On today’s podcast, Kurt discusses cultural apologetics with Dr. Corey Latta. Topics discussed include the nature of time, C.S. Lewis, the craft of writing, and more.
Kurt: Thank you for joining us on this Third episode of Veracity Hill. I’m glad that you’re listening and I hope that this show can be edifying to you and beneficial to you. I hope you can gain something from it. This week we’ve got a special guest who will be joining us here shortly, Dr. Corey Latta and I’m real excited to be speaking to him about cultural horizons, the future of apologetics. Dr. Latta teaches and writes on theology, apologetics, and literature. He holds Master’s Degrees in New Testament studies and English as well as a Ph.D. in literature and before we start chatting with him, I wanted to tell you about a cool opportunity to be had next week at Christ Church of Oak Brook, the Defenders Media Conference. It’s going to be a really fun time. The theme is “Love God With Your Mind.” It’s Friday night and Saturday so Friday it’s 7-9:30 and Saturday it’s 8:30-2:30 and we’ve got free Chick-Fil-A so we’re really thankful for their sponsorship. That’s gonna be a fun time and many people have signed up already. It’s going to be a blast. We’ve got Ed Stetzer coming, Dr. Mike Licona and Tim McGrew, he’s a big name in the apologetics world, and I’ll be speaking and Dr. Corey Latta will be coming up from Memphis to join us, but first let me play the promotional video clip that we did and of course, you’ll just hear the audio, but this is something that Defenders released a couple of weeks ago.
Kurt: So there you have it, if you’d like more information, including how to register if you’re within a couple of hours drive of Chicagoland, you can go to Defendersmedia.com and click on the web banner there at the top of the Web Site.
So we’re going to get to our discussion today with Dr. Corey Latta. Dr. Latta, are you there?
Latta: I am. How’s it going?
Kurt: Great. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Latta: My pleasure. Happy to be here.
Kurt: Great. So you’ve got a Ph.D. in literature so of course you must be a bibliophile of some sort. You’ve got a couple published works right now. Tell us about what you’ve got written and then you’ve got some forthcoming stuff as well.
Latta: Yeah. I started writing in the area of New Testament so my first book was a look at the doctrine of election in the book of Romans. I looked at it in light of the Claudict Edict which was Emperor Claudius’s edict to expel the Jews from Rome in 49 A.D. I did that. I changed directions professionally and started looking at the intersections of theology and literature so my second work was called Functioning Fantasies and it was a survey of Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lewis’s Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe, looking at ideology, theology and some of the social function of those fantasies and the themes that run throughout both of those works. My next work was a little more focused. I looked at C.S. Lewis’s theology of time. I compared it with theology of time in T.S. Eliot, very prominent twentieth-century Christian poet most people know and maybe a poet don’t know as well, W.H. Auden, also a Christian, and really interesting they all converted to Christianity around ten years, more or less, of each other, and pretty soon after converted they also took the topic of time. There was no collaboration. They just individually found time interesting and I found that what they said about time was very synonymous.
So I thought to kind of bridge those ideas together by looking at a French philosopher named Henri Bergson whose views of time greatly influenced twentieth-century philosophy and that one was called When The Eternal Can Be Met. I’ve got a forthcoming book on C.S. Lewis and writing and it is his look at, I’m sorry. What?
Kurt: I was gonna say, yeah, I’m curious about that. Lewis’s writing just, is it very practical helping to be better writers ourselves?
Latta: Yeah. That was a driving force for me to write it. So out of all the works on Lewis out there, and there are many, there are only a few with a relationship to writing as a craft and of those few, none really have the actual writer in mind so I wanted to write a book that was really for the writer, kind of the writer’s writing book. So I just spent a lot of time combing through Lewis’s works and Lewis’s letters to find anything I could that patched together this picture of his relationship to writing, not just as a writer but also his advice on writing, so the book is structured really in two major sections. One is his relationship to reading because for Lewis there was no craft of writing without the art of reading.
Then I kind of start over again chronologically with his life and start going through his writing experience which begins extremely early. The guy was writing stuff when he was five years old. So yeah, that was a fun book to write and if you’re a Lewis lover, I think you’ll like it. If you’re a would-be writer, I think you’ll like it. If you’re any combination of the two, I think you’ll like it.
