Reverse Thinking

One of most convincing evidences for Christianity is the way God has completely changed my thinking. In a very real way this video describes my testimony. Thanks to my friends at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh for producing it.

Book Review Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey

By Cris Putnam
in association with Apologetics 315
Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcey, Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2010, 336 pages, Kindle Edition $12.99.


Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey exposes secularism as a destructive and divisive force in the modern world and suggests means to address it. Pearcey is the well-known heir apparent to Francis Schaeffer in style and content. Having been a student of Schaeffer at L’Abri, she co-authored The Soul of Science with Charles Thaxton in 1994, then became widely known after co-authoring How Now Should We Live with Charles Colson in 1999 and more recently the widely successful Total Truth (2004). The book reviewed here, Saving Leonardo, consists of two sections. The first describes the growth of international secularism as a monolithic worldview especially focusing on its cultural affect. The second section traces the history of secularism contrasting Enlightenment and Romantic worldviews. Drawing on Schaeffer’s concept of a two-story worldview, Pearcey brings it into the twenty-first century illustrating how the fact / value spilt has infiltrated philosophy, the arts and popular culture. She states her purpose clearly, “The goal of this book is to equip you to detect, decipher, and defeat the monolithic secularism”[1] and that goal is met in admirable fashion. This presentation will give a broad overview and summary of the book offering several points of analysis along the way.

Part one asks the question, “Are you and easy mark?” This is necessary because secularism is deeply ingrained in academia and media to the point that many Christians are taken in unaware. A big part of the problem is ignorance of the divided notion of truth along the fact / value split. Pearcey argues that the Bible not only presents individual truths like the divinity of Christ and God as creator but it also teaches on the nature of truth. She argues, “Because all things were created by a single divine mind, all truth forms a single, coherent, mutually consistent system. Truth is unified and universal.”[2] This is a central point of the book which comes back around as various historical periods are examined with their defining ideas.

The secular world is neither wholly rationalist nor postmodern rather deliberately divided. Modernism rules the lower story fact realm whereas postmodernism has a stranglehold on the upper story values realm. For example, the secular view of the human person divides human life from personhood.  The body in the lower story (the fact realm) is viewed as a biomechanical machine whereas personhood (the self) is consigned to the subjective upper story. This frames the debate on bio-ethical issues like euthanasia, sexuality, and abortion. For example, on the value free facts side, human life has been opened wide for disturbing experimentation. Scientists are given a wide berth by defining personhood in an unscientific subjective way and bio-ethical limits are relaxed. This plays out in social areas as well.

Pearcey delves deeply into controversial territory explaining how this plays out in sexuality and gender issues. The fact / value divide puts physical anatomy and gender over sexual desire and psychological identity. The book argues how the relegation of these identity issues to upper story of subjective preference allows it to seem perfectly acceptable to change gender and sexual preference on a whim. She dubs this “pomosexuality” based on postmodernism. As a point of critical analysis, this development seems especially problematic for the classical lower story homosexual argument that their inclination is not a choice. This point of incoherence should create a meaningful tension for secularists and illustrates how the broken view of truth is where Christian thinkers can make the most meaningful critiques.

In part two, Pearcey make a case for the two major historical paths to secularism. Whereas the early Greeks elevated geometry, the later Neo-Platonists promoted the ethereal ideal which found expression in Byzantine icons. Later, monastic asceticism was simply a living out of this metaphysic with a rejection of the earthly, physical plane. During the Renaissance, there was an effort to integrate the two by mastering many disciplines hence the term “Renaissance man.”  As the epitome of that type, the frustrated life of Leonardo da Vinci is symbolic of modern man’s struggle to find unified truth. The title of the book draws from this inner need to unite the divided field of knowledge, an effort which found some success in Luther and Calvin’s restoration of biblical principles.

The book argues that the Reformation recovered a unified biblical view but the enlightenment was quick on its heels. Pearcey argues that when Kant failed to resolve the gap between freedom and nature, philosophy split into the continental and analytic schools. The Enlightenment viewed the world as machine implying determinism. Whereas secular romantics favored evolutionary thinking, the rise of Darwinism posed a new materialist challenge. Accordingly, Romanticism responded with an organic elevation of nature. While the Enlightenment absorbed the factual realm and led to materialism, Romanticism focused on the values realm and to philosophical idealism, the notion that ideas not matter are ultimate reality. Similarly, art divided into the naturalist (formalism) traditions and idealist (expressionism). As Pearcey explains how various works of art reflect the world view and philosophy of their day, the worldviews come alive and the genres take on more profound meaning.

