LOVE your body? Somehow it just doesn’t seem to fit right, especially if you happen to be a Christian. Christians are not meant to love their bodies. They are meant to beat them into subjection (as least, that’s the impression I got as a new believer).
But it’s a very fitting title for the book from which I want to talk about. Nancy Pearcey, a leading Christian thinker and author, has put together a very compelling case for providing a clear, biblical answer for a confused and mixed-up generation regarding matters of sex and the body as well as numerous other ethical issues we are faced with today.
I wasn’t actually looking for this book. I bought it almost by accident when searching for good resources to prepare for a new series we are currently going through at our church. We are covering some of the “biggies” like euthanasia, homosexuality, suffering and evil, pornography and transgenderism. I’d read Total Truth, another of Pearcey’s works and thought this would be a helpful contribution to my study. It was more than that. It completely altered my thinking and provided a whole new framework for understanding where our society is at today in terms of its worldview.
The introduction and first chapter, “I Hate Me” laid the foundation for the rest of the book. Once I had that in my head everything else fell into place. In the introduction she writes:
“The problem is many people treat morality as a list of rules. But in reality, every moral system rests on a worldview. In every decision we make, we are not just deciding what we want to do. We are expressing our view of the purpose of human life.” – Nancy Pearcey
To be strategically effective therefore, she says we must address what people believe about the nature and significance of life itself. In other words, we must engage their worldview.
Pearcey then unpacks that worldview. In the past, she explains, reality for most people consisted of a natural order and a moral order, integrated into one unity. But in our modern age, people think that reliable knowledge only exists in the natural order – that which is scientifically proven and can be tested. Where does that leave moral truth? It consists merely of personal preferences and feelings.
Some years ago, there emerged a Christian thinker and philosopher called Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer recognized this divide running through all Western thought and culture. He illustrated it with the metaphor of a two-story building.
Private, Subjective, Relativistic
Objectively true, Testable
In the lower story is empirical science – that which is objectively true and testable. On the upper story is the realm of theology and morality, which is considered subjective and relative. When you hear people say, “That can be true for you but not for me,” you’re looking at the upper story.
Here is the same fragmented world view seen using different terms:
Private, Subjective, Relativistic
Objectively true, Testable
What has happened, Pearcey explains, is our concept of what it is to be a human being has also become fragmented into an upper and lower story, with the body in the lower story and the real person in the upper story. The two-story worldview for them looks like this:
PERSONHOOD / AUTHENTIC SELF
So, you no longer have an integrated but fragmented human being, in which the body is treated as something different from and in some cases disconnected from the authentic self.
You say, “So what does that mean about anything?”
- It means a baby in a mother’s womb is not a person until a certain stage (determined arbitrarily it seems, by our culture). It’s just a body, a fetus; a thing. It has no personhood. It is still on the bottom story.
- It means, if you are mentally disabled, and you have limited neocortical functioning, and can’t make decisions or exercise self-awareness or plan for the future (the upper story), then you don’t qualify as a person, and may be eligible for euthanasia.
- It means, in the hook-up culture today, what you do with your body sexually does not necessarily have any connection to who you are as a person. It’s just sex. It’s just something you do, like eating or drinking.
- And for the transgender person, it means you have a sex assigned at birth – male or female. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Because the “real you” – the authentic self, has no connection to the body. The real person resides in the mind, will and feelings. That’s why transgender people often say they are trapped in the “wrong body.”
How is it possible people think this way? Because of our dualistic worldview, spawned in the period of the enlightenment, nurtured in our education system, and now bearing fruit in society. For those who saw it coming, it’s of no surprise. Once you understand the worldview, it makes total sense.
But it is, as Pearcey states, a destructive and dehumanizing view of the body. The Bible gives us a vastly different view. The human body is the handiwork of a wise and loving God. Mankind is the pinnacle of his creative work. He forms him from the dust of the earth and breathes into him and he becomes a nephesh, a living soul (Gen 2:7). Man is an integrated whole – soul, mind and body. He is, in mind and body, an image bearer of his Creator.
Pearcey summarizes with this,
“The Bible does not separate the body off into a lower story, where it is reduced to a biochemical machine. Instead the body is intrinsic to the person. And therefore it will ultimately be redeemed along with the person – a process that begin even in this life.
A biblical ethic is incarnational. We are made in God’s image to reflect God’s character, both in our minds and in our bodily actions. There is no division, no alienation. We are embodied beings.”
You see then, what this means. It is a game-changer in terms of how we view all the difficult ethical issues of our day, from euthanasia, abortion, and sexuality. Christians need not be throwing their arms up in despair. Armed with helpful resources such as this, we can tackle these issues head-on, wisely, respectfully and biblically.
There is so much about this book I haven’t said. This post doesn’t really do it justice. I would encourage you to get this for your shelf.
Better still, put it on your coffee table for all to see.
Nancy Pearcey is considered by The Economist as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual.” She presently serves as professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University. She is co-author with Chuck Colson of How Now Shall We Live? and is the author of several other books including Total Truth, The Soul of Science, and Saving Leonardo.