Kurt: Yeah. Great. Great. It sounds like Lewis has been a big influence in your life and I guess you’ve mentioned Tolkien as well. Tell us how these guys and perhaps some other people have been influential for you.
Latta: Yeah. As George MacDonald was to Lewis, Lewis is to me. He’s my father in the faith for sure. I was raised a Christian and always had a lot of exposure to the Bible and evangelical theology and understood the faith from a Biblical standpoint, but I never understood the faith from a philosophical, maybe a literary standpoint. I encountered Lewis first in college. I think I was a junior maybe in college and the first book I read was Mere Christianity. Like thousands and thousands of others, it just captured my heart and it was very providential that the guy who owned the bookstore at my little Christian college, I was doing Biblical studies as an undergraduate, this guy was obsessed with Tolkien and Lewis. He was a history teacher, but he was absolutely obsessed with these guys so he just personally stocked his own bookstore full of their works. You had collections from Lewis and Tolkien you just couldn’t find anywhere else so every time I went into the bookstore I would pick up a new volume. By the time I was a senior I was thoroughly taken with Lewis and Tolkien, I had a class on Tolkien my senior year, and it was those guys that bridged my reason and my imagination.
What had been built up through life rationally, just through the taking in of information with Scripture, that foundation all of a sudden had this grand building of imagination on it which satisfied a deep personal part of me that hadn’t yet been satisfied, so I always had an amateurish love of those guys. It wasn’t until I decided to major in English as a second Master’s, and I really only did that Master’s just for personal gain, I wasn’t professionally thinking about going into literary studies like that, but it wasn’t until I started on that Master’s and started looking at Tolkien and Lewis as literary critic and as ways to read literature that I really started to kind of milk them for all they had. My love of Lewis goes back a ways, though since I’ve been exposed to so many authors and so many other works and systems of thoughts like that, I still go back to Lewis more than anyone else. Not only was he a formative agent for my own thinking, but it’s kind of a prescriptive guide to how to approach other topics. I’ll read literature often times through the lens of Lewis’s criticism or think about theology, part of my thinking would be Lewis’s way of thinking about theology. I find him a bottomless well, there’s just so much to drink from there.
Kurt: That’s great. Wow. For those of you listening, if you have a question for Dr. Latta, you’ve got a comment, or perhaps a question for myself, you can give us a call. The number is 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. So Corey then, if you could tell us, you’d mentioned a little bit about how you sort of took in these rational arguments, sort of the science of apologetics if you will, but you noticed something with Lewis sort of, he wasn’t textbook, he wasn’t just here are the arguments, premise one, premise two, conclusion. He did something else in sort of applying that. Could you tell us a little bit about what that’s like, making that transition?
Latta: Yeah. Lewis himself wasn’t a Biblical scholar and he’s always very shy you could say in the preface of many of his works like in The Great Divorce. He does this in Mere Christianity, he does this in The Problem of Pain. He’d be quick to say “Look. I’m not a theologian. These are just thoughts on this topic.” Or in The Great Divorce he says “This is not a work of theology. This is a work of fiction and what not.” So he’s not a Biblical scholar, but he has a way of looking at Biblical texts that I don’t think anyone in history has ever been able to do. Matthew 6:33 is very well known. “Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given unto you.” Lewis took that in his chapter on hope in Mere Christianity as “aim at Heaven and you get Earth thrown in. Aim at Earth and you get neither.”
There’s the poetry and the ability to restate, this is what everyone agrees on with Lewis, is that he’s got the ability to put into the vernacular, theological propositions. Lewis’s ability to process Biblical truth, theological ideas, and poetic beautiful imaginative language has been really refreshing, personally refreshing for me. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a thinker who’s been able to that quite like Lewis so there was in me, I suppose it’s very subjective who we’re influenced by, a need for imagination and for some sort of partner through the reason, the reasonable side of Christianity or the rational approach to Christianity. I needed something a little more robust I think. My mind was fully satisfied but my heart often times was not quite as full. Lewis comes at the faith so personally, so subjectively, I mean if you just read his Surprised By Joy or notice the way he deploys first person in many of his works. He really did think himself to faith but not without the aid of the Spirit, not without the role of the heart. By the time he gets to a theological conclusion, it is fully satisfying intellectually, but it is absolutely personalized for him, I mean it really means something to him. There’s a genuineness in his works and I think I just encountered him at a time when I needed that most. I’d read Schaeffer around that time in college. I was thoroughly familiar with people like Packer and Grudem and these other theologians, but they just have something lacking.
