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Interpreting Your World

Five Lenses for Engaging Theology and Culture

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Whether we interpret Scripture or culture, it matters what we do, not just what we think or feel. How do we live with our interpretation, and how do we live it out? This book helps us understand how culture forms us as political actors, moves us aesthetically, shapes the rhythms of our lives, and connects (or disconnects) us from God and neighbors we are called to love. The goal is to be equipped to engage culture with greater fluency and fidelity in response to the triune God.

This short, accessible introduction to the conversation between theology and culture offers a patient, thoughtful, and theologically attuned approach to cultural discernment. It helps us grow our interpretive skill by training our intuition and giving us a slower, more deliberate approach that accounts for as much of the complexity of culture as possible. The book explores 5 dimensions of culture--meaning, power, morality, religion, and aesthetic--and shows how each needs the others and all need theology. Each chapter includes distinctive practices for spiritual formation and practical application. Foreword by Kevin J. Vanhoozer.

Foreword by Kevin J. Vanhoozer
Introduction: Is There Anything to Say?
1. The Meaning Dimension: Culture as Immune System
2. The Power Dimension: Culture as Power Play
3. The Ethical Dimension: Culture as Moral Boundary
4. The Religious Dimension: Culture as Sacred Experience
5. The Aesthetic Dimension: Culture as Poetic Project
Conclusion: The Lived Dimension--the Difficulties of Doing Cultural Theology
Appendix: Looking through the Lenses--Questions to Ask about Cultural Artifacts


"Justin Bailey's theology is a theology of flourishing, a theology that understands an artist's heart. His discourse enters into culture not just to engage it but to liberate it. This is a theology that is integrated and quite beautiful to behold. Interpreting Your World offers a lens for cultural goodness and for the sanctification of our imaginations; it is an invitation into new creation."

Makoto Fujimura, artist and author of Art and Faith: A Theology of Making

"Bailey's treatment of faith and culture is penetrating, nuanced, and sane. Readers are in sure hands here."

Cornelius Plantinga, author of Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin

"Bailey offers readers a profound gift. With clarity and skill, he introduces us to the dynamic ways theology and culture intersect. Culture, he insists, is a sacred space in which Christians make meaning, steward power, behold beauty, engage neighbors, and encounter the living God. Rejecting simplistic and reductionistic Christian understandings of culture, Bailey's newest work introduces us to the complex field of human action and divine grace that we call 'culture.'"

Matthew Kaemingk, chair and executive director, Richard John Mouw Institute of Faith and Public Life, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Bailey's fresh approach to widening the framework for Christian dialogue with culture comes as a creative reimagining of a topic that is sometimes oversimplified. This book provides an accessible path for navigating the broad contours of the theology-culture conversation and diversifies our ways of understanding and imagining Christian life in the world today."

Jennifer Allen Craft, associate professor of theology and humanities, Point University, West Point, Georgia

"Reading Justin Bailey's new book, Interpreting Your World, was a lot like listening to a new album from one of my favorite bands. As I moved through the chapters, I encountered the kind of theological music I would love to make myself, if only I had half the imagination or skill. Equal parts innovative, surprising, and enlightening, this book sings. It should be required reading for any person of faith who is asking how to engage culture in more robust and life-giving ways--which is to say, everyone should read this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough."

Kutter Callaway, associate professor of theology and culture, Fuller Theological Seminary; coauthor of Theology for Psychology and Counseling

The Author

  1. Justin Ariel Bailey
    Jamin Ver Velde

    Justin Ariel Bailey

    Justin Ariel Bailey (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is associate professor of theology at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa. He is an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church and has served as a pastor in diverse settings, including Filipino...

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