Love Thy Body

I read Love Thy Body in the middle of the night. Waking multiple times to feed my three-week-old son had me grasping for something to keep my eyelids propped open at twelve o’clock…and two…and four. 

The hardcover book, with its eye-catching dust cover, sat on our shelf for about a year and so far I had only managed an “I should really read that.” Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body not only kept me awake, but kept me wanting to turn one more page. 

I wouldn’t recommend reading Love Thy Body in the middle of the night (unless you also happen to be keeping a small human alive). While Nancy Pearcey’s writing is accessible, its academic style deserves more attention than bleary eyes. 

Love Thy Body makes a logical case for a Christian theology of the body and peels back the layers of so many of the current moral issues of our day. 

Roots

I first heard about the dangers of the fact/value split from a teacher who consistently quoted Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer’s two-story illustration of modern thought – theology and morality live in the upstairs where it is private and subjective, science lives downstairs where it is public and objective – was expanded by Pearcey in her previous book Total Truth. Facts correlate to the downstairs science and values remain privately upstairs with faith (12-13). Pearcey once again points to this image and expounds on what she calls body/person dualism. 

Take the time to understand what Pearcey explains, because this dualism error, and a blatant disregard of the physical body, is behind all of the issues she addresses (she will remind you of that a little too often throughout the book). These include abortion, euthanasia, casual sex, homosexuality, and transgender identities. 

Personhood theory drives the sexual revolution today, Pearcey says, but not just theoretically – real people are being affected. The body/person split gives personhood a legal and moral standing while demeaning the body as only an “expendable biological organism” (19).

Perhaps the easiest arena to see this worldview played out is abortion. Advances in science no longer leave room for a naive denial of life in the womb, rather “the fact of life isn’t what is important. It’s whether that life has grown enough…to start becoming a person” (19).

Pearcey then goes on in each chapter to unpack an apologetic of personhood theory as the root of each of the current issues listed above. 

Embrace Biology

The main thrust of the book is that vibrant, vital Christianity is not negative – don’t do this, don’t do that – but rather positive. It says uncategorically that God created you in the body he meant you to have and that body matters, not as a full scope of your identity, but as an intrinsic part. This stands in contrast to personhood theory as well as other heretical beliefs such as gnosticism.

Same-sex relations and transgender identities are not only specifically prohibited in scripture, they show contempt, or at the least disregard, for the creation of God. One anecdote from a woman who experiences same-sex attractions says that 

“because you are biologically a woman, you can be certain that no matter what your feelings are right now, ultimately you will be more fulfilled by a man than by another woman…That’s how God created us” (171).

 Another says that a loving response is to help her

 “honor my body by living in accord with the Creator’s design. I was born this way: female. God did create me a woman. Please don’t fall into the gnostic dualism that divides my spiritual life from the life I now live in my body” (176).

Pearcey gently weaves stories and experiences through her research to show, in keeping with her previous statement, that this is not just a matter of what we believe, real people are hurting and confused.

O Church Arise

We cannot sit around and pat ourselves on the back for affirming male and female genders, the sanctity of life, or the sacredness of sex in marriage. I found the way Pearcy ends each chapter of Love Thy Body with either an encouragement or a challenge helpful. People can change for the glory of God and we should be among the first to invite in those wrestling with sin. As Christians, we are all intimately acquainted with struggling, sin, and most importantly, forgiveness and love.

If you are reading Love Thy Body from an Anabaptist background, I want to highlight two specific conclusions.  Pearcey writes

 “Christians should be on the forefront of creative thinking to recover richer definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman. The church should be the first place where young people can find freedom from unbiblical stereotypes – the freedom to work out what it means to be created in God’s image as holistic and redeemed people (218). 

This follows her argument that “queer theory actually reinforces rigid gender stereotypes” (198), by sexualizing character traits and interests. Our Anabaptist heritage has typically done well in emphasizing gender roles; this is biblical. We need to encourage boys to be masculine and girls to be feminine – but we should not confuse gender stereotypes with God-ordained gender roles. If a boy is sensitive, likes to pick flowers, or isn’t really into monster trucks, he can know that God made him to be that type of man because his body is male. The same goes for a girl who doesn’t have the typical “female” interests. There is clarity and “freedom in the body” (198).

Secondly, the church has a responsibility to walk alongside people with a long-term commitment for godly change. We need to offer compassion to those struggling with gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction and be “ready to show love and acceptance to those whose lives have been deeply damaged by postmodern theories” (226). We should not expect people to clean up their lives before coming to the church and instead of looking for a quick fix, preach and practice the journey of sanctification. 

Christians can offer hope to people struggling with sexual sins through modeling and offering healthy, Christ-like relationships in our homes and churches (263). Our goal is not to muscle people into the kingdom of God by arguments and behavior modification. Our main focus “is whether they will have a relationship with the living God that lasts into eternity” (260). 

Nancy Pearcey’s well-researched Love Thy Body avoids cliches and easy explanations by giving a compassionate look at the confusion in our culture and showing how a relationship with the living God brings answers and freedom.

 

S+P4 (3) Sadie Beery has recently been transplanted to Elnora, Indiana where she lives with her husband, Aaron, and interacts with the Elnora Bible Institute where he works. She loves poetry, good coffee, and Skype calls. Currently she works at a little thrift store, turning one man’s trash into another man’s treasure. She is excited about the adventure of life God is leading her on and longs know him better and do all things with excellence for His glory. Her dream is to one day publish a book, but right now she just tries to find time to clean the house.

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