Nancy Pearcey: Idol inspection Q&A | Finding and destroying the things we put in place of God is the first step in developing a Christian worldview 

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No one has been influenced more by Francis Schaeffer than Nancy Pearcey. No wonder I like her material so much!!!!

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Nancy Pearcey

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Nancy Pearcey

Nancy Pearcey: Idol inspection

Q&A | Finding and destroying the things we put in place of God is the first step in developing a Christian worldview

Issue: “Hungry Russia,” April 4, 2015
Posted March 20, 2015, 01:00 a.m.

Nancy Pearcey is professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University, where she directs the Center for Christian Worldview. Her books include Total Truth,Saving Leonardo, The Soul of Science (with Charles Thaxton), and several she authored with Chuck Colson. On March 1, David C. Cook published her new book, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes.

You studied the violin in Germany and went to Iowa State on a music scholarship. How did playing the violin help you to find truth? People think apologetics is for a stereotypical, intellectually oriented person, but Francis Schaeffer showed that ideas permeate culture through art, literature, movies, and music. Cultural apologetics appeals to the whole person.

Did you have a teenage rebellion? I gave up my Christian background when I was in high school. We were regular churchgoers, but I wanted to know whether Christianity is true. None of the adults in my life could answer that question. A Christian professor told me, “It works for me!” A seminary dean said, “Don’t worry, we all have doubts sometimes.”

Your rebellion was going to the library and reading widely. I literally started pulling books off the philosophy shelf—because I thought if Christians can’t answer my questions, maybe the philosophers can. Because I had a strong Christian background, when I gave it up I understood immediately there is no purpose to life, no foundation for ethics or knowledge. I even fell into skepticism, moral relativism: I was the one in my group of friends in high school arguing there is no right or wrong.

I’ve read that when you were in college, your parents were visiting Francis Schaeffer’s haven in Switzerland, L’Abri, and you went there just to meet them. It was very clear from the questions I asked that I was not a Christian, and for L’Abri staffers that was an appeal, so they invited me to stay. The form of Christianity I had known was anti-intellectual, anti-cultural, cold, and impersonal. L’Abri was the opposite. After a month I fled because I was afraid I would make a decision out of less than genuine conviction. I continued reading on my own and eventually became intellectually convinced that Christianity is true. A year and a half later I went back and got grounded in my understanding of the Christian worldview. It’s where I got the more personal/practical side of being a Christian.

How would students today have an experience like that? It’s hard. In Finding Truth I cite a survey done at evangelical schools: Only half of the professors said they could give a Christian perspective in their field. Most of them get their higher degrees at secular graduate schools where they don’t have a realistic opportunity to develop a Christian worldview. They probably had to fly under the radar screen because if they did express a Christian perspective, they might be penalized.

Where should students start? The first step is find the idol: What’s in place of God as the ultimate reality? In Romans, Paul says we all have evidence of God from the created order, but we suppress that evidence by creating God substitutes. Our personal idols might be things like success or relationships, but reason can also be an idol. The philosophy of materialism says matter is the ultimate reality, the source and cause of everything else.

‘An idol is something in creation, something lower than God, it will always lead to a lower view of the human person.’

Once we identify the idol, what then? Spell out some of the negative consequences—because an idol is something in creation, something lower than God, it will always lead to a lower view of the human person. For example, MIT robotics professor emeritus Rodney Brooks calls a human being “a big bag of skin full of biomolecules” interacting by the laws of physics and chemistry. He is a materialist. Can Rodney Brooks live with that? He doesn’t treat his children as machines. He says, “They have my unconditional love, the furthest one might be able to get from rational analysis.” If rationality is defined by a materialist worldview, then it is irrational to love your own children—so Brooks is admitting that his own worldview is too small.

But couldn’t an evolutionist say Rodney Brooks’ love for his daughter makes enormous sense in terms of the genetic imperative: He’ll protect his daughter, and his genes will advance through the millennia.  Many thinkers don’t take that step. Francis Schaeffer used the metaphor of two stories in a building; materialists say the lower story is real, but they have an upper story where they put things they can’t deny in their personal experience: free will, their love for their children, consciousness.

Compartmentalizing? Steven Pinker said when he’s in the laboratory he treats people as complex data processing machines, but when he goes home “we go back to talking about each other as free and dignified human beings.”

After we find the idol, what then? Test the idol against the real world. A low view of humanity is a form of reductionism, which means reducing something from a higher level of complexity and value to a lower level of complexity, like saying religion is just an expression of emotional need, or love is just a chemical reaction, or human beings are just complex biochemical machines—some things won’t fit in its box.

Let me ask about a current idol: How would you respond if you were running for president and a reporter asked, “Do you believe in evolution?” I’d say sure I do—depending on what you mean by evolution. Most textbooks define it as “change over time.” Who doesn’t believe living things change over time? Where people disagree is the cause of the change—is all of it due to natural processes, like natural selection? In public schools you should teach the scientific reasons for and against, and critical thinking: To be truly liberal would be to teach all of the potential answers so students can think critically.

The BioLogos Foundation is the new kid on the block in the Darwinist debate. What do you think of its work? When people accept evolution, it almost always ends up affecting their theology, their view of the human person. Generally they end up giving up the Fall and the reality of sin, because after all we are moving upward, we are advancing. Sin means we just aren’t evolved enough and haven’t quite transcended the biological instincts that drive us. And what happens then? How do you define salvation? If we are not truly fallen and if our sin is redefined as “just not evolved enough,” is it a matter of moral evil or just metaphysical limitation?

Any reason for hope? Those who are truly Christian are becoming much more committed. In most of America, you can no longer sit on the fence. More people are saying, If I’m a Christian then I’m going to be a committed Christian. I’ll know what I believe and why I believe it.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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Interview with Nancy Pearcey; 23 February 2015

Published on Feb 23, 2015

In conjunction with WORLD Magazine, Patrick Henry College presents its interview with Nancy Pearcey as a part of the Newsmaker Interview Series with Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief at WORLD and Distinguished Chair of Journalism and Public Policy at PHC. For more information on Patrick Henry College, visit our website here http://www.phc.edu.

Pearcey_FindingTruth

 

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