Summary of Carl Trueman’s, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution


Washington Irving wrote the fanciful tale of a hen-pecked, work-shy man named Rip Van Winkle. Published in 1819, the story is set in late 18th century America and tells how Rip lay down while out squirrel hunting in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Dulled by drink, he fell into a deep sleep. He awoke 20 years later, not realizing that he had slept more than a night.

There were signs something strange had occurred. His beard was a foot long, his dog was gone, and his rifle was covered in rust. When he entered his village he didn’t recognize it. There were buildings he didn’t remember. His clothes looked old-fashioned. Children made fun of him. Rip proclaimed himself a loyal subject of King George III not realizing that while he had been asleep the War of Independence had occurred and America was now its own country. He was out of place and he didn’t know why.

Many Christians today are having a similar experience. They may not have been physically asleep for 20 years, but they have maybe been cocooned in a little Christian bubble of Sunday church, Christian conferences, Christian books, and Christian music. They’ve been insulated against and disconnected from secular society. Now they’re waking to the fact that the world has changed and things can’t go on as they have before.

Believers used to be thought as somewhat odd but basically decent folk. Now we are increasingly regarded as a harmful influence in society. We’re now “the bad guys.”[1] Things like freedom of religion and freedom of speech were once regarded as absolute rights. Now they’re being challenged. You can lose your job for expressing certain ideas, especially biblical ideas concerning things like gender and marriage. Society is dramatically different—possibly in unprecedented ways. And it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.


As an example of how much things have changed, Carl Trueman begins his landmark book on this subject by asking how the statement “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” has somehow become cogent and meaningful in today’s society.[2] Our grandfathers would have heard such a statement with blank incredulity. But now it’s supposed to be taken very seriously indeed. What has happened?

Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is the most thorough and helpful introduction so far to our current situation. However, it’s more than 400 pages of intensive thought and tightly argued argumentation. Many busy pastors simply will not have time.

So I want to give my own brief biblical introduction and attempt to sketch an overview of Trueman’s work. My purpose is to get us thinking and hopefully for pastors to be able to give accessible teaching on the situation to God’s people. After all, this isn’t simply a piece of fascinating contemporary history; it’s something which may well cause faithful Christians to lose their friends and maybe their livelihoods.


Many cultural norms concerning sex and acceptable sexual behaviour have been swept away. In particular, the Christian view of gender and marriage is being rejected as oppressive and damaging (Genesis 1:27; Matthew 19:4–5).

How did we get here? First, we need to get a grip on this from Scripture. This seismic shift hasn’t come out of nowhere, neither does it take the God of the Bible by surprise.

What Happens When God Is Rejected?

For the last hundred years or more, secular thinkers have argued that God either doesn’t exist or at least is an irrelevance to daily life. He could be dispensed with and very little would change. But the Bible says otherwise. To turn away from God affects a society at the deepest possible level. We should understand that this is the root of the titanic changes we are witnessing.

I’ll cover two key New Testament passages.

First, Paul’s words to the church at Ephesus:

They (those without God) are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. (Ephesians 4:18–19)

These verses spell out the trajectory toward hedonism for those who live without God. “Having lost all sensitivity” to God and to spiritual things, they fill the void left in their hearts with sensuality. They “give themselves over” to physical pleasures. Paul indicates that this heads in the direction of illicit sex, which will tend to extremes. This is where we are.

Consider also Paul’s words to the church at Rome:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being clearly seen from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. …

God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. …

He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:18–32)

Note the parallels between the passages. Paul speaks of those who have “given themselves over” to sensuality, but we also read that “God gave them over” to their sinful desires and appetites as an expression of his wrath for their denial of him. When God is denied society does not stay the same. It tends to become sexualized, and aggressively so.

This is our society, our current culture. In some ways, Trueman’s book simply traces in modern history the trajectory indicated by these texts. The Western world used to be thought of as “Christendom,” but it has now become dominated by sex and sexual politics. Of course, there have always been libertines. But now their ideas command the culture. For centuries, a Christian morality and view of family has been a fundamental building block of Western society. But now that’s being overthrown.

So, in this booklet we will try to summarize Trueman’s work as to how this has happened and is happening and note some of his conclusions.


Before we get into the argument, there are some preliminary ideas which Trueman has borrowed from other modern thinkers and to which he refers.

