About the Author
Nancy Pearcey wrote Saving Leonardo while serving as research professor of Worldview Studies at Philadelphia Biblical University. Pearcey studied Christian worldview at L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland with Francis Schaeffer, and was later named the Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at the World Journalism Institute in New York City. She earned a masters degree from Covenant Theological Seminary, and pursued further graduate work in the History of Philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. Pearcey has been a commentator on Public Square Radio, the founding editor of the daily radio program "BreakPoint," and has appeared on NPR and C-SPAN.
Currently she is a fellow at the Discovery Institute and editor-at-large of The Pearcey Report. She coauthored a column in Christianity Today, and has authored or contributed to several books, including The Soul of Science and How Now Shall We Live? (with Charles Colson, contributions by Harold Fickett). Her most recent book was the bestselling Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, which won the 2005 ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best book of the year on Christianity & Society.
Worldview Thinkers Nancy Pearcey & J. Richard Pearcey to Join Faculty at Rivendell Sanctuary
Bloomington, MN (Jan. 13, 2011) -– Rivendell Sanctuary, an innovative new college, announces that best-selling author and scholar Nancy Pearcey, and editor-publisher J. Richard Pearcey, will join the Rivendell faculty. The couple begins team-teaching classes in the Fall 2011.
Best known for award-winning books such as Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey is currently a columnist with the Capitol Hill newspaper Human Events and editor at large of The Pearcey Report. Nancy studied with Francis Schaeffer at L'Abri in Switzerland and served as the Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar at the World Journalism Institute. Her most recent position was Scholar of Worldview Studies at Philadelphia Biblical University. An article in The Economist describes Nancy as "America's pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual." Her latest book is Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning.
"What appeals to me about Rivendell Sanctuary," Nancy says, "is that it is a 'great books' program with an integrated curriculum, using a Socratic method of teaching. Students are taught to dig deeply into a text and learn how to think for themselves."
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An Interview with Nancy Pearcey
Q: What is Saving Leonardo about?
Saving Leonardo is a survival guide to the secular ideologies that are threatening human dignity and freedom in America today.
It unfolds secular ideologies step by step, giving a Who's Who of the change agents who created modern culture—philosophers from Plato to Marx, scientists from Galileo to Einstein, artists from Van Gogh to Picasso, writers from Jack London to Hemingway, and even actors from James Dean to Scarlett Johannson.
Saving Leonardo offers a fresh approach, exposing the destructive impact that secular ideas have exerted in the lives of real people as expressed through their creative work.
Q: Why is it called Saving Leonardo?
Leonardo da Vinci is a metaphor for the way the arts "channel" worldviews deeply into people's minds and emotions. Books, movies, images, and stories have the power to bypass our critical grid, override our logic, and hook us emotionally, seducing us into a set of ideas, a movement, or a worldview.
Saving Leonardo gives readers the skills they need to evaluate ideas when they come to us not in words, where they are easier to recognize, but through creative works.
After all, this is where most people acquire their ideas about life. They're not signing up to take philosophy courses at the local university. Instead they're absorbing ideas through advertising, images, books, movies, music. The arts are a language that we must learn how to interpret, in order to become better critical thinkers and stand against dangerous and destructive ideas.
Q: What do you mean by secularism?
I employ a very basic definition borrowed from the American Founders. They realized that human rights are secure—"inalienable"—only if they are endowed by the Creator, as the Declaration of Independence puts it.
Secularism is any view that denies a transcendent source for human rights. Saving Leonardo goes through several "brands" of secularism one by one, and shows that none provides a sufficient base to protect human dignity and freedom.
Q: Your Introduction asks "Why Americans Hate Politics." What's the answer?
The American founders were motivated by the conviction that the political order is grounded in moral ideals like justice and the common good. But in the twentieth century, political thinkers accepted the idea that morality is merely subjective—nothing but personal feelings and preferences.
These are things that cannot be rationally debated. Persuasion becomes impossible. All that's left is emotional manipulation and personal attacks. "Racist!" "Sexist!" "Hater!" "Intolerant!"
The acceptance of moral relativism has turned America's public square into a battleground between competing sets of subjective values, with no possibility of resolution. All that's left is sheer power—government coercion.
It is commonly said that politics is downstream from culture, and this is a prime example. Politics is being shaped by a relativistic view of moral truth. Saving Leonardo takes you upstream to identify and overcome destructive ideas at their source.
Q: Your book says secularism creates problems not just for religious people but for everyone. Explain why.
Because the word secular is the opposite of religious, people often assume that secularism is a problem for religious groups only. Not so. When politics loses its moral dimension, everyone's rights are at risk. When government coercion increases, everyone's freedoms are lost.
The reason Christians should be concerned is not just to protect their own subculture, but to protect the democratic process for all people.
Q: Why does Leonardo need "saving"?
Because secular worldviews do not provide an adequate basis for moral dignity or political liberty.
