Life's busy, read it when you're ready!

Create a free account to save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Browse thousands of RP articles

Articles, news, and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians.

Get Articles Delivered!

Articles, news,and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians delivered direct to your inbox!

AA
By:

6 quotes from “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self”

Carl Trueman’s newest book has been celebrated as one of “the most important book of our moment” by Ben Shapiro, while Reformed blogger Tim Challies said of it, “I don’t think there will be a better-researched or more fascinating book in all of 2020.”

What follows are a half dozen quotes from The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, to give you an idea of what’s inside. And you can check out Dr. Bredenhof’s review here.

*****

THE QUESTION ANSWERED IN THIS BOOK

“Why does the sentence, ‘I am a woman trapped in a man’s body’ make sense not simply to those who have sat in poststructuralist and queer-theory seminars but to my neighbors, to people I pass on the street, to coworkers who have no particular political ax to grin… How did such a strange idea become the common orthodox currency of our culture?”

SHUT UP, YOU TRANSPHOBE!

“The sexual revolution does not simply represent a… modest expansion of the boundaries of what is and is not acceptable sexual behavior; rather, it involves the abolition of such codes in their entirety. More than that, it has come, in certain areas, such as that of homosexuality, to require the positive repudiation of traditional sexual mores to the point where belief in, or maintenance of, such traditional views has come to be seen as ridiculous and even a sign of serious mental or moral deficiency. The most obvious evidence of this change is the way language has been transformed to serve the purpose of rendering illegitimate any dissent from the current political consensus on sexuality. Criticism of homosexuality is now homophobia, that of transgenderism is transphobia. The use of the term phobia is deliberate and effectively places such criticism of the new sexual culture into the realm of the irrational and points towards an underlying bigotry on the point of those who hold such views.”

SEXUALITY AS GOD

“Freud has, in fact, provided the West with a compelling myth – not in the sense of a narrative that everybody knows is false but in the sense of a basic idea by which we can understand the world around us – regardless of whether it is ‘true’ in the commonsense way of understanding the word.  That myth is the idea that sex, in terms of sexual desire and sexual fulfilment, is the real key to human existence, to what it means to be human.”

SEXUALITY AS WHO YOU REALLY ARE

“…the underlying argument of this book is that the sexual revolution, and its various manifestations in modern society, cannot be treated in isolation, but must rather be interpreted as the specific and perhaps most obvious social manifestation of a much deeper and wider revolution in the understanding of what it means to be a self. While sex may be presented today as little more than a recreational activity, sexuality is presented as that which lies at the very heart of what it means to be an authentic person.”

SHUTTING DOWN FREE SPEECH

“While earlier generations might have seen damage to body or property as the most serious categories of crime, a highly psychologized era will accord increasing importance to words as means of oppression. And this represents a serious challenge to one of the foundations of liberal democracy: freedom of speech. Once harm and oppression are regarded as being primarily psychological categories, freedom of speech then becomes part of the problem, not the solution, because words become potential weapons.”

DON’T WHINE; WORK

“Every age has had its darkness and its dangers. The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and respond appropriately to them.”

For more on “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” listen in as Albert Mohler interviews the author below.


Up Next


Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Carl Trueman on today’s sexual madness