The enlightenment inspired styles reflect the data driven lower story level. For instance the machine-aesthetic Bauhaus school is inevitable child of cold hard scientific determinism. However, people are not machines and stripped down utilitarian uniformity is ultimately unlivable. Accordingly, the Bauhaus styled high rise housing project turned out to be depressing concrete prisons. Similarly, minimalist art seems ridiculously simplistic and inane. Whereas a pile of bricks on the floor or a few squares of color may accurately reflect the analytic secular worldview they express little of the depth and meaning found in more traditional art forms. Yet, this shallowness is reflective of the enlightenment worldview from which it was inspired. One thing Pearcey adds to the discussion that Schaeffer lacked is how Christians utilized these genres. Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms is cited as an example of one man’s journey back to faith and gratitude. Other artists who found the enlightenment worldview unlivable made the leap into the upper story.

Evolutionary ideas became popular in the nineteenth century and have remained consistently so. In the lower story, Darwin’s theory was used to assault biblical truth claims about creation. The book presents an entire chapter on Darwinism and how it played out in “tooth and claw” literature by Jack London and Edgar Rice Burroughs as well as how evolutionary themes became the cohesive element between the Enlightenment / Romantic divide. It is particularly revealing how philosophers like Hegel substituted an “Absolute Spirit” for a personal God as the driving force of evolution. Hegel’s dialectical synthesis, often called historicism, posited truth as transitory and not absolute concept of truth albeit it is a self-refuting paradigm. Hegel’s ideas spawned biblical criticism and interest in occult philosophies.

The book reveals how Romanticism began as a protest against Enlightenment values. Artists like Blake responded to the industrial revolution by describing factories as “dark, Satanic mills.”[3] Art became a means of protest against the exploitation of nature for greed. Artists began to draw from within themselves rather than brute sense perception and this marks the distinction between impressionism and expressionism. Accordingly, paintings like Van Gogh’s Starry Night are not based on what he saw as much as what he felt. Pearcey argues that many artists in this period saw art as substitute religion. Even so, a major strength of Saving Leonardo is that it presents Christian works like Abbey Burial Ground by Friedrich, Christ Mocked by Soldiers by Rouault and the contemporary expressionist Makoto Fujimura in addition to commenting on secular works. and finds its expression in New Age ideas today. Spiritualism and psychic research literally exploded during the nineteenth century and the Eastern religions increasingly infiltrated into the West. Furthermore, the implications of quantum mechanics, that consciousness is a causal factor in reality, inspired many thinkers to abandon the lower story. Scientists still practice an odd form of denial when it comes to the quantum level implications for materialism. Today, quantum mysticism with an embrace of eastern monism is popular along with postmodern thought.

Postmodernism was the result of the wholesale abandonment of rational certainty and embrace of radical relativism. Pearcey demonstrates the rejection of the metanarrative as a cohesive story of human history and reveals how it fuels deconstructionism in the arts and political correctness, diversity and multiculturalism in the political sphere. She also does a great job of explaining how reductionist worldviews amount to worship of the created over the creator. For example, materialism. empiricism, naturalism and pantheism all fall under the postmodernist’s term “totalizing.” They all reduce the complex reality created by God to one thing and Pearcey argues that biblically this is merely a form of idolatry. This argument has explanatory scope by unifying the error various strands of secularism and is well supported by passages like Romans 1:23.  She makes a cogent case that only a biblical worldview recognizing the transcendent creator can avoid idolizing part of the creation.

The two story worldview is also addressed in terms of continental and analytic philosophy. She breaks the two streams up as upper story (continental): Idealism, marxism, phenomenology, existentialism postmodernism, deconstructionism and lower story (analytic): rationalism, materialism, naturalism logical positivism, linguistic analysis. One criticism is that some philosophers, like Brian Leiter from the University of Chicago, argue the continental / analytic distinction is unhelpful because they do not always divide so neatly.[4]  Even so, Pearcey seems well aware that these categories are not necessarily so distinct in writing, “Over the course of history, these two traditions have not remained watertight. At times, they have overlapped or borrowed from one another.”[5] Whereas not everyone falls neatly into one side or the other, everyone is affected by the split. By outlining these corresponding paths through modern history, she offers new insights as to where we are today. People live segregated lives along the facts / values divide which extend into academia as sciences / humanities. This calls for a holistic Christian response and Saving Leonardo makes some cogent suggestions.

After a whirlwind survey of the worldviews displayed in many films, the epilogue entails a call to action. Remarking on the music of J.S. Bach’s evangelistic fruit in modern Japan, she asks, “Where are today’s counterparts to Bach?”[6] It is a passionate call for Christians to reengage the arts for the glory of God.

