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Education Reporter

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Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. Nancy Pearcey, Crossway Books, 2004, 480 pp., $25

"That's true for you, but not for me." "I don't let my faith influence my politics." "It's nice that you're religious if it makes you feel happy, but we're talking about facts here and religion is about 'faith,' not facts." People who believe that Christianity is actually true - historically and in all other ways true, concerning events that really happened and a God who exists - often hear such statements and grit their teeth in frustration.

In Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey wastes no time gritting her teeth. She starts instead with a clear, interesting history of how Western culture has driven a wedge between fact and value, public and private, secular and sacred. This history leads to discussion of where we are now, and how we can shake the notion that religion is a mere personal, subjective taste. Pearcey makes the case for Christianity as a fully orbed system of truth that affects everything we do.

Two students from a conservative Christian college told PBS, "Science deals with the material world of genes and cells, religion with the spiritual world of value and meaning." Pearcey points out the problem: "Christianity does make claims about the material world - about the origin of the cosmos, the character of human nature, and events in history, preeminently the Resurrection. Yet these students were willing to deny that their faith has any cognitive content, reducing it to subjective questions of 'value and meaning.'"

The book's anecdotes make it surprisingly readable and entertaining. Many examples show how moral relativism and the fact/value split just don't reflect reality. Pearcey tells of one teacher who employed the technique of "values clarification," in which students leave behind any objective moral standards they've been taught and create their own list of values. This popular method of moral education obviously makes all ethical decisions seem purely relative, individual preferences. This teacher was dismayed when her students clarified their values down to "sex, drugs, drinking, and skipping school." Given the method's relativistic framework, she had no way of convincing them that they should have valued honesty, kindness or self-discipline instead. As Pearcey convincingly shows, apart from the existence of real and total truth, there simply is no "should."

Total Truth will help readers to recover a dynamic vision of the world that informs and inspires every area of life.
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