Apologetics brushes with pop culture at Trinity Western University

Langley, B.C.—What do apologetics, concerts and zines all have in common? ‘Everything,’ according to TWU masters student, Chris Astoria, host of ‘Death of a Reality Salesman,’ a concert and mini-magazine (also called a ‘zine’) launch that took place this October. Normally every fall, professor Paul Chamberlain hosts an Institute for Apologetics seminar early Saturday morning. But this year Chamberlain’s teaching assistant took the professor’s principles and reformatting them for Saturday night.

“I wanted to do something different,” says Astoria, a theological studies student at TWU’s ACTS seminaries. “Like explore mediums of art, architecture, literature and music. Primarily it was intended to be a concert setting so we assumed it would be a younger, musical experience, but we also had the zine to come alongside all that. The articles relate to the search for meaning and truth, so it’s still very apologetical, just explored through the medium of art.”

As with any new risky endeavors, Astoria had no real way of knowing how the event would go. “But it went really well,” he says. “We had a ton of people; a lot of whom wouldn’t normally come to an apologetics event, many of them not even Christians—and that’s exactly what we wanted. We saw this as more of an opportunity to spark interest and build bridges.”

And to spark that interest, Astoria used creativity and cultural sensitivity. Playing off of themes encountered in Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’, he chose ‘Death of a Reality Salesman,’ as the title for the zine. “The play deals with themes of hopelessness and abandonment, something that touches pop culture,” he says. “Reality is what I came up with. In today’s post-modern world there are people that I would call ‘reality salesmen’—they encourage subjective morals instead of a search for ultimate moral truth. This event is just a response to that; it says, ‘No, there is meaning out there, there is truth.’”

The 12 page, black and white mini-magazine featured art, poetry and writing, and partnered with the alternative styles of the bands: Dawntreader, D.S. Sutton and Franklyn.

“Zines are the books of that subculture,” he explains. “If I want a friend of mine to read something on the importance of morality or ethical relativism, it’s not likely he’ll read academic work. But he’ll pick up a zine at a show and read about it—that’s just what the culture is used to. And readers may think it’s good, they may think it’s bad, but the point is, it gets read.”

The event itself created a coffee shop buzz throughout the Abbotsford and Langley areas. Though not an overtly Christian event, elements of the search for transcendence were evident. Clearly the event was a success for Astoria, but how did his Apologetics professor feel about morphing a valuable and longstanding tradition?

“I was delighted,” he says. “I’ve always believed we should be looking beyond the accepted traditional ways of thinking and doing things. Unless we do, we often end up scratching where it itched ten or twenty years ago but not today. New thinking and acting brings a freshness to our lives and enterprises. When things don't work, we learn from them. When they do, we're all the richer for it. That is especially true when it comes to teaching and communicating the heart of God to the people around us.”

And through the zine, Astoria and other writers were in fact able to communicate apologetical principles. In one article, Astoria recalls his experience on the fateful day of September 11th, 2001.

“While the planes were crashing, I was in Barcelona looking at what I perceived as a huge artistic testament to God and to one man’s understanding of the world. Yet on the other end of the world there was this simultaneous destruction, essentially expressing another group’s search for God—but through a very different means: violence and destruction versus edification.”

Through the zine, Astoria used his experience not to criticize the use of violence but to exhort readers to consider other options. “The idea is to use the artistic tract to say, ‘listen there are other ways to express ourselves; there are other ways to search for truth instead of just fighting or polemics. That’s all part of the apologetic package,” he explains.

Professor Chamberlain agrees. “Apologetics is about more than merely articulating arguments for God, Jesus, or the reliability of scripture,” he says. “It involves communicating a Christian message in any culture in a way that is accurate, defensible and appealing to the people of that culture. That can be done in a variety of ways and this event was an attempt to do things differently.”

Astoria says that the zine was only intended as a one-time endeavor, but because of its success he’s considering doing a second one February 1st.

Trinity Western University, located in Langley, B.C., is a not-for-profit Christian liberal arts university enrolling over 3,500 students this year. With a broad-based, liberal arts and sciences curriculum, the University offers undergraduate degrees in 38 major areas ranging from business, education and computer science to biology and nursing, and 12 graduate degrees including counseling psychology, theology and administrative leadership.

Last Updated: 2015-07-13
Author: Keela Keeping