In my last post, I looked at Ted Turnau’s unbiblical reasoning for writing his new book called Popologetics: Popular Culture in Christian Perspective.
Jared Moore interviewed Mr. Turnau last year and posted an excerpt on SBC Voices. The post is unclear about who is saying what, but I’m assuming that Mr. Moore brings up the objection of aligning with pop culture based on 1 Thess. 5:22, and Mr. Turnau responds with four main points.
Here are some selected quotes from the interview excerpt:
[Mr. Moore] “What do you say to those who believe Christians should separate themselves from popular culture: “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (KJV) (1 Thess. 5:22)?"
[Mr. Turnau] "To start off, I wouldn’t want anything I say about popular culture to have the effect of encouraging a Christian to violate their conscience, or to put themselves in the way of temptation. I want to be clear about that. However, there are other things to say here as well.
- The first is that I’ve got to disagree with the King James’ translation of 1 Thess. 5:22 here. There are really good reasons to believe that it should have been translated “every form of evil” rather than appearance.
- But let’s say then that 1 Thess. 5:22 wasn’t about appearances, but about actual evil. Should we avoid popular culture then, since it’s evil? Well, I certainly think that some people ought to avoid some types of popular culture, for exactly the reason I said above: Christians shouldn’t be violating their consciences by doing something they know is sinful. But that’s not going to be the same for each and every person, and we ought to recognize that.
Let me give you a really striking example. A mentor of mine had a friend. He was a missionary of sorts. He would go into a strip club and witness to the girls who worked there, trying to share Jesus with them, trying to persuade them to come out of that really degrading lifestyle. He said that the nudity and environment just didn’t bother him. He wasn’t fazed by it, not tempted to lust by it. Now for me, that would not be a good mission field, because I would be tempted by it. I think 99.97% of men should not follow this man’s example. It would just be feeding idolatry and drawing them away from God. But if this guy is really telling the truth, who am I to say to him, “You can’t do that!” God may have specially gifted him, and it’s not my place to shoo him away from the field where God has called him. I think he needs encouragement, support, prayer, not judgment.
- There’s another thing I’d say to those who quote 1 Thess. 5:22, and that is that popular culture is not simply evil.
- Though we may have to avoid some types of popular culture (depending on our heart’s idols), I have a problem with folks who use 1 Thess. 5:22 as an excuse for ditching non-Christian popular culture as a whole.”
Mr. Turnau, a PhD in Apologetics from Westminster Seminary, disagrees with the translation of the word 'appearance' in the King James Bible; he prefers the word 'form' used by the NASB and ESV because he thinks that it better supports the view he is promoting in his book. According to the 1828 American Dictionary of the English Dictionary by Noah Webster, 'appearance' is "the act of coming into sight; the act of becoming visible to the eye," and 'form' is "the shape or external appearance of a body; the figure, as defined by lines and angle." Mr. Turnau's disagreement is a red herring because it leads the readers to a false conclusion that there is a difference in the meaning for this verse between the KJV and modern translations. However, the words 'appearance' and 'form' are synonymous, and therefore, regardless of the translation, both verse mean the same thing: avoid evil.
In his second point, Mr. Turnau is on a very slippery slope by questioning God's word to avoid evil. Basically he's saying that as long as you can handle the evil and not let it drag you into sin, it's okay to participate in the evil of the culture. He is making the argument that the command to avoid sin is relative to each Christian despite the biblical command to flee from idolatry, (1 Cor. 10:14), to put off the old man, (Eph. 5:22-31), and to love not the world, (1 John 1:15). His first (and only) example is a man that serves as a missionary in strip clubs. Mr. Turnau doesn't recommend this mission field for most men, but it's okay for this one man because this man can handle the temptation. But the fact remains that this man is still sinning because sin is breaking God's command, and Psalm 101:3 explicitly says that "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes," which this "missionary" is obviously doing. Regardless of his excuses, his mission field is not biblical. Yes, these girls need to hear the word of God, but not while they're on-the-job.
Until we are glorified, Christians are still sinners on this earth; that's why we need to guard ourselves and set our affections on things above and not on earthly things, (Col. 3:2). This missionary, and those who affirm his work, are simply foolish. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting," (Gal. 6:7-9).
I addressed Mr. Turnau's last two points in my first Pop Culture post by showing that the fallen world doesn't reflect God's glory, and therefore, there is no good in it. Christians should remain separate, but continue to witness for Jesus Christ.
"Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he [Jesus] is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil," (1 John 3:7-8).