Kurt: They couldn’t do it.
Latta: That’s right. And obviously that comes from Lewis’s literary background, his ability to create narrative, to craft, to think imaginatively. That’s something was sorely lacking in theology when he came along and honestly I think it’s lacking still. I think we still need this.
Kurt: Careful now. I’m a budding theologian myself so….
Kurt: No. I totally see what you’re getting at here. Perhaps you’d agree with me that Lewis is more inspiring than some of those other names you had mentioned.
Latta: I think that’s a good way to put it. You cannot help but read Screwtape or Miracles or The Great Divorce, which is my favorite of his and not feel changed. Though it’s a great work, I can’t say that about maybe Grudem’s Systematic or something like that. There is just a very personal and to use your word, inspirational affectation aspect that Lewis brings about upon reading him. It’s wonderful.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. That’s something. For those of you who are unfamiliar with some of these terms here that we’re dealing with, today we’re talking about cultural horizons, the future of apologetics, and apologetics is broadly speaking, the defense of the Christian worldview and as Corey here has pointed out, it’s not sometimes only a subcategory of theology. It plays itself out in society, it plays itself out in our writings, in our filmmaking, in our political realms, in the halls of power both federally and locally. Apologetics applies everywhere and to everything and so Lewis was very much a literary apologist.
But today we’re looking even more broadly at that than just the literary, there’s the cultural. So Dr. Latta, perhaps you’d like to tell us what sort of things do you view as being part of this cultural apologetics category.
Latta: Yeah. I think it’s really needed and I think there’s a lot more people today paying attention to this than really any time in history maybe. There’s some great people that are at Houston Baptist who are doing a lot of work in this area and we need more to join in, so the idea of cultural apologetics is looking at cultural mediums, music, art, films, literature, architecture, you can go on and on, looking at these cultural mediums and drawing from them truth, keeping in mind Justin Martyr’s adage that all truth is God’s truth, drawing from them truth that bridges back to the Gospel, that points to the Gospel.
There’s so many examples of this. One that comes to mind is that I taught a redemptive cinema class recently and this is a fun movie to watch. We watched Chris Nolan’s Interstellar. It’s a really good movie, just really well done I think, and it’s a thoroughly closed movie. It seems like he’s going to point to there being some kind of supernatural being in the movie and if you’ve seen it you know that he kind of closes that loop at the end. In the end it’s highly evolved humanity that becomes the other presence in the universe, but there’s a moment in the movie where Anne Hathaway’s character is talking about love, her and Matthew Mcconaughey, and they’re trying to decide which planet they’re going to explore to see if it’s habitable and all that and they’re talking about the value of love and grave decision making and Matthew Mcconaughey love is kind of dissing love as having any absolute value that’s not socially constructed. Anne Hathaway has this great line where she says “We love those who have died. What’s the social utility in that?” Matthew Mcconaughey’s answer is “Well there is none.” Her point is that there’s some things not socially constructed, some things that just are, that are eternal even and love being one of those things. Now if you’re a Christian, I pause the movie at that moment and say “What did she just do? What are the implications of this?”
I mean, if you’re a Christian you have to say there is. There is the idea, the truth, that there are bits of our humanity that while influenced by culture don’t originate in culture and only have explainable origins in some sort of being beyond cultural and social constructs. That’s the starting point for cultural apologetics. Now honestly the point of termination where we want to end is the revelation of Christ, I mean conversion to Christ, but you have to start with many people who aren’t going to be flipping through the pages of the Bible, you’re going to have to start with what they’re exposed to. What they’re exposed to is monster films or Chris Nolan movies or a painting or something like that.
Kurt; Yeah. Wow. Quite deep. It really gets one thinking about how we ought to be perceiving and analyzing culture and the films that we see and such. When I was a child, Harry Potter was evil. How could you expose your children to witchcraft and sorcery? The best films out there were Kirk Cameron type things. It seems that within the subculture of Christian evangelicalism there’s this attempt at an alternative culture, a sub-culture and my perception is that it’s just not as good. The music is not done as well. The films are not done as well. The fiction is not done as well. Why is it? Is it because we’ve failed to make these key cultural observations?
