Interview with Nancy Pearcey

by Marilyn Stewart

As a Christian evangelical author, speaker and thinker, Nancy Pearcey has many credits to her name including her most recent book Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals and Meaning and Total Truth, the winner of the 2005 ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best book on Christianity and Society. As a wife and mother, her concern is to help others—especially young people—by giving them the tools to be better critical thinkers.  Here are her responses to some questions we posed:

Q: What questions seem to be the most pressing for today’s non-Christian adults? How are we doing as the Church in applying the gospel to those questions?

A: If we take Romans 1 seriously, we have to conclude that woven through all their other questions everyone is really asking who God is. In that passage, we learn that humans are inherently religious. If they do not acknowledge the transcendent Creator, then they will deify something in the created order. They will create an idol.

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We typically think of idols as concrete things, like the sun or a golden calf. But an idol can also be something abstract —like matter. Is matter part of the created order? Sure it is. The philosophy of materialism elevates matter into an idol. It claims that matter is the ultimate reality, the source and cause of everything else. And it reduces humans to merely material beings — complex biochemical mechanisms.

This insight into how idols work allows us to apply Romans 1 to modern secular philosophies. An idol is created whenever something immanent within the cosmos (or thought to be in the cosmos) is elevated into an all-defining principle — when it is absolutized. And every false absolute becomes the foundation for a complex and elaborate system of beliefs. It is deployed to explain where we came from, what it means to be human, what happens after death, the definitions of good and evil, and so on. The Marxist may claim that human behavior is ultimately shaped by economic circumstances; the Freudian attributes our actions to repressed sexual instincts; and the behavioral psychologist regards humans as stimulus-response mechanisms. But the Bible teaches that the core motivation that drives all humans is our ultimate belief or religious commitment. Our lives are shaped by the “god” we worship — whether the God of the Bible or some substitute ­deity.

One of most powerful ways the church can reach out to non-Christians is to help them identify what their idol is. Every “god” will be something in creation, and therefore it will be too small to fulfill their own highest hopes and ideals…

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