Christians are often accused of holding a negative view of the human body.
We’re accused of denying and repressing our body’s “natural desires.”
But it’s secular ethics, not Christian ethics, that have a debased view of the human body. And after you read this, you’ll know precisely why.
Biblical scholar and philosopher Nancy Pearcey’s recent book, Love Thy Body, digs into the roots of where the modern secular and atheistic view of the body came from.
And in her examination, she finds a close connection between the secular view of the body today and the prevailing view in the world inhabited by the first Christians.
In the world of the early Christians, the prevailing Greco-Roman philosophy viewed the body as inferior to the mind.
The true identity of a person resided in the mind. The body was just a vessel, irrelevant and inferior to your true self.
As Pearcey sees it, that same philosophy is behind many of the most vicious controversies that have overtaken the modern world.
Ever since Roe v Wade, secular society has developed the idea that humans must possess some nebulous characteristic called “personhood” to be worthy of human rights.
Society justifies killing the unborn by denying them this quality.
Society has come to believe that sexuality is merely the use of a disposable object (the body) to experience deeper pleasure.
Sex is perceived as a mere physical act with no deeper spiritual meaning beyond momentary physical pleasure.
Secular sexual ethics denies that bodily structures are designed with an inherent purpose and meaning.
It denies biological categories like biological sex and elevates mental self-identification – like gender identity and sexual orientation – in their place.
“The whole transgender movement depends on denying the value and dignity of the body,” Pearcey says.
And in denying the inherent meaning of biological structures and relations, they diminish the meaningfulness of family relationships and responsibilities as well.
Examining each of these pressing issues, Pearcey unfolds and lays bare the raw core of modern secular ideology.
She sees our culture heading down a dangerous road where a person’s worth is not determined by the fact they possess a human body, but by the degree of “personhood” they possess in their mind.
And who is to determine what that means?
Rather than pointing to a hopeless worldview where we are just a smattering of atoms cobbled together in bodily form, the word of God has a different message for us.
The psalmist sings to God, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:13b-14a, NIV).
Our bodies are intentionally designed, created by God with a purpose, a telos, Pearcey says.
The value, dignity, beauty, and meaningfulness of our bodies does not come from the affirmation of others or self, but from God our Creator.
God our Creator designed us as physical and spiritual creatures. No part of God’s creation is a throwaway. God created us body and soul, not elevating one above the other.
Because our bodies are specially designed by God, we can truly love our bodies. They are not just vessels in which we find ourselves trapped.
“Humans do not need freedom from the body to discover their true, authentic self,” Pearcey says.
“Rather we can celebrate our embodied existence as a good gift from God. Instead of escaping from the body, the goal is to live in harmony with it.”
This is a critical message for our world as confusion about the purpose and meaning of the body becomes more and more muddled with the introduction of each new trend.
But it’s also not enough, she says, to merely oppose the insidious body-vilifying cultural trends of today.
“People must be drawn by a vision that attracts them by offering a more appealing, more life-affirming worldview,” she says. “Christians must present biblical morality in a way that reveals the beauty of the biblical view of the human person so that people actually want it to be true.”
Pearcey does not want to merely inspire us to protest the errors of the modern world, but wants us to invite people into a community where beauty and our identities as God’s image-bearers are celebrated.
To hear this critically important message, buy Pearcey’s book, Love Thy Body today.