Latta: Yeah. Honestly, that’s a touchy subject for many Christian artists. They get offended by this, but I do think many Christians works of art are subpar and I think because the content is privileged over the craft, the message is promoted or thought more about than the medium and when you’re talking about a work of art the medium is the message. The craft is not just the means, it’s the end, so to write an exquisite novel, a truly great novel, something like The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway or something like that, you can’t just think about “How can I get this message I have to the people? How can I propagandize my readers with this idea?” It’s about painstaking attention paid to the minutiae of the medium itself. That scene has to be perfectly done. That dialogue has to ring true. I think many Christian artists just think about “How can I get this message out?” without thinking about “How sharp is this conduit? How brilliant is this painting? How much time and devotion have I given to my development of the craft before I just think about, you know, pushing a message through it?” I appreciate, so appreciate what Christians try to do with their films and try to do with music. I think we need it desperately and in an increasingly secularized world we have to have that. I mean, anything we can get some way helps, but if you read Tolstoy, you see someone devoutly committed to the things of the faith, but you don’t see that ever replace his commitment to the craft of writing or you don’t ever see that impinge on the integrity of the novel as a genre. I think Christians are tried to work that points to the creator, that smacks of excellence. I think we get in trouble when we forget that so I think keep presenting the Gospel the ways you’re equipped to do it but make sure that you don’t short your craft and you don’t skip out on the call to excellence in so doing. I’m a poet and I love writing poetry. I have tried many times to write Christian poetry. I cannot do it. When I say Christian I mean explicitly evangelical.
Kurt: Preachy type of poetry.
Latta: Yeah. That’s the better way to say it, but I can’t do it. I just can’t. I don’t know if my poetry’s any good or not, but I know the only poetry I can write captures life, it has to be realistic in some way, and I think because I am a Christian and Lewis said this very same thing too, talking about Lewis, because I am a Christian that my faith will come out. I don’t have to set out to write Christian poetry for my poetry to actually be Christian. I think more Christians need to think about that before thinking on faith and art, cohere and how they are well-married. There’s a lot of work to be done in thinking about that without artificially or heavy-handedly imposing faith on art.
Kurt: Back say 100-150 years ago Christians were producing some of the best music, right? We’ve got Handel’s Messiah, we’ve got just some great hymns of the faith, we were the cultural leaders back then. Maybe it’s because it was just a Christian society and that’s all that there was. Could you speak a little bit about that and why it is that today we’re not leading the culture except maybe for a few exceptions. Why is it that we’ve become more a secular culture?
Latta: I do think it has to do with modification and commercialism. I think that the nature of music publishing, music business. I think the nature of literary publishing, art, has sort of forced many Christians into a lane that they probably don’t want to be in, shouldn’t be in. I think the obvious answer is society as a whole, Western society, was incredibly tolerant of Christianity and was itself in many ways Christian, so there was no question of the church doing anything else but producing those things that would magnify and glorify Christ and truth and things like that. The secularization that’s taking place in the West in just the last ten years much less the last one hundred is just staggering. Not only is the faith marginalized and those who adhere to the faith ostracized, stigmatized, and all that, but what Christians produce has now been classified as inferior in some way or kind of labeled, just the way music for example, I spent a few years as president of academics at a Christian music college, I saw this all the time. I have no musical ability by the way. I just did the academic stuff, but I taught a lot of music students and music business students and I saw this again and again. You had these students with genuinely brilliant things to say, I mean incredibly talented, but the way they want to say them, the way they want to put these truths across isn’t marketable, K-Love or whatever the station may be just doesn’t play that type of stuff so if they want to make it, if they want to be seen, they have to play the type of stuff that’s played. That means inherently a compromise and there’s no way you can go from writing a southern Gothic novel, because that’s what I want to write, that’s what I think I’m called to write. I can’t go from that to writing some kind of commercial fiction work without some kind of compromise, some sort of fundamental, I don’t know if you want to call it watering down or alteration of something, in my ability to say what I want to say and the quality of my craft. I think that’s what unfortunately many Christians are facing today is they think they have to, they don’t have to but they think they have to, play the cultural game of promotion and modification. Art is not art any more. It’s a commodity. It’s for purchase. It’s commercialized. I think the church needs to get back to creating art for art’s sake because it is inherently, to refer to Tolkien, it’s inherently a work of sub-creation, it not only magnifies our God, the great Creator, but it brings Him honor. I think we need to get back to that and when Dante writes The Divine Comedy, there were certainly a lot of cultural influence and certainly a lot of social reflection in that and something like Milton’s Paradise also, that’s a work of art for art’s sake. It’s an exquisite work of art. It’s an exquisite work because art demands that it be paid attention and to quote Madeleine L’Engle, it demands to be served. We as Christians serve the work because we believe God gave us the work and when we serve the work, we serve God.
