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3.07.2015

This new Nancy Pearcey book - Finding Truth - is incredible

[This was an email...]

This Nancy Pearcey book is incredible. I open it at random and find pure gold. And she answers questions the reader has as the reader is reading. She comes through like that. Here's another section, but read it all because the aha moment is in the second-to-last paragraph:

"The key to identifying where a worldview commits suicide is to uncover its particular form of reductionism. Any theory that says, “Truth claims are nothing but X” is susceptible to self-refutation. For example, Karl Marx said that truth claims are nothing but rationalizations of economic interests: Laws are created by the rich to protect their property. Religion is the “opiate of the people,” placating the poor with false promises of a happy afterlife. 8 But what happens if we apply Marx’s rule to his own theory? Did he create it merely to rationalize his own economic interests? If so, we can dismiss it as a serious truth claim. The theory commits suicide.

Or take Friedrich Nietzsche. He held that all human action is driven by the will to power: Morality is invented by the weak to give them leverage over the strong . Religion is a “holy lie” used to control people. 9 But what about Nietzsche’s own theory? Was it driven by his own will to power? Then why should the rest of us pay any attention to it? The theory undercuts itself.

Sigmund Freud insisted that our thoughts are shaped by unconscious emotional needs: Personality is shaped by things like early toilet training. Much of human behavior is a result of sexual repression. But what does that imply about the origin of Freud’s own theory? Onto the couch yourself, Dr. Freud.

The behaviorist B. F. Skinner held that humans are nothing but stimulus-response mechanisms, responding to rewards and punishments: Their behavior is explainable in terms of operant conditioning, like the pigeons in his experiments, pecking at levers to get a pellet of food. 10 But is Skinner’s theory a product of his own conditioning? The theory refutes itself.

What these philosophies all share is a refusal to take truth claims at face value. Instead they interpret them as cover-ups for hidden motives and disguised self-interest. This penchant for debunking has been labeled the “hermeneutics of suspicion ” (hermeneutics is the science of interpretation). Those who practice it have been dubbed the “masters of suspicion.” 11 To be logically consistent, however, the masters should practice equal suspicion toward their own views—which they rarely, if ever, do.

As a tool of critical thinking, a hermeneutics of suspicion can be useful to highlight common human failings— to diagnose the ways our thinking may be distorted by things like economic interests or psychological impulses. Scripture teaches that we deceive ourselves all the time about our true motives: “The heart is deceitful above all things, … who can understand it?” (Jer. 17: 9). Taken on its own terms, however, a hermeneutics of suspicion is radically reductionistic. It simply abandons the question of truth, reducing it to questions of power and desire."

Pearcey, Nancy (2015-03-01). Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (pp. 185-187). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

+ + + + + +

Now, I have to continue and paste what she writes further in this section. How Christianity is different:

"Showing how theories that commit suicide is an essential tool in any apologetics toolbox. What is unique about the Romans 1 approach is that it explains why the argument works: because idol-based worldviews are reductionistic. By deifying something lower than the biblical God, they also recast humans in the image of something lower. The process of reductionism includes human cognitive faculties— things like reason, logic, rationality. It reduces human rationality to some non-rational force or process. Yet once a theory makes the claim that our ideas are not the product of rational thought, that claim must be applied to all ideas —including the theory itself. The debunkers end up debunking their own theories.

Or they would, if they were consistent. To avoid discrediting their own views, the debunkers tacitly exempt themselves from the critique they use to discredit everyone else. They act as if they are not blinded by the same irrational forces that distort and bias everyone else’s views— they are mysteriously able to rise above the forces that enslave everyone else— they alone are capable of achieving an untainted insight into reality. Even though they have stuffed the entire universe into a box, strangely they themselves are not trapped in that box. They somehow have the power to float above the box, rendering their own theories objectively valid and true.

But of course, by carving out an exception for themselves, they have introduced a logical inconsistency into their system. They have stated that there is one thing (namely, their own thinking) that their system does not cover.

Either way, then, idol-based worldviews are logically contradictory— which means they fail.

By contrast, a Christian worldview is not reductionistic. It does not reduce reason to something less than reason, and therefore it does not self-destruct. A Christian epistemology (theory of knowledge) starts with the transcendent Creator, who spoke the entire universe into being with his Word: “And God said” (Gen. 1: 3). “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1: 1). John uses a Greek word, Logos, that means not only Word but also reason or rationality— the underlying principle that unifies the world into an orderly cosmos, as opposed to randomness and chaos. The Greeks who heard John’s gospel understood that he was claiming that Christ is the source of the order and coherence of the universe.

This biblical view has two crucial implications. First, the intelligible order of the universe reflects the mind of the Creator. Second, because God created humans in his image, our minds correspond with that order as well. There is a congruence between the structure of the world and the structure of human cognition— a correlation between subject and object in the act of knowing . As Plantinga writes, “God created both us and our world in such a way that there is a certain fit or match between the world and our cognitive faculties.” 12

The medievals used the phrase adaequatio intellectus ad rem, which means the intellect is adequate to reality. Of course, humans are broken, fallen creatures, and as a result our thought processes are darkened and distorted. Nevertheless, even after the fall, we are still human. We still retain the image of God. Throughout history, the Bible has inspired confidence in the essential reliability of human cognitive faculties.

Biblical epistemology is backed up experientially by general revelation. To function from day to day, humans have to assume that we do know a great many things— that the material world is real (the chair I’m sitting on will hold me up), that the universe works by cause and effect (if I drop this computer, it will fall), that mathematical truths hold universally (5 plus 7 will always equal 12), that our memories are basically reliable (I did eat a sandwich for lunch today), that other people have minds (even though I cannot directly see them), and that the laws of logic are valid (to discredit logic, I have to argue using logic). In our daily actions, we have to assume the basic reliability of human cognition. If we were complete skeptics, we would be paralyzed, unable to act.

Anything we must assume in order to function in the world is part of general revelation. The undeniable facts of experience reflect the created structure of physical nature or human nature, or both. They are signposts pointing to the biblical God. Only a biblical worldview explains why it is possible for humans to have trustworthy knowledge.

The upshot is that all worldviews have to borrow a Christian epistemology— at least at the moment they are making their claims. They must tacitly assume the reliability of reason and rationality, which only a biblical worldview supports. They have to function as if Christianity is true, even as they reject it."

Pearcey, Nancy (2015-03-01). Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (p. 187). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.

- C.

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