The Olasky Interview: Nancy Pearcey


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, June 14th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview. Today we’ll hear excerpts of a conversation between WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky and Nancy Pearcey. She’s an author and professor at Houston Baptist University.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: Now, a bit of Nancy’s background I think is important here because she was one of the young people who stumbled across Francis Schaeffer’s ministry, L’Abri, in Switzerland in the early 1970s, and she was an agnostic at that time, and she discovered that there are good reasons, good arguments, supporting Christianity, and through a process of a couple of years, she gave up her agnosticism, and ever since she’s been writing about Christianity as a worldview applied to every area of life…

The background is important because in discussing a couple of the topics that she deals with in her book—such as homosexuality and transexuality—there’s sometimes among evangelicals the sense that these things just came out of nowhere … And I think Nancy, with her L’Abri Francis Schaeffer training is able to point out that this did not come out of nowhere and did not come just because of the thinking of a few people black robes, but it’s a logical extension of developments for many years.

Nancy, if you’re willing, I’d like to have you run through the step-by-step process that you talk about in Love Thy Body as to how these new things have come about. Are you up for that?

NANCY PEARCEY, GUEST: Yes… I’m glad you started with L’Abri because it was Francis Schaeffer who first introduced Christians to the notion that the very concept of truth had been divided. He used a metaphor of two stories in a building, and so essentially, after the rise of modern science, many people concluded that the only valid form of knowledge is empirical knowledge, what we know as science, and what does that mean then for morality and theology? What it means is it can’t be stuffed into a test tube or studied under a microscope, and so many people concluded that when you’re talking about morality or theology, those are not really truths after all—that, in fact, they’re just a matter of personal, private, subjective opinion. That’s your personal feelings. We hear people say… “don’t impose your values on me,” but we never hear people say, “don’t impose your facts on me,” because it’s assumed that scientific facts are reliable.

So taking the step by step, theology, morality, values are considered to be private, subjective, relativistic. That’s the upper story, and then science, facts, and so forth, that’s considered to be public and objective and valid for everyone. So… maybe you could go into that a little bit…

PEARCEY: Yeah… many Christians have essentially a Christianized version of the fact-value split and they don’t realize it. We call it the sacred-secular split. In Christian circles, it is common for people to think religious things are more important… The upper story is the realm of spiritual. That’s your church, your Bible study, your prayer life, and so on. That’s what’s really important to you, and they tend to not always know how to deal with the secular realm. In other words, what does it mean to bring your Christianity out into your job, into your profession, into your understanding of politics, into your understanding of education, entertainment, the… rest of the world… So a lot of my writings are also addressing the fact that sacred-secular split and how to bring Christianity into all of life. I really think that that’s the clue to experiencing the joy and the fulfillment of your Christian life is to unlock it from the upper story and bring it out into the lower story so that it has an impact on everything you do.

Okay. So let’s continue this step-by-step process here. You write in Love Thy Body about… the difference between the understanding of mind and body and so forth, upper story, lower story. Could you explain a little bit about the relevance of that?

PEARCEY: Yeah… Let’s take abortion. Professional bioethicists today all agree that life begins at conception. The evidence in DNA and genetics is too strong to deny it, but they’ll say that’s the lower story… That’s the realm of biology. Human beings are biologically, physiologically, genetically human but they’ll say that doesn’t mean they have a right to legal protection because merely being human is not enough to qualify for human rights, because if you think of it in the upper and lower story, that’s in the lower story where we talk about the body… So… as long as the fetus is merely human, it can be killed for any reason or no reason. It can be tinkered with genetically. It can be harvested for organs… and… it’s one of the things that Christians need to come across with their message as, wait a minute—we’re actually promoting a much higher view of what it means to be human.

How does post-modernism figure into this as we’re talking about different intellectual currents, the upper story, autonomous self, lower story, physical self?

PEARCEY: Yes, and this has a greater impact when we get into questions like homosexuality because, again, we’re seeing a mind-body dualism where the post modernism is actually saying that your gender is a social construction and that your body has no implications for who you are as a person. Think of it this way. Nobody really denies that on the level of biology, physiology, anatomy, chromosomes, males and females are counterparts to one another. That’s how the human sexual and reproductive system is designed.

So when a person embraces a same-sex identity, they are contradicting that design. They’re essentially saying why should my body inform my identity? Why should my biological sex as male or female have any voice in my moral decisions? This is a profoundly disrespectful view of the body, and so this gives us an opportunity, as Christians, to say, well, wait a minute. We’re not just coming at you with a negative message. It’s a sin. It’s wrong. Don’t do it… Instead, what we’re saying is we want to help you have a higher view of the dignity and value of the body. It gives us an opportunity to craft a positive message.

So the irony here is that, for a long time, Christians were being attacked for apparently being up here and not really paying attention to what was on the lower story, and in recent decades, that’s been reversed.

PEARCEY: I wouldn’t say in recent decades. I would say since Love Thy Body came out, no one is really making that argument. One of the things that has been very interesting to me is that if you read the customer reviews… many people have said, “I picked up Love Thy Body hoping to master a few handy arguments to current issues, but what I found is that it’s transforming me.” They had observed the sacred-secular split more than they realized. They had a lower view of the body than the Biblical view, and they have found that Love Thy Body is actually transforming their own worldview.

REICHARD: That’s professor and author Nancy Pearcey, speaking with WORLD’s Marvin Olasky.


(Photo/Genesis, Steve Gonzales)

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