Thursday, September 20, 2018 |
Department: Blip —
Topic: Prudence —
In the Wasteland, A Garden
A Review of Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality by Nancy R. Pearcey
by Terrell Clemmons
For decades, cultural elites from entertainment to academia to governments have been increasingly imposing a new sexual orthodoxy on Western civilization. The sexual revolutionaries presented their ideas as liberating advances that would set people free from outdated moral codes so they could live more abundant lives. Yet now, for those with eyes to see, we find ourselves inhabiting a human fallout zone shot through with angst, confusion, and all manner of sexual brokenness. For millennia, visionary Christians in wreckage zones have rolled up their sleeves and gone about the work of rescue, recovery, and restoration, and Nancy Pearcey's Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality is an outstanding field guide for Christians hearing that call in this cultural moment.
Chapter One establishes the foundation for all that follows with an explanation of Francis Schaeffer's metaphor of the "two-story" view of reality. In this view, objective "facts" (as known by empirical science) occupy a lower story, while subjective "values" (which vary from culture to culture if not from person to person) occupy the upper story. Pearcey's earlier book, Total Truth, showed how secularists use this fact/value split to banish biblical principles from public discourse, not by arguing against them but by dismissing them out of hand.
In Love Thy Body, Pearcey shows how, when applied to human life, this fact/value split has led to a whole panoply of ills, individual and social. She unpacks the historically novel theory of "personhood," the logic of which runs like this: "To be biologically human is a scientific fact. But to be a person is an ethical concept, defined by what we value." Only facts can be known for sure. Values are assigned or conferred by others. The result is a fragmented, body/person duality whereby the body is acknowledged as biologically human, but one's personhood is completely untethered from that objective reality. This explains why otherwise intelligent, well-meaning people will acknowledge the unborn as human, yet espouse abortion because the unborn human is not accorded the status of personhood. By contrast, the Christian ethic expresses a high view of the value and dignity of the whole person, including the body.
Subsequent chapters take up euthanasia, transhumanism, sexual hookups, homosexuality, transgenderism, and social contract theory as it applies to the relationship between state and citizenry. You might think that last item out of place, but as Pearcey shows, every forward movement of this secular moral revolution has ended up empowering the state.
The brilliance of Love Thy Body is twofold: First, though she's a Christian, Pearcey forgoes authoritative Bible-quoting that reduces to some form of "Thou shalt not," and instead strings out rigorous philosophy to show how the biblical picture of humanity, far from being constricting, is the most unifying, liberating, and satisfying worldview on every count. It "fits" the reality we live in. Second, she demonstrates how, contrary to soundbite narratives, the secularizers are the ones rejecting sound science and objective reality and imposing instead their own crassly utilitarian moralizing, often based on nothing more than feelings.
What we do with bodies, our own and other people's, matters. Love Thy Body is a gold mine for making sense out of the confusing sexual agendas demanding our allegiance and for engaging with secular culture in terms it can understand—not for the sake of winning arguments, but to restore order out of the chaos and to cultivate a garden in the wasteland so that human lives may flourish.
Terrell Clemmons is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith.
More on Prudence from the Salvo online archives.
Column: Undercover — Salvo 32
Cornering Your Market
Why Premium Sex Is Your Best Bet for Relational Success by Terrell Clemmons
Column: Casualty Report — Salvo 35
Germs of Promiscuity
Sexually Transmitted Infections by Marcia Segelstein
Department: Person of Interest — Salvo 45
The Full Body of Truth
An Interview with Nancy Pearcey by Terrell Clemmons
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