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The Right Questions: Truth, Meaning & Public Debate [Kindle Edition]

Phillip E. Johnson , Nancy Pearcey
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

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.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1211 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Books; PRINT-ON-DEMAND edition (20 Aug. 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EQVVVRA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,026,713 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars The wrong answers 15 Mar. 2015
Format:Paperback
Phillip Johnson's “The Right Questions” is a difficult book to review, since I consider virtually all of Johnson's answers (and some of the questions) all wrong. But yes, the book is interesting. Johnson is the founder of the Intelligent Design movement in the United States. He is more outspoken about the movement's goals than its other representatives. “The Right Questions” clearly shows that Johnson is a Christian fundamentalist of the “presuppositionalist” variety with a very conservative social agenda. Abortion, feminism, transgenderism, gay rights, sex outside of marriage, and perhaps even divorce all have to go in the re-Christianized United States envisioned by Johnson. At one point, he even mocks liberals who become less liberal when a “Negro couple” moves in next door! Strom Thurmond, much?

To Johnson, the root cause of America's social ills is Darwin's theory of evolution. By teaching that we are really products of a blind, materialist process, the theory of evolution necessarily leads to moral relativism and nihilism. The goal of the ID movement is to banish “naturalism” from science, making it possible for scientists to embrace divine creation, and thereby make theology and revelation repositories of true knowledge. Indeed, Johnson believes that there already is a “scientific” case against evolution. His own alternative is a form of old earth creationism. In a surprisingly forthright foreword, Nancy Pearcey writes about how the ID movement has united all Christian opponents of evolution (including young earth creationists), and how it will split the evolutionist camp by luring those critical of unconditional naturalism over to the ID side (i.e. people like yours truly). Well, Nancy, thanks for tipping me off in advance! I'll try to resist the temptation.
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Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets right to the core issues 31 May 2003
By Theonomo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having read this book I now understand why Publisher's Weekly gave it such a poor review. Frankly, this book is threatening.
The book is well written, with an easy to follow structure, and plenty of the clear thinking that Johnson has a reputation for. In addition, the issues that this book deals with are of fundamental importance. Johnson deals with core questions about God, Science, Religion, Politics, Christianity, Islam, September 11th, Darwinism, Genesis, Education, and Truth, and he does so in an eminently readable and clear manner.
There are some in our society, however, who feel threatened when fundamental issues are addressed in a clear manner -- especially when the author questions the basic tenets of their worldview. Clearly the Publisher's Weekly reviewer feels threatened. Consider this: there are two reasons to give a book a poor review: 1) the book deserves a poor review; 2) You don't want people to read the book.
Let me assure you that this book does not deserve a poor review.
I predict that this book will provoke one of two reactions in its readers: they will either 1) read it straight through with excitement, or 2) fling it across the room in a fit of rage. Boredom is impossible. In either case, this book is relevant.
54 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Book for Every Christian to Read 31 Jan. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One criticism that Johnson has been subject to by the religious community is, although he has shown Darwinism suffers from major problems (and that these need to be dealt with by the scientific community) what about the religious issue? Many scientists have shown the many major problems with Darwinism (and hundreds of books now exist effectively documenting these). Most of these books then develop the author's new theory of evolution that he or she claims is superior to neoDarwinism. An example is Lynn Margulis has eloquently shown mutation driven Darwinism to be entirely inadequate and then proposed the new theory of symbiosis which, she argues, is superior. This new theory, though, still does not explain the arrival of the genes, only the widespread spread of certain genes, at least in bacteria. Also, the question on many readers minds is, does a theory of Naturalism explain reality? This book deals with the religious concern to some degree. It also focuses on Johnson's major stroke at age 61 and the profound impact of this event on his life, especially his religious life. It is an honest book in which Johnson grapples with the religious questions most of us ask at one time or another in life. As such, this book would be of special interest to persons who have an interest in spiritual concerns (atheists would be turned off by this work; I know I once was one). It shows, in response to Johnson's critics, that he does have a spiritual side (or at least he does now after his stroke) and is not just a Darwin critic as are thousands of other intellectuals (especially biologists, my profession). Since this book is a different kind of book then Johnson's other books, it is especially easy to spot reviews by those who have not read it, but just want to slam Johnson because they do not hold to the view that a God exists that has done something active to the creation in the past. There is no topic that elicits as strong emotions as does religion, as our war on terrorism eloquently shows.
46 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Answers 21 Jan. 2003
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Right Questions, by Phillip Johnson, exposes the bias seen in Western society by the intellectual elite, particularly those teaching in higher education. The book examines and confronts the dogmatic, self-righteous materialists who blindly promote Darwinism, regardless of the tentative nature of the data, and refuse any alternate possibilities. They attempt to marginalize Christians, denying them influence in education and cultural life. I thought this was going to be a book primarily on intelligent design, but instead it goes beyond; starting with matters of creation and evolution, but builds this to examine the consequences of relativism, scientific materialism, and naturalistic philosophy. Johnson's style is hard-hitting and to the point, possibly a little harsh at times, but I admire his passion. His argument is clear and simple, and his conclusions cannot be faulted. This book is not and does not claim to be rigorous or scholarly (there are few footnotes and no index), so I found it very accessible and a joy to read, very thought provoking.
63 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Publishers Weekly, objective review? 27 Sept. 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have not read this book yet, but I have read some of Professor Johnson's other books (Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance, and The Wedge of Truth) in addition to many of his essays available online, and based on my familiarity with his writings I predict that the Publishers Weekly reviewer has not accurately represented this book. From the reviewers tone, I surmise that s/he is a Darwinian and that this book presents a major challenge to her/his worldview. I have followed the Intelligent Design/Darwinism debate closely, and it's the Darwinists that are most guilty of "pretentious-and repetitive-arrogance."
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Right Question is Whether Life Was Designed by Intelligence, or Nothing 21 Jun. 2006
By Discovery Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Right Questions is the product of an accomplished scholar who is reflecting upon culture and society in light of his other books which provided an extensive scientific critique of naturalistic theories of origins. In this book, Phillip Johnson asks, "What are the right questions" in topics such as logic, the meaning of life, Genesis, and biological origins? It is only by asking the right questions that we will find the appropriate solutions to problems faced by society.

Johnson opens this book with a frank discussion of how his own personal trials and battles over health have renewed his faith. Johnson then reminds us that the key fundamental is not about the precise meaning of this or that passage of Scripture:

"The conflict is primarily not about Genesis, nor does it involve a clash between science and religion, or between science and faith. It would be much more accurate to say that it involves a clash between two religions and two definitions of science." (pg. 60)

Johnson observes, "In every university there are scores of faculty and students who are suffocated by the prevailing dogmas of scientific materialism or political correctness but who almost never get a chance to hear anything else." (pg. 51) Ruling creeds succeed when they keep their followers from exploring alternatives (pg. 73), which is why Darwinists refuse to permit discussion of the controversy over the science of Darwinism.

The right question that must be permitted for discussion in school is therefore, "Did the scientific evidence really support the philosophical conclusion (in a word, naturalism) that the Darwinists wished us to adopt, or could naturalism as a worldview survive only as long as dogmatic philosophical barriers protected it from the evidence that points to a designer?" (pg. 84) Once that question can be asked, Johnson is convinced that the chips will fall where the evidence leads.
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