I just think that’s lost today for many Christian artists so it’s no wonder that Christian literature, it’s just not as good, and Christian music often times just isn’t as good. Christian art just isn’t as good. People are trying to be heard and published and turning their art into commodity. I think we need a renaissance honestly. I think the way forward is really the way back.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. Well this has been great. If you’ve got a question for Dr. Corey Latta, you can give us a call at 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. Let’s continue our discussion after a short break from one of our sponsors.
Kurt: Thanks again to our sponsor Rethinking Hell there. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor of the show, you can go to our website at Veracityhill.com/patron and there also if you don’t have a business or an organization that you’d like to feature with us, you can just become one of my supporters at what’s called the listener levels there at the patron page.
So I’m here with Dr. Corey Latta and today we’re discussing Cultural Horizons, the future of apologetics, but before we get into that, it’s time for a segment of the show that we call rapid questions and this is a segment in the show where we ask short light-hearted questions for us to get to know our guests a little bit more and Corey if you could, we want fast responses to these questions so are you ready?
Kurt: Alright. Here we go.
Latta: I’m ready.
Kurt: What is your clothing store of choice?
Latta: Banana Republic
Kurt: What school did you go to?
Latta: College or high school?
Kurt: Pick one.
Latta: High school. Munford High School.
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
Kurt: What’s your most hated sports franchise?
Kurt: Which celebrity are you most like?
Latta: Clint Eastwood
Kurt: If you were a baseball pitch, which one would you be?
Kurt: Have you ever planked?
Latta: I have planked.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Kurt: Would you drink a Dr. Pepper if it were handed to you.
Kurt: What’s your inner shake flavor?
Latta: Inner shake? Chocolate?
Kurt: Chocolate. Alright. Thank you so much for playing rapid questions.
Kurt: That’s great. I think that’s a fun segment that we’ve just started last week.
Latta: I like it. I like it.
Kurt: We’ll have to come up with even more creative questions so thanks again. Alright. So we’re talking about cultural horizons here, the future of apologetics, and in the first half of the show we talked a little bit about cultural apologetics and we focused on literary apologetics too as a subcategory if you will. So then now I’ve got some questions for you regarding sort of the future of apologetics. So you’ve mentioned a little bit about how you see it changing. What are some things that you are perceiving in our society today that’s sort of changing?
Latta: Yeah. Apologetics, I kind of think we’re maybe in a golden are or entering a golden age in some ways, but the real strength of apologetics is what I think is maybe phase one of the golden age is scientific arguments, cosmological evidence, fine-tuned universe, kalam cosmological argument, the work of people like William Lane Craig.
Kurt: Alvin Plantinga, yeah.
Latta; And others. Plantinga. Yeah. Epistemology being big and things like that. The world has changed though. We are in the most volatile time in history when it comes to the questioning of truth, the nature of truth, and with that the embodiment of truth, all the way down to our gender.
Kurt: Right. Yeah.
Latta: These unfortunately aren’t just scientific questions any more so gender fluidity, the idea that I might be born male but if I so choose, can become female. If I feel like my gender is a soul issue or mental perception or something like that.
Kurt: Right. It’s not just a physical thing.
