Book Review: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

If the inner psychological self of the individual is sovereign, then identity becomes as potentially unlimited as the human imagination. Yet this would still leave some questions unresolved, questions that have a particular urgency in our current political climate. Why, for example, have the politics of sexual identity become so ferocious that any dissent from the latest orthodoxy is greeted with scorn and sometimes even legal action? A moment’s reflection would seem to suggest that this is, on the surface at least, a rather odd phenomenon. What does it matter, to borrow a phrase oft used in the gay marriage debate surrounding the Supreme Court case of Obergefell v. Hodges… what people do in private? Why should my agreement or disagreement with what consenting adults do behind closed doors be of any great public importance? If two men have a sexual relationship in the privacy of their bedroom, my disagreement with such behavior neither picks their pockets nor breaks their legs, as Thomas Jefferson would say. So why should disagreement with current sexual mores be regarded as somehow immoral and intolerable in the wider public sphere?

Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, pp. 50-51

If there is one truth that should be evident from this podcast, it’s that I enjoy reading. I’ve reached that “I need more bookcases” stage, a problem which is furthered by visits to the local used book store (one that has a surprisingly wide selection of even decent Christian authors, rather than the usual Barnes & Noble offering of prosperity gospel nonsense cloaked as Christianity). Books, reading them and talking about them, are one of the biggest drivers for conversation between Jarod and myself. And yet the book I’ve just finished is one of the most important ones I believe I’ve had the opportunity to dig into, one which will provide a great deal of new information to guide our future ministry.

That book is theologian and professor Carl Trueman’s latest offering, entitled The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. With a title that long, you can see already that this book will not be playing games. Trueman’s writing is dense but there are no wasted words: each section lays out in clear terms, backed up with extensive footnotes, that draw out a truth that we as Christians, especially American and Western Christians, need to know. Namely, that the seemingly sudden change of attitudes among our fellow countrymen towards issues like sexual morality and the fundamental rights that are necessary to a free society are not new, nor are they simply the result of this strange, alien millennial generation. Rather, they are the fruit borne of seeds planted in the very foundation of the Enlightenment itself, with roots that threaten to tear apart the foundations of the society that enabled them to thrive at all.

Setting expectations

It seems like the last few years have seen a lot of titles released attempting to wrestle with both the ongoing “culture war” as well as the struggle within the church to figure out how to engage with the culture. What does it look like to be faithful to biblical doctrine in the face of a culture which has no patience for such concerns, and in fact is becoming openly antagonistic towards them?

The paragraph quoted above is not quoted because it is the question the book answers, but as an example given by the author of the sort of argument that is drawing many Christians and cultural conservatives into a place where we are fighting battles over the wrong things. Firstly, because we are letting our opponents draw us out with absurd charges and setting the battle lines, and secondly because we don’t truly understand that the debate has eroded any form of common ground upon which we can stand with them.

That is probably one of the most important things to draw as you walk through this book: the ground on which the cultural and sexual revolutionaries of today stand is not simply a matter of opinion variance. It is a markedly different worldview, one that has been a very long time in the making.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self”

Kings Highway Radio: Fighting the Wrong Battle

The last Kings Highway Radio was back at the beginning of the new year, before the infamous DC capital riot exposed the rotten fruit of QAnon. After spending an hour talking about the dangers of conspiracy thinking to the beliefs and attitudes of Christians, we are feeling rather justified in our concerns.

This episode, we wanted to take a look not just at that, but at the big question of: what does it mean to be a faithful Christian and engage with politics? We got a bit ranty this time, because both of us have been very frustrated by the increasing focus of many fellow believers on the idea that we have to achieve political victory in order to “save America” and maintain our way of life.

The last Spurgeon Audio was on the sealing of the Spirit, and what that means for the lives of believers. I believe that what we are seeing in the behavior of many confessing Christians is that they don’t actually trust God to do what He says He will. They may believe that Scripture is truly God’s inerrant, infallible Word, but their actions say, “I don’t trust what it says.”

In particular I want to emphasize something important, something that I think speaks to all of us: do we believe that following Jesus is better than success in the world? When we see charging into battle with one another over this issue or that cultural struggle, we as Christians need to consider that carefully. Is this battle something that is giving glory to God, or is it part of a call to glorify ourselves as smarter and wiser? If we are walking and speaking in a way that is disrespectful and unloving to God and to our neighbor in the pursuit of “owning the libs” or fighting for what we believe is “justice” do we actually trust God to define those things, and to work His will in our world?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

We also talked about an excellent book that I’ve been reading, and plan to write a full review of once I’ve finished. The book is The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individiualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. It bears directly on what we discussed today, and I can’t recommend it enough as a book Christians should read and seriously ponder.

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Episode 62: The Soul Winner – What Is It To Win A Soul?

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What is the real winning of a soul for God? Since this is done by a means to an end approach, what are the processes by which a soul is led to God and to salvation? I take it that one of the main actions consists in instructing a man that he may know the truth of God (2 Timothy 2:25). Instruction in the gospel is the beginning of all real work upon men’s minds. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, behold, I am with you always even unto the end of the age. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20). Teaching begins the work and crowns it too.

Charles Spurgeon, The Soul Winner

As I mentioned in the last episode, the next few episodes will be from Charles Spurgeon’s Book The Soul Winner. I wanted to take a little break from the regular format, so I thought I would switch over to this.

You can follow the link above to find your own copy of the book on Amazon, with slightly updated language. It’s an interesting book that definitely shows his forthright approach to preaching. Like with everything else here, I hope it is helpful and a blessing.

Let me know in the comments below or by email if you have a favorite Spurgeon sermon you’d like to hear in a future episode.

Visit spurgeonaudio.org and theologymix.com for more great content.