With the kids back in school, you too can delve into your own studies by picking up Nancy Pearcey's TOTAL TRUTH: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity. This hefty tome is the ideological sequel to the bestselling HOW NOW SHALL WE LIVE? that Pearcey wrote with Chuck Colson a few years ago. Whereas HOW NOW SHALL WE LIVE? presented the case that America is "post-Christian" and that we need to eschew a solely personal faith and work to rebuild our culture with a biblical worldview, TOTAL TRUTH digs into the specifics of that culture and demonstrates what such a worldview might actually look like.
Pearcey is a devotee of the Swiss theologian Francis Schaeffer, and as such the foundation of her work is his assertion that modernity is built on a "two-story" view of reality with "facts" on the first floor and "values" upstairs. In such a paradigm, Christianity is banished upstairs, unable to interact with all that is empirically verifiable on the first floor. Pearcey contends that many Christians themselves live with this upstairs/downstairs mentality and don't realize how this dualistic mode of thinking keeps them from integrating their faith with the stuff of their everyday lives.
"The first step in forming a Christian worldview is to overcome this sharp divide between 'heart' and 'brain.' We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today."
Pearcey defines her worldview as "a biblically informed perspective on all reality" and subsequently covers her bases, providing credible commentary on everything from stem cell research, to Rousseau's rebellion against the Enlightenment, to the impact of the industrial revolution on the function of the home and family unit.
"After the Industrial Revolution, the home eventually ceased being the locus of production and became a locus of consumption --- which means that women at home were gradually reduced from producers to consumers. Household industries with their range of mutual services were replaced by factories and waged labor. Instead of developing a host of varied skills --- spinning, weaving, sewing, knitting, preserving, brewing, baking, and candle-making --- women's tasks were progressively reduced to basic housekeeping and early childcare. Instead of enjoying a sense of economic indispensability, women were reduced to dependants, living off the wages of their husbands. Instead of working in a common economic enterprise with their husbands, women were shut off in a world of private 'retirement.' Instead of working with other adults throughout the day --- servants, apprentices, clients, customers, and extended family --- women became socially isolated with young children all day."
This interesting glimpse at the roots of the feminist movement is a good example of the illuminating context TOTAL TRUTH puts our cultural experience into. With Pearcey's mastery of such a broad range of discourse, it's no wonder that a number of programs are using TOTAL TRUTH as a textbook. But don't let that scare you off. Pearcey has a gift for making complex issues clear. This is a book that even a worldview novice can enjoy and benefit from. Class is in session!
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on June 29, 2004