for joining us here on another episode of veracity hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. This is episode 141. Coming to you week after week, last week, if you hadn’t had the chance we brought in to fellows from the Heartland Institute, as we discussed, the the green New Deal and there was a lot of great feedback. And actually a lot of views on that one, which was great. A lot of folks are interested in politics, I guess. And so that’s something that we while we’re not partisan here, at veracity Hill, we do like to look at political issues, because the Christian worldview is all encompassing. There’s not an inch in this world that doesn’t belong to God. And that includes the political realm and ideas about that. So hopefully, folks weren’t too put off by our discussion last week, but I’d love to get your feedback. Nevertheless, on this week’s episode, we’re talking about cultural apologetics. But before we get to that, I have one brief announcement here regarding our upcoming event in Dyer, Indiana, discovering truth, on May three, and four, we’ve got keynote speakers, Mike Licona, Cisco, Cotto, and Ted, right. And it’s going to be a great opportunity for folks to come and hear a number of different apologetic topics, if you want to grow in your faith. And if you perhaps want to invite a friend, a seeker who wants to hear Christian intellectual responses to maybe objections or questions, concerns that they might have, to our faith, it’s a good opportunity to come. And I do believe we will be recording all the sessions. So if you can’t join us, I understand. But if you want to learn more, you can go to the defenders conference.com/dire. And you can see more about the schedule other speakers and register for the event as well. And we’re grateful for partnering with the village church of Dyer and even the village church of a park to make this event happen. So and also, let me say this isn’t to be confused with the annual defenders conference, but just one of our smaller events that we do. So the annual conferences coming up later in October on gospel differences, which that’ll be an exciting time. More on that forthcoming. All right. Well, in today’s episode, we’re talking about cultural apologetics. And joining us is Dr. Paul Gould. He’s the founder of the two tasks Institute. And the author of his recent book now published I think, just last week, or something like that, cultural apologetics renewing the Christian voice, conscience and imagination in a disenchanted world. So here it is put out by Zondervan available now. And also, I want to make sure I don’t forget this really great 15th lesson, two disc set on DVD, great opportunity for you if you want to lead a small group through it. You can see there’s some nice photos of the video work there by Zondervan. Paul, thank you so much for joining us on our program today.
Paul: You bet. Good. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Kurt: Yes, yes. And so you are a philosopher, someone who thinks deeply about the way that the world is, and just looking through your CV, you have, you know, some high level, you know, philosophy of religion, articles and publications. And but but this book here is something a little different. I mean, certainly there is philosophy to it, and it’s mixed in, but it’s not. It’s not philosophy proper. I mean, in a sense, we’re talking about ways to engage with culture, the culture, but in a sense, you’re you’re doing something not just high level for the ivory tower. You’re trying to reach people, aren’t you?
Paul: Yeah, yeah, it’s, uh, you know, it’s interesting. I, although I teach philosophy, I’m a philosopher. I also have been a campus minister for over 16 years with a crew. And so I have a real big heart for, you know, this question, it’s actually been a question I’ve been wrestling with for probably almost two and a half, three decades, you know, how does the gospel get a fair hearing in our culture today? And so yeah, so it’s it’s kind of this weird blend of this history of trying to share the gospel in a place that sometimes is not open or hostile or misunderstands the gospel, and then wanting to think clearly about the topic too. So yeah, it’s a nice, nice little blend, I’d say of philosophy and just practical. How do we get the gospel out so that people actually see it for what it is like that?
Kurt: Yeah, it’s odd because you’re still I mean, you’re not doing but the practical there still is the the, you know, dealing with the ideas and how that should be dealt. So of course, in one sense, it is philosophical your present tene arguments you’re presenting a case here. But it’s a case for how we should engage with people. It’s not say a case for making a case. And in fact, as I, as I was looking through the book, I came across a fine passage where you were sitting down at dinner with a fellow, and you had gone forth and just spewed out a 20 minute case for Christianity. And and you realized it wasn’t working nothing that you had said, really connected with him. And, you know, a switch flipped in you. And you were like, tell me about, you know, your objections against the Christian believer against God. And then you right here that he went to pour out His heart about his life circumstances. And so, for many people, they think apologetics is just about the arguments. It’s about debating. I had coffee with a fellow just a couple weeks ago. And before he met me, that’s kind of what he thought. He’s like, Oh, I’m not into apologetics, you know. But then I explained, it’s apologetics isn’t just about the the arguments, but it’s about winsome persuasion. It’s about leading people to Christ. And so what you’re arguing here with cultural apologetics is that we need to lead people to Christ. And we need to do so in more ways than just here’s the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Here’s Pascal’s Wager, here’s the argument for the resurrection. And so you look at presenting this winsome persuasion as it not just flows from our character, but goes out into society into the things we do the things we create, bringing people interested making them reinvented with the world. And so before I continue on, hopefully I’m not spoiling anything. First, why don’t we get started your take what is in your view? What is cultural apologetics?
Paul: Yeah, okay. Well, how about if I back up? And let’s talk a little bit about the problem I’m trying to address?
