THE RIGHT QUESTIONS: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate

Phillip E. Johnson, Author . InterVarsity $16 (180p) ISBN 978-0-8308-2294-2

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.)

Reviewed on: 08/26/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 194 pages - 978-0-8308-3213-2
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