Reposted with permission from Proclaim & Defend.
Finding Truth is a relatively recent book (pub. 2015). Others have taken in hand to review it already. For a survey of the main argument of the book, you can see Challies’ review, here. For numerous reviews by readers, see Good Reads, here. In my review, I’d like to focus on ways this book can be useful to train our thinking, correct our own attitudes, and aid in evangelism. No book is without flaws (save the Bible); two stand out to me which I will note in due course.
The basic premise of the book is that, using principles found in Romans 1:18 and following, it is possible to unmask and redirect the false worldviews on which all lost people depend. These worldviews rest on some observable truth in general revelation and make that truth the “one truth to rule them all,” to the exclusion of other inconvenient truths in general revelation that contradict and overthrow every non-biblical worldview. For example, materialism assumes that reality is limited to that which can be touched, felt, seen; it denies the spiritual realm entirely. But conscience! But free will! Even personhood … a materialistic worldview cannot explain any of these realities—they are “outside the materialism box” and must be repressed. So it goes with every non-biblical world view.
The attempt to elevate one part of creation over the rest of creation has several effects. It excludes God from the picture, it reduces humanity from the dignity of an image-bearer of God to something far less, and it effectively elevates its favored aspect of creation to the status of a god. In short, this is the process of idolatry. Whether one reduces god to the image of “corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things,”1 or whether it reduces god to matter or reason or idealism, in every case an idol is formed.
Anything in creation that is proposed as the eternal, unchanging foundation of reality is an idol.2
To identify and overturn non-biblical worldviews, Nancy Pearcey explains these five Romans 1 principles:
- Principle #1: Identify the idol
- Principle #2: Identify the reductionism
- Principle #3: Test the worldview against real experience (against general revelation)
- Principle #4: Show the fatal flaw
- Principle #5: Make the case for the Christian worldview
For more detail, see Challies’ review linked above (or read the book!).
Believers can make use of this book in several ways. First, the world often baffles us by its seeming sophistication. Where do we start in trying to find the flaw in all those arguments? Strong-seeming non-biblical worldviews can overwhelm or mute untrained believers. Taking the time to learn how worldviews work can pay rich rewards in terms of disciplined, biblical thinking and as a safeguard from worldly challenges. This book and others on worldview are useful in this regard. This one is very readable. You ought to read books like this simply to train your mind in light of the wiles of the devil.
Second, understanding the way the world thinks helps you to understand yourself. We live in this world and its views profoundly affect us. Sometimes believers retain aspects of their old worldviews in conflict with their newfound faith. Sometimes believers hang on to false ideas for a long time. In particular, the description of idolatry in Finding Truth helps us to understand our own behaviour. Sin itself is an elevation of something in this world to a place of supremacy, while at the same time devaluing both God and others in the process. For example, the thief devalues other people to the point where he justifies himself in taking something that is not his to satisfy something of supreme value to himself. Isn’t this idolatry? When Potiphar’s wife accosted Joseph with her illicit desires, did she value Joseph as a person? Didn’t she elevate her own feelings and sensations above the rights of her husband, Joseph, and the will of God? Isn’t that idolatry? Christians themselves can be trapped by an idolatrous worldview which justifies violating God’s will, even though we know better. John warned us, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”3 If we understand how we form idols in our hearts, we can strengthen our guard against them. Perhaps this knowledge will be useful in pursuing the life of victory.
Finally, the most important benefit of this book (and its main purpose, I think) is to equip believers to interact with people in the world whose self-confidence is self-defeating. How often have you heard someone glibly dismiss your witness with, “Science has disproven the Bible”? The book spends a lot of time deconstructing the popular views of our day. It is quite helpful to understand that behind every system of thought, there is a true or false starting point.
But it is impossible to think without some starting point. If you do not start with God, you must start somewhere else. You must propose something else as the ultimate, eternal, uncreated reality that is the cause and source of everything else. The important question is not which starting points are religious or secular, but which claims stand up to testing. (p. 62, Kindle loc. 612)
Our conversations with the lost ought to work to uncover the flaws in their own spiritual reasoning. Pursuing a soul-winning conversation is vital. We have to help people see that they are lost, and then give them truth that properly fills in the voids. Understanding worldviews, their flaws, as well as their strengths (the part of reality they do get right – we do live in a material universe after all, for example) will help us to point clearly to the cross and the biblical answer to the problems of life. Finding Truth is a good book to help us hone these skills.
Last, a brief word on what seem to be weaknesses in the book. The last point of the book, “Principle #5: Make the case for the Christian worldview” is correct, but I wonder if the book presents this well enough. The book seems more to emphasize winning the worldview argument than replacing the false worldview conclusions with the cross. This section could be stronger and more reliant on the scriptures as the answer to worldview questions. One almost gets a sense that we can overcome worldview problems simply with appeals to general revelation.
Another weakness is right at the conclusion where Nancy Pearcey advocates utilizing popular media forms as a means of influencing correct worldview thinking. We need, it seems, to redeem movies, music, literature and so on for the gospel’s sake. She is picking up on the way the world teaches its views.
This is how most people pick up their ideas about life. They don’t think, I need a personal philosophy and sign up for a philosophy course at the local university. Instead they absorb their ideas about life through the books they read, the movies they watch, the music they listen to. (p. 258, Kindle loc. 3010)
Her point is that since these views are absorbed unobtrusively, we need to counter with our own cultural influencers.
That is fine to a point, but she cites the “hip hop artist” Lecrae as an example of someone who is doing this. She seems to equate his music as a neutral thing that Christians can utilize for promoting truth.
Lecrae explains. “God gave us the ingenuity and tools to make a butcher knife, so we can use it to murder or serve food to the homeless.” (p. 274, Kindle loc. 3201)
However, music isn’t a butcher knife; it is a lively art. Music is something that proceeds from the heart, just as other arts do. It is not that we may turn any form of music to the purpose of teaching truth. We can only turn some forms of music to that purpose. This appears to me to be a flaw, just as the book is wrapping up.
Nevertheless, I recommend the book to anyone who wants to learn how to engage our world. I think the book itself is a mostly helpful tool. Along the way, you may find that you engage the world in your own heart as well, and that is always valuable.