Paul: …that will actually give us a segue into, you know, what do I mean by cultural apologetics. But the way that I’ve been thinking about this is, you know, there’s this interesting thing about 50 years ago, sociologists were predicting that by the time the 21st century rolled around, that religion would be gone, that we would be a secular society, and things like that. What’s interesting, we find ourselves now in the 21st century, but some of those same sociologists, Peter Berger, being one of them, has basically said, we are totally wrong, you know, religion did not go away. In fact, they say we live in now what’s called a post secular world. And religion is really poised to play this dominant role in the next century. And of course, we see this every day on our news feeds, as well. But what’s interesting about that, you know, you might think, Okay, this is good news for Christianity, and it is good news. And of course, when we put our theology caps on, we know that you can’t sort of wipe out spirituality like you can wipe out Greece in a pan, I mean, this is just how we’re created. But at the same time, even with this renewed interest in religion, and spirituality, much of the West, at least of which many of you know, we many of us find ourselves in Krushi, we live in what’s called a maybe a post Christian or a sub Christian or an anti Christian, depending on the pockets, we find ourselves in kind of culture. And so as a result, though, what I’m finding is that three things three ways, number one, the church largely has, we no longer see Jesus is relevant to all aspects of life. And there’s this rampid sort of anti intellectualism, it’s in the culture, and it’s in the church. But one of the key results of that is that the gospel doesn’t get a fair hearing, because many people don’t think we have anything to say when it comes to truth. Add to that, though, the reality that, you know, as Christians, many of us are as fragmented as our non believing neighbors, and you know, weekly, we read of Christian leaders that disqualify themselves from ministry for moral failures or things like that. And so as a result, the church is no longer able to really exercise their prophetic voice into culture, which is historically one of the roles that we’re, we’re called to play in our culture to be salt and light. So the Christian conscience has become muted in our culture today. And it’s just not viable. You know, it’s not, it’s not desirable. And then you add to that, not just the Christian voice and the Christian conscience, but many of us as Christians, we view the world in basically the same categories as everybody else. And so we’ll use language like this to describe the world we live in will say the world is ordinary, or the world is mundane, or the world is every day. But in reality, that’s not the way the world is right? The world is. It’s beautiful, and it’s majestic. And it’s to use the proper word. It’s sacred, it’s gift. It’s enchanted. And so as a result of the collective mood of both people, largely within the church, but really our culture at large is what I would call disenchanted. And so we’ve lost the Christian imaginary You shouldn’t. And so so the so the question then is for those and culture today, in the 21st century, for many Christianity is viewed as either implausible or undesirable or both. And so that that was the problem. That’s the issue that I want to address is how can we work to reestablish that Christian voice and the Christian conscience, and that Christian imagination, so that the gospel will actually be seen as true to the way the world is? And also true to the way the world ought to be? So? Yeah, so cultural apologetics is basically this into this idea that we weren’t we, we we value all parts of what it means to be human, the rational parts, of course, we still need and we must give arguments because we’re rational animals who seek truth. But we’re not merely rational animals, right? We longed for goodness, right? We have a conscience. And so we have to help show how Jesus and the gospel connects to these longings for wholeness, our longing for justice or longing to live a significant life, those are all part of what I believe, what I would call this longing for goodness that the conscience is guiding us toward. But then we’re also imaginative creatures, you know, we longed for beauty, and, of course, Christ as a source of goodness, truth and beauty. And so he’s given us reason, the imagination and the conscience. And so basically, I’m taking all of that and, and thinking about, you know, what does it mean to be human humans that live in culture, and make culture and then are shaped by culture? And how can the Gospel be viewed as plausible and desirable within that context? So that’s, that’s a little bit about what the project is and what cultural apologetics is.
Kurt: Nice. Okay, before continuing on with material from the book, I want to ask you here, because I think this is a great opportunity for you to talk about the two tasks Institute and the work that you’re doing there. So tell us about that.
Paul: Yeah, so … years ago, so I’m kind of a visionary guy. I’ve learned that I’m not super creative, but I kind of have lots of ideas and vision. And probably 20 years ago, I was at seminary at in Talbot studying philosophy. And I was reading I think, I was reading JP Moreland’s book, Love the Lord your God with all your mind. And there’s one sentence somewhere, and I need to go find it. But it basically said, you know, where is where are all the Evan Jellicle foundations that are funding future scholars? And that put a seed in my mind? Because, you know, as a campus minister, who knows there’s money out there and knows how to raise it. I’m like, Yeah, where is all the foundations that have this sort of long term vision. And so that 20 years ago idea of shaping and investing in future professors who are key culture shapers for one area of culture, that is the University which is concerned with truth, that’s kind of grown over the years to consider not just how we can engage the key culture, shaping institutions with respect to truth, which is the university, but also with respect to beauty, which is the art and goodness, which would be the city and business and maybe government to. And so the two tests Institute, which has, which was the idea was birthed over 20 years ago, was launched recently to basically address those two questions. How can we show Christianity reasonable? That’s one task, and how can we show it desirable, that’s the other task. It’s I gathered a group of friends. And we’re generating we have our own podcast called the yoodo podcast, which you can check out. We’re creating lots of videos and content and study guides and, and basically resources to help RIA chant the world, and we’ll talk about that. So that, you know, the gospel will actually be be a plausible, so yeah, we’re just praying that God will raise up a movement of people that that want to join to help, you know, in this long term project of of sowing the soil so that the seed of the gospel would take root and bear fruit.
Kurt: Yeah, that’s great. Great. Okay. So you sort of provide a foundation here for what you see as the problem and hence the need for cultural apologetics. And some of this has come because people have become disenchanted with the way the world is. You say some people say it’s just mundane, its ordinary. And, and, oh, it bugs me so much. Even Christians think this is the case. There’s the him, you know, I’m just passing through. I forget exactly what lyrics of the song that him but But basically, it’s about Christian just saying, I’m just living here. You just have to biding my time until the better days, you know, and it’s like, no, God has created this beautiful world. And there’s so much Kingdom work to do. You know, people so many, especially in America, where, you know, people watch so much TV, they, you know, just entertain themselves. There are folks that are just on their iPhones all the time watching videos, you know, especially younger folks. They’re on YouTube all the time. It’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa, get out of that world. Hold, you know, there’s there’s a world right in front of you. And let’s talk about it. And let’s, you know, make it make it beautiful again. And so that’s geared towards the Christians, of course, but cultural apologetics is also about reaching the non Christian who thinks the world is this way. You know, if you’re an atheist, and you think all we are a space dust just somehow organized space dust. Well, you know, there is nothing beautiful about this world. It just is. And so you’ve, you’ve talked about the different forms of disenchantment. So I’ll let you go ahead and speak more to that.
