Nancy Pearcey’s “Love Thy Body:” The deepest truths about sexuality, gender, human dignity, science and human flourishing
We laugh about drunken parties where people hook up with strangers, then wonder why there's so much animosity between the sexes. Nancy Pearcey's new book offers great wisdom in this cultural moment….
Question: What do these ten truth claims at the heart of today’s culture have in common?
1. The body is only a clump of matter. A wet machine that we can use as an instrument for our own purposes.
2. The design of our bodies is completely by chance. Tells us nothing about our purpose.
3. I am not my body. The real me is my mind, will and feelings.
4. The value of our bodies depends on if they can function at a certain level.
5. A baby is a human life from conception, but not a person until it can function at a certain level.
6. Life is no longer worth living or caring for unless our bodies can function at a certain level.
7. We can have sex with our bodies, detached from love and trust, and still enjoy the ideal of human flourishing, including rich and lasting intimacy.
8. My thoughts and feelings of sexual attraction are more important than the biology of my body.
9. My thoughts and feelings about my gender are more important than the biology of my body.
10. The highest purpose of marriage is to protect the "personhood" of the adults, not the well-being of the children.
Answer: They are all based on assumptions about the human body that devalue the body and fragment human nature.
Nancy Pearcey’s new book, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality, addresses each of these secular assumptions and shows how a Christian worldview of the body and sexuality is more reasonably aligned with science and evidence. And how it resonates more deeply with our longings for integrity, meaning and joy in these intimately personal areas of life.
Love Thy Body is remarkably helpful because it begins at the worldview level. We have to work a little harder to begin there, but it's crucial to expose the mistaken beliefs of today's culture.
A Christian worldview of the body and sexuality helps our kids realize that, “Beware the hook-up culture,” is simply one layer of wisdom in a mighty foundation of truth. This great, interconnected foundation helps us all be grateful for our bodies as a gift of God’s good design, be confident in our identity, understand why marriage and life are such gifts to be protected, be strengthened in our moral commitments, and be motivated to live by them.
Divided truth–the fact/value split
In her previous book, Total Truth, and the Foreword to Love Thy Body, Pearcey describes the deep fragmentation of our times. Rejection of the truth of a Christian worldview has resulted in two realms, like a house divided into two stories.
In the lower story is the realm of objective truth/facts/empirical evidence/science. Just like the bottom story of a house that is open to the street and the public square, this realm of truth is seen as truth that is valid for everyone. Truth we can rely on in our schools, courts and businesses.
In the upper story, the place for bedrooms and privacy, is the realm of subjective truth/values/moral preferences/religious beliefs. Today's culture insists that they remain private. These may be “true for you," and we respect your values or religious beliefs, but don't try to bring them into the public square and insist they are true for everyone.
Pearcey's passion is to expose this mistaken fragmentation and help Christians recover God's total truth and the wholeness and integrity it brings. In Christ, both facts and values are part of his created reality—his Total Truth. One is not more real or important than the other. They are not in tension. In a Christian worldview there is no fragmentation between scientific truth in the lower story and “truth that’s true for me” in the upper story. Pearcey writes, "The underlying structure of the entire universe reflects the mind of the Creator…all creation must be interpreted in light of its relationship to God."
In Love Thy Body Pearcey exposes the mistaken way today's culture looks at abortion, euthanasia, the hook-up culture, homosexuality, transexuality, and the meltdown of marriage and family. With each topic she shows how human dignity and flourishing can be restored by "interpreting each in light of its relationship to God." Here is a taste of one issue:
The Fragmentation of the Hook-Up Culture
God created us as embodied souls, our material bodies deeply integrated with our immaterial souls. He also designed male and female bodies to bond during sex. Both release hormones that "make an involuntary chemical commitment." As Pearcey writes, "Young people assume that sexual relationships can be solely physical (lower story), disconnected from the mind and emotions (upper story)–with clean lines between them.
"Sexual intercourse, the most intimate of bodily relations, has been disconnected from personal relations. Sex is cast as a purely recreational activity that can be enjoyed apart from any hint or commitment. All that matters is consent."
But the result is a great deal of anxiety and depression. Universities are being overwhelmed by requests for counseling and anti-depressants. Young people are trying to live against the way they were designed. Pearcey writes, "Sexual intercourse, as the most intimate form of physical union, is meant to express the ultimate form of personal union…
"Even being in love falls short of committing one's entire self and future in biblical nakedness to another person. Biblical morality asks us to be consistent…to tell the truth with our bodies."
"Tim Keller writes, 'Sex is God's appointed way for two people to say reciprocally to one another, "I belong completely, permanently and exclusively to you.' When we have sex outside of marriage, we are essentially lying with our bodies. Our actions are 'saying' that we are united on all levels when in reality we are not. We are contradicting ourselves. We are putting on an act. We are being dishonest."
The result of this "schizoid sex" is a great deal of heartache as chemically bonded people tear apart again and again. Feelings of unfulfillment and a loss of meaning are epidemic. Imagine the "no big deal you can do anything you want with sex" applied to food. In today's culture we are so careful what we do about food in order to guard our health. It only makes sense that we would do the same with sex.
The Christian worldview of sex and the body is so much higher. What you do with your body regarding sex matters because it is a member of Christ's body. A temple of the Holy Spirit. And the married sex described in Proverbs and Song of Solomon is "intoxicating," "aroused" and "joyful in each other's sexuality."
Love Thy Body is a terrific resource…
…for everyone who wants to understand why these ten truth claims (and all the cultural practice and pressure that flow downstream from them) do not hang together as well or make as much sense as the total truth of a Christian worldview. The book includes a study guide for small group discussion.
Parents, teachers and people in ministry who long to help young people understand and embrace what Jesus and the Bible have to say about the body will find in Pearcey’s book an accessible, Bible-and-evidence-based message, illustrated with personal stories from many who are in pain and struggling—some who, with God’s help, overcome and find peace and healing, some, including many who disagree with her, still struggle. Pearcey urges every reader to engage them with respect and compassion.