Does Christianity have a legitimate role to play in the public realm of politics, business, law, and education? Or are secularists right when they relegate religion to the strictly private realm of ‘personal values’?
In Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey offers a razor-sharp analysis of the now accepted split between the public and private. Public ‘facts’ are seen as objective and rational, and have become binding on everyone, while private ‘values’ have been reduced to subjective, individual preferences that have no place outside the home.
She reveals how this split functions as a highly effective gatekeeper that excludes Christianity from the cultural mainstream, observing that “science does not rule out religious belief (so long as it doesn’t pretend to be knowledge).” Secularists reinforce this split by claiming that “their theory does not reflect any particular philosophy – that it is just ‘the way all reasonable people think’.”
Unfortunately, this split is reinforced by Christians too. Most Christian professionals have adopted the same divided mentality – meaning that they “may be highly educated in technical proficiency, and yet have no biblical worldview for interpreting the subject matter of their field” or, they “tend to compartmentalise their beliefs from their scholarly work for fear of committing academic suicide”.
Pearcey argues that the opposite needs to be true – that we need to see society through a distinctly Christian lens. Cutting through the bewildering maze of ideologies we encounter in a postmodern world, Christians need to become bilingual. We need to learn how to extricate the gospel from issues of individual morality, and translate it into language suitable for the public square.
With this aim in mind, Total Truth is a masterpiece.
Drawing on history, philosophy, classic literature, scientific enquiry, and recounting the personal experiences of many, Pearcey presents a compelling line of reasoning with great skill and flair. Chapter titles such as ‘Keeping religion in its place’, ‘The science of common sense’, ‘When America met Christianity – Guess who won?’, and ‘How women started the culture war’ reveal her sense of humour, as well as her intellectually satisfying writing style.
Total Truth is a life-changing read for anyone who wants to overcome the fact/value split in their own thinking, and for those longing for a confidence that can sustain them when they bring their faith perspective to their professional work.
Reviewed by Lise-Marie Keyser