Our friend Nancy Pearcey wrote a book, Love Thy Body, about today’s warped view of what it means to be a human. This review by retired pastor and former L’Abri staff member Barry Seagren is so helpful we are reposting it here in its entirety. It first appeared at Evangelicals Now in July.
People may not have lived by Christian moral standards, but many at least gave lip service to them. No more. ‘Why can’t I be who I want to be and love who I want to love and have a baby only if I want a baby, and die when I want to die. Who is it hurting? Why should some intolerant religious nut tell me what to do?’ We are losing the argument, losing the culture wars and losing the younger generation. The question in too many young minds is no longer whether Christianity is true, but why Christians are such bigots.
Research and analysis
Nancy Pearcey to the rescue. She has been hailed in The Economist as ‘America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual’. (A few too many qualifications there, but still, it is high praise.) She has written and spoken widely, and her 2005 book, Total Truth, won the ECPA Gold Medallion Award. She studied at L’Abri when Francis Schaeffer was in his prime and she was in her formative years as a young Christian, and she readily acknowledges her debt to Schaeffer. Her books are marked by thorough research, penetrating analysis, rigorous logic and crystal clear writing. Love Thy Body is no exception and is the fruit of many years spent working on these issues.
The title relates to her basic analysis: ‘The key to understanding all the controversial issues of our day is that the concept of the human being has 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.’ In other words, biological reality, rather than giving essential clues about how I should live, has very little to do with who I ‘really’ am.
When is a human being a person?
Pearcey applies this analysis to all the hot-button issues of our day. The first chapter is a survey of the whole field. She follows it with chapters on abortion, euthanasia, the hook-up culture, homosexuality, transgenderism, and marriage and family.
In her discussion of abortion, for example, she reverses the common claim that the pro-life argument is only a ‘religious’ argument. Christians, she says, have won the scientific argument about when human life begins. It begins at conception. The foetus (horrible word) is certainly alive, and if it isn’t human life, what sort of life is it? Many pro-choice people acknowledge this (so much so that one Times journalist argues that to defend women’s rights, ‘You must be prepared to kill.’) They now make their case on the grounds of what is known as personhood theory. The baby in the womb may indeed be a human life, but it is not yet a person and thus is not entitled to legal protection. But at what point, then, does one qualify as a person? It depends on who you ask and what they believe about what defines a person. It is a completely arbitrary and subjective category. So, which position is now the ‘faith’ position and which is the ‘scientific’ position? (Personhood theory also means that at the end of life there may come a point when you no longer qualify as a person.)
I am who I feel I am
To take another example, in her discussion of transgender she points out that the now-common phrase ‘sex assigned at birth’ suggests that this is some arbitrary decision rather than a biological fact. What this language implies is that scientific facts do not matter. You are what you feel you are.
One of her more chilling examples is the Gender Unicorn, a cartoon used with young children. This teaching aid suggests that person has a gender identity, a gender expression, a sex assigned at birth, a sexual preference, and an emotional preference. Five disparate bits and pieces rather than a unified self. As to ‘transitioning’, she asks, quite rightly: ‘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.’
Throughout the book her argument, persuasively made and thoroughly documented, is that secular morality simply does not fit the real universe. This is apologetics of the first order. Moreover, she seeks at every point to make a positive and compassionate case rather than just throwing up her hands in horror at the outrages we see every day in our culture.
The Bible presents a positive, integrated, view of human beings. Biblical morality is neither arbitrary nor restrictive, but for our good in that when we live with the grain of how we were created we will enjoy fulfilled and fully human lives. The biblical world-view affirms the glory and honour of human beings as created, male and female, in God’s image. As one reviewer put it: ‘Nancy has done it again!’
- Barry Seagren