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June 01, 2005

Total Truth: Part 1 -- What's in a Worldview?

{NOTE: This is the first part of my blogging review of the book Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. I received this book through Mind and Media as a gift from the publisher (Crossway), who donated the books for the reviewers.}

If you've read any of Francis Schaeffer's books, especially Escape from Reason, the first section of Pearcey's book will seem very familiar. If you aren't familiar with Schaeffer's work, this section serves as an excellent summary (but you STILL need to read Schaeffer!). This shouldn't surprise anyone -- after all, Pearcey studied under Schaeffer at L'Abri, and is the Francis Schaeffer scholar at the World Journalism Institute. This section, and it's explanation of the dualistic nature of much of modern thought, is the foundation of the rest of the book.

Pearcey opens by tracing the development of modern thought from Plato to postmodernism, and points out the inherent dualism in each stage of development. She spends a good bit of time on Kant, which is good, but I'd have liked to have seen more attention paid to David Hume. I think his philosophy has influenced much of modern thought, so it was a bit disappointing to me that Hume received little mention in the book.

One of the strengths in this book, especially in this first section, is Pearcey's use of quotations from people who illustrate perfectly her point, but who are on "the other side" in terms of epistemology. Particularly this quote from Steven Pinker from MIT:

Ethical theory requires idealizations like free, sentient, rational, equivalent agents whose behavior is uncaused ... [but]the world, as seen by science, does not really have uncaused events."

The dilema, as Pearcey sees it, is that ethics and morality require something that science cannot quantify or prove. Science is trying to tie morality to genetics, but the results have, so far, been unconvincing. The result has been the building of a wall between "fact" (defined by science) and "faith" (as defined by religion or spirituality).

This dualism has the result of relegating all spiritual matters, all religion, to the level of "personal opinion" -- we can't know facts about then, because spirituality and science do not mix, and science is the only way to learn facts about something. Thus we have people who declare that there is no religious absolute (fact), and so Christians need to back off with all of our claims of absolute truth. Pearcey is knowledgeable of the arguements that will be placed against her, and does a decent job of backing her position with specific examples.

The goal of Christianity should be to offer a "unified, integrated truth" that encompasses all areas of our lives. Too often, Christians relegate their faith to Sunday mornings, and live the rest of the time as if religion cannot intersect with "real life." As a direct result, we now have Christian ghettos, where we listen to our Christian music sitting in our Christian coffeeshops reading our Christian literature, and never, ever interacting with anyone else. THEN we wonder why people think that faith should be left out of public life -- they believe that because we do.

In the next part of this review, I will look at Pert 2 of the book, in which Pearcey tackles the idea of philosophical Darwinism and it's impact on modern culture.

Posted by Warren Kelly at June 1, 2005 01:28 PM | TrackBack
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