So we decided to have a summer book club. What to read? We tossed around ideas of Foster’s Spiritual Disciplines, Edwards’ Spiritual Affections, but in the end we (by which I mean “I”) settled on this new worldview book by Nancy Pearcey, a past colleague of Chuck Colson (co-authored How Now Shall We Live), and a Francis Schaeffer devotee. I must say that I was totally ready for this to be a great book, guiding us into Christian patterns of thought, dethroning old, crusty worldviews and so on. But in the end we were disappointed.
Overview: The book is split into four main sections. The first deals with Pearcey’s philosophical theory, that Christianity has been relegated to the “upper-story” of the two-story split. The lower story is inhabited by things like science and hard facts. So, while we Christians are tolerated, we are not allowed to bring our Christianity into the public square with any validity. She traces this split through several areas and in the end does a good job proving her case.
The second section is the author’s attempt to dethrone Darwinism whenever it pops up its evolving head. Pearcey is devoted to the Intelligent Design movement, and it shows. This points to one of the arguments I have with the book: in a footnote, she explicitly states that asking “What does the Bible say about this?” is “not the way to do apologetics.” I beg to differ. Anyhow, her material on ID is helpful and I learned a few points which might prove helpful.
Section three attempts to decipher how the American church got where she is. Save the chapter on how feminism started the culture war, this is probably the most helpful section. If you need an overview of American church history geared toward understanding the present, read Iain Murray’s Revival and Revivalism – if you can’t find it, read this section of Total Truth. The chapter on women and the culture war would have been much more helpful if Pearcey was more Biblical in the way she thought about women – although she doesn’t say it, it’s fairly clear she considers homemaking to not be quite as high a calling as academia.
The last chapter, section four, seems to be written by a different author. For the majority of the book, she rarely quotes Scripture (although encouraging us to think Biblically), trying to convince the reader that we need to win philosophical battles using the words/thoughts/proofs of the other side. And now she quotes God’s Word left and right and tells us to expect to be derided and not taken seriously, that Scripture is the highest authority and that obedience is more important than anything other part of a Christian worldview. I wish this would have been the first chapter and that it would have guided her in writing the rest of the book.
Clearly Pearcey has done her homework and is able to outthink me like a racecar lapping a go-kart. She is a good, but not great, and engaging writer. But in the end, the book is flawed and its audience is extremely limited. It will accomplish real worldview shift only among undergraduates in science or liberal arts studies. It contains no help whatsoever for men and women slogging for Christ’s glory in blue-collar jobs and diaper-changing. If you’re not philosophically or scientifically inclined, there are better books. If you are philosophically or scientifically inclined, this book won’t be enough to help.
Finally, my biggest beef is that while Pearcey continually urges us to get Christianity out of it’s “cultural captivity” (in the upper story, remember?), she continually uses the thoughts and paradigms which got us there in the first place. And more broadly, she neglects the fact that, while the church might not be taken seriously and while the church might be anti-intellectual, Christ made the whole house. If we whine enough for Christianity to be counted among the world’s valid thought-patterns, we might be accepted into the circus. But is that enough? The point of Christianity is not to be one option among many, but to be the option. It is not enough to be taken seriously, to be included in the halls of academia. Christ is king and every knee will bow. Let us expect and labor for nothing less.