Paul: Yeah, so this word disenchantment. That’s the word I use in the book. And what and so I mean, something very specific by that. And it answers the question, what is the dominant way of perceiving in our world today? And so the answer is disenchantment. And what that means is when I said earlier that that we no longer have eyes to see the world in its proper light. And if we don’t see it in its proper light, we don’t appreciate it as gift. We don’t enjoy it and creaturely response and things like that. But the interesting thing is, so we live in a disenchanted world. And Charles Taylor, who is a Catholic philosopher has done a ton to bring this kind of language into prominence with his sort of mammoth work. It’s a 900 page book called The secular age but but the term actually came from Max Weber, earlier in the 20th century. And what was interesting, though, what what unlocked it for me, and the idea was actually reading CS Lewis, who’s one of my favorite sort of people to read. And I came across this essay, that’s well, not well known by Lewis, it’s called talking about bicycles. And in there, so he writes this essay about a bicycle. And he uses that as a an example, for these four stages that we go through with pretty much respect to everything. And so let me just tell you the four stages, because it kind of pulled some things together, and Louis, and actually, I see it in Tolkien. And I see it in all the ancient writers as well, but, but for the bike, Lewis says, you know, you come into the world as an infant, and the bike and everything else in the world means nothing to us. So we’re unenchanted, that would be the first stage. And then he says, you know, as a child, kind of imagine that moment, for those of you who listening here, you know, the moment when the training wheels came off your bike, or if you have children, that moment, when that happens, and the child rides that bike for, you know, for the first time on his own, and this, you know, you enter into what Louis would call the second stage, which is the enchanted stage. And the idea there is that everything as it should be, and, you know, riding that bike brings joy and delight and, and things like that. But then he says, pretty quickly, we enter into that third stage with respect to that bike, and you know, as a guy that grew up, riding everywhere on his bike, in suburbia, Wisconsin, I could relate to this third stage where, you know, becomes work and drudgery, and you just, you become disenchanted toward the bike. And as Lewis puts it, it becomes like, you know, the, or to the galley slave on the boat, and it’s drudgery, and it’s misery. But Lewis says that most of us remain in that third stage. And I would think that actually describes our culture today. And and he says that we need to press through, though, to this fourth stage, which is called reinstatement. And by this, he means with respect to the bike that we would learn to view it as gifts, and then enjoy it in creaturely response. In reading this essay by Lewis kind of unlocked, I think, a lot of what Lewis was doing. But I also think it gives voice to this dominant mode of perceiving in our world that we no longer see things the way they actually are. But here’s the thing, as a result, as Charles Taylor pointed out, unbelief in God becomes possible. And, and belief in God for those of us who already believe becomes more difficult. And so this is something that affects everything, it affects those in the church, if you know it, it results in this felt absence of God that is dominant, not only out there in culture, but often in the way that we go to church and experience. You know, the, the kind of liturgy that we engage in is often very, very shallow. So it disenchantment changes everything. And of course, it changes the plausibility of the gospel as well. And so we’ve got to understand it. And then part of what I’m arguing for in the book, so I kind of have a descriptive part. But then we have this prescriptive, you know, okay, what do we do now that we’ve arrived at disenchantment, and I’m actually hopeful that if we join with God, as Christians, and the Holy Spirit, we can work to re enchant the world. And what I mean by that are two things. And then I’ll pause. The first thing I mean, is that we would begin to see and delight in the world the same way that Jesus does. And then the second thing is, once we’ve done that, then we would invite others to see and delight in the world the same way Jesus does as well. And in doing so, well, then we can imagine a world you know, where the gospel actually makes sense, and where Jesus and you know, the whole Gospel story is actually viewed as desirable and the the, you know, and the end goal ultimately is that people will be able to, you know, answer this question, what do you make of Jesus for themselves and understand it and would have meaning and so on. So yeah, that’s, that’s the idea.
Kurt: So what would it look like for Christians to bring reenchantment? I don’t know how you might say to read and chant others. What what does that look like practically?
Paul: Yeah, I mean, so that’s such a great question. You know, a lot of the things I’ve been reading so Hans Boersma is a theologian, and he wrote a little book called reweaving, the sacred tapestry, where he said, The only Christianity’s that have a future are those that adopt a sacramental view of the world. In other words, that we begin to view the world is created as sacred as gift JBK Smith, a lot of his cultural liturgy series, he says the same thing he says, you know, the Christianity’s that have a future those that reinvent themselves. And so it begins with us. And in the book, I talk about three areas as Christians that we need to, I guess, get, you know, work on that are sort of in house areas, and they would actually correspond to the mind, our conscience, and then our imagination, we need to reject anti intellectualism, that’s the first thing, it’s rampant. It’s very dependent on culture, it’s rampant in our churches. And in being anti intellectual, though, which is actually just a call it what it is, it’s actually sin. It’s actually a scandal when you look at, you know, the call that we are to love God with all of our mind, all of our being. So we’ve got to reject anti intellectualism, so that we can begin to integrate theology and good philosophy into our view of the world, and the story that we inhabit. So that would be the first thing. The second thing is that we need to to cease being fragmented people and we need to catch basically catch a vision for becoming whole were all of our thinkings and willings, and emotions are pointed in the right direction, and according to the grain of reality. And so we have to catch this vision of being Hold on, of course, we do that by looking to Christ. And then the third thing I talked about in the book is this idea of re baptizing the imagination. And it relates to what I said earlier about how we no longer perceive the world in its proper light. And part of that is we just can’t we don’t imagine ourselves as part of a story. That’s, that’s full of transcendence and divinity, and, and where God is fully present, you know, we don’t see the world the way that actually Jesus does. And so part of that, I think, is spending time in the Bible and reading the Bible on the Bible’s own terms. Part of that is paying attention to, to the kinds of habits and sometimes people call them the liturgies that we adopt, whether that’s the liturgies, we adopt at church, but also the so called the so called secular liturgies, the things that we do at home, the things that we do daily, you mentioned, you know, we watch a lot of TV, and we spend a lot of time on our home. Well, all of that shapes us. And that shapes the way that we imagine our lives and we view our lives and and what’s interesting about how we mediate such as so much of our lives through a screen is that we’re actually, as you mentioned earlier, one step removed from reality. And so we’re not reinventing ourselves, we’re actually further removing ourself, it’s actually kind of what I would call a false re enchantment, because we’re looking for something beyond the mundane. But we’re finding it through this virtual world. And it’s, it’s, you know, that virtual world is often as fallen and corrupt as the actual world. And so it’s not, it’s not going to re enchant us, and help us see the world the way Jesus does. So yeah, those are a couple thoughts. But I think ultimately, it just, it begins with us, as believers, really recapturing what’s historically been called a sacramental view of the world is created by God, a God who lovingly sustains and cares for each one of us in the world he has made
Kurt: you brought up virtual reality. And that was my next question was about the false reenchantment … at least that kind of three ways that people do this. So, so true reenactment would be, you know, offering Jesus in its fullest extent to people and everything we do. But other people might want to seek to be reinvented in other ways. And so you talk about humanism, augmented or, and or virtual reality and Neo paganism. Tell us about those false enchantment approaches.
