Human Events (January 1996)

Human Events Spotlight


Nancy Pearcey

Culture first, not politics. That is the message of an increasing number of intellectually sophisticated Christians who form a powerful movement in America, much to the chagrin of the liberal intellectual and cultural elites of our country who see in the distance a replacement elite in the making. "If you just focus on politics, you lose the culture. Politics is a reflection of culture," said Nancy Pearcey. "Political issues arise from deeper worldview assumptions, so it's much more effective to address those underlying assumptions."

Pearcey, whose husband, Rick, is managing editor of Human Events, focuses her writing on propounding and defending what she called the "Christian worldview."

"For the last eight-and-a-half years, I've been working with Chuck Colson. He hired me to start BreakPoint, his daily radio program. It breaks the mold of a typical religious-right program because we don't just focus on issues." These influential commentaries-heard by five-million listeners weekly-are written "by a team of staff writers who contribute to BreakPoint. We also have contract writers," she said.

Pearcey and Colson have written a new book titled How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 1999). "It applies the Christian worldview to each sphere of life," said Pearcey. "It is primarily for a Christian audience."

The book uses not just Scripture but a Christian philosophy to explain to Christian Americans how we should live. The book draws on "Reformational philosophy," said Pearcey, which "started in the late-19th Century with Abraham Kuyper and later was developed by the Dutch Calvinist philosopher Hermann Dooyeweerd."

But seminal figure theologian-philosopher Francis Schaeffer, one of the most influential Protestant thinkers of modern times and under whom Pearcey studied in Switzerland in the early '70s, truly inspired the book, she said. Schaeffer was a key 20th-Century figure in the revival of traditional Protestants' intellectual engagement with modernity.

"I was raised in a Lutheran home," said Pearcey. "In high school, I realized that I had no personal reason to believe in my faith. I did it out of respect for my parents. . . . I decided the most honest thing to do was to reject my faith and examine it objectively alongside other religions and philosophies. I found that Christianity answered the basic questions of philosophy and of life the best."

The book begins with a part that explains "Worldview: Why It Matters" and has chapters with such titles as "Darwin in the Dock" and "Soli Deo Gloria," which treats music, art and literature.

"Obedience to Christ means living in accord with [God's creation plan] in all aspects of life," the authors insist. "Family and church, business and commerce, art and education, politics and law are institutions grounded in God's created order; they are not arbitrary in their configuration."

The creation versus evolution debate figures in the book, which is fitting given Pearcey's long history of arguing for creation. "The concept of creation is fundamental to the Christian worldview," she said. Evolutionists who try to find naturalistic explanations for everything "confuse science and philosophy," she said.

"There's no evidence for a natural mechanism capable of creating new, complex genetic information," Pearcey said, dismissing so-called theistic evolution, which suggests evolution is directed by God. "The issue is naturalism: Either the universe is a closed system of cause and effect, or it is open to the action of an intelligent agent."

Several years ago, Pearcey coauthored The Soul of Science, a book that applies the Christian worldview to various scientific disciplines. "You might not think there is a Christian view of mathematics, but there is," she said. "Those involved in the philosophy of mathematics no longer believe that mathematics is objectively true. They believe it is a social, cultural creation. They say mathematical principles are like the rules of bridge: They are not true; they are conventions." Her next project may be a book combatting this sort of postmodernism.

Pearcey is also managing editor of Origins & Design, a professional journal of the intelligent-design movement, and is a fellow at the Discovery Institute of Seattle.

"I recommend Phil Johnson's books" on the creation-evolution debate, she said, including Darwin on Trial and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. "He knows how to lay out the theories in a strategic manner in a secular culture," she explained. She also noted a website, Access Research Network (www.arn.org), which gives information on the intelligent-design movement and more background on her own work.

Pearcey does not want the teaching of evolution banned from the public schools. "I think students should learn both explanations," she said. "Schools should teach the controversy."

Nancy Pearcey may be reached at P.O. Box 17500, Washington, D.C. 20041.