Mimesis and Poiesis

Here’s how Trueman defines these terms:

Put simply, these terms refer to two different ways of thinking about the world. A mimetic view regards the world as having a given order and meaning and thus sees human beings as required to discover that meaning and conform themselves to it. Poiesis, by way of contrast, sees the world as so much raw material out of which meaning and purpose can be created by the individual.’[3]

Suppressing the truth of the Creator God and opting for no God at all invites us to Poiesis. We make of the world what we want with no one to tell us what to do. As Christians with an understanding of sin and the built-in rebelliousness of fallen human nature, we can see why people would naturally prefer Poiesis to Mimesis.

Three Types of Worlds

The American sociologist Phillip Reiff has a related idea. He spoke in terms of three types of worlds.

“First worlds” are pagan, with moral codes based on myths generally accepted by the society. “Second worlds” are those based on a faith in their God. Both first and second worlds, therefore, have a moral outlook founded in something transcendent, outside of people. This provides a source of stability for those societies.

By way of stark contrast, “third worlds” do not root their moral imperatives in anything sacred. There’s nothing and no one above themselves. They justify themselves and their actions on the basis of themselves. Rejecting God moves us into what Reiff would call a third world.

In fact, Reiff labels this kind of third world an “anti-culture” because it sees the civilization and moral frameworks of first and second worlds as oppressive and restrictive of personal freedom. A third world deliberately attempts to destabilize and destroy first- and second-world cultural norms through what Reiff calls “deathworks.” These are things which cynically make the old values look impotent and ridiculous. This is a primary aspect, for example, of pornography. Not only does it promote lust and treat people as mere “things,” but it also repudiates any notion that sex has any significance beyond the pleasure of the act itself. God and those who want to restrict such pleasure are nothing more than prudish kill-joys.

In Reiffian terms, we now live in a third world, or at least on the brink of it.


Dispensing with God has reshaped how people now think of themselves and of others. Trueman writes:

The underlying argument is that the sexual revolution, and its various manifestations in modern society, cannot be treated in isolation but rather must 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.[4]

Trajectory of the Self

Trueman employs a few labels in order to summarize the historical pathway of the self. The “psychological self” was followed by the “romantic self.” This was succeeded by the “plastic (or malleable) self.” Next came the explicitly “sexual self,” which has now, under the arguments of the New Left, become the “sexually politicized self.” That’s my paraphrase of his argument. I’ll explain each below.

All these are quite different from what we might propose as a biblical view of self, made in the image of God, fallen but redeemed. The Christian view of the self is an outward-looking self. We look to God and to Christ for our meaning and identity. But the modern self has turned inward.

The Psychological Self

Our first stop en route as we come away from Reformation thinking into the period of the Enlightenment of the 18thcentury is with Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778). For Rousseau, people are intrinsically good until they are corrupted by the forces of society. According to Rousseau, an individual’s real identity is found in his or her inner psychological autobiography.[5] Rousseau wrote of his Confessions: “It is the history of my soul that I promised, and to relate it faithfully I require no other memorandum; all I need do, as I have done up until now, is to look inside myself.”

Along with this went an emphasis on self-love,[6] empathy, and sympathy as the main informers of conscience and the tension between the individual and corrupt society. Trueman comments, “In Rousseau, we can see emerging the basic outlines of modern expressive individualism.”

The Romantic Self

Poets of the late 18th and early 19th centuries—Wordsworth, Blake, and Shelley—take the ideas of Rousseau from the intellectual elite and popularize them into mainstream culture. Rousseau’s idea of society corrupting and brutalizing the innocent individual seemed commonplace in the days of the Industrial Revolution. The solution was to turn both inward and back to an idealized, rural existence.

Trueman states, “Both Wordsworth and Shelley articulate views of poetry that press a clear connection between poetic aesthetics and ethics.” True morality for these romantics was about what felt right and looked right. Once you look away from external frames of reference, all “moral” judgments tend to become nothing but expressions of personal preference or feeling. We enter a “therapy culture.” This has major implications for sexual ethics. Authenticity as a human being is about being unashamed of one’s own desires and acting on them.[7] Obviously, such thinking provides undergirding for much of what’s going on today.

