Yes, Nancy, fishing for a reaction here: I hope your book does well, but feel continually frustrated by the shallowness of current Christian culture. I didn’t think it was possible to be shallower than secular pop psychology, but Christian bookstores prove me wrong, time and again. I kid you not, I can’t stand even going into a Christian bookstore, even on business. Rows of books on Christian weight loss … I mean, we used to have a discipline called fasting, which is why people didn’t bother with Christian weight loss. Yes, there are a few thoughtful books like yours, but I find it a trial foraging my way through the Christian bookstore to find them.
A more sinister aspect to all this is that “new atheist” books are bestsellers, while the Christian is reading … Armageddon fantasies? Why is that sinister? Because, so far as I can see, the new atheists are a highly illiberal movement, and they tend to regard tolerance as the Islamist does: not as a solution but a problem. Look at Dawkins’s simple inability to understand that astronomer Martin Gaskell had been, put plainly, wronged. Because new atheists hate Christians more than they hate anyone else, the Christian may wake up from his potboiler to discover an actual Armageddon, perpetrated through the political and justice systems. Indeed, in some places it’s starting to happen now: It’s one thing Islamists and new atheists can agree on.
But don’t we sort of have it coming, when we choose escape into shallowness? Will any remedy actually work? Over to you:
Nancy: The reason American Christianity tends to be shallow is that we are still finding our way out of the fundamentalist era of the early 20th century. During that time, theologically conservative Christians turned their back on mainstream society and developed an ark mentality. The goal was to rescue individuals out of the world. But there was no conception that we are called to bring a biblical worldview into the world.
Even today most people think of Christianity as something that applies only to the religious sphere: It tells you how to be saved and provides helpful moral guidelines. But they do not think there is a distinctively biblical perspective on things like business or politics or the arts.
For example, a lawyer once told me that his colleagues don’t think the law has anything to do with morality. Even though they are Christians, they have absorbed the secular view of the law as a utilitarian tool to advance their clients’ interests. When he talks about relating biblical principles to the law, their response is, that’s “Sunday stuff.”
A contemporary philosopher goes so far as to insist that it would be “wrong” to apply biblical principles to his work. “I have, myself, definite religious convictions,” he writes; “but I would consider it entirely wrong to make them intrude as tacit presuppositions in the actual process of analysis I undertake.”
“Wrong”? If Christianity is true, then why would we think the way to proceed in our professional field is to make the counterfactual assumption that it is false?
Christians must realize that they are called to be agents of God’s redemptive grace first to individuals, but also to the fabric of ideas in which we conduct our corporate lives.
For example, it’s good to establish ministries to reach out to artists and musicians. But Christians must also address the art world as a network of ideas, practices, and standards. Our aim should be to recover the heritage of earlier ages when Christianity acted as a powerful inspiration for artistic and musical creativity.
By the same token, we should seek to be redemptive force in the business world, the medical world, and the science world. This is a much richer calling than most Christians recognize—a call to reconnect Christian truth to every other realm of life.
Saving Leonardo is unique in showing the connections between Christianity and ideas in science, philosophy, art, literature, even pop culture. Gene Edward Veith, editor at World magazine, said in his endorsement, “The book not only argues for the unity of Christian truth but exemplifies that unity and shows it in action.” It shows by example how to recover a holistic biblical worldview.
Note: This fall, Nancy will begin teaching at Rivendell Sanctuary in Minneapolis, a new junior college that features a modified great books program, an integrated curriculum, and Socratic teaching method. It is an intensive 18-month program that gives students a chance to develop a thorough grounding in a Christian worldview approach to all the subject areas, while earning an Associate of Arts degree. It’s intended to be a great way to begin a college career.
Over to comments.
(Exchange #1, “Why bother bother saving Leonardo?”)
(Exchange #2, “What to do with materialism’s pile of culture?” )
(Exchange #3, In your view, has deconstruction affected the sciences, and if so how?)
(Exchange # 4, You’ve long been sympathetic to the design theorists. How does this fact/value split affect the intelligent design controversy?
(Exchange #5: What’s with this current “You can have Jesus AND Darwin” bumf? Who wants Darwin anyway?)
(Exchange #6: Did your mentor, apologist Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984), ever
say anything that showed how he would approach the design issue?)
Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.