It can be a bit overwhelming to try to master the variety of secular philosophies competing for power in America today, but the task is easier if you realize they all fall under two major "brands"—a little like Ford and Chevy. If you visit a typical science classroom, you'll find that more than empirical facts are being taught. The dominant worldview there is scientific materialism, which treats humans as essentially biochemical machines.
The implication is that there is no mind. Your thoughts are merely byproducts of neurons firing in your brain. Free will is an illusion, so there is no moral choice either. In fact, the cutting edge today is that consciousness itself is an illusion. Steven Pinker of Harvard says we are zombies, who act and talk like humans but who have no inner self.
This is a radically dehumanizing worldview: The human person has been dissolved into a nexus of mindless material forces.
If you walk down the hallway to the English classroom, you encounter a postmodern worldview that is equally dehumanizing. Multiculturalism reduces the self to social forces—race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. This explains why the humanities have become hotbeds of political correctness.
Saving Leonardo explains the two major "brands" of secularism, and offers strategies to stand against their dehumanizing impact.
Q: If Christians argue for theologically based perspectives in the public arena, don't they violate the separation of church and state?
We easily forget that, historically, it was biblical theology that gave rise to the separation of church and state in the first place. Where did the American founders get the phrase "inalienable rights"? From the dissenting churches back in England that broke away from the state church.
In the 20th century, we have seen the opposite problem: states that are officially atheistic, like the Soviet Union and Communist China. These governments killed tens of millions of their own citizens. The real issue today is the separation of state and secularism.
Q: The book includes more than 100 full-color illustrations. Why is that?
Because this is how most people pick up their worldview. Ideas do not come neatly packaged with a warning label attached, so people know what they're getting. Instead there is a kind of "stealth" secularism that permeates society through books, music, movies, TV, radio talk shows. As a result, people are often co-opted by secular worldviews without even knowing it.
In Saving Leonardo you will "see" secular ideas unfold in fresh and surprising ways. The book is a guide to the isms that are taught in the university classroom and then filter down to Washington, the classroom, the movie theater, and your living room.
Q: Why did you write the book?
I know the attraction of secular ideas first hand, because I used to hold them myself. When I was a teenager, I rejected the religious teaching of my childhood and became an agnostic. You could say that Saving Leonardo tracks the various worldviews I wrestled with personally in my own search for truth over the years that I was an agnostic.
That's why I'm passionate about helping people to recognize and resist the forces of secularism that are tearing apart our lives and our society. In Saving Leonardo I walk through all the isms of the modern age, one by one, and diagnose their fatal flaws.
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Does God belong in the public arena of politics, business, law, and education? Or is religion a private matter only—personally comforting but publicly irrelevant?
In today’s cultural etiquette, it is not considered polite to mix public and private, or sacred and secular. This division is the single most potent force keeping Christianity contained in the private sphere—stripping it of its power to challenge and redeem the whole of culture.
In Total Truth, winner of the prestigious 2005 ECPA Christian Book Award and the Award of Merit in Christianity Today’s 2005 Book Awards, Nancy Pearcey offers a razor-sharp analysis of the public/private split, explaining how it hamstrings our efforts at both personal and cultural renewal. Ultimately it reflects a division in the concept of truth itself, which functions as a gatekeeper, ruling Christian principles out of bounds in the public arena.
How can we unify our fragmented lives and recover spiritual power? With examples from the lives of real people, past and present, Pearcey teaches readers how to liberate Christianity from its cultural captivity. She walks readers through practical, hands-on steps for crafting a full-orbed Christian worldview.
Finally, she makes a passionate case that Christianity is not just religious truth but truth about total reality. It is total truth.
How Now Shall We Live?
Christianity is more than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is also a worldview that not only answers life’s basic questions—Where did we come from, and who are we? What has gone wrong with the world? What can we do to fix it?—but also shows us how we should live as a result of those answers.
How Now Shall We Live?, winner of the 2000 ECPA Christian Book Award, gives Christians the understanding, the confidence, and the tools to confront the world’s bankrupt worldviews and to restore and redeem every aspect of contemporary culture: family, education, ethics, work, law, politics, science, art, music.
This book will change every Christian who reads it. It will change the church in the new millennium.
The Soul of Science
Is science hostile to a Christian worldview? Or does it actually depend on Christian assumptions about the world? Nancy Pearcey points out that no other culture--east or west, ancient or modern--has ever come up with the concept of "laws" in relation to nature, except medieval Europe, at a time when it was thoroughly permeated with Christian thinking. The idea of laws in nature became plausible because of the biblical concept of God as both Creator and Lawgiver. Pearcey makes the case with verve and clarity, tracing the historical relationship between Christianity and science from the time of the scientific revolution to our own day. With chemist Charles Thaxton as her scientific advisor, she offers a book that Phillip E. Johnson labels "brilliant" and J.P. Moreland calls "an excellent text." David Shotton of Oxford University says it is "a most significant book" which "should be required reading."