Welcome to the second week of our discussion of Nancy Pearcey’s Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes. (And if you’re here as an atheist because you misunderstood the title of this post, double-welcome!) For more info on what we’re doing and what you’ve missed so far, see the links at the end of this post.
In this opening chapter, we get an overview of where this book will take us. Nancy Pearcey guides us through Romans 1, using it to create a template for examining any worldview. She follows Paul’s five-step argument this way:
1. We all have access to evidence for God through creation.
The evidence we find in creation includes not only the existence of life and the universe, but also the evidence of human nature—our own personhood:
How do humans constitute evidence for God? Because they are personal agents. In philosophical terminology, personal does not mean warm and friendly. A personal being is a conscious agent with the capacity to think, feel, choose, and act—in contrast to an unconscious principle or substance that operates by blind, automatic forces (such as the forces of nature). The existence of personal beings constitutes evidence that they were created by a personal God, not by any non-personal cause...
Because humans are capable of knowing, the first cause that produced them must have a mind. Because humans are capable of choosing, the first cause must have a will. And so on. Philosopher Étienne Gilson captures the argument neatly: because a human is a someone and not a something, the source of human life must be also a Someone. (p. 29)
For this book, Pearcey will focus on the evidence of human nature, examining worldviews to see if they can adequately explain what we know to be true about human beings.
2. We all suppress the evidence for God from creation.
3. We all create idols to take the place of God.
The most fundamental decision we all face over the course of our lives is what we will recognize as the ultimate reality, the uncaused source and cause of our existence. Everything else in our worldview depends on that initial decision. The Bible speaks of this foundational choice in terms of who or what we worship. (p. 35)
4. God gives us up to the consequences of our idols—to a “debased” mind.
Pearcey says of the Greek word for “mind”:
The church fathers often translated nous as the faculty for evaluating and directing the course of one’s life: “the eye of the soul.” So it is no great stretch to translate the word as worldview, the convictions by which we direct our lives. (p. 40)
5. God gives us up to the consequences of our idols—to “dishonorable” behavior.
Romans 1 tells us that idolatry leads to a “debased” worldview, which opens the door to oppression, injustice, and all the other evils listed at the end of the chapter. What is the connection between idols and immoral behavior? The link is that idols always lead to a lower view of human life. The Bible teaches that humans are made in the image of God. When a worldview exchanges the Creator for something in creation, it will also exchange a high view of humans made in God’s image for a lower view of humans made in the image of something in creation. (p. 44)
So (1) the evidence for God is in front of us, but (2) we suppress that knowledge and (3) create idols to replace God. The resulting (4) warped worldview leads to (5) warped, harmful behavior: “The principle is that those who dishonor God inevitably dishonor themselves and others.”
Pearcey then outlines five principles of a Romans-1-based “game plan” for assessing worldviews (including our own):
- Identify the idol
- Identify the idol’s reductionism (i.e., how it recreates the concept of the human person in its own image, leading to a low view of human life)
- Test the idol: Does it contradict what we know about the world?
- Test the idol: Does it contradict itself?
- Replace the idol: Make the case for Christianity
What stood out to you in this chapter? Any questions? Any points you’d like to make? We welcome your discussion below.
Next week, we’ll begin going through these five principles, so read Principle #1: “Twilight of the Gods,” and we’ll see you here on Friday.
Posts in this series:
- Book Club Introduction
- Week One: Foreword
- Week Two: I Lost My Faith at an Evangelical College
- Week Three: Twilight of the Gods
- Week Four: False Worldviews Reduce the Human Person
- Week Five: Secular Leaps of Faith
- Week Six: Why Worldviews Commit Suicide
- Week Seven: Free-Loading Atheists
- Week Eight: How Critical Thinking Saves Faith