The missionary call is not only overseas but in our backyards and the ability to discern world views is paramount. The call for American Christians to increase support and interest in the arts is warranted. However, it may be the case that it is not simply a lack of patronage by Christians but more indicative of a wholesale lack of sophistication by the average American. It seems we are largely a shallow mass media oriented society. Furthermore, we are up against much more than indifference and ignorance. In Colossians 2:8, Paul connects deceptive philosophies to the “elemental spirits of the world.” The Greek term stoicheia was used for demonic entities in ancient magical papyri and Jewish texts. Richard Melick comments, “In Jewish circles, the term ‘elements’ often applied to supernatural beings who ruled over people. Some considered them demons.”[7] It is an oversight to neglect the role of Satan and the demonic realm in promoting secular ideas. One wonders if they have been consigned to the upper story for so long that they are so easily forgotten. Perhaps Pearcey demurs because some Christians have retreated to a fortress mentality out of fear.

Unfortunately, there has also been a fear driven tendency to sanitize the potency out of art forms within evangelicalism. Accordingly, a stinging critique of banal syrupy-sweet Christian expressions is delivered. She writes that this is reflective of evangelicals accepting the world’s dualism by pushing the sacred into the upper story making worship an emotional high. She calls for engaging the culture in the down and dirty realities of life. A good example of Christian using film to subvert secular culture is Brian Godawa’s short film Cruel Logic.[8] The book closes with a quote from her mentor Francis Schaeffer, “One of the greatest injustices we do to our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary.”[9] Indeed this book is a call to arms, a passionate plea for Christians to engage the culture in interesting and revolutionary ways.

This paper offered a summary and analysis Saving Leonardo. The book is an ambitious effort surveying human thought over a vast period time. Through the survey, Pearcey makes a strong case that two story worldview concept plays out in philosophical and artistic movements in demonstrable ways. The fundamental tenet is that only the biblical worldview with a rational Creator God provides an epistemological foundation for a unified field of knowledge. By understanding the nature of the divide the Christian can lovingly exploit it to “take the roof off” over the unbeliever. Through understanding where culture has been and how it has arrived where it is today, one can make a meaningful impact on the future. Saving Leonardo shows why all secular worldviews have a divide and suggests a technique for finding the point of tension. The book succeeds in its goal and is a valuable reference for worldview analysis. Like Leonardo da Vinci, mankind is not content living in a divided field of knowledge. It is up to the twenty-first century Christian to take the lead toward a unified biblical worldview, in effect, saving Leonardo.

[1]Nancy Pearcey Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning, Kindle Edition, (Nashville: B&H Publishing) 10.


[2] Pearcey Saving, 25.

[3] Pearcey, Saving, 179.

[4] “Brian Leiter on the Analytic Continental Distinction” Philosophy Bites Podcast, (accessed 06/15/2012).


[5] Pearcey, Saving, 246.


[6] Pearcey, Saving, 268.


[7] Richard R. Melick, vol. 32, Philippians, Colissians, Philemon, electronic ed., Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 253.

[8] Brian Godawa, Cruel Logic, YouTube, directed by Brian Godawa (Los Angeles, CA: 2007), (accessed June 16, 2012).  I blogged on this film in relation to a Richard Dawkins book here:

[9] Francis Schaeffer, The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century, in The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 4, 70. in Pearcey, Saving, 278.

The Case for Christ

Lionsgate films has generously made this film available to the public for free on Youtube.

Based upon the Gold Medallion award-winning best-seller, The Case for Christ documents Lee Strobel’s journey from atheism to faith through his two-year investigation of the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ. Strobel, the former legal editor of the Chicago Tribune, draws upon his investigative skills to examine the historical accuracy of the Gospels, the personal claims of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead. Is there evidence to confirm that Jesus of Nazareth was, indeed, the son of God and the savior of the world? This remarkable film features interviews with 10 leading Biblical scholars from North America and England, cutting-edge apologetics, and a compelling original music score.

Tactics for Defending the Faith Session Two

Here is session two form my workshop at the future congress last summer.

My Testimony & Interview on NTR with Chris White

Here is my testimony, if you know someone who has struggled with addictions this might encourage them. I told the truth, even the ugly parts, to showcase the grace of God. If he can redeem and use someone like me then there is hope for anyone. My life verse is “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn 8:36).

Here is the link: NTR – Cris Putnam Testimony & Interview

Conversion Testimony

My will was the enemy master of, and thence had made a chain for me and bound me. Because of a perverse will was lust made; and lust indulged in became custom; and custom not resisted became necessity. By which links, as it were, joined together (whence I term it a “chain”), did a hard bondage hold me enthralled.

