Carl. R. Trueman’s important book, “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” and climbing out of the rabbit hole.

I am almost finished reading Carl. R. Trueman’s important book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton: Crossway, 2020), 425 pages. Of the many things this book illustrates is that one’s worldview is the product of sentiment or how one feels about self, and not reason, especially if the issue under discussion is easy to understand or seems intuitive. “Human nature, one might say, becomes something individuals or societies invent for themselves.” [42] Following Rieff’s categories, this is the Psychological man or the Therapeutic man where there is an “inward quest for personal psychological happiness.” [45] Trueman illustrates this when discussing the inroads of Darwinian evolution into mainstream cultural thought. Acceptance came not by some rigorous biological study but by an intuitively simple argument that apes, that look very similar to man, preceded man on the evolutionary scale, and other kinds of similar tripe. Without further investigation, critical or otherwise, a theory that obliterated humanity as possesses transcendent teleological attributes and thus a unique identity was considered merely evolved animals with no teleological purpose. The immanent is all there is. Thus, because it seemed intuitively right, the entire idea of what makes man human was turned upside down. Culture altering and culture destroying attitudes and actions are in place not because a few elites were disciples of radicals of the past, but that vestiges of that radicalism that could be easily understood simply have been uncritically accepted as intuitively correct.

Trueman throughout the book emphasizes that the conditioning of the masses to accept this was not done by the elite steeped in these philosophies but what he refers to as “intuitive simplicity” when dealing with Darwinian evolution; “intuitive authority” relating to science; “intuitive” part of societal discourse; intuitive cultural orthodoxies relating to the acceptance of homosexuality; and “intuitive associations” of associating sexual freedom with political freedom.” None of these “intuitions” developed because of study, lectures, or critical evaluation, but were normalized because elements of their thought simply made sense. It just seemed like the right thing to do; it felt right; it was simple to understand; just a matter of taste. Trueman is saying that though few know the writings of those he quotes, the culture and therefore, we, are living in a world of their creation. Trueman points out that these developments are fundamentally, antihistory, anticultural, and antichristian. So, in my words, for no good reason, you and I find ourselves in a world that one man Trueman cites says is “signifying the death of culture rather than the birth pains of a coming liberated utopia.” [55]

And what about the undermining or the eliminating all together of the historic sacred text of the English-speaking Western Church, the KJV? While those who disparage the KJV have probably never read or read little of Marx and his disdain for history because for him it was the history of oppression, nonetheless the simplest, and most intuitive understanding of Marxism has been adopted by Evangelicals (and with the rest of modern culture) and are engaged in anti-historical actions. Pre-critical orthodox theological formulation is disparaged and ignored and the history of the English Bible from Tyndale to the KJV are mere vestiges of an unenlightened, unimportant time. History for Marx was the record of repression and oppression of which Christianity played the primary role. Indeed, the source of oppression is the Bible. “For Nietzsche and for Marx, however, history and culture are tales of oppression that need to be overcome and overthrown.” [192] MVO Evangelicals are not connoisseurs of Marx, but they do show an affinity to Marxist thought and practice by obliterating the historic importance of pre-critical theological thought and writings and specifically the KJV to the Church. Where Marx in propagating his radical worldview failed, Evangelicalism, by joining religious sentiment with Marxist antihistory has succeeded in removing the historic exegetical, theological, and philosophical Foundation of the Church.

This in turn demonstrates why arguments from reason have been unsuccessful in the defense of Biblically based, historical institutions such as traditional marriage, the definition of male and female, the uniqueness of man being made in the image of God, and the authority of the Reformation Bible. Reason confronts the bulwark of intuitively (not critically) informed cultural orthodoxy the “social imaginary,” “a common understanding which makes possible common practices, and a widely shared sense of legitimacy,”[37] and thus to say otherwise is ridiculous, even hurtful to the sentiments and feelings of the Psychological man. It is not his choices or practices that are under assault – it is his very identity as a modern self that is being attacked. If psychological happiness creates the self’s identity all external reason to the contrary is an attack on the person as king. Reason did not get the culture, or at Trueman says, the anti-culture, to this point, and reason will not shake the culture free from its “obvious” conclusions. After all, they’re obvious.

Please don’t take this post as some kind of review or synopsis. About halfway through the book his arguments began to coalesce, and I started to systematize my notes and to speak to members of my family about the framework and content of what I was reading. Trueman does not attempt to provide a solution for which he should be further applauded. The gospel witness, or the message of being born again starts with the knowledge of sin. If you’re not a sinner, you have nothing to be saved from. Christ died for the ungodly so if you’re not the ungodly then its not for you he died. Trueman’s book leaves us all sinners, which is precisely the place to begin.

Sometimes we get the notion that Bible defense to be such has to “stay in its lane” and limit itself to past formats of presentation. But the Bible is the Word of God. It informs us personally, theologically, philosophically, exegetically, teleologically, et al – it speaks to man with the limitless potential of being made in the image of God. The notion of limiting the scope of Biblical application, is, to say, intuitively ludicrous. Trueman has done us all a favor. Everyone should read this book. You will find it enlightening. You will question how deeply you are already down the rabbit hole without really knowing, and then you will confront the fears of climbing out.

Published by Dr. Peter Van Kleeck, Sr.

Dr. Peter William Van Kleeck, Sr. : B.A., Grand Rapids Baptist College, 1986; M.A.R., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1990; Th.M., Calvin Theological Seminary, 1998; D. Min, Bob Jones University, 2013. Dr. Van Kleeck was formerly the Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, Grand Rapids, MI, (1990-1994) lecturing, researching and writing in the defense of the Masoretic Hebrew text, Greek Received Text and King James Bible. His published works include, "Fundamentalism’s Folly?: A Bible Version Debate Case Study" (Grand Rapids: Institute for Biblical Textual Studies, 1998); “We have seen the future and we are not in it,” Trinity Review, (Mar. 99); “Andrew Willet (1562-1621: Reformed Interpretation of Scripture,” The Banner of Truth, (Mar. 99); "A Primer for the Public Preaching of the Song of Songs" (Outskirts Press, 2015). Dr. Van Kleeck is the pastor of the Providence Baptist Church in Manassas, VA where he has ministered for the past twenty-one years. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Annette, and has three married sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren.

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