Plato once wrote, “When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city shake.” If you want to understand the moral climate of a nation, look at its songs, movies, books, and art. Pop culture is the purveyor of big ideas. I once heard Ravi Zacharias refer to rock musicians as mid-level philosophers, a label that seems generous at times (“Rack City”? Really?) but is often accurate (“Pumped Up Kicks” is a depressing but true reflection of the shallowness and cruelty of much of our world. Hello, Neitzsche).
The church historically has worked itself into quite a few knots over what to do with culture. There’s Jerusalem, and there’s Athens: should they intersect or not? To update Tertullian, what does Hogwarts have to do with Narnia, or LMFAO with Third Day?
The Apostle Paul dove right in to Greek and Roman culture, plundering the works of their own mid-level philosophers and using them to represent truth about the Kingdom of God. While at the Acropolis (Acts 17), Paul quotes from a Hymn to Zeus written by the Hellenist poet Aratus (“For we are indeed His offspring”); he also references Epimenides (“In him we live, and move, and have our being”), who is credited with building the altar to the unknown God.
Cultural may be fallen, but cultural expressions of belief and faith can be redeemed. We need the wisdom to “understand the times, and know what to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). Acts 17 also shows that while cultural apologetics will not take away the offense of the cross for everybody, it can clear roadblocks on the way there for some.
As a practical example of plundering today’s music, I offer two examples. Continue Reading…