Renaissance 2.0: A Review of Nancy Pearcey’s Saving Leonardo
by Terrell Clemmons
Nancy Pearcey knows the captivating power of secular ideas because she used to hold them herself. As a teenager, she rejected the religion of her childhood and embraced a host of “isms,” from moral relativism to scientific determinism to New Age spiritualism.
But she persisted in her quest for truth, only to find that the biblical worldview offers far better and more complete answers to the real world questions those philosophies attempted to address. For those of us who lack such intellectual stamina, her books serve as a tour of the long and winding journey by which she arrived at that conclusion.
The Soul of Science, which she co-authored with Charles Thaxton in 1994, defied the deeply embedded cultural myth which said that faith and science occupy mutually exclusive intellectual camps, and showed how, quite to the contrary, scientific progress grew specifically out of Christian culture.
How Now Shall We Live?, a joint effort with Charles Colson in 2004, fully developed the concept of worldview as an explanatory system that must fit all of reality. A worldview must therefore satisfactorily answer three foundational life questions: (1) Who am I and where did I come from?, i.e., the question of origins; (2) What’s wrong with the world?; and (3) How can it be fixed? Pearcey and Colson argued persuasively that the biblical meta-narrative of Creation/Fall/Redemption provides the most excellent answers to all three.
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Total Truth, Pearcey’s first solo work, built upon the core insight of Francis Schaeffer, under whom she studied as a young adult. Schaeffer had observed that modernity has erected a “two-story” view of reality, wherein objective “facts” occupy the lower story and subjective “values” occupy the upper. Total Truth showed how secularists use this fact/value split to banish biblical principles from public discourse, not by disproving them but by dismissing them out of hand.
In Saving Leonardo, Pearcey has turned her attention to the arts, and she analyzes how the fact/value split has fragmented modern thought and therefore compromised modern art. Most people view art as simply personal expression, but Pearcey says that it is much more than that: “Artists always select, arrange, and order their materials to offer an interpretation or perspective.” Art conveys ideas.
Saving Leonardo sets out to train us as consumers to thoughtfully “read” the art we take in, to analyze and interpret it. Not to make us art critics, but to make us wise and effective “change agents,” equipped “to engage in discussion with real people seeking livable answers in a world that is falling apart.”
Part One of the book examines the emerging global secularism and the toll it is exacting in human lives and dignity. Secularism is generally defined as the view that religious considerations and any beliefs based on the supernatural should be excluded from civil and public affairs. Today, secular ideologies control what our schools teach, how states govern, how economies are managed, and how (and what) news is reported. Secularism is sold on the premise that it provides a more enlightened ordering principle for social arrangements, but in reality it works to degrade, rather than advance, a society…
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