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Principle #5: “Free Loading Atheists”

Dr. Nancy Pearcey begins this chapter by posing a problem: “Many Christians seem at a loss in constructing a biblical worldview suitable for the public arena.”[1] She goes on to explain that, while many Christians understand theology proficiently, worldview and theology are not the same things. “A worldview applies theological truths to fields such as philosophy, science, education, entertainment, and politics.”[2] If Christians can better understand how their theology applies to reality, they can best be prepared for Pearcey’s final principle.

Principle #5: Replace the Idol: Make the Case for Christianity Pearcey reiterates a common thread in previous chapters: “The Christian message will be most relevant when it is articulated at the specific points where people recognize the flaws and failures of their own worldviews.”[3] Oftentimes, other worldviews will borrow from the Christian worldview, whether they realize it or not. Identifying these distinctively Christian elements is a great way to simultaneously point out the flaws in those other worldviews as well as make the case for Christianity.

Pearcey lists a number of worldviews as well as strategies to deal with them. One worldview she spends some time dealing with in this chapter is Darwinism. Citing atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, she argues that the Darwinist theory is almost certainly false because it leads to reductionism.[4] Something more than Darwinism is needed to explain moral and scientific knowledge, and Nagel articulates this when he states that, “an evolutionary concept of the mind undercuts ‘our confidence in the objective truth of our moral beliefs,’ as well as ‘the objective truth of our mathematical or scientific reasoning.’”[5] To give up on these things is denying what Nagel calls common sense, undeniable knowledge.

Pearcey also cites atheist philosopher Raymond Tallis, who can’t explain various things, like “how the blind forces of physics brought about (cognitively) sighted humans who are able to see, and identify, and comment on, the ‘blind’ forces of physics,”[6] or how a mindless evolutionary process created beings with minds at all. Tallis opposes reductionism (as he rightly should) but can offer no answer to the questions he poses. It is precisely these areas where the problems of non-theistic worldviews present themselves that Christians should target. And not only should Christians point out how secularists borrow from the Christian worldview, Pearcey argues they should also, “ask what you lose when you give it up.”[7] For atheists, specifically, this must be (amongst others) free will, objective morality, and objective truth.

*Dr. Nancy Pearcey is a professor of Christian Worldview and Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, a fellow at the Discovery Institute, and editor of The Pearcey Report. Please do yourself a favor and buy her excellent book here!

Check back next week for Part Three: How Critical Thinking Saves Faith

[1] Nancy Pearcey, Finding Truth: 5 Principles for Unmasking Atheism, Secularism, and Other God Substitutes (Colorado Springs: David Cook, 2015), 220.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 230.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 232.

[7] Ibid, 241.

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