If you find yourself discouraged as a Christian in an increasingly secular environment, take heart: Christianity is the only worldview that provides total truth about life, existence, and humanity.
If such a claim were true (and I unwaveringly believe it is), it will prove itself genuine when compared to counterfeits. That is Nancy Pearcey’s premise in Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes, in which Pearcey offers an approach for exposing all false worldviews rooted in Romans 1:18-32.
Romans 1 teaches that God’s attributes and power are known to all, but people reject God the Creator to worship a created thing, exchanging God’s truth for a lie, with the result of having thinking turn futile and foolish hearts darkened (Romans 1:21-25). Or, to put it another way, any worldview other than Christianity rejects God to serve idols—resulting in spiritual blindness (Psalm 115:4-8).
Any idol-centered worldview will break down when asked the tough questions—and asking the tough questions that is exactly what Pearcey teaches readers to do. Pearcey’s five Scriptural principles “cut to the heart of any competing worldview or religion” and “highlights the life-giving truths that everyone wants but only Christianity can give.”
Principle #1: Identify the Idol
The starting place is to identify the idol worshipped in place of God. A few examples of common idols include reason, science, and human autonomy. Pearcey writes,
The history of philosophy is largely a history of setting up God surrogates. It is a history of idol-making. One of the most effective ways to understand history, then, is to identify the prevailing idols. As Timothy Keller writes, “Every human personality, community, thought-form, and culture will be based on some ultimate concern or some ultimate allegiance—either to God or to some God substitute.” Thus, “The best way to analyze cultures is by identifying their corporate idols.”
“The best way to analyze cultures is by identifying their corporate idols.” —Timothy KellerSince God created and rules everything, only a worldview that takes Him into account will accurately explain the complexities of life and the universe—idols at best will present a distorted and drastically incomplete version of reality.
Pearcey describes the failure of idol-based worldviews as trying to fit all of the universe neatly in a box—inevitably much won’t fit in the box.
Principle #2: Identify the Idol’s Reductionism
Since no false worldview can explain everything satisfactorily (it doesn’t fit in the box), shortcuts have to be taken and the true nature of existence get drastically ‘reduced’ in each worldview.
Instead of humanity created in the image of God with inherent worth and dignity, idols recast man in their own image, always reducing the dignity given to us by God.
Materialism is a favorite worldview for Pearcey to pick on, perhaps because it is so easy to dismantle:
Recall that in materialism, the idol is matter. Everything else is reduced to material objects produced by material forces. Anything that does not fit in the materialist box is dismissed as an illusion, including spirit, soul, will, mind, and consciousness. We could say that humans are redefined in the image of matter. They are robbed of their uniquely human qualities and reduced to biochemical machines, without free will, determined by natural forces.
Only a biblical worldview can fully explain all of life and allow us to appreciate the beautiful and complex world God has created.
Principle #3: Test the Idol: Does It Contradict What We Know about the World?
When we press in on other worldviews to see how they function in the real world, flaws will be exposed. What doesn’t fit in the box will poke out and be visible to all.
What do materialists do when they realize that their worldview box is too small to fit the evidence? [i.e. denying spirit, soul, will, mind, consciousness.] They suppress the evidence, just as Paul says in Romans 1.
One strength of Pearcey’s writing in Finding Truth and her earlier work Total Truth is the breadth of powerful quotes and examples showing how believers in false worldviews admit their weaknesses.
Dallas Willard comments, “I have noticed that the most emphatic of Postmodernists turn coldly modern when discussing their fringe benefits or other matters that make a great difference to their practical life.”
(This is when the emperor starts suspecting that he has no clothes on.)
Principle #4: Test the Idol: Does It Contradict Itself?
The contradictions of idol-based worldviews are not confined to what we know about the world, they are self-refuting.
Materialists…deny the reality of mind (while they use their minds to advance materialism), determinists deny the reality of human choice (while they choose determinism), and relativists deny the fact of right and wrong (while they judge you if you disagree).
John Passmore says, you cannot “maintain, as a timeless philosophical truth, that there are no timeless philosophical truths.”
Because we live in a world created and ordered by God, any other explanation of reality greatly lacks both substance and consistency, while carrying unintentional consequences (as seen in the quote below).
The drive for diversity [among many secularists], which was supposed to be the safeguard for liberty, has itself become coercive and homogenizing. Diversity has become a code word for a new form of tyranny.
Principle #5: Replace the Idol: Make the Case for Christianity
The emperor will only entertain thoughts of putting clothes on when he realizes that he is naked. The same is often true with worldviews—we can only truly build a new worldview when the former has been razed.
Atheists often denounce Christianity as harsh and negative. But in reality it offers a much more positive view of the human person than any competing religion or worldview. It is so appealing that adherents of other worldviews keep free-loading the parts they like best.
[We] often hear stereotypes that Christianity is negative and repressive; that it regards human nature as corrupt and worthless; that it places little value on life in this world. But in reality the Christian worldview has a much higher view of human life than any competing system. It gives a logical basis for the facts of experience that are denied by the dominant secular worldviews of our day: freedom, creativity, love, personal significance, genuine truth. How can we be anything but loving and joyful in communicating such a life- giving message?
We as Christians know the core truths about reality. We have the only livable worldview—and it is an unspeakably beautiful worldview.
It is our great privilege to share truth with the world that longs for truth, beauty, and meaning. Unmasking atheism, secularism, and other God substitutes is great, but we need our glorious Savior to be unmasked for there to be anything truly worth celebrating.
Not many books impact me like Finding Truth did. Finding Truth drove me to worship as I contemplated the infinite wisdom of God and drove me to prayer as I thought about the spiritual warfare and bondage behind faulty worldviews.
Our task isn’t easy, but we are stewards of the mysteries of God who are called to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:10).
May we be equipped to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” who “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) and boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.