Review: Total Truth

Total TruthTotal Truth by Nancy Pearcey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do you know that feeling you get when you find the perfect container to organize some unruly collection of items? That satisfied thrill of orderliness is the best way to explain what Nancy Pearcey’s book did for my mind. She gave me new categories, better answers, and helped me cull out the mental clutter (like constructivism!) and left me with a clear worldview. This is one of the most original, intelligent, and thoroughly interesting books I’ve ever read.

No one can function in the world without having a worldview. Everyone has some presuppositions and expectations (often taken for granted) that guide their decisions. Nancy Pearcey explains what worldview is: essentially, a set of ideas about the CREATION of the world (where did we come from? why are we here?), the FALL (what has gone wrong with the world? why is there war and rioting and dissatisfaction?), and the REDEMPTION of the world (what can we do to make things better?)

Her goal is to help Christians understand that everyone has a worldview, not just Christians, and that when we better understand the Christian worldview we will be able to see that all of our work in the world–not just specifically religious work–is a means to speak the gospel into our culture.

The heart of the book demonstrates how evolution functions as a religion for modern secularists because “it tells you where you came from, where you are going, and what you should do on the way” (172). And, as Pearcey says, “whoever has the authority to shape a culture’s Creation myth is its de facto “priesthood,” with the power to determine what the dominant worldview will be” (154). She then exposes all the evidence for Darwinian evolution, showing how little of it there is and how little it reveals. It is her stated purpose that we are able to reimagine every field of study–from psychology to science–from a Christian instead of a Darwinian worldview.

After this, she just as thoroughly traces the threads of the history of Evangelicalism, showing how the divide between the upper and lower stories has affected the church’s interaction with the world. (An interesting side note: She actually implicates the church for the contemporary obsession with celebrity, claiming that the first celebrities in America were its flashy revivalist preachers!) Her chapter on “How Women Started the Culture War” was one of my favorites.

Nancy Pearcey’s insight into the philosophies that dominate and guide our contemporary world is so comprehensive and so accurate that it is hard to believe it wasn’t written yesterday. Pearcey has been watching and writing about cultural trends for the last 30 years or so, and her book is filled with timely examples and salient quotes from leading thinkers in both the Christian and secular worlds. Her well-placed illustrations remind me of Malcolm Gladwell, whose books are always chock-full of relevant stories.

After finishing Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning just a few weeks ago, I was sure that this book would be more or less a rehash of the ideas found in that book. And while they both launch from the same concept (the upper story/lower story divide that will be familiar to anyone who has read Schaeffer or Pearcey before), these books are equally excellent examinations of different implications of this split. They reinforce but do not repeat each other’s ideas.

If you are a Christian who wants to grow in confidence as you engage the ideas of the world, you can do no better than Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. Her ideas have provided the frame that has transformed the way I see the world. This is an important book.

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