My thoughts on a new and important book that answers hard questions about life and sexuality.
Nancy Pearcey is one of my favorite authors because she speaks truth into a confused secular world. Total Truth instilled in me confidence in a biblical worldview while Finding Truth helped me understand how to dismantle false worldviews and make a compelling case for Christianity (see my summary of Finding Truth).
Her latest, Love thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality, applies her apologetic approach to issues of the body which seem to dominate our headlines and culture wars. She frames much of her argumentation around her mentor Francis Schaeffer’s “Upper Story”/”Lower Story” divide (as the image shares).
This idea is also known as a Fact/Value split in academic circles. Her explanation:
The key to understanding all the controversial issues of our day is that the concept of the human being has likewise been fragmented into an upper and lower story. Secular thought today assumes a body/person split, with the body defined in the “fact” realm by empirical science (lower story) and the person defined in the “values” realm as the basis for rights (upper story). This dualism has created a fractured, fragmented view of the human being, in which the body is treated as separate from the authentic self.
This paradigm runs throughout the whole book and is applied to euthanasia, abortion, gender dysphoria, the homosexual movement, the hookup culture, and social contract theory. Pearcey’s stated goal for the book:
“C. S. Lewis put it this way: ‘The Christian and the Materialist hold different beliefs about the universe. They can’t both be right. The one who is wrong will act in a way which simply doesn’t fit the real universe.’ My goal in Love Thy Body is to show that a secular morality ‘doesn’t fit the real universe.'”
The eight points (and corresponding quotes) below will share major takeaways from my reading of Love Thy Body.
Eight Takeaways from Love thy Body by Nancy Pearcey
1. A biblical view of the body and sexuality promotes wholeness.
“The biblical view of sexuality is not based on a few scattered Bible verses. It is based on a teleological worldview that encourages us to live in accord with the physical design of our bodies. By respecting the body, the biblical ethic overcomes the dichotomy separating body from person. It heals self-alienation and creates integrity and wholeness…It fits who we really are.”
“‘The cult of the young body, the veneration of the air-brushed, media produced body, conceals a hatred of real bodies,’ writes theologian Beth Felker Jones of Wheaton College. ‘Cultural practice expresses aversion to the body.'”
“C. S. Lewis observed that those who have sex outside of marriage ‘are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union.'”
2. Loving the truth helps us love others more.
“As we face the social ills of our own day, we must move beyond denunciations that can sound harsh, angry, or judgmental and instead work to show that the biblical ethic is based on a positive view of the body as part of the image of God. The goal is not to win a culture war or to impose our views on others but to love our neighbor, which means working for our neighbor’s good.”
“The loving way to treat young people is not to hand out contraceptives, which amounts to collusion in impersonal and ultimately unfulfilling sexual encounters. Far more loving is to inspire them with a higher view of sexuality. In reconnecting body and person, they can experience a deep sense of healing and personal integration.”
“Christians need to help people see that the secular view of human nature does not fit who people are. It does not match the real world. As a result, it is inevitably destructive, both personally and socially.”
3. The sexual/gender revolution creates victims who need the healing power of the gospel.
“Even as churches clearly communicate the moral truths of Scripture, they must also become places of refuge for victims of the sexual revolution who have been hurt by its lies.”
“What Christians do with their sexuality is one of the most important testimonies they give to the surrounding world. They are called to build a community of families that respects women and cares for the young and vulnerable.”
“People who are physically starving will eat even unhealthy food, and those who are emotionally starving will be drawn into unhealthy relationships. It is close to impossible to follow the biblical sex ethic if it is understood solely as negative chastity (don’t do that, it’s wrong, it’s a sin). The church must provide the healthy relationships that people hunger for.”
4. The church needs to champion a positive view of sex based on God’s original design.
“As Christian influence wanes, will Western culture revert back to a sexual free-for-all like that of the ancient world? If so, Christians will once again need to muster their courage to be radically countercultural. And they will once again need to be prepared to minister to the victims of sexual abuse and predation—those wounded by the sexual revolution. They must do the hard work of making a case for the beauty of the biblical sex ethic with both their words and their lives.”
“For many of the students—myself included—a major factor in converting to Christianity was seeing its truth embodied in the day-to-day activities of Christian families, who were fleshing out the gospel with their lives.”
5. We need to challenge the subjectivity of beliefs held by many cultural authorities.
“Why is it considered acceptable to carve up a person’s body to match their inner sense of self but bigoted to help them change their sense of self to match their body? Feelings can change. But the body is an observable fact that does not change. It makes sense to treat it as a reliable marker of sexual identity.”
6. Fighting for a biblical view of marriage and family still matters.
“Statistically, those who divorce suffer higher rates of alcoholism, illness, depression, mental illness, and suicide. Though that may not be true of every individual case, the statistical trend is clear. A Yale researcher found that the effect of divorce on your health is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.”
“If eliminating marriage is the homosexual movement’s real goal, we are well on our way to meeting it. If marriage is not based on the biological complementarity of the sexes, we lose the rationale for the other norms and obligations connected to marriage, such as permanence, faithfulness, and exclusivity.”
7. Rejecting God’s view of marriage and family in a secular environment always empowers the state.
“Central planners have always wanted to bring the family under greater government control so they can inculcate their own ideology into young minds and create docile citizens. It is no accident that when government power grows overweening we refer to it as ‘paternalistic,’ or we talk about the ‘nanny’ state. ‘Paternalism is what you get in a society without fathers. Nannies are what you get in a society without mothers,’ writes theologian Brian Mattson. That is a clue to an ‘important principle: that nuclear families are one of the chief means of limiting the state. They are the foundation of civil society, a buffer zone between the individual and raw power of the state.'”
“Every forward movement of the secular moral revolution is hailed as an advance for freedom from the oppressive moral rules of the past. But in reality, every step empowers the state.”
8. Worldview formation will happen one way or another—we need to proactively develop a Christian worldview in ourselves and others.
“The most powerful worldviews are the ones we absorb without knowing it. They are the ideas nobody talks about—the assumptions we pick up almost by osmosis.”
My mini-review of Love Thy Body
Love Thy Body delivered what I have come to expect from Nancy Pearcey: a well-researched book that is precise in argumentation and compassionate for those trapped in false systems of belief. Her writing style (sharing research and personal experiences with individuals) engaged me, giving me confidence in the truth of Scripture and a deeper concern for those caught in the wake of culture’s gender- and sex-confused zeitgeist. While everyone would benefit from Love Thy Body, pastors, students, and those navigating these issues publicly will find the most benefit.
Buy Love Thy Body on Amazon.