A Book Recommendation

I recently read Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Baker 2018). The issues Pearcey addresses are so pressing and her analysis is so helpful, I think you probably should read it, too. Here’s a little summary to whet your appetite.

Pearcey self-consciously follows Francis Schaeffer’s analysis of Western culture, specifically in its two-tiered notion of truth. Schaeffer recognized that Modernism divides truth into two separate domains. Category 1 (C1) includes morality and theology; Category 2 (C2) includes science and reason. C1 is the realm of values, opinions, and subjectivity; C2 is the realm of facts, physicality, and objectivity. Earlier civilizations held to a unified view of truth, where the moral order (C1) is inseparably integrated with the natural order (C2). But since the Enlightenment, Western culture has held that reliable knowledge is found only through science and reason (C2), not moral or theological reflection (C1). The result, following Postmodernism’s reaction against the superiority of C2, is a society where people can claim with a straight face: “That might be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”

In her newest book, Pearcey shows how that this divided notion of truth has led our culture to where we are today, particularly in our view of the human body. All of the hottest issues of moral concern for Christians—abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, transgenderism—arise from this separation between the natural/material order and the moral/immaterial order. Pearcey calls it the “body/person split,” where the physical body is viewed as something separate from (even non-essential to) an actual person—i.e., “the real me.” The body, which is part of the natural/material world, belongs to Category 2; while the person, where one’s true identity and feelings reside, belongs to the immaterial world of Category 1.

This is why, for example, abortion advocates often admit that life begins at conception but will still argue that a mother should be able to end her pregnancy—because, in this view, merely possessing a living human body is not enough to qualify as a person. As the argument goes, personhood requires additional capacities like consciousness, self-awareness, and so on.

You can see how this view of abortion relies on the two-tiered notion of truth for its support. The fetus, belonging exclusively to Category 2, is just “a piece of tissue.” The real person can be found only in Category 1. And since a fetus doesn’t show any of the features of C1, it’s not a person and thus not deserving of the rights of personhood.

Issue by issue, Pearcey takes to task this body/person split in all its evil effects. And in each case, she demonstrates how the biblical view of personhood honors the body, satisfies our soul, and promotes true flourishing for all members of society, even (especially!) the most vulnerable.