Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church - Seattle) offers an insightful commentary upon the hunger of the culture for the deep things of theology, even when they cannot articulate the doctrines.Here is a bit of his blog post on the subject of Jack Bauer and Penal Substitutionary Atonement.
Curiously, some people on the more left-leaning side of our dysfunctional Christian family are backing away from the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Those in the more established liberal churches along with their emergent offspring are routinely decrying the concept that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin (death) in our place on the cross. They say it is too gory, too scary, too bloody, too masculine, and too violent. Furthermore, they say that in our tender little world of kindness such teachings won’t help further the kingdom of meek and mild Jesus.I'm becoming a bigger fan of Driscoll (not just because he is a fan of "24", like myself) but because he seems to have a keen eye on the things of God bubbling just below the surface of the culture.
However, the culture seems to have an insatiable appetite for the doctrine.
First there was the smash hit The Chronicles of Narnia. Since you probably saw the movie, you will remember that Aslan was a type of Jesus Christ who laid down his life for his friends only to resurrect as the king. Sitting in the theater, it was encouraging to hear people choke up when Aslan died and I wondered why they would not also find the death of Jesus for their sins at least as emotionally compelling.
Furthermore, the sixth season of the greatest television show in the history of the world (just ahead of Dog the Bounty Hunter and Ultimate Fighting) is back in January. That show? 24, of course. The trailer for the upcoming season has been released.
How in the world can we drop the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement when the big movies and the big television shows are under God’s sovereign hand serving as reformed theological illustrations? Next thing you know Bauer will start reading the Puritans to help solidify his courage to lay down his life for many and grow a little beard in tribute to Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
I agree with him that we are in danger of downplaying our Reformed doctrine just when there appears to be a growing audience. (See Christianity Today's article on "Young, Restless and Reformed")
The Apostle Paul was not adverse to using the cultural language of those he was trying to reach, we should be open to finding such points of connection with people today as well. Not that we should baptism everything in culture, for there is much that is harmful; but we should not retreat into a monastic shell and refuse to engage people where they are. Being in the world, but not of it, doesn't mean we shouldn't know that Madonna, Brad Pitt and Jack Bauer are about.