Nancy Pearcey is a professor, scholar, apologist, and award-winning author. She received much of her early biblical training at L’Abri under the teaching of Francis and Edith Schaeffer. In her best known book Total Truth, she reintroduced to contemporary Christians the apologetic approach of the Schaeffers (see my review of Total Truth here: www.tottministries.org). In Love Thy Body, Pearcey is “uncovering” the worldview that drives the secular ethic (p. 9). Christians must understand the core principles of the secular worldview in order “to engage intelligently and compassionately on all of today’s most controversial moral challenges” (p. 9). Her thesis is that our society’s moral free-fall rests on a worldview that “doesn’t fit the real universe” (p. 11). We live in a moral wasteland, Pearcey claims, “Where human beings are desperately seeking answers to hard questions about life and sexuality. But there is hope. In the wasteland, we can cultivate a garden” (p. 15).
The author devotes a chapter to each of the major areas of moral fallout our culture is facing today: abortion (chapter 2), euthanasia (chapter 3), sex and morality (chapter 4), homosexuality (chapter 5), transgenderism (chapter 6), and breakdown of the family (chapter 7). And these concerns draw from a secular worldview which is detailed in chapter one. The fundamental problem, as Pearcy sees it, is in the common acceptance of personhood theory (p. 20), which creates a human/person (body/person) dualism (pp. 19-21), that separates our body from who we are as a person (hence the title of the book). By drawing a distinction between what is human from what is a person, those expousing personhood theory are able to separate the physical body from inner feelings and desires. The body, in essence, becomes dispensable, secondary and subservient to desires and inclinations. The Christian worldview by contrast proclaims that every human is also a person (p. 26). When the biblical concept of life is jettisoned, the “person trumps the human” leading to the moral decays we face in modern society.
For example, it is commonly accepted now that unborn babies are human from the moment of conception – but they are not seen as persons by the pro-abortion adherents (pp. 47-52, 61). It would be murder to kill a person but not a human, according to personhood theory. Euthanasia, bioengineering and eugenics are based on the same theory (pp. 83-116). Regarding sex and morality, the personhood theory has led to “the hookup culture” which is unraveling the social fabric of society (p. 128). Morality is now viewed as an obstacle to happiness (pp. 131-136).
Concerning homosexuality, no biological cause has been discovered (p. 157), but personhood theory allows people to define their identities by their feelings rather than their biology (pp. 161-163). The “gay script” says, “Anyone who experiences same-sex desires has discovered their authentic self, and that they will be most fulfilled by openly affirming it as their true identity” (p. 166). Pearcey counters, writing that desires for God-forbidden things reveals the distortion of sin in our lives; they do not reveal how God has made us (p. 173). Transgenderism follows the same narrative. It is based on the assumption that people can be born in the wrong body. The solution being offered by the culture is to reject our biology and change our bodies to match our feelings (p. 201). We now live in the age of the “pomosexual” or a post-modern view of sex. Sexual behavior and identity are fluid and completely determined by the individual (p. 201).
All of this bleeds over into the family, which is being shifted from biology to contract. The state now determines what a family is, known as the social contract theory (pp 229-233). Pearcey has demonstrated that the dualism of personhood theory is deconstructing every moral virtue, and eroding the very foundation of our culture put in place by those in the past who accepted the biblical storyline.
Love Thy Body is an insightful book, dissecting worldviews competing for dominance today. Sadly, the secular, postmodern worldview has emerged into prominence and wrested control from the biblical worldview. I thought it a bit odd in a book calling for combating postmodern culture that the author virtually closes with these words, “The goal is more rescue mission than cultural war” (p. 261). I happen to agree with this statement, but it seemed a bit out of step with the book as a whole.
Love thy Body is valuable for personal study, but also includes a study guide for small group settings.
Love Thy Body, Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality, by Nancy R. Pearcey (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018), 335 pp, hard $14.42
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher at Southern View Chapel