Every so often there is a new book that I really really love. It may not be incredibly groundbreaking, but it makes me see something in a new light or it influences the way I think about something or change how I do something. Plugged In by Daniel Strange is one of those books. The concept seems simple enough: Connecting your faith with what you watch, read, and play. And to be honest, the delivery is pretty clear and straightforward as well. Using the subversive fulfillment approach, Strange guides readers in thinking about the culture or “stories” they are consuming, the narratives that are being fed and then challenges them to engage with culture in a way that will make them better witnesses.
Strange shows in his introduction that Christians will often respond to worldly culture in 3 ways: the holy huddle, sanctified bubble, turning a gospel presentation into a rant about morality, or outright conforming to culture. He then proceeds to offer another option in being gracious and truthful in our engagements with the world.
Culture can have multiple different meanings, but the definition Strange uses for Plugged In is “Culture is the stories we tell that express meaning about the world.” Culture expresses what is viewed as important, heoric, valuable, or wrong. We create and consume culture every day, that much is obvious. In the first chapter, the author gives sort of an introduction to not only what culture is, but also why Christians should care about it. I think something very important that he notes in this chapter is that we are cultural beings whether we like it or not. Recognizing this and that sin an unbelief manifest themselves differently in different cultures makes it easier to identify and engage with cultural idols.
Throughout the book, you will find multiple Bible references, including an entire chapter looking at the book of Acts chapter 17, but you’ll also find quotes from multiple solid sources such as Bavinck, Kuyper, Frame, and the Heidelberg Catechism.
There is a certain theological depth to the book, in my opinion, that gives it an excellent foundation on which to speak about the things. The first few chapters are more foundational than practical, he discusses things like the fall and the result being that we destroy culture as much as we create it, sunbeams of God’s common grace, as well as shadows of God’s wrath.
Chapter four is an excellent chapter titled “Can I Watch…?” which addresses the question with wisdom. He states frankly that “it depends” and continues to explain what it depends on such as conscience, character, context, and sanctified common sense. There is a certain tension between cultural enjoyment and cultural indulgence and idolatry. It requires wisdom and discernment to know the difference. This was an interesting chapter to me because he offers something called the “5 solas test” involving practical questions drawn from the 5 solas of the reformation to determine if something would be good to watch.
The last portion of the book is more on engagement with the culture. Strange examines Paul’s subversive fulfillment approach in Acts 17 and summarizes it in four steps that encourage readers to engage on a meaningful level. The four steps involve listening, looking for the idols, exposing them and showing where they fall short, and showing Christ as the subversive fulfillment of what they are actually longing for.
This is not your typical out-of-date and out-of-touch book on culture for Christians. Strange appears very well attuned to the culture of the day and the stories we hear and though he isn’t quite telling us what is what in our culture, he will absolutely equip his readers with the thinking skills necessary to engage with it.
I would highly recommend Plugged In to anyone who lives in a culture. For me personally, this is a book I’ve greatly enjoyed reading and appreciate. While it is not age specific and would be helpful to many, I think teenagers and young adults would benefit immensely from this. It is not a “cultural engagement for dummies” but for disciples and will help readers think theologically about the culture where they find themselves.
Many thanks to the Good Book Company for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.