~ Augustine, Confessions 8.10

Like Augustine, I was not a Christian for most of my young adulthood. I was a bright and curious child. Through a sequence of unfortunate life experiences I became very skeptical of the Christian faith. At times, I was hostile to it. I thought it was nonsense and I felt I had good reasons to think so. I had gone to a Methodist church until age four. I have very vague yet fond memories of my father holding me up in a grape vine behind the church. However, things went downhill fast. My parents stopped going to church when my baby brother became ill and lost his hearing. I believe they blamed God. My mother would not stop crying. My father turned to alcohol and my family life became violent and unpredictable. It was the early 1970s and I saw faith healers on television that allegedly healed the deaf. Once at age six or so, I even called their hotline and challenged them to heal my brother’s deafness. Yet God did not heal my brother. I decided it was all staged and that Christianity was a useful fiction that comforted gullible people. My family life grew more unstable as my Father’s alcoholism progressed.

Although I showed promise in math and science, I was attracted to the counterculture of the 1970s and looked up to rock stars. I worked hard at music and had dreams of being a famous rock guitar player. In reality, I pursued the profligate life style harder than the actual music proficiency and I made many bad choices. My teenage years were dominated by rebellion and hedonism. Sin rendered me empty and hopeless. Drugs seemed to be my only source of relief but they never lasted. As I struggled with addiction, I incurred criminal charges for DWI and drug possession. I had a sense of right and wrong that only instilled shame and depression. As an adult, I became hopelessly addicted to drugs. I was in and out of multiple treatment centers and twelve step programs. I had substantial periods (even years) of clean time but I always eventually relapsed. This was an extremely frustrating and humiliating existence.  In due course, I just gave up and was using with a suicidal intent. I was at my wits end.  Somewhere along the way my Mother had found comfort attending Providence Baptist Church.  Not expecting much, I went along just to make her happy and something extraordinary happened. Pastor David Horner was preaching right to me as if he were reading my mind. Rhetorical questions like, “Who are you to tell God that your life is no longer worth living?” pierced to the core of my soul. God began to call me. I realized I needed Jesus but I was not sure what to believe. I went to a life class and later a young seminary student called me to welcome me to the class and asked if I had any questions. I responded that I had a lot of questions and he offered to come by. I was extremely skeptical yet Dennis was very patient and came every Thursday for months to go through the Bible with me. I know today that God sent Dennis to witness to me because he was uniquely qualified to break through my skepticism.

I had a cynical attitude and trusted no one but Dennis was an unusual person.  I was expecting to see hypocrisy in his character or an ulterior motive for his visit. I figured I was just a notch on his evangelism stick. I arrogantly thought my brilliant objections might cause him to question his faith. He was very mild mannered and polite having received Christ at around six years of age. I understand now that Dennis was holy. He was truly set apart and I truly have never met anyone like him since, even at church. He was a thirty-two year old virgin who had never been on a date because he had promised the Lord he would wait until he was prepared for ministry to seek a wife. Yet he was not legalistic or judgmental.  Dennis woke up at 4:00 AM to pray for a list of people. Even years later, he told me, “I pray for you every day.”  I did not have a category for this level of genuineness. As much as I now like apologetics, he did not convince me with words. Ultimately, it was Dennis’ reflection of Christ that led me to Jesus.  He did not judge my past or my relapses into drug use. He loved me like I was and eventually my heart broke. I still had a lot of questions and objections but I was willing to set them aside and invite Christ into my life. At that time, I was extremely depressed and sick with liver disease. However, when I asked Jesus to come into my life a sense of comfort came over me that was undeniably supernatural. That happened ten years ago and I will never forget it.  The biggest change is that I am a completely different person. I am free from addiction and disease and have found a wonderful Christian wife. I play in the praise band and even teach the life class where I first met Dennis. Today Dennis is a pastor with a wife and three kids and now I am in seminary because I want to defend the truth and help skeptics like my former self answer the hard questions.

I would like to share how something like this can happen to you. First, you likely have never gone down as far as I did. I am not proud of it but in a sense, I believe I am fortunate because when I finally heard the Gospel I did not doubt my sinfulness. I knew I needed a savior and that is the hardest part for many people. I used to think Christians thought they were better than everyone else but I found out that real Christians actually believe they are sinners. The truth is that everyone falls short of God’s standard. It does not matter who you are or what you have accomplished, everyone needs Jesus.  The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge that you are sinner. Then you should confess your sin to God and ask for his forgiveness. Thank him for paying the penalty for your sin by dying on the cross. Believe that Jesus is God and proved it when he rose from the dead. Ask him to come into your life and be Lord. His death has paid your debt and there is no condemnation for those in Christ. I hope you will ask him now.