Love Thy Body is a particularly timely work. Within its seven chapters, Nancy Pearcey addresses six of the hottest topics of our day: abortion, euthanasia, the hook-up culture, homosexuality, transgenderism, and the meltdown of the natural family via social contract theory.
Pearcey always delivers very well-researched work. Throughout the book, she references philosophy, theology, history, powerful testimonies, and the latest research.
All of these topics have one thing in common: a particular view of human bodies. If nothing else, Love Thy Body will force the reader to see that there are extreme consequences for how one answers the question “What is a human?”
In the introduction and chapter one, Pearcey introduces the reader to personhood theory—
the idea that there is a separation between human bodies and persons. This theory is the current prevailing understanding of what a human is, and it justifies the six topics listed above. The majority of western culture sees persons as being valuable far and above human bodies.
This understanding is a result of what Francis Schaeffer and Pearcey would call the fact/value split. When modernism was on the rise people became enamored with the sciences and the material world and rid themselves of their need for God. However, the problem soon arose that there was no meaning for life in a sans God, materialist world. This paved the way for Postmodernism which allowed persons to create their own meaning, morality, and purpose.
This understanding of the universe naturally led to a new understanding of human life. Human bodies were a part of the world of facts. We learn about them through science and we can understand their machinery. But ultimately, there is no inherent value to bodies. They are just material in a materialistic universe.
Values are created by persons. The postmodern person creates their own meaning. Persons matter more than bodies. A person has likes and dislikes. They choose morals and meaning for their lives. A person thinks and relates to other persons.
A body, however, is just a body. The fact/value split and personhood theory lead to the loss of value and sanctity in human bodies. This justifies killing bodies still developing in the womb and surgically removing genitalia because ultimately human bodies have no value. The person is what matters.
Pearcey does an excellent job introducing the fact/value split and personhood theory in chapter one, but she continues to develop the history and philosophy that created them through the rest of the book.
Pearcey addresses abortion in a unique and powerful way. People generally discuss abortion in terms of politics or even by attempting to combat it biblically. Pearcey approaches the topic by showing how the undergirding philosophy of personhood theory empowers the practice of abortion.
Pearcey points out that this is ultimately an unscientific view. Pro-Life advocates see life as starting at conception because that is the scientifically verified beginning of a new life. Pro-Choice advocates see life as starting at the beginning of personhood. But when does personhood begin? No bioethicist agrees. Ultimately personhood has to be legislated rather than scientifically observed. The American government sees personhood as beginning at birth, therefore babies do not have “human rights” until they born. They are living, human non-persons five seconds before being born and then persons after being born because that’s what the government has decided.
Personhood theory applies to euthanasia similarly to abortion. It allows the killing of humans who are no longer considered persons. If someone receives brain damage or has dementia, are they still persons? These are questions that are fueling the euthanasia and assisted suicide movement.
The Hook-Up Culture
Our culture has shifted away from dating. It is now more common for college students to never have been on a date, but to have engaged in sex. Again, this mentality is the natural result of the fact/value split. If our bodies don’t have any intrinsic value, then they are just tools to be used for the sake of pleasure. Hooking up makes sense in this view because it allows for pleasure without any sort of commitment between persons.
We are now living out the ideals of the sexual revolution. But does society feel it is in the sexual utopia that the sexual revolution promised? Not even close. Pearcey does a great job showing how the hook-up culture is failing on all sides. People are struggling to hook-up without emotions getting involved, and ultimately not receiving very much pleasure.
Within this chapter Pearcey teaches that the fact/value split and personhood theory are ultimately derived from Kant’s two worlds. Kant taught that the subjective world of freedom (in the mind) was ultimately more valuable than the world of nature because the mind interprets nature. Essentially, he placed the value of the universe in a person’s own mind. This meant that the universe should conform to a person and a person should not conform to the universe.
Acceptance of homosexuality is a natural result of this philosophy. The homosexual isn’t concerned about biological purposes. The design of the body has no bearing on sexual orientation in their view. Rather biology is subject to what they desire as persons.
Pearcey’s chapters on transgenderism and contract theory were just as interesting and insightful as the chapters I briefly introduced. Personally, reading Love Thy Body was a sort of Matrix moment for me which opened my eyes to see what’s going on in our world in a new light. I have found that I understand the worldview our culture is operating from better than I ever have. Love Thy Body is an essential tool for understanding and engaging with our culture’s views on humanity and morality.
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