Monday, January 16, 2012

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity - A Book Review

Total Truth

In her book “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity” author Nancy Pearcey discusses the way the modern mind has been fragmented into a split between the realm of facts and the realm of values. To be clear she believes that this development, which started with the emergence of Platonism, is an error which needs to be corrected so that Christian truth-claims can once again have a place at the table in the public arena. For the Christian, who is completely unaware of this problematic development, reading Pearcey’s book will be both highly engaging and very enlightening. Her writing has both theological and philosophical depth, yet is written an accessible manner that both the scholar and the laymen can appreciate. Pearcey sheds a great deal of light on the precarious predicament modern Christendom is presently in. In her book she offers helpful suggestions on how Christianity can once again thrive despite its ongoing battle with Postmodernism.

The Fact/Value Split

As mentioned above the overall theme of the book is the impact of what Pearcey calls the Fact-Value Split. Because of various philosophical developments throughout history, Western Civilization has determined that only what is deemed to be objective, factual information, such as scientific discovery, is appropriate for public discourse. On the other hand, anything that has to do with values or belief, such as morality and religion, is relegated to the private realm. This latter realm is thought not to have any objective basis and is, in fact, entirely subjective, having no factual foundation. It is easy to see how this is a problem for Christianity, since it is inevitably relegated to the subjective realm of faith and values.

Destructive Consequences

According to Pearcey, the results of this paradigm are far-reaching and largely destructive. Because of this way of thinking most Christians live as if they were suffering from split-personality disorder. On the one hand there is their professional life, which takes place in the public realm of facts. And then there are their Christian beliefs and values, which have no place in the public realm. Consequently, they leave their secular work place, go home to their families and churches, quietly practice their faith, and the two worlds never intersect in a meaningful way. Thus, the Gospel is restrained to the private sphere and is rarely permitted to venture into the public where chastisement awaits those who dare cross the line.

A Battle of Worldviews

Christians must break out of this mold by reclaiming Christianity’s hold on the whole realm of truth. In our modern context this means challenging the naturalistic worldview that lies at the foundation of the Fact-Value Split. Christians must expose the weakness and error of Darwinism, which declares that we are nothing but biological machines created by blind, impersonal forces and that consequently we have neither freedom of the will nor the ability to know objective truth. If we can defend the Christian view of origins, namely that we were created by God, then much of battle is already won. Where we came from says a lot about where were going. If we were created by God then we have real value. Even though we fell from grace we have hope, because Jesus died and rose again to redeem mankind.

How Do We Turn Things Around?

It seems that one of the underlying purposes of Total Truth is to help create a cultural milieu in which the grand narrative of salvation history can again be viewed as intellectually viable. In order to accomplish this goal Pearcey recommends a blend of presuppositionalist and evidentialist apologetics. Christian’s should appeal to people’s common sense beliefs. This beliefs include among other things, that we can trust our everyday sense perceptions, that we have free will, and objective moral values and duties exist. These are our basic presuppositions. Then Christians can use various evidentialist arguments to demonstrate that the Christian worldview is the only worldview that can adequately account for these basic beliefs that everyone shares, if not in theory, at least on a practical level. Some people may deny that we can’t trust our everyday sense perceptions, that we don’t have free will, and that objective moral values and duties don’t exist in theory, but in reality nobody lives life as if these basic beliefs were not true. This betrays the fact that their worldview is grossly inadequate. Christians can get their foot in the door by gently exposing such inconsistencies and offering Christianity as the only viable alternative. Readers who are willing to challenge their thinking and their behavior will benefit greatly from these and other insights offered in Total Truth. If the church would rise from its slumber and take on the poisonous worldviews that people are succumbing to, then great things could be accomplished for the Kingdom of God.