A Brief Review of Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

Total truth 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.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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6 Responses to A Brief Review of Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey

  1. Sue says:

    I beg to differ.

    This book should have the subtitle: A Manifesto for Christian Fascism!

    As though someone who is by Calvinist self-definition, a wretched sinner, could possibly know, let alone possess the Truth. Because that is exactly what she is claiming to do. And thus in one way or another impose her binary world-view on every else.

    Meanwhile there are now over 30,000 Christian denominations, sects and sub-sects. Many or most of which would be completely different to Nancy’s.

    Especially those of a more liberal persuasion. Plus two thirds of the worlds human population are not Christian either. According to Nancy all of these liberal Christians, and non-Christians are living in darkness, and/or effectively under the spell of “satan”.

    • David Ramseur says:

      You are arguing for an inability to know the truth. This is post-modern skepticism. Why should we believe that this argument of yours is true? You leave yourself with nothing but doubts. We Christians of many stripes argue that the truth is objective and can be discovered. We believe the creation – fall – redemption model in the Bible makes the most sense according to all of the data we can process from reality.

      You are also arguing for religious/cultural relativity. Not all religions are equally valid though. There is a right answer and contradicting wrong answers. Therefore, logically, if Biblical Christians are right, liberal Christians and non Christians have to be wrong.

      In order to know what the post-Christian world will be like all one needs to do is see what the pre-Christian world was like. Christianity is a force for good in the world. While fascists may use Christianity as a cover for heinous deeds, the term Christian Fascism itself does not make sense. Would government by the people for the people, universal human rights, and free enterprise systems exist today if not for Christianity?

  2. Where are people getting the idea that this is a “Calvinist” book? Clearly they have not read it. Not everyone who became a Christian through the evangelistic work of Francis Schaeffer became a died-in-the-wool Calvinist. (Nor was he, for that matter. He certainly did not hold that Calvinists have a monopoly on Truth.) What many of us found helpful in Schaeffer was his analysis of intellectual history, which he picked up from scholars who happened to have a Reformed background, such as Dooyeweerd and Kuyper. They are the source of much of Schaeffer’s analysis of Western thought, especially the divided concept of truth (epistemological dualism). But Reformed thinkers do not have a monopoly on recognizing that dualism. It is a staple among Continental philosophers. (In fact, Catholic thinkers have also written on it extensively because they are more influenced by Continental thought.) The point is that many evangelicals and others have found the analysis of ideas in Schaeffer’s books to be helpful. In both Total Truth and Saving Leonardo, I springboard off his analysis of the two-story dualism to show how it continues to explain the cultural environment that Christians face today–how it is used to marginalize Christians and compartmentalize their minds, forcing them to straddle that dualism in everyday life instead of living with the power and joy of an integral Christian worldview.

  3. Uri Brito says:

    Thank you for your wonderful labors, Mrs. Pearcey!

  4. alee says:

    Now that the book is here, I hope you can repackage this book into a workable course program format tied to multimedia for use in colleges where it is critically needed. Colleges lack a cohesive and structure program for worldview training and many of the young people leave with much of their early intellectual ideas undigested. They just buy into what the popular culture pushes on them because our colleges programs are not compelling and structured. We need to be strategic about how good books like yours can be practically applied in different channels and markets. 400 pages is quite intimidating!

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