Latta: That’s right. That’s right. So gender obviously is a biological issue. This is one of these questions today that it sort of astounds me. It seems like Christians and atheists can handle this one and say “Well, here’s the thing. Despite cultural conversation and social impetus and things like that, despite what we might want to say about gender, biologically and logically, and of course as supported by Scripture, you either are male or female.” This is a pretty obvious biological fact, but it doesn’t seem the case that even atheists who champion science as their epistemological fountainhead, the place from which all truth comes, even they won’t chime in and shut this conversation down because it’s so unpolitically correct do so, so we’re in this weird place where truth is not just epistemological. It’s not just a matter of rationality and obviousness or even scientific evidence. Now truth is a matter of cultural perception and cultural opinion. Now it’s a matter of mentality. Now it’s a matter of political correctness and political sway. So I think that if we’re going to be effective as apologist, the Kalam Cosmological Argument’s not going anywhere. We need firm scientific evidence to corroborate our understanding of the Gospel and God’s working in the world and all that stuff. I think work will continue to be done in these areas and needs to be done and that’s great, but we’ve got to become conversant in cultural conversations now. How is truth embodied in the conversation of gender fluidity? When we have a conversation about transgender bathrooms and things like that Christians have to be able to speak to these issues intelligently. I think their needs to be more work in the social sciences probably, more work in psychology, I think there needs to be more work in politics, Christianity and politics, because so many of these conversations are hijacked by political discourse that if we want to be relevant we’ve got to speak into this stuff. Where the Democratic party stands on sexuality. It matters a great deal. Where Republicans stand on issues matters. It matters a great deal. Christians can’t shy away from those things.
Kurt: Yeah, and it’s both parties too. Yeah. Right.
Latta: That’s exactly right. It is both parties. I think the future is social in many ways. This is exactly what we see in the Bible. This is not new terrain to the Christian. I think it has to be reclaimed terrain. When Paul strove up on Mars Hill and began to talk about pagan deities and proclaiming the unknown God, of course it was religious, but it was also incredibly social, and the social implications for polytheism were many and they were prominent and Paul willingly engaged these things. Not only did he know the religious systems of the day, but he knew the poetry of the day. He knew the authors of the day. He understood issues of sexuality of the day. This is what he gets into in the beginning of Romans. We’ve got to return to this robust, very broad understanding of the human condition to be able to speak to the many many many questions of truth.
Kurt: Yeah. Now if I may ask you, so you had brought up a little bit about the transgender debate and to that you said, “Well there’s male and there’s female. What would you say to someone who said “Well there are some people who are in-between?”
Latta: Yeah. It’s a tough issue. I think Christians need to be aware of this too. We can’t oversimplify the issue. I think many Christians are guilty of this unknowingly because we try to champion truth. We might sound heavy handed or one-dimensional or dogmatic in that so we have to understand there are really complex issues between the black and white, but I would say that sexuality is just like every other aspect of creation, fallen, and that just because something is, does not mean it should be. So if you have this middle way, if you have this third gender, this cross in between the two, I don’t think the question is “What is?” I think the question is “What should be?” Psychology corroborates and supports this. Social sciences support this. Theology certainly supports this. The idea that the most healthy, functioning, thriving context for anyone human is to participate in a heterosexual relationship with another heterosexual in what’s known as the traditional family unit or something like that. If we know that’s the way it should be and certainly we believe what the Scriptures say and we believe that God’s blueprint, His paradigm is truth, my conversation with someone who is LGBTQ or transgender or whatever, my conversation isn’t necessarily about, it’s not totally I should say where they are. It’s where they should be and I don’t think the conversation is that different from the conversations that I had to be a part of when I wasn’t following Christ. When I wasn’t following Christ, I took my sexuality in my own hands. I lived the way I wanted to live. I’m heterosexual so my expression of sexuality was also along heterosexual lines, but it still wasn’t in line with with how Christ wanted me to live, so the conversations that people who discipled me and loved on me had to have with me was “Look. It’s not a matter of what you want to do or what you think your life should be. It’s a matter of where Christ wants you and if you surrender your sexuality to Him.” I think that same line has to be taken in the transgender debate. Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter what your sexuality is. Orientation is not nearly nearly as important, it’s certainly not talked about in Scripture, as much as action is and practice.
Latta: Thinking about Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting and it’s a great walk and this idea of “your orientation you may think is A, B, or C.” The question of Scripture is, “Is your practice under the Lordship of Jesus?” That’s the ultimate question. Now what you think your sexuality and not even how you were born, but is your practice under the Lordship of Christ?
Kurt: Yeah, and that seems to be a lesson that even we Christians need to continually deal with as well.
Kurt: For example, I have an item here that pornography is huge right now, even in Christian circles. I mean a number of pastors still struggle with that.
Latta: Oh yeah. Absolutely.
