Philosophy

Finding Truth: False Worldviews Reduce the Human Person

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 04/24/2015

This week, we’re discussing the chapter “How Nietzsche Wins” in Nancy Pearcey’s Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes, which covers the second of five principles for evaluating worldviews: “Identify the Idol’s Reductionism” (see links to the previous posts below).

Every false worldview, since it puts something that is less than God (an idol) in the place of God (as the ultimate reality and source of all things), will have an understanding of the human person that is less than the image of God. And as Nancy Pearcey demonstrates throughout this chapter, “When we reduce people to anything less than fully human, we will treat them as less than fully human.” So in order to think through the implications of a worldview, we need to identify how the idol of that worldview reduces the human being. For example:

What the dominant classes hold as true tends to shape social and political practice. If the elites hold a materialism that reduces humans to computers, then they will treat people like computers. Thinking will be reduced to computing: the neuroelectrophysiology of the brain. People will be judged solely by how well they perform their assigned functions. And when they stop functioning, they will be tossed in the garbage heap with the other electronic trash.

Do you recognize in that quote the idea that human value is instrumental (i.e., based on what a person can do) rather than intrinsic (based on the kind of being the person is)—the very understanding of human value that leads people to reject the unborn human being’s right to life?

Pearcey’s explanation of Enlightenment and Romantic worldviews—where they come from and what they lead to—clarifies the reason why there are such harsh political divisions in this country. The difference is deeper than politics. The divide on contentious issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and marriage goes all the way down to the person’s worldview. (For one example of this, see the worldview differences that led atheist commenters on this blog to argue against universal human rights.)

This tells me two things: 1) It will take more to resolve this nation’s differences than merely settling specific political issues (which may, in fact, not even be possible in light of the worldview divide), and 2) making disciples of Christ is a more revolutionary act than any kind of political work.

A while back, I posted “The True Story of Christian Missionaries,” reporting on a researcher’s discovery that in nations where missionaries stressed conversion, salvation by grace through faith, and the importance of Bible reading, the eventual result was democracy, religious liberty, literacy, lower infant mortality, economic growth, and more: “The work of missionaries... turns out to be the single largest factor in insuring the health of nations.” (See also what happened in 18th century England when a million people became Christians.)

This isn’t to say we should seek to bring others to Christ because this will change the world. Rather, it means that those who think direct attempts to change the world are a better use of resources than the Great Commission are not only mistaken about the value of the Great Commission (which both addresses our greatest human need and glorifies God in the greatest possible way), they’re also mistaken about the most effective means of changing the world!

Yes, God may call you to social action—perhaps even as a politician, as He did William Wilberforce. But when you see the tragedy of all that’s happening in this world, I don’t want you to be deceived into thinking your efforts as an apologist to bring people to Christ are less valuable than social action. Since worldviews drive all societal policies, what’s at stake in your work is not only the eternal souls of human beings, but also an increased acceptance of the only worldview that recognizes the fullness of our personhood (unlike views based on a non-personal ultimate reality) and calls us to treat human beings in a manner worthy of that understanding.

After discussing how both Enlightenment and Romantic worldviews devalue our personhood, Pearcey makes an important observation:

The puzzling question is why these worldviews are at all popular. After all, what we long for most of all is to be known and loved for who we are as unique persons—a longing that can be met only if the divine is a person.

As Christians, we have the advantage in worldview discussions because not only do we have the truth, we also have what people are yearning for. They’re waiting to hear!

And now it’s your turn to continue the discussion. Any ideas from the chapter you’d like to comment on? If you have your own blog (or Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.), I’d love to see you write your own posts on this chapter and link to them below, along with your comments (hat tip to Tim Challies for this idea). I can only talk about so much in a single blog post, but we can expand our discussion through your posts. I want to give you the chance to bounce your ideas off each other.

Next Friday, we’re on to Principle #3 in “Secular Leaps of Faith” to test the worldview idols to see if they contradict reality.

Posts in this series:

Twitter: #STRread, #FindingTruth

Articles mentioned in this chapter that illustrate reductionism and its consequences: