Grove City College Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies Carl R. Trueman’s new book is attracting attention as Christians seek an understanding of changing social and cultural standards that are at odds with an orthodox interpretation of the faith.
In “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution,” Trueman examines how the modern conception of identity – individualistic, secular and inextricably tied to sex – developed and is now fueling a spiritual, theological and cultural crisis.
Carl R. Trueman
“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. Understanding the times is a precondition of responding appropriately to the times. And understanding the times requires a knowledge of the history that has led up to the present. This book is intended as a small contribution to that vital task,” Trueman writes.
“The framework for identity in wider society is deep rooted, powerful, and fundamentally antithetical to the kind of identity promoted as basic in the Bible,” he notes. “Any return to a society built on a broad religious, or even a mere metaphysical, consensus is extremely unlikely.”
Trueman doesn’t offer a “standard conservative Christian polemic against modernity” or “a pietistic exhortation to prayer, study, and sober living” that some might expect, Rod Dreher, author of “The Benedict Option,” writes in a foreword to “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.” Rather, Dreher says, the book is “a sophisticated survey and analysis of cultural history by a brilliant teacher who is not only an orthodox Christian but also a pastor who understands the actual needs of the flock — and who, unlike so many intellectuals, can write like a dream.”
One reviewer says “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self,” is “perhaps the most significant analysis and evaluation of Western culture written by a Protestant during the past fifty years.” Another says it is “essential reading for all serious religious believers who rightly sense that the ground is shifting underneath their feet …”
Justin Taylor, Crossway’s executive vice president for book publishing, said Trueman was the right scholar to take on the project.
"I've long wanted to publish a book that would explain how we got to this cultural moment, but it seemed like such a challenging project to pull off. The author would need to have a profound grasp of history in all of its complexity and the right theological foundations, along with wide reading in philosophy and cultural criticism. And then ideally this would be combined with the skills of a popular classroom teacher with a pastoral heart,” Taylor said. “That all came together in Grove City College’s Carl Trueman, and we could not be happier with the result: a rich and absorbing book that is designed to explain late modernity to the church today."
As the book comes to market, Trueman has been promoting his work. Last month he was featured in Publisher’s Weekly and two major interviews – with The American Conservative and Catholic World Report – came out this week. He’s also making the podcast rounds, appearing recently on Rage of the Age, Exposit the Word and the Gospel Coalition podcasts.
A noted church historian and public intellectual, Trueman is a frequent contributor to conservative cultural and religious outlets such as First Things, Public Discourse and The Gospel Coalition, and is the co-host of The Mortification of Spin podcast.
In addition to ““The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self,” Trueman has written or edited more than a dozen books, including: “Luther’s Legacy: Salvation and English Reformers, 1525-1556;” “John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man;” "Histories and Fallacies;" and “The Creedal Imperative.” In addition to his writing and teaching, he co-hosts The Mortification of Spin podcast.
Before joining the faculty at Grove City College, Trueman previously served as the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and Public Life at Princeton University. Prior to that, he served on the faculties of Westminster Theological Seminary, PA, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of Nottingham. He holds a Ph.D. in Church History from the University of Aberdeen and an M.A. in Classics from the University of Cambridge.
For more about Biblical and Religious Studies at Grove City College, visit gcc.edu/bibl.