Hank Hanegraaff: Paradigms allow us to see only what our paradigms allow us to see. We don’t think so much about our paradigms as we think with our paradigms. As Christians, we have unwittingly adopted bad paradigms. It is not just the culture that needs to be liberated; it is Christianity that needs to be liberated from its own cultural captivity.
Nancy Pearcey: That’s right. When we talk about these issues that I address in Love Thy Body, we’re looking at moral issues like abortion, assisted suicide, homosexuality, and transgenderism. In the book, I am very concerned to help people understand the secular paradigms because so many Christians are adopting or absorbing those paradigms without even knowing it. In particular, I talk about the view of the body, as you might guess from the title. I show that the secular view of the body is a very low view of the dignity, value, and purpose of the body; that Christians have absorbed that as well; and that it is not biblical.
The response I am getting from a lot of readers is, “I picked up this book because I thought I’d get some handy arguments against the secular view, and instead it’s transforming me and my understanding of the body and how it relates to these moral issues?” You’re right. It really hits both sides. It helps people be equipped to understand our secular culture and respond more effectively, but to do that it requires also a transformation of our own thinking.
HH: It is critical for Christians to learn to think Christianly and to develop a Christian worldview. Oftentimes, we embrace other worldviews without recognizing that we have embraced the very water in which we swim. The culture in which we love. Expand on that.
NP: Yes. Let’s take maybe the most hot button issue for Christians — homosexuality. Even conservative churches are dividing over this issue. Young people are having a hard time saying what’s wrong with it.
What I help people to see is that homosexuality assumes a very low view of the body. People say, “We should accept homosexuals because we want to be loving.” If you want to be loving, you want to help them to see that the view itself is very dehumanizing and very negative. For example, here is how I would unpack that: no one really denies that biologically, physiologically, anatomically, males and females are counterparts to one another. That’s just how the human sexual and reproductive system is designed. What happens when you embrace a same-sex identity, then? Well, implicitly you’re contradicting that design. Implicitly you are saying, “Why should the structure of my body inform my identity? Why should my sexed body have any say in my moral choices?” Well, that’s a profoundly disrespectful view of the body. The implication is, what counts is, not whether I’m biologically male or female but just my feelings, my desires, my mind, that nonphysical part of me. As a result, it has a very fragmenting impact on a human personality. It’s self-alienating. It’s alienating people from their own bodies.
Those who defend a biblical view of sexuality are not relying on a few scattered Bible verses. What we are promoting is a teleological worldview. Teleology means it has a purpose. We are saying that the structure of your body has a purpose and that it reflects a divine purpose. As a result, it encourages people to live in harmony with their biological sex and leads to a holistic integration of personality.
This gives us a chance to prove the biblical ethic not simply in negative terms — “it’s a sin,” “don’t do it,” “thou shalt not” — which is true, but it is not complete. It gives us a chance to communicate in a positive way. We have a higher view of the body. We have a high view of the dignity and value of the body. We are encouraging people to have a much more positive view of their body instead of the negative one implied by the homosexual narrative.
HH: What is interesting about what you said is that, in reality, so many people in the secular culture presuppose Christianity itself has a low view of the body.
NP: Yes. In fact, I’m getting that pushback from some of my critics. They say, “Wait a minute, it’s Christianity that has a low view of the body that focuses on the next world.”
The problem is that many Christians are out of touch with their own heritage. If you look back to when Christianity started, the early church was surrounded by world-denying philosophies, like Platonism and Gnosticism. They treated the material world as a place of death, decay, and destruction. In fact, in Gnosticism, which taught that there were many levels of deities, the world was created by a very low-level deity, even an evil deity, because, after all, no self-respecting god would get his hands dirty mucking about with matter.
In this context, Christianity was revolutionary. It taught that, no, it was the highest God, the supreme deity, who created this material world, and — what’s more — He pronounced it “very good” (Gen. 1:31). An even greater scandal was the Incarnation. The very idea that God Himself would enter the material world and take on a human body that was totally rejected by Gnosticism. The incarnation is the ultimate affirmation of the dignity of the human body.
Finally, at the end of time, is God going to scrap the material world as if He made a mistake the first time? No! The Bible teaches He is going to renew and restore this world. He is going to create a new heaven and a new earth, which is why the Apostles’ Creed affirms the resurrection of the body. This is an astonishingly high view of the physical world. There’s nothing else like it in any other philosophy or religion.
Love Thy Body, my book, gives people the tools to go beyond the negative message and to deploy positive arguments, showing that a biblical ethic is more appealing, more attractive, and more compelling than any secular ethic.
This blog is adapted from the February 10, 2018, Bible Answer Man broadcast in which Hank Hanegraaff interviewed Nancy Pearcey. Listen to the entire interview on the Hank Unplugged podcast (scroll through the list of episodes to the title “Love Thy Body with Nancy Pearcey”).