In the introduction to “Love Thy Body,” Nancy Pearcey writes about her exposure to Francis Schaeffer’s books and the metaphor he used in them regarding truth. Schaeffer used the metaphor of the two stories of a building to compare our culture’s approach towards truth. Schaeffer’s metaphor went something like this, “In the lower story is empirical science, which is held to be objectively true and testable…The upper story is the realm of morality and theology, which are treated as private, subjective, and relative.” This two story approach is the framework for the rest of Pearcey’s book as she makes constant reference to it in the chapters that follow.
Tackling issues such as abortion, euthanasia, identity, and sexuality, Pearcey applies Schaeffer’s metaphor to show just how this approach towards truth and morality has influenced the worldview of everyone, including Christians. Pearcey claims that this body/person dichotomy denigrates the body and, “is the unspoken assumption driving secular views on euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of related ethical issues.”
Pearcey carries this dichotomy out to its logical ends to paint a fairly frightening picture of where we are going as a culture and society. When we change the definition of a person, we move towards removing the rights of people who still deserve rights, regardless of whether or not they can mentally make decisions for themselves. We also take away things that should be stable and make them flimsy social constructs.
The personhood theory that Pearcey outlines in “Love Thy Body” is a theory and philosophy that claims that people can disassociate their emotions from their bodies. This claim and theory influences a person’s viewpoint of themselves and allows them to disassociate feelings from body, the two story approach that Schaeffer put forth in his writings. Pearcey claims that this kind of disassociation leads to an embrace of many things such as same-sex identity and transgenderism. Pearcey writes, “The person who adopts a same-sex identity must disassociate their sexual feelings from their biological identity as male or female – implicitly accepting a two-story dualism that demeans the human body. Thus is has a fragmenting, self-alienating effect on the human personality.”
The two story approach divorces feelings from biological reality. Regarding transgenderism, Pearcey writes that transgender advocates, “deny that gender identity is rooted in biology. Their argument is that gender is completely independent of the body.” When we embrace this approach, we disconnect identity from the body.
The disconnection of mind from body leads to an embrace of the thinking of philosophers like Nietzsche who said, “There are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths” and “Facts do not exist, only interpretations.” The irony of statements like these are that they contradict themselves as they themselves are absolutes and facts, based on what Nietzsche puts forth.
This two story approach also impacts sex. When we disconnect mind from body, we reduce sex to a physical urge to be fulfilled rather than a connection between two people representing a deeper spiritual and theological significance. Sex is about more than biological drives and needs, but also about the communion between persons.
While most people may not claim that they embrace this ideology, Pearcey writes that 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.” Unintentionally, we may be embracing these ideologies and allowing them to impact and influence our worldview. Pearcey goes on to say that a, “person’s morality is always derivative. It stems from his or her worldview. To be effective, we have to engage the underlying worldview.”
This division of mind and body, the two story approach as Schaeffer suggests, leads to biological facts being abandoned and disregarded as social constructs. Postmodernism leads to the disconnection of morality from nature, it grounds gender and other biological realities in our minds and feelings rather than in science.
With the condemnation of this type of thinking, Pearcey is quick to remind her readers that the church still has a tall responsibility. “Even as churches clearly communicate the moral truths of Scripture,” she writes, “they must also become places of refuge for victims of the sexual revolution who have been hurt by its lies.” Christians cannot simply judge and criticize without offering support for people who are struggling to make sense of this mind/body dualism. If grace is not offered throughout this wrestling, then the church is doing something wrong.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with Pearcey, “Love Thy Body” is an important read. Her careful analysis of science is much more grounded than other writings that have tended towards an emphasis on unstable feelings rather than biological realities. Pearcey’s voice is a breath of fresh air in tumultuous times. She never comes across as chastising or condemning, but genuinely offers concrete information to deconstructing the dualistic postmodern approach to truth and morality.
This book is rich in information. It’s not a book to read through quickly. The content needs to be ingested, wrestled with, and unpacked to get a deeper understanding of what Pearcey is saying but also to really begin to see some of the absurdity of where these theories end when they are brought to their natural conclusions and even how scary those conclusions are for everyone as those conclusions will most certainly lead to impacting everyone.
Christian or not, I believe this is an important book to be read with an open mind.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)