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Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
by Jennifer Courtney
Many families in Classical Conversations have expressed a desire to learn how to teach math, science, history, English grammar, and Latin with a Biblical worldview. Many have wondered how they can demonstrate that all subjects are unified because they have all been created by God and are held together by his providence.Like myself, many of you were bombarded in college and in the workplace by the idea that our faith was a private, personal choice that should be kept out of public places. Many of you may have struggled to defend your faith and answer your own questions about how to prove that Christianity is The Truth. Read on to discover how Nancy Pearcey's recent book, Total Truth, may answer your questions and prepare you to answer those of your children.Christians have accepted a dangerous premise. This premise renders us less effective ministers of the Gospel. Like the rest of the world, many of us have bought the lie that secular truth and religious truth are separate-- that public, secular facts are completely separate from private, religious beliefs. In order to truly minister to our culture, we must examine the sources of this deeply rooted idea in order to establish the possibility that there is a Total Truth that can explain the world around us and bring unity.This is Ms. Pearcey's thesis which is summed up by the full title of her work: Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. The book presents a thorough and compelling analysis of the accepted dichotomy of contemporary society. We have sharply divided our lives into the "private sphere" of personal preferences and the "public sphere" of scientific knowledge. Dwelling in the realm of scientific knowledge are facts which are "binding on everyone" while the realm of personal preferences houses values which have become a matter of individual choice. Religion has been firmly relegated to the value sphere and is thus "not considered an objective truth to which we submit, but only a matter of personal taste which we choose."How did this split become so firmly entrenched in our society? How did it come to be that so many individuals, even Christians, accepted this view in which we can no longer acknowledge a universal, binding truth? How can we counter this message by presenting a compelling worldview that claims to spread not just a truth, but the Truth?This is the heart of Total Truth. As Pearcey says: "To recover a place at the table of public debate, then, Christians must find a way to overcome the dichotomy between public and private, fact and value, secular and sacred. We need to liberate the gospel from its cultural captivity, restoring it to the status of public truth."In Part 1, Ms. Pearcey examines the roots of the idea that we can segregate our lives into two separate realms by looking at the history of this idea from Greek philosophers to the Enlightenment to Darwinists to postmodernists. In Part 2, she continues to pursue this thread by showing how Darwinism led to the rise of scientific naturalism and then permeated realms outside of biology such as sociology, psychology, philosophy of law, and theories of education. She also looks at how the Intelligent Design movement has answered these challenges. In a fascinating history of the church, Part 3 examines the rising acceptance of the two-story idea through evangelical movements to show how the idea reached full acceptance in Christian circles. Finally, in Part 4, she offers some suggestions for living out the message by operating fully Christian ministries.One compelling point she offers about Total Truth is that the study of applied mathematics expresses the Christian beliefs that were widespread in the Early Modern heyday of mathematics. "Most of the early modern scientists were Christians; they believed that matter was not pre-existing but had come from the hand of God. Thus it had no power to resist His will but would 'obey' the rules He had laid down-with mathematical precision." Modern mathematics and science would not exist without the belief that God created an orderly and predictable universe governed by mathematical laws.In order to provide an answer to those who do not hold a Biblical worldview, Christians need to recognize and understand the assumptions that others are making. This means we have to be prepared to analyze worldviews. In Chapter 4, Ms. Pearcey explains how every worldview can be evaluated by considering three points.What is the worldview's CREATION story, its theory of origins?What is the worldview's story of the FALL, its explanation of evil and suffering?What is the worldview's story of REDEMPTION, or how can the world be set right again?By way of example, she applies this threefold test to Marxism.The CREATION is "self-creating, self-generating matter."The FALL is "the rise of private property."Finally, the REDEMPTION is revolution which leads to "the original paradise of primitive communism."Having this straightforward, threefold tool makes it easy to stop and evaluate worldviews.Total Truth offers a comprehensive and well-researched analysis of the rise of the split between the secular and the sacred which will go a long way toward equipping parents to present the Bible as Total Truth. Because of the thorough research and the detailed look at each aspect of how this problem permeates our society, this book is not a quick, easy read. However, readers who are willing to exert a bit of effort will be rewarded both with food for thought and calls to action.Come hear Nancy Pearcey and Leigh Bortins discuss truth in education at Toward The Quadrivium April 30th 2011.