Paul: Yeah, so in mapping out this sort of model of it, let me back up because this will help what I’m doing in the the chapters that you’re referring to, I’m mapping out a model to understand culture. And that model is rooted in this ancient idea that reality is a story of wander from God and return to God. And so you see this in Augustine, actually his own individual story, but you see it in the way that he actually believes reality is this ongoing story of wonder from God and turning back to God. You see this in Aquinas, you see it in much of the the ancient thought, Christian thought about the world. And of course, you see it in Louis, and you see it in talking and people like that, who had eyes to see. And so part of what I’m doing is proposing that we can And we can return to this idea of re enchantment. But in the possibility of returning to a reenchanted view of the world. There’s also the possibility of false re enchantment. And so that’s what I’m talking about there. And the idea is this that, you know, the intelligencia tell us that there is no supernatural world, right? Everything’s disenchanted. Everything’s mundane. That’s what we’ve been told by the intelligencia. But our longings betray us, you know, those shows that we watch, you know, we’re fascinated with the occult, or zombies or vampires, or, you know, whatever, these extra mundane things. Actually, superheroes is a great example of the fascination with Marvel and the DC world. These are, these are secondary worlds that are extra mundane. So our longings betray us in some ways, even though the intelligence yes says there is nothing beyond the mundane. And so with that, though, with this post secular world where religion is, you know, there’s renewed interest in religion, the possibility of all these false reenactments is is a pretty, I mean, there’s a strong possibility, as I talked about a few in the book. So for example, one of the really interesting things to watch a couple years ago, was when Pokemon Go, you know, was it 2016 I think that summer where for like, 15 minutes, everybody was playing this game, you know, walking around, staring at their phones, and there’s little mythical creatures on their phones that somehow augmented onto reality. But that’s a kind of false re enchantment, if you think about it, and we’re not we’re trying to transcend the mundane, by entering into this virtual world and things like that. And of course, you know, those things are fun, but but they betray, I think our longings, paganism, actually, what we might call Neo paganism. And the, the obsession that we have with the occult, again, is a very dangerous false free enchantment, where we longed for something more, but we can miss direct it in the wrong place. Because, you know, the, you know, on the on the Neo pagan idea, there’s, there’s spirits and things like that there’s paranormal activity. But that’s not what we’re after, right? We want to help people see the world the way that it actually is. And so I actually call this returning to reality, right? We want to, the reality is that there is a spiritual world, but it’s a world and there is a sacred order. But it’s a world created by the good and loving and perfect God, as expressed through Christianity. And so that’s, that’s the danger, there’s also spiritual interest. But we’ve got to be helping people sort of channel that into the True Object of their longing, which is, which is God and Jesus Christ and so on.
Kurt: So I wanted to follow up here on this concept of the occult, the Spiritism, what does that look like practically that people are interested in horror movies, you know, which which portray this stuff? I mean, I know which witchcraft Wiccan is actually, on the rise over in Europe? And I guess you’re in the United States as well. So do you mean proper? Or do you mean, like in the entertainment, we’re fascinated with vampires and that sort of thing?
Paul: I think both actually. So one of the big ideas. And again, this is a longer story. But you know, one of the products of coming out of the last three to 500 years, on the other side of the so called enlightenment if for those of you who are familiar with a little bit of the history of ideas, one of the big eye things that has taken place, though, is this idea that there has been a severing between the sacred order, and the set the natural and social order. And so largely today, there’s this idea that anything goes that there’s no order to the world, there’s no natural order, there’s no tail asked, as you know, we would like to say in philosophy, there’s no essences, and there’s no way things ought to be. And so we kind of are in the Wild West, in terms of our spirituality, right? We’re kind of just, you know, a lot of it’s, we’re drawn to things that make us that are interesting to us, or that, that move us in some way. And so I think our movies, the things that we watch on TV are actually good insight into the kinds of longings of our heart. You know, why are we obsessed with the occult or horror, or 12 zombies or whatever it is? Well, I mean, that betrays that we long for something more than this. And so, yes, it we’d love to watch it, but we love to watch it, because in some ways, the stories that we watch, that we watch the really good ones, they’re pointing to some deeper reality or some deeper longing, that actually does I think, connect to life. And so we long for a spiritual world. But again, we can miss direct it. And so I love what CS Lewis says, he says that we there’s this kind of dialect, dialectic of desire that’s taking place where we seek an object that will satisfy our longing. When we attach to it and it doesn’t satisfy we need to unattach and then continue to seek something else and we’ll reattach on Attach. But he says if we faithfully follow that dialectic, eventually we will find the True Object of our longing, which is God and he says it’s a kind of like and experienced ontological argument where if we follow our desires will actually find ultimately, the True Object of our longing. And so I think it’s an opportunity, all this interest in the Supra natural. But again, it’s something that we’ve got to be really careful and strategic and continuing to dialogue and ask, is that really the thing that you long for? Let’s talk about that. And things like that.
