A Loving Defense of Christian Morality: Why Opposing Abortion, Euthanasia and Sexual Immorality Promotes Human Welfare
Review of Nancy Pearcey's Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018)
At first glance, some may think that the title of Nancy Pearcey’s new book, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality, is misguided. She is a Christian, after all. Aren’t Christians the ones who despise the body and the physical world?
Pearcey replies with a resounding: No! She then turns the tables by showing that today it is secularists who reject the physical world and the body. How do they do this? By exalting consciousness or feelings above the physical body. They desire liberation from the shackles of the body. They want to choose their identity, no matter how much it conflicts with physical reality.
Transsexualism is an obvious example. Those promoting the transsexual agenda insist that the physical body doesn’t matter. What matters is solely one’s subjective feelings. Objective biological facts are not only ignored, but are deemed oppressive. They see greater freedom in one being able to choose one’s gender. Who cares what the DNA says?
One of the attractive features of this book is that Pearcey doesn’t simply proclaim, “Thou shalt not.” Rather she shows why Christian morality is superior and beneficial.
Pearcey considers this false “body-person” dichotomy the root of many moral ills. It motivates those supporting abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. It also promotes casual, impersonal attitudes toward sex in our “hook-up culture.”
Pearcey knows that, by taking on these hot-button topics, she is walking into a minefield. Anyone bold enough to challenge the entrenched immorality of our day is often dubbed intolerant or hateful.
However, one of the attractive features of this book is that Pearcey doesn’t simply proclaim, “Thou shalt not.” Rather she shows why Christian morality is superior and beneficial. She explains how Christian morality fits reality. Thus it enables us to fulfill the purpose for which we were created. It is not a set of arbitrary rules to restrict us. Rather, it helps us flourish and achieve happiness and fulfillment.
Secular morality, on the other hand, is damaging and destructive. It puts us in opposition to reality. We end up destroying ourselves and others. All the promises to the contrary end up being empty.
Who Qualifies as a Person?
Consider the debate over abortion. Advocates for abortion know that the fetus is a human life. Just a few weeks after conception, an unborn baby has a beating heart. A human body with its own distinct DNA is developing inside the mother. So how can pro-choice proponents justify killing a human being? By denying that the developing fetus is a person. This notion, known as personhood theory, is a powerful force in bioethics today.
Personhood theory claims that humans are not persons unless they have a certain level of consciousness. Having a human body doesn’t matter, they say. One has to have specific mental traits. Never mind that these traits are arbitrarily chosen. Never mind that bioethicists don’t agree among themselves as to which traits make someone a person. The point is that the fetus doesn’t qualify.
Indeed, some bioethicists argue that the new-born infant doesn’t qualify as a person either. Thus, some promote what they call “after-birth abortion.” Adults with dementia may also lose their personhood status. Who cares if their bodies are functioning quite well? Euthanasia, here we come.
The Roots of the Problem
How did we come to this intellectual state? In confronting this question, Pearcey’s analysis shines. Building on her earlier works developing a Christian worldview, she provides a convincing answer. Throughout the book, she explains the philosophical roots of what she calls (using Francis Schaeffer’s phrase) a “two-story” worldview.
The two-story worldview treats the body as just a hunk of flesh without moral significance. The physical world has no intrinsic purpose. Thus, the only purposes that exist are ones we choose. This makes our choices primary and our bodies inconsequential. Pearcey explains how many secular ideas, including Darwinism, have contributed to this idea.
The two-story view of humanity not only affects pro-life issues. It also helps underpin the current climate of sexual immorality. In the hook-up culture on our college campuses, many view sex purely as a physical act. They spurn loving relationships or emotional attachments. Pearcey exposes the folly of this view. It simply does not correspond with the reality of how we are made.
In addition to her astute analysis, Pearcey offers many personal vignettes that lay bare the destructive nature of the two-story worldview she critiques. She ably defends the Christian view of human life and sexuality by demonstrating that Christianity has answers that fit reality. Christian morality promotes human welfare and fulfillment.
Richard Weikart is professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, and author of The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life and Hitler’s Religion.