Total Truth: Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity

Often, in teaching and speaking on a biblical world and life view, I am asked, “Why is it so important to develop a Christian mind that knows how to think God’s thoughts after Him?” In one way or another, even recently in a seminar, I was asked that question again. I remember one person saying, “You sound like I have to be an intellectual to be a Christian.” If what is meant by being an intellectual is that you have to know philosophy and logic and all kinds of facts, then that is not necessarily what I mean. If, however, I mean knowing God’s word and our world, knowing how to live as a Kingdom disciple who loves God with his mind, heart, body, and soul, and knowing how to apply his or her heart unto wisdom, then I guess I do mean intellectual.

The Apostle Paul connects with this when he writes that we are to be transformed in our minds (Rom. 12:1, 2). Why? In order to know God’s good, perfect, and acceptable will. A kingdom disciple is to be characterized as someone who knows how to apply the Christian faith to all areas of life. If the Christian life is about God and not simply about us, then we must realize the centrality of knowing and doing God’s will. He is the King and we are his servants. Jesus said that a kingdom disciple must deny himself, take up the cross, and follow him. Life is about the Sovereign God.

The Westminster Divines had an understanding of the importance of this when they penned the first shorter catechism. “Q. What is man’s chief end? A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” They connected glorifying God with enjoying him. So must we!

We cannot enjoy God by leaving him out of any area of life, if it were really possible to do so. Joy comes as we know and do his will. Nancy Pearcey has written an outstanding book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity, which in my opinion, should be the evangelical book of the year.

As I read this book and studied some of its sections with our CE&P staff, I reacted in a similar fashion as when I first read books like The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, or The Stone Lectures by Abraham Kuyper, or The God Who is There by Francis Schaeffer, or The Defense of the Faith by Cornelius Van Til, or John Frame’s books on the Knowledge and Doctrine of God. Need I say more to communicate my feelings about this book?

Pearcey is an outstanding writer with the ability not only to express deep thoughts in a very readable way, but one who also understands a biblically reformed world and life view. My book, Making Kingdom Disciples, a New Framework, will be published in January 2005, and I found Total Truth to be a good companion book.

Pearcey is a familiar voice in the Presbyterian Church in America. She is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary. She has also completed graduate work at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, and studied with Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri. She exemplifies our philosophy of the importance of understanding the Word and the world and how to communicate apologetically with today’s audience. Each chapter in this volume is a goldmine in itself. James Sire, the author of The Universe Next Door and, most recently Renaming the Elephant, called Total Truth “The best work of cultural analysis from a Christian standpoint available today.” James Skillen commented, “Seldom does one find a book with serious content, historical depth, and Christian integrity that is also easy to read. If you feel lost in the fog of today’s cultural confusions, read this book.”

If resources were available, I would give each teaching elder in the PCA a copy of this book along with Making Kingdom Disciples. These are crucial topics and somehow we are not communicating kingdom living or world and life view clearly, according to most polls, statistics, and testimonies. People who profess to love Jesus are not making the connection of that love with a total worldview. This is not a new phenomenon but it has great impact in this postmodern and post-Christian world.

Whether we are called to redeem culture or make cultural transformation can be debated, but no one can question our calling to be kingdom disciples living out our faith in all of life, doing all to the glory of God. We are to be the “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world.” We cannot do that by separating our faith from life. Pearcey points to dualistic philosophy (attempting to create a dichotomy between the secular and the sacred) a reality of western evangelicalism, and she is absolutely right. I see no greater threat to the church and its witness, especially at this moment in time, than dualism.

Christian influence has continued to wane in western Christianity because the average Christian has not understood total truth, the Sovereignty of God, or the Lordship of Christ. This book will challenge the believer to understand the reality that Christianity has accommodated itself to the culture around it, if in no other way than by making it a Sunday religion. It will also offer an explanation as to why so many Christians do not enjoy their Christian life experience.

Here is the situation and connection; Christians do not always “enjoy God,” because they do not understand what is necessary in order to do that. To glorify God, we have to do more than ask the blessing at mealtime or go to church on Sunday, even have family devotions, important as those things are. We have to see the inclusiveness of our Christian faith. Once we begin to do that, we begin to experience great freedom and challenge to live fully for God. As we do that, Pearcey’s contention along with the Westminster Divines, is that we begin to discover or rediscover the joy of the Christian life. She writes about many people who were genuinely desirous to be good Christians but at first had no understanding of how that touched every area of their lives.

After coming to realize the all-inclusiveness of the Christian life, one of the people mentioned said,”That’s when I rediscovered joy.” Pearcey writes, “Ordinary Christians working in business, industry, politics, factory work, and so on, are ‘the Church’s front-line troops’ in the spiritual battle. Are we taking seriously our duty to support them in their warfare? The church is nothing less than a training ground for sending out laypeople who are equipped to speak the gospel to the world.”

Our contention is that if self-conscious kingdom people see the totality of the Christian life and will seek to glorify God in every area of life, then the joy of the Lord will become more and more real. Pearcey’s thesis is “the key to recovering joy and purpose turned out to be a new understanding of Christianity as total truth-an insight that broke open the dam and poured the restoring waters of the gospel into the parched areas of life.”

I have often quoted Charles Malik, from his address at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton in 1980. He challenged the audience to the twofold task of evangelism, that of saving the souls and that of saving the minds. He said, if we do one without the other, we will fail to save the souls. We understand the importance of developing a Christian mind committed to total truth, and with God’s help, determining to apply that faith to all of life. Never has it been more important for Christians to be intentionally missional in their approach to life. To impact the world, however, we must know how to teach, model, and explain this to future generations what we mean by Christianity being “total truth,” and how the joy of the Lord is connected with that perspective.

If you buy only one book this year, this would be the book at the top of the list.

“The purpose of a worldview is to explain our experience of the world-and any philosophy can be judged by how well it succeeds in doing so. When Christianity is tested, we discover that it alone explains and makes sense of the most basic and universal human experiences,” Pearcey.

Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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