Kurt: Yeah. Really placing our sexuality under the Lordship of Christ is huge and I know another fellow who speaks about this as well, Christopher Yuan who has had a homosexual orientation himself, but he calls every person, even if you have a heterosexual orientation, to place your sexuality under the Lordship of Christ.
Latta: That’s right.
Kurt: So that’s such a good word you’ve had. Okay. I do want to follow up though. Living in a fallen world, there are difficult cases where it’s not just an X or XY chromosome and so biologically some people are born intersex, right? There are, shall we say, abnormalities.
Kurt: And maybe even in the way I phrase that, right? I think, “Oh. There are normalities which means there’s a rule or telos.” but what if we just thought “Well, it just is. That’s just the way it is.” What would you say to someone who thinks “Well that shows that there aren’t just two exclusive genders. There’s other ways.”?
Latta: I was trying to think of an analogy as you were talking. It’d be a bit like saying there are a million red balls, then all of a sudden you find a blue ball. I guess you could approach that two ways. “Oh. Well there are two kinds of balls, two color balls here. We have red and blue. One is as common as the other,” which would seem to me to be to be false, or you could say “Well yeah, I do acknowledge that there are two colored balls here, but one seems to be the norm and one seems to be an exception to the norm.”
Kurt: Exception. Right.
Latta: And it seems that logic dictates cause we judge the exception by the norm and not the other way around. This is a personal example, but I think may serve because it all has to do with genetics an the physical human condition. We have four kids. We have two sets of twins. My most recent set of twins, they’re not four months old, a boy and a girl, my boy was born with Down Syndrome, it’s the chromosomal disease or syndrome and I think the statistics are that it’s 1 in 700 or something like that. I can’t remember exactly what they are. I could look at Gus and say “Well, he’s just another type of humanity in a sense, like his physical condition, his physicality, health, his chromosomal map or whatever is of this type, and because it is it should be or is meant to be and should be seen as common or as accepted or as patently obvious as someone without Down’s Syndrome” or I could look at him and say, it’s even in the title syndrome, “Well this is a syndrome. This is an exception to what you and I and the majority of humans, how we live, how we exist and our physicality and health and things like that. “ Just because Down’s Syndrome exists doesn’t mean I all of a sudden normalize it and say “Well this is the way it should be.” As a Christian I think that creation is fallen, our physicality is fallen, our very genetic make-up is affected, and that things like cancer, heart disease, even things like Down Syndrome, while it doesn’t change the person, this is really important for Christians to remember, it doesn’t change the personhood not one iota of somebody with Down’s Syndrome, it certainly changes how we see the model ideal picture of what the human condition should be. There is no doubt about it. We love our son unconditionally and it’s amazing how much of a blessing he is, but he is not as he should be. It’s not normal. It’s not prescribed by God. It is a result of the Fall. The Fall has expressed itself in all kinds of perversions and abnormalities and differences and in our physicality so if I drop dead of a heart attack because that’s of a sort of genetic heart disease, that’s not the way God intended it to be, that’s certainly not the Scriptural picture. Neither is Down’s Syndrome. Neither is having some sort of chromosomal confusion. It’s pretty clear if you take Genesis literally that the template, the paradigm for humanity, is clearly male, clearly female, heterosexually united, and procreating through marriage. Anything deviating from that I don’t see it as being an option. Anything deviates from that, as Christians we have to say is a result of the Fall.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. It’s a complex answer to complex issues, but sometimes that’s what’s needed. Okay. It’s great that we were able to get to that specific example. We’re looking at and talking about cultural horizons today. So what do you see as a need for new apologetic thinking?
Latta: I think social issues, culture issues, are gonna have to be addressed. I think we have to be more conversant in that. We have to be more dexterous when it comes to, I need to be able to explain the Kalam Cosmological Argument. I need to be able to talk about proper basic belief. I also need to be able to speak to sexuality and speak to Christ and politics and things like that so I think there needs to be a new nimbleness to our discourse.
Kurt: So what would you say? There are different Christian philosophies on how to engage culture. I think of Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture, the five different ways. In our society is there a need to sort of engage head-on? Is there a need to just be subversive and infiltrate? Some people are saying “Well maybe we should retreat at this time?” If people viewed us how they might view other religions they would let us have our different sects, our sub-societies. What would you say to those different theories?
