The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning and Public Debate

Overview

An ECPA 2003 Gold Medallion Finalist!

Phillip E. Johnson pries the lid off public debate about questions of ultimate concern—questions often suppressed by our society's intellectual elite. Moving far beyond matters of creation and evolution, Johnson outlines the questions we all ought to be asking about the meaning of human history, the limits of scientific inquiry, religion and education in a pluralistic society, truth, liberty and moral ...

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Overview

An ECPA 2003 Gold Medallion Finalist!

Phillip E. Johnson pries the lid off public debate about questions of ultimate concern—questions often suppressed by our society's intellectual elite. Moving far beyond matters of creation and evolution, Johnson outlines the questions we all ought to be asking about the meaning of human history, the limits of scientific inquiry, religion and education in a pluralistic society, truth, liberty and moral choices, and God and His Word, Jesus Christ.

Johnson deftly demonstrates how the reigning naturalistic philosophy not only squelches public debate but also constrains us to ask the wrong questions. Unless we start with the right questions, Johnson argues, our discussions will be framed by the assumptions of that very philosophy which must be challenged.

Johnson asserts that even the Christian church has much too often passively accepted this limiting frame of mind to the detriment of all. But Christian faith and conviction instead ought to lead in opening up the search for truth and meaning through the kind of public education that "teaches in controversy." Then all of us will be prepared to engage in lively, informed and civil debate about the questions that really matter.

Why is it always wrong to mix science and religion? What is the ultimate premise, the beginning point, from which logic should proceed? How can a college education prepare students to understand the ultimate purpose or meaning for which life should be lived and to choose rightly from among the available possibilities? What is the appropriate understanding of religion in a pluralistic nation where substantial numbers of Christians, agnostics, Jews and Muslims all need to live together in peace? How can democratic liberalism remain viable when severed from its Christian roots? What is the most important event in human history?

Provocative, personal, persuasive and prophetic, Johnson is certain to help us break free from our intellectual and spiritual captivity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
To get to the right answers, argues Johnson (The Wedge of Truth), retired law professor at Berkeley, one has to ask the right questions. For too long, he says, the debate about which questions are important enough to be asked has been controlled by people unable to perceive that their philosophical system has a fatal flaw: obliviousness to the faith-based character of their foundational premise. To put it most clearly, Johnson suggests that the foundational premise for the scientific naturalist can be articulated as a parallel to the opening words of John and Genesis: "In the beginning were the particles." Johnson examines a variety of topics-education, science, logic, tolerance, gender and liberty-critiquing the way the debate in each area has been improperly bounded by those whose assumptions compel them to ask the wrong questions. What he hopes for is an open, informed, civil debate where people are free to ask the right ones. Though often persuasive, Johnson's work suffers from serious flaws and is particularly marred by its insensitive and defensive tone. He inaccurately characterizes his opponents, as when he entirely misreads Alan Wolfe's Atlantic Monthly article "The Opening of the Evangelical Mind," or misrepresents conservative Fuller Theological Seminary as awash in "a post-Christian New Age spiritualism." He also takes cheap shots, even as he claims to be resisting the temptation. He admits that he is also tempted to self-centeredness, and the whole book has the whiff of a pretentious-and repetitive-arrogance. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830822942
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • Publication date: 9/9/2002
  • Pages: 191
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip S. Johnston is senior tutor at Hughes Hall, Cambridge. He has taught at Belfast, St. Andrews and Oxford. He has published studies of Israelite afterlife beliefs, and has an interest in Israel past and present—along with a commitment to reconciliation.

His other books include Les Psaumes, Interpreting the Psalms (coeditor with David Firth), Shades of Sheol and The Land of Promise (coeditor with Peter Walker).

Nancy Pearcey is the Francis A. Schaeffer scholar at the World Journalism Institute, where she teaches a worldview course based on her book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. After studying under Schaeffer at L'Abri in the early 1970s, she earned an M.A. from Covenant Theological Seminary, followed by further graduate work in philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto. She has served as the executive editor of Breakpoint, visiting scholar at the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University, and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute.

A frequent lecturer, Pearcey has spoken to actors and screenwriters in Hollywood; at universities such as Dartmouth, Stanford, USC and Princeton; at national labs like Sandia and Los Alamos; in Congress and the White House; and for political organizations like the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications, including The Washington Times, First Things, Human Events and The Regent University Law Review.

Pearcey has written or contributed to several works, including The Soul of Science and the ECPA Gold Medallion winner How Now Shall We Live? Her latest book, Total Truth, was featured on C-SPAN, received an Award of Merit in the Christianity Today 2005 Book Awards, and won the ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best book of the year in the Christianity and Society category.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 7
Introduction: The Logical Train 27
1 Biology and Liberal Freedom: The Human Genome Project and the Meaning of Life: The Right Questions About Science, God and Morality 31
2 The Word of God in Education: The Right Questions About the Religious Foundations of Education 49
3 The First Catastrophe: Unarmed Among the Dragons of the Mind: The Right Questions About Logic 79
4 My New Post: The Road Forward: The Right Questions About the Meaning of Life 93
5 The Second Catastrophe: The Tottering Towers of Faith: The Right Questions About Religion and Tolerance in a Pluralistic Society 107
6 Genesis and Gender: The Right Questions About Genesis 127
7 Truth and Liberty: Freedom to Dissent and Freedom to Do Right: The Right Question About Truth and Liberty 149
8 The Ultimate Question: What Is the Most Important Event in Human History? 169
Index 192
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