The Plastic Self

Plastic man is not simply psychological. He is, in Trueman’s words, “a man who thinks he can make and remake a personal identity at will.”[8]

The foundations for such thinking were laid by the philosophers Frederich Nietzsche (1844–1900) and Karl Marx (1818–1883), and by the scientist Charles Darwin (1809–1882). Nietzsche is famous for his grim atheism which saw life as a power struggle and invites us to rise above human nature and become Ubermench (overman). Marx saw industrial production and capitalism as not only changing society but reshaping people themselves and how they related to one another. Human nature is therefore plastic or malleable. Human nature is not merely a product of the times. It’s not fixed.

Darwin’s account of human origins reinforced this. People must accept that they are mere accidents of evolution and therefore not made in order to fulfill any kind of destiny. He blurred the lines between the human and the animal and removed any idea of humanity having special status. We are ever-evolving. We are plastic.

The Sexual Self

Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), the father of psychoanalysis, is a key figure in this story. He equated happiness with “genital pleasure.” This is the point at which personal identity became equated with sex and sexuality. Now that idea dominates the Western world—so people are categorized according to their sexual desires: gay, bi, straight, etc. For many, this is the most prominent truth about who they are.

If for Rousseau the natural man was innocent, for Freud the subconscious of human beings is dark, violent, and irrational. The job of the psychoanalyst was to excavate the unseen forces that live within us and bring them to the surface of consciousness. It’s interesting that the inspiration for psychoanalysis was classical mythology (the Oedipus complex, etc.)[9]. In his book Selfie, Will Storr cites an expert as saying “without the myths of ancient Greece … there would be no psychoanalysis.”[10]

Freud places the sex drive at the very core of what it is to be human.[11] Before Freud, sex was for procreation and pleasure (Proverbs 5:19). Now it’s who we really are. The happiest person is the one who is able to constantly indulge his or her sexual desires. However, this plays into the hands of powerful individuals, so we need civilization to curb this. So from a Freudian perspective, according to Trueman, “it means that it is impossible for the civilized to be truly happy.”[12]

The Sexually Politicized Self

Freud’s ideas were later used to change the classic understanding of oppression. This is another crucial move in the story.

Because identity is about our inner self, especially our sexual desires, then victimhood becomes psychologized. The idea that oppression is about poverty or physical mistreatment is eclipsed. It is, in this case, those who feel are unable to express their sexual desires, or whose sexual desires are deemed unacceptable by society, who are the oppressed. Oppression is about emotions.

Sex is no longer a private activity because it relates to our social identity. To outlaw or merely tolerate gay sex, for example, is to outlaw or merely tolerate a certain identity. It hits at the very heart of who a person believes themselves to be.

Many university humanities departments have adopted so-called “Critical Theory.”[13] As a result, they have latched on to this new understanding of victimhood and oppression. The New Left interprets traditional sexual codes as a malicious strategy for maintaining the status quo in society. Western ideals must therefore be overthrown. According to this understanding, the family is the authoritarian state in miniature. And so dismantling the family is now thought by some to be essential for political liberation.

Sexual revolution is the way to achieve this. And this agenda is pushed even further by the philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979). Values such as tolerance are a sham, and simply a way of pacifying people to accept patriarchal, capitalist power structures. The fight must be against educational institutions that teach tolerance.

Identity and Community

Desire for inner happiness and psychological well-being lie at the heart of the modern era. As we’ve seen, it’s now accepted that the way you see yourself, your inner image, is the true you. This even takes precedence over one’s body,[14]which opens up the possibility of a difference between your biological sex and your gender. Who you think you are is your real identity, regardless of whether you have XX or XY chromosomes. Hence the statement, “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.” It now “makes sense.”

However, for one’s identity to flourish, it must be acknowledged by others. The technical term is that identity is dialogical; in other words, it relies on language which is only developed through interaction with others.

Because we are relational beings, we need the acceptance of others in order to be comfortable with ourselves. This means that society must serve the purpose of meeting individuals’ psychological needs. This then creates therapy culture in which all institutions and communities (including the church) must adapt to reflect a therapeutic and inclusive mentality.

Trueman reflects on this:

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 the members of the LGBTQ+ community, the recognition that they need in order to feel that they are equal members of society.[15]

This explains why the faithful church is unlikely to be simply ignored. The Bible draws lines where current secular ideology wants no lines. As with so many other things in which we all fail, same-sex attraction and the confusion of gender does not fit with God’s good creation. Therefore, in the long run, it will not cause individuals or society to flourish.


Sex and sexuality now dominate the Western world.