Latta: It’s a good question and I know there’s not an answer. There are many answers. You’ll talk to one incredibly intelligent Christian who lays out this essene option where you kind of hole up and disengage in your own community, things like that, and you’ll talk to someone else who says “No. Plow ahead and go for all and everything.” I lean towards active engagement. I lean towards, I use the word infiltrate. I sort of do see it that way and I think that we need more Christians lawyers, more Christian artists, more Christian filmmakers, and I think that Christians who are in professional Christian ministry or are called to teaching or pastoring vocations, I think that a large part of their job is to speak into these social issues, sort of put their foot in these cultural areas. I just don’t see how the Gospel can be mobilized. I don’t see how we’re going to be about the business of making disciples and I don’t see how we’re going to fulfill Peter’s mandate to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that’s within us. I don’t see how we’re going to do any of those things if we’re not on the front lines, if we’re not fighting these battles for truth, and I think battle is the right word. I think it is a battle. I think that the Biblical model in both Old and New Testaments, Old in the sense that Israel is meant to be a light to the nations and New in the sense that you constantly see Peter and Paul and others, Peter with the Jews and Paul with the Gentiles, putting themselves before cultural scrutiny, engaging in, I mean Peter is going to Cornelius in Acts 10, a great example, engaging in cultural issues, cleanliness of food for example, with people who aren’t believers. You see this over and over again in the Bible. I just don’t know how we can get away from it. My particular approach I guess is, I teach college and I’m on staff at a church, but I also write and publish creative works that are published in quote unquote secular journals. My own approach is to be very bold I guess and to be very unapologetics and that doesn’t mean be unwise nor does it mean to not be strategic, but I’m pretty ubiquitous in I sort of am and I speak about the faith publicly in classrooms I teach in. I see it as a valid form of discourse. I see it as an undeniable part of history and I see it as a valid worldview and I think it should be spoken about as readily as any other worldview so my own approach is not that tapered. I am pretty with it I guess.
Kurt: Would you say that we need to be courageous, unashamed, and yet at the same time winsome? Our words need to be sweet to people.
Latta: That’s right. Absolutely. At no point are we bullying or bulldozing or dogmatic or Pharisaical. We’re called to relationship and that above all so I don’t want to just proselytize you. I want to be your friend. I legitimately want to be your friend. You’re no mere mortal to refer to Lewis’s Weight of Glory, and I need to treat you as immortal, but in doing so, if you’re not a believer, I want you to know Christ the King. I want you to know this great savior who’s done this great work for mine and your sin. We can’t shy away from that.
Kurt: Yeah. Right. Great. This has been a great opportunity to talk with you, to discuss these issues. Thank you so much Dr. Corey Latta for joining us today.
Latta: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.
Kurt: Of course.
Kurt: We’re coming to the close here today and it’s just really important that we think about how we engage in culture. As we were just talking with Dr. Latta, we need to be winsome. We need to be courageous and unashamed and yet at the same time we need to be prepared to give a defense. We shouldn’t shy away from these cultural battles and it’s really important that we become the best at our craft and I think in doing that we’re gonna start making good music. We’re gonna be making good films, great films. We’re gonna be making good poetry and literature. It’s really important in terms of loving God with everything that we are to do that, to become the best at our craft and in doing so that’s when we’re going to be doing apologetics, we’ll be living it out. It’s not just a science, it’s an art. That does it for our show today but let me say next week, we’re going to be coming to you at the Defenders Media Conference, a little bit earlier in the day, in the morning, where I’ll be talking about Christian orthodoxy so the title of the episode is “Help. My daughter’s a Nestorian. What is Christian orthodoxy?” And so I’ll explain that to you then and we’re gonna be looking at Vincent of Lerins. He’s one of the fellows that I’ve studied about in my graduate work and there’s this rule of faith and here’s the Latin for you. “Quod Ubique, quod semper, quod ab ominus creditum est”, And I will discuss what that means and how we can use that to find when and where there are errors in thinking and what ultimately becomes viewed as heretical. We’re really looking forward to doing that sort of on site podcast with you, so that does it for today. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and partnerships with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, the Sky Floor, and Rethinking Hell. Thank you to our tech team, Chris and Joel, and to our guest today, Dr. Corey Latta. Thank you for listening in and striving for truth, faith, and politics, and society.