The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Book Reviews and Resources

Originally posted by Mitch Bedzyk:

Carl Trueman, a professor at Grove City College and an esteemed historian, has arguably written not only the best but most important work of 2020 with his latest book, entitled, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to the Sexual Revolution. Trueman sets out to understand Western culture and its obsession with individualism and “identity,” particularly our sexual identity. He wants to understand why the sentence, “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body,” is no longer considered non-sensical and self-contradicting but tolerated, and even celebrated. 

In order to do this, Trueman guides us through history and the work of many key figures, such as Rousseau, Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin, Freud, to show how a new understanding of the self emerged that focused on the inner life and sexuality of the individual. To be a truly “authentic” person today, one’s identity must be controlled and molded by our ever-shifting desires. Combined with Freud’s notion that we are fundamentally sexual beings and Marxist ideas of oppression and victimhood, the result is our culture’s iconoclasm and almost complete rejection of nature, history, and Christianity. While our culture may not be rational, Trueman shows it to be at least logical.

I cannot highly recommend this book enough. It is certainly tough sledding at parts, and rather long, but it’s well worth the effort. The issues of sexuality, gender, and individualism are shaping up to be the defining issues of our day and age, if they aren’t already. In order for Christians to stand firm against the coming waves of rejection, misunderstanding, and persecution, we must understand not only what Scripture says, but why our world thinks the way it does. And Trueman’s book is an excellent place to start.

You can purchase the book from several retailers: WTS BooksAmazon, etc. I have complied some reviews of the book by several solid Christian scholars as well as some podcasts, interviews, and video lecutres with Carl Trueman where he discusses the book.

Podcasts, Interviews and Lectures with Carl Trueman

Book Reviews

How We Ought to Define the Reformation

Carl Trueman defines the Reformation like this:

The Reformation represents a move to place God as He has revealed Himself in Christ at the centre of the Church’s life and thought. (Reformation, Carl Trueman, page 17)

He also says this in the same lecture later:

When one surveys the mass of books printed, sermons preached, commentaries and pamphlets written during the Reformation, it is quite clear that it was a movement of words – written words, printed words, and spoken words.  No, it was above all a movement of the Word – incarnate in Christ and written down in the Scriptures. (Reformation, Carl Trueman, page 71)

I find this definition of the Reformation to be the best one I’ve read or heard.  Because it defines a historical movement in terms which makes its application and relevance toward other historical times smoother and easier.  If we define the Reformation as a time when “God changed the world through Luther and Calvin” we will rarely apply its principles to our time and rarely learn from the reformers what they intend us to – namely, to continue reforming as they did.  How did they do this?  They were used of God to bring the center back to where the center should be – God revealed through Christ.  And they did this through the Word.

Now the question comes, how can we do this today?  In our churches and in our hearts what can we do to center back upon God in Christ?  Everything in our hearts, and everything in our churches should serve the purpose of the Word.  The answer to this question should shake some things up, re-orient to proper direction, and soak the soul in God Himself.

All Marriage Begins in Joy and Ends in Tragedy

Insightful piece from Carl Trueman:

When I married a young couple in my congregation a few years ago, I commented in the sermon that all human marriages begin with joy but end in tragedy. Whether it is divorce or death, the human bond of love is eventually torn apart. The marriage of Christ and his church, however, begins with tragedy and ends with a joyful and loving union which will never be rent asunder. There is joy to which we point in our worship, the joy of the Lamb’s wedding feast. But our people need to know that in this world there will be mourning. Not worldly mourning with no hope. But real mourning nonetheless, and we must make them ready for that.

To read the rest, which I recommend you do, click here.

Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

PrintI just begun reading a wonderful little book which I’d like to recommend to you all today.  It is called “Reformation: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” by Carl Trueman.  Anyone who wants to know why the one of the principles of the Reformation was “Semper Reformanda” (always reforming) should read this book.  We are in need of it today.

Publisher’s Description:

Dr. Trueman examines the origins of contemporary Reformed theology in the Reformation world of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After tracing how this heritage shaped and transformed the intervening period, he then describes some of the major challenges being faced by the evangelical church at the present time and suggests ways of responding which remain faithful to the Scriptures and the theology of the Reformers drawn from it and points towards a future that embraces and disseminates these wonderful doctrines of grace.

About Carl Trueman:

Carl R. Trueman (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary. He was editor of Themelios for nine years, has written more than a dozen books, and has contributed to multiple publications, including the Dictionary of Historical Theology and The Cambridge Companion to Reformation Theology.


“Western Christianity has been willingly hypnotized into a pre-Reformational state becoming religiously ecumenical and morally bankrupt. Simply put, we are in need of a new Reformation mindset which recaptures the tenets of the Reformers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The re-release of Carl Trueman’s Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is a needed corrective and powerful antidote for the spiritual anemia that has infected our chapter of church history. It is historically compelling, wonderfully practical, and spiritually motivating.”
— Rick Holland, Executive pastor, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA

“The present has inextricable links to the past. This is obvious, though possibly not to some moderns who think themselves wiser than reality. Trueman is thankfully not one of these moderns and, drawing upon a rich fund of knowledge of the Reformation, he here shows that the Reformation is not at all over but has ongoing relevance. A great introduction to the present-day meaning of this world-changing event.”
— Michael Haykin, Professor of Church History and Biblical Spirituality, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY

“This fine book should be required reading for all Christians—and especially for those who doubt whether the Protestant Reformation has anything left to say to us in our day. Stating that “the Reformation represents a move to place God as he has revealed himself in Christ at the centre of the church’s life and thought,” Trueman then retrieves Luther’s theology of the cross, argues that because the Reformation “was above all a movement of the Word—incarnate in Christ and written down in the Scriptures,” and because the Spirit works through the Word, “the Word written and the Word preached are both central to Christianity and are not simply cultural forms which can be shed when culture moves on,” and then closes with a chapter on Christian assurance that recognizes our assurance as the foundation for our Christian activity. Along the way, he scatters nugget after nugget of insight into what is core to the Reformation legacy, motivating his readers to embrace this core again.”
— Mark R. Talbot, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wheaton College, IL

“With knowledge, wit, and clarity, Carl Trueman brings key insights from the Reformation on Christ, Scripture, and our appropriation of both to bear on the life of the modern evangelical church. This is not antiquarian theology. Rather we’re given a sharp diagnosis of our current shallow experience of God, and prescribed instead the rich, deep, satisfying currents of Biblical Christianity. This little volume will repay both the minster and the layman’s repeated reading. I am so glad to see it back in print.”
— Michael Lawrence, Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, OR

“Dr. Trueman calls us to build on the work of Reformers by a continuing reformation of the church under the Word; especially with regard to the cross of the Christ, the written and preached Word, and thirdly, the assurance of salvation… I commend them to a wider Christian public for reflection, prayer and appropriate reforming action.”
— Eryl Davies, Head of Research, Wales Evangelical School of Theology, Bridgend, Wales