In approximately 400 pages, Nancy Pearcey has adorned the thoughtful Christian intellect with brilliant antidotes to the deteriorating mind of modern evangelicals. The title “Total Truth” is derived from much of Schaefer’s writings (Pearcey studied under Schaefer in her early years) that elaborate on the idea that the Bible and the gospel speak truth about all of life – they are “Total Truth.”
This is not simply a compilation of random ideas for the curious mind; rather this book is a devastating critique of current Christian thought. It essentially runs counter to most popular evangelical writings on the market. Nancy Pearcey stresses that a proper formulation of a thoroughly and distinctly Christian world-view is the only way in which the Christian faith can become an attractive fragrance to this Post-modern generation. One essential element in building a Christian world-view is to begin where Scriptures begin. Pearcey writes: “The Christian message does not begin with ‘accept Christ as your Savior’; it begins with ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (pg. 45).” The whole of Christian thought centers on its foundation: God is the author of all (emphasis mine). In this sense we can see all of history in a three-fold outline: 1) Creation, 2) Fall, and 3) Redemption. The error creeps in when we start at the fall or at redemption. For instance, to begin with the Fall is to forget the dignity of mankind; and to begin with redemption is to forget the need for why we need redemption in the first place.
As the title suggests, a total truth is a total Christianity. If the Christian faith is only a matter of private expression then it is no longer total. However, if all of life is an expression of our commitment to the Creator/Redeemer then all of life is affected by our commitment. Arts, music, philosophy, science, movies, and all that we experience are intrinsically related to our understanding of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. Evangelicals have surrendered their minds to secularism by accepting the dichotomy of sacred/secular, facts/values, private sphere/public sphere. This is the two-realm theory of truth, which is the upper story and the lower story. As the writer argues, Christians believe that the evangel (good-news) is a privatized faith that transforms one’s personal life, but is indifferent to rigorous thought.
In Part two of her book, there is an elaborate commentary on the folly of atheistic science (evolutionary theory). Pearcey instructs both pastors and leaders that if we are to see Christianity as a reliable source of truth then we are to attack anti-theistic presuppositions and present a clear alternative. As the author describes, the Intelligent Design movement led by Phillip Johnson is doing a substantial job in demonstrating the evidence for a purposeful and carefully orchestrated universe.
Parts 3 and 4 demonstrate the historical decline of Christian thought throughout the centuries as well as a lucid application of a Christian worldview to all of life.
As one who truly experienced what it is to be on the other side (in her early years she wrote a paper on “Why I am not a Christian;” unknowingly borrowing from Bertrand Russell), Pearcey’s handling of philosophy is not simply due to her unwavering quest for truth, but also an essential part of who she was for many years. Hence, her analysis of philosophical history is mature and tackles the heart of modern skepticism. She follows in the steps of a cultural apologetic genius, Francis Schaefer. In his steps, she has to a certain point even gone beyond his wisdom, since science, philosophy, and the media have undergone an immense leap from the 1970’s in Schaefer’s beautiful chalet in the Swiss Alps. Her remarkable ability to engage modern science presents only one of the unique features of this fascinating endeavor. Furthermore, her extensive research into history, atheism, politics lead every reader to benefit even more abundantly from her efforts.
The overarching purpose of this magnum opus is to “liberate Christianity from its cultural captivity, unleashing its power to transform the world (pg.17).” In other words, it is like a hungry lion that has been caged in the middle of a rich banquet for days with no food. It is ready to be freed and voraciously pursue and feast upon all that is before him. In the same manner, the Christian mind is truncated until it realizes that dominion is before him and he is free to advance the total truth to all of life. The thesis of this book also follows along similar lines. Nancy Pearcey makes it evident that through a Christian worldview one can satisfy his hunger for meaning and be satisfied by applying this worldview through the “bewildering maze of ideas and ideologies we encounter in a postmodern world (pg.17).”
Total Truth is not only information packed book, but also serves as a great tool in discipling youth and adults. The reviewer will give at least four ways in which it can be properly used in making kingdom disciples:
A) It defines and explains the concept of a Christian worldview. Then emphasizes that a worldview is not something that is formulated overnight, but that it takes considerable time and discipline, but that its fruits are life changing.
B) It underscores the need to begin thinking as a Christian in a holistic sense. Use Part 1 & 3 as a guide to demonstrate how Christians have fallen prey to the secular mindset.
C) It teaches the youth and adults how to become well acquainted with good apologetic literature. In simple words, teaches them to skillfully give an adequate response to a questioning world. Part 2 is a fascinating apologetic for the intelligent design approach to science.
D) It develops an intelligent understanding of theology of Scriptures (see part 4) so that worldview thinking may become much more than mere apologetics, but a way of life.
Group studies can be a viable option for those in the youth and adults to become familiar with the worldview movement. Further, practical implications and personal encounters can enliven the experience of participants to pursue more understanding and apply the Cultural Mandate to all of life.