In his book, Trueman highlights ultimately three “triumphs”: how the erotic is pervasive in modern life, how especially crucial legal decisions are now made on the basis of emotivism and aesthetics, and how transgenderism has made headway in society.


From TV soap operas to teenaged pop music, our culture is now saturated with sexual themes.

The prevalence of pornography is especially noteworthy. Of course, technology has played a part. If freedom and happiness are encapsulated in sexual satisfaction, then online pornography becomes the obvious, the easiest, and the most private (it seems) medium of liberation and fulfillment. Pornography epitomizes the sexual revolution because it presents sex as merely recreational—a physical, pleasurable act that is divorced from any greater relational significance or transcendence. It detaches sex from any ethical context.[16]

And attitudes have changed. Pornography is no longer seen as an example of male dominance and violence against women. There’s even talk of “ethically sourced” pornography, where women are not coerced to participate and the “rights of performers” are respected. Trueman writes,

The philosophical claim I am making here is that the normalization of pornography in mainstream culture is deeply connected to the mainstream culture’s rejection of sacred order. Pornography carries with it a philosophy of sex and of what it means to be human that is inimical to traditional religious perspectives, in the West’s case primarily Christianity. It is therefore both symptomatic and constitutive of the de-created, desacralized world that emerges in modern times, with roots in Rousseau and Romanticism, and given sharp expression in philosophical and scientific idioms by Marx, Nietzsche, Darwin, Freud and the New Left. The triumph of pornography is both evidence of the death of God and one of the means by which he is killed.[17]

In other words, pornography is a “deathwork.” Some sociological research shows there’s a clear link between pornography use and the rejection of traditional religious belief particularly among teenagers.

The Therapeutic

Earlier in his opus, Trueman referred to the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and his book After Virtue which argues that modern moral theories are incapable of explaining the rational authority of moral norms. Into this void left by the failure of modern ethical theory has stepped what MacIntyre called “emotivism,” in which all evaluative and moral judgments are “nothing but expressions of preference of attitude or feeling.” This is similar to the Romantic poets. Trueman again: “Essentially emotivism presents preferences as if they were truth claims.”[18] This is therapy culture in the courtroom. As we saw earlier, society’s institutions must adapt to promote the psychological well-being of the individual. This has now entered the realm of the judiciary.

Commenting of the case of Obergefell v. Hodges—the case in which the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage—Trueman says that the ethical logic used was mere emotivism consonant with the attitudes of sexualized therapeutic culture. He writes concerning the judgment:

It is emotivism. Those parts of tradition that support contemporary tastes are proof positive of the correctness of the opinion; those that are not useful in supporting the desired conclusion or that stand in opposition to contemporary tastes can be dismissed as outmoded or motivated by bigotry or simply ignored. And the court can safely do this because it is speaking to a society at large that thinks precisely the same way. The ruling and its supporting arguments are absolutely connected to, and dependent on, the changes in thinking about selfhood, human nature, sexuality, and the nature of oppression and liberty that we have traced … earlier.[19]


Identity is now seen in terms of a self which is psychologized, sexual, and able to create and recreate itself. This paves the way for the idea of a person who sees themselves as being of one gender being trapped inside a body of another gender, or no longer wishing to be categorized as either male or female. Such ideas are coherent in a society which places a decisive priority on the psychological over the physical.

The LGBTQ+ coalition stands together against the traditional sexual norms of society. Transgender people make common cause with lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people because they perceive heterosexual normativity as the common enemy. However, the coalition doesn’t easily fit together. There are contradictions. Both gay men and lesbians speak of themselves as men and women who are same-sex attracted. But that presupposes fixed genders. Those who argue for transgender and beyond don’t accept the idea of fixed genders. They see gender as a fluid concept.

The status of transwomen (men who have become women) is a cause of acrimonious dispute among older feminists who campaigned for women’s rights. The classic feminists feel that the whole status of being a woman is undermined and depoliticized by transgenderism. Many feel that you cannot dissociate the female from female history and from the experience of what it is to grow up as a female physically. But, as Trueman notes, “being a woman is now something that can be produced by a technique—literally prescribed by a doctor.”[20]

Transgenderism seems to repudiate the significance of the body for selfhood and this means a repudiation of parents—the ones who conceived, gave birth to, and raised the little girl or boy. Trueman quotes Germaine Greer: “Whatever else it is, gender reassignment is an exorcism of the mother.”[21]


As we come to terms with this description of the sexual revolution and the world in which we now live, we ought to recognize that not everything going on is bad. There are two things in particular which Christians would do well to notice.