Kurt: Yeah. Very nice. Well, Paul, we have to take a short break here. When we come back, though, we’re going to explore some further thoughts that you have here on cultural apologetics, which, by the way, if you’re just joining us is the title of Paul’s recent book, cultural apologetics renewing the Christian voice, conscience and imagination in a disenchanted world by Zondervan available now, it just came out last week. Right, Paul? That’s right. Yeah, last Tuesday. Okay, great. Great. So be sure to stick with us through this short break from our sponsors,
Kurt: Thanks for sticking with us through that short break from our sponsors. If you’d like to learn how you can become a sponsor, or a patron, that’s just someone who ships in five or 10 bucks a month, go to our website, veracity hill.com and click on that patron tab. At our website, we’ve got all of our previous episodes, that’s 140 episodes, this is 141. Every Saturday now for guests, it’s two and a half years. So it’s a blessing to be bringing this program to you week after a week, we’d love to gain your interest in supporting our program as we continue to go and grow. That’s what I’ve been saying now for a few weeks go and grow is what we’re doing here at veracity Hill. So thank you if you’d consider financially supporting us. And if you aren’t one of our supporters, either financially or not, would you please consider giving us a review on iTunes, our Facebook page or whatever your podcast app is in the Google Play Store. We’d love to get those reviews to help people who maybe are just learning about our program. We’ve got some folks here chiming in on social media. Apparently, our our Spanish outreach is doing well, too. We have a couple of folks that have said, hola. So great to know, that’s happening. For those that don’t know, we are slowly transcribing, or I should say translating our transcriptions into Spanish as we reach out to other folks here in the United States and across the globe. And so we’ve got Corey Miller says rockin with Paul. Yes, you and Cory go way back, don’t you, Paul?
Paul: So, I was at Purdue earlier this week speaking and we hung out and now he’s actually in Texas. So yeah, we crossed paths a lot. Yeah, we go way back.
Kurt: and tell me about your present work with Ratio Christi?
Paul: Yeah, so this past year we’ve been in the sort of transition out I’ve been teaching at a seminary for about the last five years and but for the last year, one of the things I’ve been doing, and it goes back to even earlier I mentioned this heart for the university. And so rational Christie’s a national, actually international campus ministry, concerned with apologetics. And so one of the hearts that they have is to reach the whole campus, which of course, includes professors. And so I’ve worked with professors for a number of years as a campus minister. And so since I have a kind of transition year, I wanted to help give some lift to that part of their ministry. So Corey and I and some others have been kind of wrestling with how can we help that organization really grow in that area? So yeah, I’ve just been doing a few things and enjoying helping helping them out a lot.
Kurt: Great, great. And also, we’ve got Ike, who’s tuning in here. He says, This is great. So I’m glad, Ike Thank you for watching, and I’m glad that our conversation with Paul here is beneficial to you. Now, Paul, I didn’t give you the heads up here, but we do a short segment on the show called Rapid questions. And so it’s just sort of a short questions. We get to know a little bit more about you. It’s 60 seconds. So oh, man, he’s prepped and ready to go. Look at that. Do it. All right. First question. What’s your clothing store of choice?
Paul: JC Penney’s
Kurt: All right, Taco Bell, or KFC?
Paul: Neither Chick fil A.
Kurt: What’s your favorite sport?
Paul: Soccer. Yeah, soccer. Because my kids play.
Kurt: What kind of razor do you use?
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Paul: I do not.
Kurt: Pick a fictional character you’d like to meet?
Paul: Oh, my. Oh, that’s tough. Oliver Twist … I’m gonna change it. Odysseus.
Kurt: All right. Would you ever consider living abroad?
Kurt: What type of music do you listen to?
Paul: Whatever’s on my kids playlists, which seems to be a lot of Christian Rap lately, because I run to it and it’s okay.
Kurt: What was the last thing you bought?
Kurt: Yes. Yeah, I know that problem.
Paul: Right here. Just got it.
Kurt: All right. A couple of questions. You said your fictional character you’d like to meet? Did I hear it correctly? Odysseus.
Paul: Odysseus from the Odyssey, and the Iliad, Homer.
Kurt: Yeah. And why would you want to meet him in the fictional
Paul: maybe he’s not a fictional character? I don’t know. But
Kurt: oh, yes. Maybe not.
Paul: Yeah, yeah, that’s true. I said that. And I’m like, wait a minute. Yeah. Because I’m fascinated. You read Homer. And again, it’s so interesting, the ancient experience of the world is so different from our modern experience of the world, like, you know, for the ancients, you never knew if you’re going to come face to face with a god. And you never knew if divine judgment was, you know, around the corner or things like that. And so Odysseus, especially in the Odyssey, to me, it’s such a great story of the Western world. And the things that are great about it, I think, are things that actually point to the Gospel story. But why would I like to meet him because he’s just a, I don’t know, he’s a guy that had an adventure, some spirits, and he, you know, he grew through trial and temptation and folly, which I think is, in many ways, the human story. I think that story in particular, what we’re so drawn to is the idea of life is a quest or a journey, and that we successfully navigate that with others as we grow in virtue and character and things like that. So yeah, I mean, that just off the top of my head, that’s why you have to be on that journey with him and grow and you know, toward the end,
Kurt: the story drew you in to the world. And so what a great segue here as we continue our discussion on cultural apologetics. So in the first half of the program, we talked about sort of what cultural apologetics is the problem you see in the world, disenchantment, why people are disenchanted, and what it would mean to rien chant and maybe some false, what you call false reenactments about that things people pursue, but yet they still, you know, as you said, it’s double mundane. There’s still no fulfillment and meaning there. And you’ve talked about a couple of times this desire, we have this longing. You know, Louis talked about the Argument from Desire here that if we desire something beyond ourselves, you know, that there’s something to that, that there is something out there for us and for Louis that was the Christian God that what he what he ultimately came to believe, after his his time of atheism in this life. Now I want to ask you this. So you, we were talking about the false reenactments and how it’s the role Have the Christian to sort of bring people back? For many people, they might come across thinking, well, if I’m going to become a Christian, does that mean I have to give up these TV shows? Or I’ve got to now embrace? You know, DC talk and newsboys? If you are me growing up in the 90s, you know, and, you know, it just seems like Christian culture is so boring. We make cheesy films, you know, fireproof, and those sorts of things. Is that the only way is there is the Christian subculture the only way to reenchant people.
