If you were to only listen to the media, and its secular hosts and guests, on the viability of religion then you would get the idea that it is inept, childish, and anti-intellectual. Religion only takes center stage in the news when it is the focus of negative press and ridicule. When the views it espouses are considered backwards and arcane. It is claimed that Christianity is a religion of wishful thinking. That is it teaches its followers to “just believe” rather than using their minds. But is this true?
Within the secular university, it is assumed that one must check their religion at the door of education in order to be educated. Secular education, and the history of fields like biology, seem to have forgotten that they owe much of their success to religion, namely, Christianity. For people who claim to be so concerned with finding truth, secularists, and their various religious-like representatives seem to find everything but the truth. In fact, they seem to suppress it at every turn. While they may be good at discovering things within the world God has made, they cannot give meaning to it. In their search for the truth, they step on it at every turn.
But this observation is not new. In fact, it is at least as old as the New Testament. Paul observes, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that, while God has clearly revealed Himself to man in nature, man, having seen it, suppresses that truth. Having suppressed it, he replaces worship of God with the worship of the creation itself. Sin causes man to turn the world upside down. In trying to run from worshiping God, man simply replaces Him with the worship of God’s creation.
To help us unpack the God-substituting that man engages in teacher and author Nancy Pearcey has recently written Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (David C. Cook, 2015). Following her earlier books The Soul of Science,Saving Leonard, and Total Truth, Nancy speaks to believer and unbeliever alike about truth and its foundation in God Himself.
Who Is This Book For?
To the believer, Nancy wants every Christian to reject the attitude that they should never know anything about any religion except Christianity. As one of her students put it, “Exposing the mind to ideas is like exposing the body to germs. Its the way to build immunity.” (60) It’s like those who work with counterfeit money. They first study real money so they know what it is in look and feel. They do so under the assumption that they will encounter counterfeit money. They are not trying to avoid a counterfeit, rather, they want to be able to spot it when they see it. The same goes for Christians and other religions and ideas. We always need to know our own faith more than another, but we don’t master our faith with the idea in mind of never knowing anything about any other religion. We need to be able to spot counterfeit ideas to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but will never be able to if we never engage them. Citing G. K. Chesterton, Nancy points out that “ideas are actually more dangerous to the person who has not studied them.” (255)
To the unbeliever, Nancy wants every atheist and secularist to see that by rejecting God’s existence they are rejecting the very foundation upon which their entire life and all of reality is built on. They have rejected worshiping the God of creation only to turn around and worship everything in creation. As Nancy’s husband, J. Richard Pearcey, says in the foreword, “Finding Truth argues that no secular worldview adequately accounts for the phenomena of man and the cosmos – what we know of human nature and physical nature. For these worldviews see only a slice of reality and then try to direct human beings into measuring themselves by that narrow slice and living accordingly.” (19) When we reject God as the maker and sustainer of reality then we lose the ability to account for all of reality.
Unmasking to Find Truth
The book is built on 5 principles to unmasking idolatry and finding the truth based on Romans 1. Here is a summary of each principle:
- Identify the Idol – Idolatry is the act of worshiping anything other than God. When man rejects God he is not rejecting worship but is rejecting the right object of his worship. Man in turn worships everything else but God. When man worships God’s creation then he turns those things into gods to be worshiped. These objects of man’s idolatry are found in the ideas, philosophies, and worldviews man creates in an effort to replace God.
- Identify the Idols Reductionism – Ideas like materialism, rationalism, and humanism are all God replacements that reduce all of reality to a sliver of reality and seek to understand all of it in light of that sliver. Idolatry is inherently reductionistic. Because idols are reductionistic they lead us to destructive behavior. “Idols always lead to a lower view of human life,” says Nancy, and “when we reduce people to anything less than fully human, we will treat them as less than fully human.” (98-99) Idolatry seeks to absolutize a part of creation and “then everything is defined in its terms.” (45)
- Test the Idol: Does It Contradict What we Know About the World? – Having identified what a particular worldview has reduced reality to, we then ask if it is true to reality. A reductionistic worldview “is like trying to stuff the entire universe into a box, we could say that inevitable something will stick out of the box.” (47) For example, materialism reduces everything to the physical world. Since reality is only physical then there is no room for free will or even an explanation for the thoughts of a person since you can’t observe them. The Christian worldview is the only worldview that consistently takes into account all of reality.
- Test the Idol: Does It Contradict Itself? – This is the idea that idol-based worldviews are self-refuting, collapse internally, and commit suicide. For example, a cultural relativist may claim that there is no universal truth. This claim, of course, is a universal truth and contradicts the statement itself.
- Replace the Idol: Make the Case for Christianity – If we are going to knock down idolatrous worldviews then we must offer something in their place. This is where the Christian worldview enters in. We must show why the Christian worldview is the only one that is coherent and comprehensive. This it is the only one able to make an account for all of life in a holistic, not reductionistic way. One way to do this is to show that while idol-based worldviews reject God and Christianity, they actually need and use them both to exist. This is the idea of borrowed capital. Greg Bahnsen used to say that atheists “are breathing God’s air all the time they are arguing against them.”
So must Christians check their religion at the door in order to become educated and in order to gain respect in the world? Is Christianity just wishful thinking? Are Christians required to withhold thinking in order to “just believe”? The answer is a resounding no and that is what Finding Truth is all about. Christianity is the only worldview that can consistently provide a comprehensive view of reality that accounts for what we know of man, nature, and beyond. Christianity does not hinder exploration, education, or advancement. Rather, it makes it possible.
Finding Truth is truly one of the best apologetics books to date. An apologist in the line of Francis Schaeffer, she shows herself to have a clear understanding of the Christian worldview and an undeniable ability to communicate it. She models how to love God with your heart and mind. She is faithful to the text of Scripture and writes from a genuine desire to help atheists and secularists see the hollowness of their ideas while calling them to the truth as found in Jesus Christ.
This is one of those books that I wish I could out into the hands of every Christian. Additionally, this is the perfect kind of book to go through with an atheist or secularist friend who wants to know more about Christianity and is open to critique of their own worldview. Nancy wants everyone to see that knowledge of God provides a universal framework” for seeing, understanding, and living all of life to its fullest. (270)
I received this book for free from David C. Cook for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”