The first is dignity. Trueman writes, “With Rousseau’s emphasis on the individual and the state of nature as the ideal, the shift to individual intrinsic dignity is clear. And that is something with which the Christian should sympathize. We are not supposed to regard the life of a poor person as of any less value than that of a wealthy or important public figure.”[22]Unfortunately, this reclaimed dignity is detached from any sacred order. It’s not rooted in all people being made in God’s image (James 3:9).

The second is authenticity. Though Trueman doesn’t say this, the concern of the sexual revolution for people to be outwardly what they are inwardly does find a positive echo in the New Testament—not in a sinful way but in a godly way. A great theme of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is authenticity, the conviction that religious acts must come from the heart (Matthew 5:27–28; 6:1).

But generally speaking, Christians need to be extremely wary and discerning.

Engaging with LGBTQ+ Issues

Christians need to beware of simply taking on the world’s way of thinking about these issues. Is the church meant to look “plausible” to the world in its teaching about sexual ethics? Surely not. Our job is to love all people and remain faithful.

We can easily slip into using the categories of the world which are misleading. In doing so, we lose clarity on key issues. The idea that our true identity is sexual is wrong. The Genesis account tells us that sex is a function of who we are, not who we are (Genesis 1:27–28). Adam was a true human being before he ever had sex with Eve.

If the world’s categories rest on a basic category mistake—that sexual desire is identity—then the Christian shouldn’t simply allow themself to be defined within this LGBTQ+ framework. To concede the categories can concede the argument. 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.”[23]

Sexual Morality

The sexual revolution has been built on the idea that sex is meant to simply be recreational fun. Unfortunately, the consequences of “free love” have been largely avoided through abortion and medicine. But deep difficulties have begun to emerge.

First, the “free love” approach, as Freud foresaw, favors the powerful. The #MeToo movement has rightly exposed this. The world recognizes the horror of these things.

Second, under the sexual revolution, sex is meant to be fine between “consenting adults.” But as many court cases have found, defining consent is very difficult. What one partner took to be consent was not meant as such by the other partner. Even on its own terms, this cries out for setting sex within a moral framework. But of course, this is the last thing the sexual revolution wants to do.

Gay Marriage

In After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays, neuropsychologist Marshall Kirk and advertising executive Hunter Madse advised the gay community that if it wanted to gain acceptance it needed to project a more cute and cuddly image of itself. Gay marriage has now arrived and has all the therapeutic rhetoric and images on its side. It seems as if it’s here to stay, so faithful Christians will need to think through how to cope and address this fact.

It may be that its weakness will be the way that marriage has had to be redefined in order to make room for it. Perhaps the door has been opened by the legislation to other forms of “marriage” which will not prove so appealing to the Western public. For example, does it make polygamous arrangements possible, which may well lead to the misuse and abuse of women?

When we mix same-sex marriage with transgenderism, more problems arise. Trueman tells the story of a lesbian marriage in which one of the women became a man. The partner was left in total confusion. She didn’t know who she was. Was she a “straight” wife married to a man? But if she was a lesbian, then why was she married to a man?

Religious Freedom

In paragraph 18 of its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations guarantees freedom of religion and freedom to change religion. But the expressive individualism of the sexual revolution is putting pressure on religious freedom.

The general decline in religious commitment in the West, and especially the loss of younger people, means that society doesn’t care very much about religious freedom. Religious people and Christians are vulnerable to having their freedoms curtailed and perhaps even eventually removed. In the West, it’s presently thought that sexual desire is the key to personal identity and therefore the dignity of every individual. This trumps religious freedom, which means that society sees the church as something it would probably be better off without.


How should churches respond? Some conservative evangelicals have simply continued their same old path hoping that the things we’ve discussed will simply go away or pass them by. That’s unlikely. Other churches have compromised on the Bible’s clear teaching on sexual ethics or at least tried to create some “wiggle room.”

Every pastor needs to open his Bible with humility. He needs to pray for wisdom about how to lead the church at this time. Here are three suggestions.