Paul: Yeah, no, I hope not. Because oftentimes, we don’t reinvent, but it feels sentimental and preachy and crass. When we create, yeah, no, I think the posture that we should have toward culture. So you know, there’s this huge debate among Christians, you know, what is their posture towards culture? Are we do we condemn it? You know, just carte blanche, do we consume it carte blanche, or is it somewhere in the middle? You know, do we copy it, and so on. But I think that one of the most helpful books and thought and thinkers that have helped me in this question is actually Andy Crouch, who wrote a book called culture making, and in there, he says, and I love what he does, here he roots it in Genesis wanted to, and the idea that that one of the primary things that is revealed about God in the early chapters of Genesis is that he’s a creator and cultivator cultivating God. And so if we want to understand a little bit about what it means to be created in the image of God, well, we too, then are called to be creators and cultivators of the good, the true and the beautiful. And so I think our posture towards culture is one of note, we own it, like we were the ones that create the best culture because we own goodness, truth and beauty, right? They come from God. And so, no, you don’t have to, I mean, you know, we need to be wise, right? There’s some things that, you know, Paul says, Do not touch or whatever, you know, so you have to have wisdom. But it’s not like there’s this carte blanche everything that’s coming from culture is bad. In fact, I think there’s, I think that I mean, even Paul and Maurice Hill, you know, he’s building a bridge from the idols that they worshiped to the gospel, and he’s quoting pagan philosophers. auratus, who was a stoic philosopher. And then they’re poets of amenities. And he actually says, He quotes up amenities and acts 17, verse 28. And he says, you know, For in Him, we live and move and have our being. Now that was a quote up, Amentities was saying about Zeus. And Paul takes that quote, and reinvest it with new meaning, right, and he, so he sees the good, but then he reinvest it, and sort of redirects it. And so no, I mean, we need to be wise. But now there’s so much good, you know, that’s common grace, we might even say sometimes. And one last thing about this also in Paul, the only two times in Acts when you see him address, audiences, not like himself, you know, it’s Acts chapter 15, where he addresses the God fearing Greeks and Listra. And then of course, Acts chapter 17, with when he addresses the Greeks and the philosophers. But back to the Acts 15. One, I love what he says there, he says to them, he says, look at all the good things that you have, you know, that God has given you wine and food and, and seasons for crops and things like that. And so they say, look at the good that you have. And then he’s just pointing to the good, the giver of those good things. And so I think in terms of our posture, as Christians, our postures shouldn’t be one of condemning, or just carte blanche consuming, but really, our posture is one of making culture and then cultivating culture. So taking that those that are that need to be corrected and cultivating them to embody goodness, truth and beauty. And then of course, making good movies and telling good stories, and you know, good dance performances, and on and on and on good landscapes, good omelets, you know, good PowerPoint presentations, whatever it is that we would do with beauty in mind, because that’s what it means to be, as Tolkien would say, sub creator.
Kurt: the passage in Acts 17 is one of my favorite passages in the whole New Testament. Paul comes to the the people there in Athens at the Areopagus, and he basically says, looking around, look at all these gods that you worship. And here you have this altar to an unknown God. Let me tell you about this God. And he even says that you people worship the true God. But they just don’t know it yet. And it’s in the way that they’ve misunderstood. They’ve suppressed the truth. Perhaps you talk about truth suppression, a little bit in the book. So one of the ways that we Christians need to read and chant is through the use of our imagination is to recapture people. What is what does that look like to to use our imaginations toward those ends?
Paul: Yeah, okay, good. So, and by the way, the book actually the inspiration from the book is it’s Paul’s example to us in at Mars Hill, and just how brilliantly he identifies a starting place within his Athens that was, as you just mentioned, the altars to the unknown God. And then he builds a bridge from that starting place, using reason appealing to their conscience and their imagination. He builds a bridge to Jesus, you know, and as you get to the end of the passage, he basically introduces them to the one who stands at the heart of Christianity and forces this question, what do you make of Jesus Christ? And so I took that model, really, from Paul, this Paul inspired model and applied it to our Athens, you know, so what are the starting places, and the three that I’m working with? Are these three universal longings for goodness, truth and beauty. And then we use the planks of reason, on a quest to truth, the plank of our conscience on a quest for goodness and then the plank of our imagination on a quest for beauty. And that third plank, I in many ways, it’s kind of interesting. I think that the church is waking up to the importance of Beauty and the imagination. And apologetics folks are as well, you know, we now read up things like imaginative apologetics, or there’s a book that came out a few years ago called aesthetic, apologetics, you know, beauty, and but the idea here is that we are imaginative animals, right, and that we imagined ourselves as part of a story. And so that’s part of it. And that the imagination longs for beauty. And I always go back to this, this line, and Augustine, St. Augustine live 1500 years ago, he wrote the very first I know, you know, this, Kurt, but he wrote the very first Spiritual Autobiography in the Western world. And in Book Three, he says of God, he says, You are the beauty of all beautiful things. And that’s what we’re doing. When we engage the imagination. We’re setting them on a journey, through these, this universal longed for beauty, to the source of beauty, which is Jesus Christ. And I love how Plato and actually, actually, well, it’s a platonic thought that beauty evokes desire. And so when we have these experiences of beauty, they awaken us. And so in a culture that’s largely driven by image, which is the culture we find ourselves in the one of the most important plagues that we need to be accessing, I think, as apologists or cultural apologists, is that plank of beauty, set them on that journey, you know, so for my wife, she, you know, we’re, I think we’d be British, you know, asked about going into another world, I think in another life, we’d be British because we love you know, like, Poldark if, you know, the show, and the, you know, the guy galloping on the, the fields, you know, there’s cliffs in Cornwall there that await kids. There’s law, that that sets us loose and say we don’t want for the, in the, for the beauty through the thing. And that’s, that’s how we can, I think, use the aesthetic currency of our age to actually put people on a journey that ends in faith.