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman 2020 / 425 pages Carl Trueman has lost his sense of humor. I’ve read several of his books and they all had clever moments of wit. However, there’s nothing to laugh about in Trueman’s latest. There’s a definite risk in it being otherwise. Our day doesn’t tolerate any joking around when it comes to the sexual revolution, particularly from those who might be critical of it. Even when we come with gravitas, the revolutionaries will not be pleased. While progressives “Christian” or secular won’t bear any critiques of their revolution, Bible-believing Christians need such critiques more than ever. If we’re going to withstand the forces arrayed against us, we need deep-digging analysis. And Trueman delivers. For those unfamiliar with him, Carl Trueman is professor of biblical and religious studies at Grove City College in Pennsylvania. He was previously a professor of historical theology and church history at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. He’s an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the author of numerous books and articles. By training Trueman is a historian and this book is primarily a work of history. It explains how things came to be as they are. Trueman writes: My aim is to explain how and why a certain notion of the self has come to dominate the culture of the West, why this self finds its most obvious manifestation in the transformation of sexual mores, and what the wider implications of this transformation are and may well be in the future. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is not, therefore, so much of a theological analysis of intellectual and cultural trends past and present. There is some such analysis, but The Rise and Triumph… is primarily historical -- albeit written from a Christian historian’s perspective. It essentially traces the historical development leading up to the sexual revolution of our present day. 4 parts In Part 1, “Architecture of the Revolution,” Trueman lays out some helpful conceptual categories and tools for understanding the history to be examined. In Part 2, “Foundations of the Revolution,” he explores how philosophers (Rousseau, Nietzche, and Marx), scientists (Darwin) and poets (Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake) played key roles in the development of the psychologized self. Part 3, “Sexualization of the Revolution,” features psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, whom Trueman asserts, “is actually the key figure in the narrative of this book.” More than anyone else, Freud is responsible for sexualizing psychology. As Trueman notes, “…before Freud, sex was an activity, for procreation or for recreation; after Freud, sex is definitive of who we are, as individuals, as societies, and as a species.” Marxist scholars Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse took the next step and politicized sex. Accordingly, “Sex is no longer a private activity because sexuality is a constitutive element of public, social identity.” In Part 4, “Triumphs of the Revolution,” Trueman demonstrates how the sexual revolution has carried the day in terms of: pornography how feelings govern ethics (the therapeutic mindset) and transgenderism The last of these is the most interesting, as Trueman describes how transgender individuals were not initially welcomed by the gay and especially the lesbian community. Even gays and lesbians weren’t always on the same side. So, how did the T come to stand with the L and the G? Trueman answers: “…it is a political coalition forged on the basis of a common enemy – a socially and politically enforced heterosexual normativity.” Two highlights There are many good insights in The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, but let me isolate two that especially grabbed my attention. For many years, I understood the sexual revolution as something that more or less developed out of the “hippie”/anti-war movement of the 1960s with the catalyst being America’s involvement in Vietnam. I thought of it as an anti-authoritarian and at times anarchic, at other times Marxist, social phenomenon. However, Trueman’s work shows that to understand the present day, we have to reach back at least two centuries. The other insight has to do with the way sexuality has become key to selfhood and identity. Trueman notes that, in today’s world, not recognizing someone’s identity leads to feelings of inferiority. This is akin to a personal attack. He goes on: This observation is important in enabling us to understand why, for example, in a society where sexuality is foundational to personal identity, mere tolerance of homosexuality is bound to become unacceptable. The issue is not one of simply decriminalizing behaviour; that would certainly mean that homosexual acts were tolerated by society, but the acts are only a part of the overall problem. The real issue is one of recognition, of recognizing the legitimacy of who the person thinks he actually is. That requires more than mere tolerance; it requires equality before the law and recognition by the law and society. And that means that those who refuse to grant such recognition will be the ones who find themselves on the wrong side of both the law and emerging social attitudes. The person who objects to homosexual practice is, in contemporary society, actually objecting to homosexual identity. And the refusal by any individual to recognize an identity that society at large recognizes as legitimate is a moral offense, not simply a matter of indifference. The question of identity in the modern world is a question of dignity. For this reason, the various court cases in America concerning the provision of cakes and flowers for gay weddings are not ultimately about the flowers or the cakes. They are about the recognition of gay identity and, according to members of the LGBTQ+ community, the recognition that they need in order to feel that they are equal members of society. Trueman nails it. The sexual revolution doesn’t want our indifference or our toleration. It wants our affirmation, recognition, and celebration. Anything short of that is considered phobic – defined as a form of irrational bigotry. Conclusion The book ends with a “Concluding Unscientific Prologue.” The last word there is Trueman’s hint he may have more to say on this subject. He does already here propose some constructive ways in which the church could be engaging with the world, besotted as it is with the sexual revolution. One of his points here did however raise my eyebrow: “Protestants need to recover both natural law and a high view of the physical body” (p.405). I have no problem with the latter. But “natural law” here would seem to demand a little more explanation than Trueman provides. He frames it in the context of teaching the church should provide to its members regarding moral principles. So, it would seem, he’s proposing the recovery of an understanding of the moral order God has revealed in nature. But since that moral order is more clearly revealed in the Word of God, and we’re talking about the church, why not focus our attention on Scripture? All Christian leaders need to read this book, whether they’re involved with leadership in education, business, government, or the church. The sexual revolution threatens Christian hearts and minds which are sometimes naïve to the consequences of accepting some or all of its key premises. Christian leaders need to be conversant with the history and philosophy behind the revolution, so they can speak the truth in love from God’s Word. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self meets that need. I believe it will be recognized as one of the landmark Christian books of our time....


We Think You May Like