Ordered thoughts regarding important stuff like God, Science, and the Universe. The author will endeavor to answer all sincere questions in these matters, including help with math homework, genuine questions about God, etc.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcy/Book Review by J. Colannino

Saving Leonardo is Nancy Pearson's magnum opus and furthers the thought she articulated in Total Truth. Building on the work of the great theologian, Francis Schaeffer, Nancy continues her analysis of secularism and asks a simple question: Is secularism a positive force in the modern world?

The book is beautifully written and illustrated in 328 pages on heavy gloss paper, and after a brief introduction (Why Americans Hate Politics) it is organized into two main parts comprising nine chapters and an epilogue. Part 1, The Threat of Global Secularism, comprises three chapters: 1.) Are You an Easy Mark? 2.) Truth and Tyranny 3.)Sex, Lies, and Secularism. Part 2, Two Paths to Secularism, comprises the remaining six chapters and an epilogue: 4.) Crash Course on Art and Worldview 5.) Beauty in the Eye of the Machine (The Enlightenment Heritage) 6.) Art Red in Tooth and Claw (The Enlightenment Heritage) 7. Romancing the Canvas (The Romantic Heritage) 8.) Escape from Nihilism (The Romantic Heritage) 9.) Morality at the Movies; and an Epilogue, Bach School of Apologetics. The book is heavily annotated and referenced with acknowledgments, a list of notes, and list of images; but unfortunately this scholarly work has no index.

By surveying art and philosophy from Aristotle, Descartes, and onward, Pearcy weaves together a coherent, cogent, and convincing case that secularism is an abject failure both as a worldview and as a positive force in art, science, and the modern world. To do this, she builds on Schaeffer's fact/value split -- a theme she thoroughly introduced in Total Truth and amplifies further via example in Saving Leonardo. Basically, the argument is this: secular thought has devolved to the following. When it comes to scientific facts, what's true is true. That is, 1 + 1 = 2 for everyone everywhere every time. However, when it comes to values, i.e., morality in its various expressions (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, homosexuality, etc.), what's true for you is true and what's true for me is true -- even if such "truths" are mutually contradictory. Thus, with respect to facts, secularists are modernists but with respect to values, secularists are post-modernists.

This schizophrenia continues in worldview. That is, a worldview should explain the world, not fall apart when the focus shifts. Yet those secularists who genuinely believe that life evolved from a prebiotic soup do not treat their loved ones as if they were mere rearrangements of carbon atoms. They do not behave as if their love is an evolutionary trick foisted upon them by their genes. They genuinely love.

However, the fact/value split has more serious issues than being schizophrenic; it commits suicide. That is, if there is no absolute truth, then any statement affirming such is self-destructive reducing to an absolute truth claim that absolute truth does not exist. If all thought is ultimately the result of evolution, then so is the thought that all thought is the result of evolution, and we have just lost any objective basis to affirm that all thought is a result of evolution.

One may argue that not all seemingly coherent worldviews are true, but one cannot properly argue that an incoherent worldview is true, and secularism offers an incoherent worldview. But that is not all. As Pearcy shows, secularism has had a debilitating effect on art and science. It destroys any basis for science -- if absolute truth does not exist why study it in the particular? It also corrupts art, which Pearcy shows via numerous examples in her text.

Christian theism stands in stark contrast to secularism; it is a coherent worldview: because we were created by a loving God, love is not illusory but genuine. Because God is a truthful moral agent, true morality exists. Because the Christian God is a rational God, a rational world is not only allowed but expected; indeed, historically it was Christianity that motivated science while secularism (in the form of modernism and later post-modernism) among other "isms" (such as fatalism, paganism, animism, and mysticism) militated against it.

But is Christianity true? That is the question worthy of debate and the one that is tacitly dismissed without due consideration by the fact/value split. Christian apologetics have affirmed a rational and emphatic yes to that question that has withstood millennia of destructive criticism. How remarkable that two millennia after its introduction by the most common of folk, and after continued opposition by the greatest world empires, that we continue to name our children Peter and Paul and our dogs Nero and Caesar.

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