Kurt: You talked about, Louis there and point and looking along, that reminds me you talk about this in his book, he’s got an essay in his book, God in the dark. What or rather, it’s a collection of his essays in that book. And he talks about the sun beam here how he was in a tool shed, and he could see a you know, rays of light coming through, and he could see the sun beam. And so it’s one thing to look at the sun beam, see the particles of dust coming through. But it’s another thing to look along the sun beam and to see its source. That’s right. And so for us, we can we can look at the sun beam. And it’s good. We need to help people see the sun beams. And then encourage them to to look along the Sunbeam what is the source here? What is the source for goodness, truth and beauty. And so, you know, that’s cultural apologetics is about the winsome persuasion. It’s not just about the arguments, it’s informed by the arguments. But it’s really about the Winston persuasion of leading people to Christ. So in that sense, it’s a strong it’s one of the the strongest evangelistic tools to lead people to the kingdom, we’re talking about culture, you know, and how, you know, I grew up listening to DC talking newsboys you to the band has done more work for Christ’s kingdom than DC talk and newsboys combined. You two has written lyrics to non Christian audiences for decades now, communicating these truths. And some of them are explicit, you know, where the streets have no name. You to even has a song called Yawei of of all songs. I mean, you know, just the reach is so wide. I mean, millions and millions, maybe even a billion or more people on planet earth know about you too. And so it’s just it’s an amazing testament to their work as cultural apologists.
Paul: That’s right. Yeah, it’s good. Yeah. And it’s interesting In the book, I actually, for each of those, you know, reason, conscience and imagination, I look at them using that analogy from Louis, you know, what is reason? And let’s, you know, let’s understand it, what is the conscience? What is the imagination, but then we look along them, and I try to help the reader help people go on that journey, you know, both, there’s actually an argument, you know, from reason to God, and from morality to God and from the imagination to God. And that’s important, we want to give those arguments, but then we want to help them walk along that plague or that being, you know, and experience beauty and be led to the source just like you say, so I think that’s, it’s just that essay, by Lewis, I think is really helpful for understanding our task as evangelists and apologists and just, you know, men and women, ourselves, you know, who are wired in these ways, and we want to connect all of who we are, to all of what God has. So,..
Kurt: yeah, and you’re certainly, especially you as a philosopher, and someone who’s done philosophy religion, you’re definitely not opposed to reason here. It has its place. Yeah, you’re very supportive. I mean, you’re in your lifestyle. And in your work. You’re very supportive of the role reason plays, but you recognize that it’s not the end all be all in evangelism in apologetics. So tell me, what does that mean to be looking along reason?
Paul: Yeah, so looking along reason would be most I mean, that would be what most of us think about, I think, when we think about apologetics is giving arguments for you know, from science, from history from philosophy. You know, when so actually, in the chapter on reason and truth, the longing for truth, I actually gave an argument for from reason to God. So that’s looking at reason. And then I actually just gave some examples of how, you know, what’s a good argument? And like you said, how do we do wince when some persuasion and things like that, and just some basic, you know, how do we identify starting points and our starting posture and things like that, but yeah, so that that plague has been well walked, and rightly so. Right. You know, like Christianity, at least since the enlightenment, but even before that, has been under attack as irrational. And so we’ve got to, and of course, a cultural apologetic, has to engage the mind, because we’re rational animals, and we want our lives to hook up the truth. But yeah, my point is, it’s just it’s not an it’s not an either, or it’s a both. And we’ve got to, you know, dress all the aspects. But yeah, that would be look most like what we’re familiar with just giving arguments.
Paul: And so
Kurt: right. Okay. And so finally, you talked about the conscience. What role does that play in? How does one look along the conscience to God?
