Academic Christianity VS Pop Culture Christianity

By Jamey Escamilla • December 10, 2020


Everyone knows about pop culture.


Popular culture is what’s hot right now. What’s in.


It’s whatever the majority of our culture is following right now.


Popular songs, movies, information, products.


But have you ever thought: what if something is NOT considered pop culture?


What do you call that?


I’m sure there might be several categories, but another main category is called high culture.


High culture is what the minority likes… and these people are usually wealthy.


They enjoy the finer things in life – ballet, opera, wine.



Pop culture sets the trend, but high culture sets no trend – they like things that are “above” all that.


Did you know that these cultures practically exist within Christianity as well?


Today, I’m going to show you these two cultures within the church.


What do they mean? Are they good? Which one do I belong to?


Which one is more biblically correct?


Keep reading this short, simple article, and you’ll know the advantages and disadvantages of both!


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Alright, here we go – the two cultures within Christianity.


The first one: pop culture Christianity


Oh yes. There’s pop culture within our church walls as well.


And it’s exactly what it’s like outside those walls.


Pop culture Christianity is what’s hot right now… within the church.


It’s whatever the majority of Christians appreciate and seek after at the moment.



Back in the 70s and 80s, a big part of pop culture was “end-time” preaching.


The apocalypse was taught heavily through Hal Lindsay’s The Late, Great Planet Earth, and people thought they would be raptured any minute.


That stuff is actually still quite popular.


The Azusa Street revival was popular in the early 1900s.



Now, tell me – what do you think is REAL popular within Christianity at the moment?


I don’t know – T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick.


Hillsong music, Veggie Tales… there’s a lot of stuff.


These are things that are very popular within the church.


They almost completely represent Christianity.


Think about it like this: if there were aliens, and they came to planet Earth, how would they define the Americans?


They would say that Americans love Cardi B’s music.


But that would be a misrepresentation of a lot of Americans, including myself.


But the Aliens are just going off of the majority… the pop culture.


So it is in Christianity.


When the world looks at Christianity, they’d probably say that Veggies Tales, Steven Furtick, and Hillsong music are what we’re all about.



But what people, including Christians, often forget is that there are alternatives.


There’s another culture that most people don’t talk about.


The other culture: Academic culture


Like the high culture in the world, the minority of Christians live here.


The academic culture in Christianity appreciates things like theology and academics.



They could care less about Veggie Tales, but they love a good concordance and a Bible study.


There are popular academic Christian writers who write volumes about theology, the study of God.


These are scholars who most people will never hear about, but they contribute so much.



Simply put, academic Christians usually desire to know WHY they believe what they believe.


So they study, attend Bible schools, and debate with people on social media about God.


It’s not that they’re wealthy.


In fact, I would probably say that the prominent names in the academic circle make less than the ones in the pop culture circle.


But it’s just a matter of what they like.


So… which culture do you think you belong to?


Maybe you’re a little bit of both?


Which one is better?


I think I belong more the academic culture, but I do enjoy some things from pop culture Christianity.


So just in case I made pop culture Christianity seem all bad, know that there ARE great things about it.


Advantages of pop culture Christianity


Advantage #1 – it’s more likely to reach unbelievers


I think the world might relate better to Steven Furtick’s preaching.


It’s practical and serves what I believe to be its God-ordained purpose.


Unbelievers will hear a song from Hillsong before they read a 600 page theology book.


So it’s first and main advantage is that it seems to resonate more with people who need Jesus.



Advantage #2 – It’s easy to understand for most people


The content that comes from pop culture Christianity is usually practical and simple.


It’s not hard. It’s not science. It’s what people like, and they like it because it gives them what they want.


But there are some disadvantages to it.


Disadvantage #1 – Most people don’t really know why they believe what they believe


I just think that understanding our beliefs is so important.


It helps us know God and who we are in Him more.


But pop culture Christianity doesn’t really care about that.


It’s more about feeling good than understanding things, even if it hurts.


Disadvantage #2 – usually people in this culture can NOT respectfully agree on things


When people in pop culture Christianity disagree on things like theology, they do one of two things:


• They resort to name calling, misrepresenting, and/or disrespecting, or


• They ignore the person with different beliefs and don’t search the matter out


Calling people “false prophets” simply because you don’t agree with them is never good.



But ignoring them and their beliefs is why I believe we might be in such a divided mess as Christians today.


Now, let’s look at the advantages of academic culture.


Advantage #1 – the culture strives on knowing why they believe what they believe


I think more Christians need to stop believing things because they’re cool.


We need to believe them because we’ve studied them out and have found them to be biblically correct.


Academic culture puts more emphasis on learning the Bible and its true meaning.


This helps them to be more grounded in their faith.


Advantage #2 – People can respectfully disagree


Contrary to pop culture, academics know how to have a lively, spirited debate, but still be friends.


They can bash their fists on the table, and then go to lunch afterwards.



This is good, because academic Christianity teaches us to be more united, even if we disagree.


I believe this pushes us towards this scripture:


Ephesians 4:11-13

And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness.


What are the disadvantages of the academic culture?


Disadvantage #1 – too much knowledge can make you disregard other important things in Christ


The Bible says that knowledge “puffs up”. What does this mean?


It means that if we’re not careful, academic Christians can get big heads.


They might think that knowledge is the ONLY important thing.


But in doing so, they forget about love, compassion, and so on.


Disadvantage #2 – They can forget about the working of the Spirit


I’ve seen this plenty of times before.


Academic culture can be in danger of not allowing God to have his way.


Sometimes, the people prepare their sermons, their lectures, their studies…


… but what if God wants to do something else through you today?



What if he wanted to fill you with his Spirit or use you to minister to someone else?


Academic culture can get so caught up in correct theology that these things are left unused.


So what should I lean more to?


Well, first figure out what camp you belong more to.


Then, just be careful to not experience the disadvantages of that camp.


Neither culture is bad, in and of itself.


Personally, because I embrace an academic culture more, I could do one of two things:


• Only dabble in academic culture, glean from it, and associate with ONLY people from this culture, or


• Embrace this culture and introduce people from pop culture to it in a way that resonates with them


I choose to do the second one.


Whatever culture you belong more to, I encourage you to experience the other one a little more.


God bless you guys!



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