What Does It Mean to “Love Thy Body”? Interview with Author Nancy Pearcey
by Sean McDowell
Today is the release of one of the most important books this year on Christianity and cultural engagement: Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality, by Nancy Pearcey. Since co-writing How Now Shall We Live? with Chuck Colson, Pearcey has been one of the most important voices vying for the development and application of a Christian worldview to all of life. She is a professor of apologetics at Houston Baptist University and a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.
Her newest book is so timely and insightful that I am using it as a text for a high school class that I teach. She was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy!
SEAN MCDOWELL: In the introduction to Love Thy Body, you discuss the fact/value split. Can you explain what you mean by that and how secular thought today assumes a body/person split?
NANCY PEARCEY: After the rise of modern science, many people decided that the only reliable knowledge is empirical facts. Things like morality and theology were reduced to private, subjective preferences—personal values. We can visualize the fact/value split using the image of two stories in a building: In the lower story are objective facts; in the upper story are subjective values.
The fact/value split is one of the greatest barriers to presenting Christian truth today, and it’s the topic of my book Total Truth. In Love Thy Body, I show how the same split affects issues like abortion, assisted suicide, homosexuality, transgenderism, and the hookup culture.
Take abortion. Many bioethicists argue that the fetus is human from conception, but we do not grant it legal protection until we decide it has become a person. Until then, it is just a disposable piece of matter that can be killed for any reason or no reason. It can be used for research, tinkered with genetically, harvested for organs, then disposed of with the other medical waste.
This is called personhood theory, and you can see how it is an outworking of the fact/value split. Using our two-story metaphor, to be biologically human is a scientific fact (lower story). But to be a person is an ethical concept, defined by what we value (upper story).
The change from a piece of matter to a person with inviolable rights is a momentous change. Yet there is no transformative point that science can detect objectively. As a result, the definition of personhood is private, subjective, and arbitrary—like other personal values…
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