Paul: Yeah, so this one, this was difficult, because we’re so confused in our culture. And there’s an in house debate about social justice, there’s a culture wide debate about it. So here’s what I think. Okay, so I said earlier that we have this universal longing for goodness. And I parsed that out into three sub longings. And maybe this will help us a little bit. I think that that longing for goodness is composed of a longing for justice, right? So we want the world we want, we do want the world to be made, right? That’s just a deep seated longing. It’s part of this longing for goodness. Secondly, though, there’s a longing for wholeness like that we want. As I said earlier, we don’t want to be fragmented people, we don’t want to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And then the third thing is this longing for significance that we want our lives to matter. I actually think all those three, they correspond really nicely to the three parts of morality that CS Lewis talked about, again, you know, he can see the influence of Louis here, but in his chapter, the cardinal virtues in Mere Christianity, he talks about a successful, he talks about the moral life, and he uses an analogy of a fleet of ships. And he says, For every, every fleet of ships to be successful, it takes three components individually, each ship needs to be seaworthy. Socially, each ship needs to be rightly related with respect to each other, and then they all need to be rightly related with respect to their end. And he uses that analogy to talk to talk about the three parts to morality, individually, we need to be rightly related. That’s our character. That’s our longing for wholeness. And so as we live whole lives, that awakens and others, you know, a longing to live whole life. And of course, we only find that in Christ and there’s our opportunity, socially, you know, we long for right relationships with with each other. So there is this opportunity to be agents of shalom, as we would put it more biblically, to be to seek justice in this world. And so we can use that as part of that. And we can partner with people on that in appropriate ways to help people along with that journey, and that’s the social component. And then the third component, this longing to live a life that matters toward a chief and that one I think, is really interesting in the book i i talked about this Giving Pledge, and if you’ve heard of this, all the really rich people like Warren Buffett and Facebook founder and others, they’ve basically pledged to give you know a billion dollars or half their wealth away over their life. But if you go online and look at their actual pledges, and when they make that almost every one of them says something like this, you know, they have some obligation to pass on their wealth, they feel a sense of responsibility that their life would actually matter. And that’s really telling to me, I think, and so that raises a whole host of questions. It’s the last thing. All of this though, I think it’s so interesting, in light of what Blaise Pascal who was an enlightenment thinker, mathematician, he said, he said that this longing for goodness, in our world, we longed for it, because we have a memory of a memory of a time when man was truly happy. And I think that’s what we’re doing when we awaken this longing by living a good life and, and probing this with others. We remind them of a time when things were actually as they should be, and we set them on a journey, really to find their way back home. Home again. So…
Kurt: yeah, Pascal is one of those. I think underrated guys. Even in apologetics. I think his wager is underrated. Yeah, he’s got a lot to say, yeah, people just don’t realize what a thought provoking writer and thinker he was. Lots of lots of good stuff there. All right. Final question here. You talked about directing people back home. That’s what apologetics is all about, isn’t it? It’s leading people back home to who God created them to be. And that that fulfillment is finally ultimately found in the Christian faith, isn’t it?
Paul: Um hum, yeah, so one of the, you know, the things that I’ve become convinced about is if you think about our lives, you know, we enter into an ongoing story, the moment that we’re born, right, there’s a story and it’s as theologians like Kevin Van Hooser, and others have done so well, to show us that there’s this divine drama, I love how Calvin actually puts it, he talks about the universe is the theater of God’s glory, you know, the heavens in the earth at the theater of God’s glory. And so we enter into this ongoing story. And so I think if we understand our life as a quest, or a journey, well, we’re headed somewhere, well, where are we headed, you know, a successful journey. man’s highest good is union with God and everything that’s wrapped up with that home. And I think home is a great metaphor for that. And so this actually comes back, the last chapter of the book is about home, and how to help people find their way there. But this also, this actually comes back to the very beginning of the book where we talked about how all the from God and then return, you know, we’re kind of at the bottom, the wandering part, and, and our job as apologist and cultural apologist is just to help them really come back to that place that is, you know, this memory of a memory of a time when things were as they should be. And I think home is a great metaphor for that. Because really, we live our lives in a home. It’s not always ideal. But we have in our hearts, this picture of a place where we belong in a place where we’re known and loved. And that metaphor, I don’t think that metaphors by accident, right that our the rhythm of our life is one of home, and then away, and then home again, every day. That’s the rhythm of our day. But that’s actually the story of the world. And I would submit to you, it’s a story of the Bible as well. And so what we’re trying to help them do is just locate their lives in this great story of God. And in doing that, they actually find a story that understands them. That is just that is not only true, which is of course important, but it satisfies all the longings, it’s true to the way the world ought to be as well. So that’s, that’s what we’re doing as a cultural apologist.
Kurt: That’s great. And I want to encourage folks again, to check it out. Cultural apologetics, renewing the Christian voice, conscience and imagination in the disenchanted world out now published by Zondervan, and if you get the chance, check out the video lectures as well, a great two disc set here, about of 15 lessons. And you can see here the nice fine cinematography, you know, at defenders media, we appreciate good work. Of course, Zondervan has got a great, great team there to do that. So glad you had the chance to record those as well. Paul, thank you so much for coming on our program today. And we look forward to touching base in the future.
Paul: Awesome. Thanks, Kurt. It’s been a great to chat with you today.
Kurt: Yes, God bless you. I will say this for the book, we’ll be sure to put a link at our website. And so when we publish the video here of today’s program, if you want to just a quick link, go to our website, rest and heal.com Check out that post. And you can see his book as well. Otherwise, you can search Google or Amazon for cultural apologetics. And so what a wonderful chance it is for us to explore these, these notions of of engagement, a way in which we can just go and live out for many folks interested in apologetics. It’s just about the arguments and debating and butting heads. Well, that’s not just what apologetics is. It’s not that the reason side of it. apologetics is when some persuasion, leading people to Christ into his kingdom and into the fullness of life that they can find there. And so we need To be an all encompassing member of society, being the best Shoemaker, being the best garbage man, taking pride, a healthy righteous pride in our work and in the way we present and create art. I personally have struggled to go to these so called Christian films. To me, I don’t have that subcategory. It’s just it is a film. And whether it’s good or bad, you know, it’s on an objective standard. And so Christians need to be good at making art. We shouldn’t be making Christian art, let’s just make art and reach people. And Paul’s book here is a great opportunity for us to learn and think more about what that means for us as Christians and how we can use that to reach people for for God’s glory. All right, well, that does it for the show. Today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships that we have with our sponsors. They are defenders media, consult Kevin, the sky floor rethinking Hill, the Illinois Family Institute and Fox restoration. I want to thank our technical producer Chris, for all of the fine work that he has done today. And week in and week out. And to our guest, Paul Gould for his his time, on the Saturday afternoon, talking to us about cultural apologetics and why every Christian should go buy his book and read it and check it out. It’s a great book. I see here, Archer here, or Arthur on Facebook is saying encouraging everyone to check it out as well. So please do so. Last but not least, I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.