‘Finding Truth’ and unmasking God Substitutes
This confession—a disturbing indictment of the Christian church today—comes on page one, chapter one of Nancy Pearcey’s latest book, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmaking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes.
The devastating testimony came from a congressional chief of staff about his crisis of faith that happened, as Pearcey points out, “Not at a secular university, not in political battles on Capitol Hill—but at a respected evangelical college.” [p. 21]
How could this happen? What caused this Christian’s faith to be dismantled at a place where it should have been safe?
The explanation should shake us: the professors failed to demonstrate how their Christian worldview impacted any part of their professional lives. Believing professors were unable to show how the Christian faith in any discipline—such fields, perhaps, as economics, history, science, journalism—offers rich, fertile soil for interaction with problems and a pathway to solutions.
The compartmentalization of faith left this young man convinced that Christianity had no answers for any real question of life. His faith was destroyed.
In Finding Truth, Pearcey provides her readers another great tool for evaluating competing worldviews and the God substitutes that vie to destroy Christian faith. Critical thinking skills, Pearcey writes, will rescue a fledgling faith.
Pearcey is the author of Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity and Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning.
Finding Truth is a seminar between two covers, providing depth of information and guidance toward an informed faith through the Study Guide offered at the end. Its goal—helping the reader to communicate Christian convictions—leads the Christian to think, to study, and to interact with ideas.
Based on Romans chapter one and the promise that God reveals Himself to us, Pearcey shows every believer, every parent, every pastor and professional how to evaluate worldviews using five easy-to-understand principles.
Sure to facilitate powerful discussion, the study questions at the end will develop critical thinking skills and flex spiritual muscles. Pearcey’s wonderfully readable style makes it a resource for anyone serious about discovering truth.
Woven throughout are stories of people such as Dr. Michael Egnor (a leading brain surgeon), acclaimed hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore, and Pearcey’s own journey to faith, that make the book fascinating and real.
As for the young man who lost his faith in college, he studied his way back to a sturdier and more informed faith. It is time for all Christians to do the same.
Idols—A God Substitute
Idolatry, a word many Christians imagine belongs to the past, is taken seriously by scripture and applies today, Pearcey points out. Anything that takes the place of God in a person’s life—even good things such as family or working for justice—can be a false god.
Reason, nature, the human senses, and the imagination are God substitutes driving certain philosophies that have given birth to worldviews like secularism and postmodernism. Pearcey addresses:
Materialism—The notion that the natural world is all there is.
Empiricism—The world is known through what is perceived through the senses.
Rationalism—Reason is the ultimate reality.
Romanticism—Idealism; Ideas and the imagination are the real causal power in the universe.
The problem with idols is that they lead to reductionism; they focus on one part of creation and reduce truth and reality to something less than they truly are, Pearcey writes. Doing so leads to a lower view of human life.
Human dignity suffers, for example, when humans are thought to be “nothing but” machines programmed by chance and brought into existence by the mindless, unguided forces of evolution. If humans are only machines, free will is lost and with it any coherent basis for morality, justice and love. She writes:
“This is the tragedy of the postmodern age. The things that matter most in life, that are necessary for a humane society—ideals like moral freedom, human dignity, even loving our own children—have been reduced to nothing but useful fictions.” [pp. 164-5]
Reductionism makes virtually all idol-based worldviews self-refuting, Pearcey writes. Uncover a worldview’s reductionism and you find its Achilles heel, the place at which the worldview “commits suicide.” [p. 182]
If the task of evaluating worldviews seems daunting, Pearcey reminds the reader that people hunger for what Christianity offers:
“Surprising as it sounds, the Christian worldview is so appealing that even those who reject it often borrow from it, whether consciously or unconsciously.” [p. 221]
Worldviews that view humans as nothing but products of evolution have no logical grounding for human dignity and human rights. These ideals must be “borrowed” from Christianity, Pearcey points out.
Pearcey’s Romans 1 approach equips a Christian to recognize what’s true in a competing worldview (because of general revelation) while critiquing its critical flaws. Helping skeptics and seekers identify the idol in their own worldview is a powerful way to engage them in productive thought, Pearcey writes.
Pearcey provides five principles for analyzing a worldview:
- Identify the idol: Every nonbiblical worldview starts with an idol, something in creation that is claimed to be the ultimate reality.
- Identify the idol’s reductionism: When one small part of creation is deified (like nature or reason) other parts will be devalued or dismissed. Reductionism is always dehumanizing.
- Test the idol: Does it contradict what we know about the world? Every idol-based worldview fails to fit nature and the world as we know it. Creation gives testimony to God’s existence.
- Test the idol: Does it contradict itself? Does the explanation hold together logically? Every reductionistic worldview is self-refuting.
- Replace the Idol: make the Case for Christianity The point at which other worldviews fail is where Christianity offers real answers to genuine needs. [pp. 42-51; pp. 256-7.]
Leading a seeker to explore the Christian worldview is to lead them to a rich and liberating view of life.
“Living according to these [reductionistic] worldviews is like living in a concrete bunker with no windows. Communicating a Christian worldview should be like inviting people to open the door and come out.” [p. 138]
“Surprised by Joy”
Dr. Michael Egnor and hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore found the Christian faith a deep well from which to relate every experience of life. Pearcey writes:
“Whether you are a Christian already or just beginning to learn about God, you may be surprised by joy when you discover that biblical truth is bright and resilient enough to be ‘a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105) illuminating every area of life.” [p. 54]
Pearcey recounts Lecrae’s story of finding faith in Christ when a friend who wasn’t afraid of the subculture of drugs and alcohol showed Lecrae that his real problem was sin and brokenness. Pearcey quotes Lecrae in saying, “ ‘We’ve limited Christianity to salvation and sanctification… But “Christianity is the truth about everything.’” [p. 273]
For Dr. Michael Egnor, the Darwinian paradigm failed to explain the human cranial system’s complex design in his research for treatment of hydrocephalus, or “water on the brain.” Egnor found engineering textbooks more useful than biology books in understanding the complex design, Pearcey explained.
As Egnor turned to Christianity, “he discovered a new sense of unity and wholeness,” Pearcey wrote, adding:
“The biblical God proved to be a sufficient integration point to unify all areas of his life, both professional and personal. Christianity is a worldview conceptually rich enough to account for all of human experience.” [p. 181]
Pearcey leads the way for Christians who wish to think, study and integrate this rich faith into every facet of life. May we follow wholeheartedly.
Nancy Pearcy is an award-winning author, professor and scholar in residence at Houston Baptist University, fellow of the Discovery Institute , editor-at-large of The Pearcey Report, and a much sought after speaker.