Biblical Identity

Surely one of the first things that conservative evangelical churches ought to be doing is clearly teaching human identity. Among other things, this will include teaching on the image of God, what it means to be fallen, and what it means to be redeemed. We need to teach a biblical understanding of the physical body, which will be just as important as a biblical understanding of work, art, sexuality, ethnicity, justice, etc.

Explicitly, when a young man comes to his pastor and says, “I think I’m gay” or a girl privately confesses to her mother, “I think I might be a lesbian” the first response needs to be something like lovingly saying, “But you are so much more than your current sexual temptations.” The contemporary world narrows people down to their hormones. But human beings are gloriously so much bigger than mere sex machines. The whole history of mankind’s achievements in science, art, and humanitarianism shouts this from the rooftops. We are “God’s offspring” (Acts 17:28). So pastor, our sermons must help people break away from the ugly solitary confinement of trivialized sensual humanity. Humanity is being trashed, and we are called to rescue it.

Right and Wrong

When people are “lovers of themselves,” then what’s good tends to be seen as what “feels good,” and what’s bad is simply what makes us “feel bad.” The church easily gets sucked into this way of thinking because making people immediately feel better seems so loving.

But even common sense tells us that this is too simplistic. Chemotherapy doesn’t make a sufferer feel good, but terribly bad, at least to begin. In spiritual terms, conviction of sin isn’t a nice feeling, but it does lead us to see our need of Christ and his cross (Acts 2:37). Trueman writes:

The church should reflect long and hard on the connection between aesthetics and her core beliefs and practices. I noted above that one of the hallmarks of ethical discussion today is its dependence on personal narratives. … Personal narratives (are) presented as incontrovertible precisely because they are personal testimonies—the highest form of authority in an age of expressive individualism. And this aesthetic concern reflects the perennial power of sympathy and empathy in shaping morality. … The church needs to respond to this aesthetic-based logic, but first of all she needs to be consciously aware of it. And that means that she herself must forgo indulging in, and thereby legitimating, the kind of aesthetic strategy in the wider culture. The debate on LGBTQ+ issues within the church must be decided on the basis of moral principles, not the attractiveness and appeal of the narratives involved. … That is not to say that pastoral strategies aimed at individuals should not be compassionate, but what is and what is not compassionate must always rest on deeper, transcendent principles.[24]

Put simply, churches need to come back to the Bible. Christianity must be properly doctrinal and dogmatic.

Church as Family

Human selfhood depends on community. Our identity is at least partially constructed by our social interactions.

This means that if churches want to help people find and maintain their true identity, then they must be communities that mirror and build the image of God in people. A church shouldn’t be cultish. It should be a home for true humanity. It should be a family.  And there should be a deep humility, recognizing that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future, under Christ’s kingship.

Churches that have chosen to operate as corporations or educational institutions really miss the point. The phrase “brothers and sisters” really means something. As the world misleads people about their true identity, the church will become increasingly crucial.

[1] See Being the Bad Guys, by Stephen MacAlpine, Good Book Company, 2021

[2] The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to the Sexual Revolution,  by Carl Trueman, Crossway, 2020, page 19.

[3] Trueman, 39.

[4] Trueman, 35

[5] Trueman, 129

[6] Compare 2 Timothy 3:2

[7] Contrast Matthew 5:27–30 and Romans 8:13.

[8] Trueman, 164

[9] 2 Timothy 4:4

[10] Storr, 113

[11] It should be noted that if sex is at the center of what it is to be human then children have to be sexualized. This is where the agenda for sex education to be pushed earlier and earlier comes from.

[12] Trueman, 219

[13] Trueman summarizes the basic tenets of Critical Theory as follows: 1. The power can be divided between those who have power and those who do not; 2. The dominant Western narrative is really an ideological construct to preserve its own power structure; 3. The goal of Critical Theory is therefore to destabilize this power structure by destabilizing its dominant narratives that are used to justify it.

[14] This means that theologically the modern outlook can be classed as a form of Gnosticism.

[15] Trueman, 69

[16] This is the impression given, even though pornography is often related to depression, suicide, and sex-trafficking.

[17] Trueman, 297

[18] Trueman page 85

[19] Trueman page 315

[20] Truemna page 360

[21] Trueman page 375

[22] Trueman, 387

[23] Trueman, 393

[24] Trueman, 402-403

John Benton

John Benton is the Director for Pastoral Support for the Pastors’ Academy at London Seminary.

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