Published on July 26, 2021 by Eugene Ho

Crossway, 2020 | 432 pages

A Book Review from Books At a Glance

by Scott Cook


The Rise of the Modern Self: Cultural Analysis, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution is Carl Trueman’s latest book. Born out of a year-long fellowship with the James Madison Program at Princeton University, Trueman’s work is an outstanding contribution to the Christian community in the West. Bruce Riley Ashford accurately captures the quality of Trueman’s scholarship when he wrote that The Rise of the Modern Self is the “most significant analysis and evaluation of Western culture written by a Protestant during the past fifty years.” The Rise of the Modern Self is necessary reading for seminary students, pastors, and academics. While the work assumes significant cultural and philosophical expertise, any Christian who wishes to engage with the current moment in Western society will benefit from Trueman’s book.

Trueman’s characteristic wit and incisive cultural analysis permeate every aspect of the book. His main aim is to explain how and why “a particular statement has come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful: ‘I am a woman trapped in a man’s body’” (19). Trueman tells us his grandfather would have laughed at this statement. It would have been completely incoherent in his eyes. Fast-forward to 2020, some twenty-six years after Trueman’s grandfather died, and now the average person on the street will consider “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” to be no laughing matter. The general attitude towards a woman claiming to be trapped in a man’s body shows how much Western culture has changed. Trueman’s book explains the origin and development of these changes.

The core conviction of The Rise of the Modern Self is that Western culture has undergone cataclysmic changes due to an evolving understanding of human selfhood. “At the heart of this book,” Trueman explains, “lies a basic conviction: the so-called sexual revolution of the last sixty years, culminating in its latest triumph—the normalization of transgenderism—cannot be properly understood until it is set within the context of a much broader transformation in how society understands the nature of human selfhood” (20).

The “sexual revolution” is not merely the prevalence of pornography or homosexuality, according to Trueman. These deviant sexual behaviors have been a part of Western Culture from the beginning. Rather, the defining mark of the sexual revolution is removing the stigma attached to these behaviors (21-22). In fact, behaviors like homosexuality have been so normalized by the sexual revolution that criticism of homosexuality is now labeled as “homophobia.” As striking as the changes brought about by the sexual revolution may be, Trueman argues that these changes are symptomatic of a more fundamental change in how society views the human person. “For me to be a self,” Trueman writes, “in the sense I am using the term in this book involves an understanding of what the purpose of my life is, of what constitutes the good life, of how I understand myself—my self—in relation to others and to the world around me” (22). For Trueman, the sexual revolution of the 1960s is merely the outworking of much older societal impulses. Trueman makes his case with remarkable clarity and insight.

The Rise of the Modern Self breaks down into four parts. In Part I, entitled “Architecture of the Revolution,” Trueman works with the basic categories for analyzing the evolution of human selfhood. His analysis is not constructed out of whole cloth. Trueman builds on several eminent sociologists and philosophers; Trueman draws, in particular, from Phillip Rieff, Charles Taylor, and Alasdair MacIntyre. Part II, entitled “Foundations of the Revolution,” analyzes key thinkers who have shaped the Western notion of selfhood, with a special focus on Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin. Part III handles the “Sexual Revolution” proper, dealing with Sigmund Freud and the New Left. Part IV shows the “Triumphs of the Revolution” in Western society through the cultural triumph of the erotic, the therapeutic, and the transgender movement.


Part I: The Architecture of the Revolution

Trueman gives architectural principles for understanding the changes in Western Culture. Drawing from the Canadian Philosopher Charles Taylor, Trueman argues that there has been a change in the social imaginary. The social imaginary is not merely a set of beliefs about the world held by a particular culture. Beliefs are part of the social imaginary, but social imaginary is much broader than a set of beliefs. “In sum, the social imaginary,” Trueman writes, “is the way people think about the world, how they imagine it to be, how they act intuitively in relation to it” (37).

To correlate Trueman’s use of Taylor to a conventional Evangelical analytic tool, Trueman is not arguing that there has been a change merely in worldview in Western Culture. The social imaginary is much broader and, more importantly, is more intuitive than typical worldview analysis. Cultures do not produce their social imaginary merely by self-consciously reflecting on a priori philosophical positions. Nor is the social imaginary merely the byproduct of cultural elites. Rather, the social imaginary is produced by self-conscious and intuitive, elite and popular factors in a given society.

Trueman also draws the concepts of mimesis and poiesis from Taylor. A mimetic attitude is one where the world is seen as a fixed order to which human beings must conform. A poiesic attitude, by contrast, is an attitude that treats the world as a fluid order where human beings may shape the world according to their liking. Taylor argues that the Western social imaginary has been recast as culture has moved from the older mimetic attitude to a poiesic one. Aided in part by technological and medical advances, Western people now believe they manipulate the whole world through science and technology. Hence, the older view that one is born with a specific gender that dictates your sense of self is now passe. Gender is up for grabs as the social imaginary has changed into a poiesic mode.

The change in the West’s social imaginary to a poiesic attitude is not sufficient to explain the advent of the transgender revolution. Trueman also combines the work of Phillip Rieff with Taylor to argue that the rise of the psychological conception of human selfhood has fundamentally altered Western society. Rieff argues that there are four distinct phases to Western society: the ages of the political man, the religious man, the economic man, and finally, the psychological man. Trueman acknowledges that while this overall scheme is too simplistic, Rieff is spot-on in identifying the psychological turn in Western society. This psychological focus gives man an inward turn, which has this net effect of reversing the very nature of culture.

Before the advent of psychological man, culture pulled the individual outward and away from himself. After the advent of psychological man, culture is now pulled inward towards the inner life of the individual. Culture is about the individual; no longer is the individual about the culture. The psychological focus of the modern era dovetails with the advent of what Taylor calls expressive individualism. The modern person, according to Taylor, finds his meaning in being able to express his own thoughts and emotions.

The advent of the modern self brings about a total transformation of the purpose of culture. Culture exists to bring about the flourishing and self-manifestation of individuals. This is why modern culture is simultaneously libertarian towards sexual morals and yet authoritarian towards those who do not share the attitude of the culture about sex. “Satisfaction and meaning—authenticity—are now found by an inward turn, and the culture is reconfigured to this end.” Trueman continues, “[i]ndeed, it must now serve the purpose of meeting my psychological needs; I must not tailor my psychological needs to the nature of society, for that would create anxiety and make me inauthentic” (54).

This turn to the psychological focus for culture—what Rieff would call the analytic attitude—grows out of the human desire for community. It is not enough for the expressive individual, the psychological man, to be able to express his own thoughts and emotions. To be fully human, a self must have recognition and belong to a larger community. That is why, Trueman argues, that modern Western culture is turning hostile towards those who disagree with the sexual revolution. Culture must not only make it possible for an individual to express himself; culture must affirm the expression of individuals for the individual to feel fully authentic.

The turn in Western culture to a psychologically focused, expressive individualist conception of selfhood where society exists for the self-actualization of the individuals did not occur in a vacuum. There is a great deal of cultural history before the advent of psychological man. How does a culture built on expressive individualism relate to the past? The answer, according to Trueman, is that modern culture seeks to sever its relationship with the past. This desire to sever the relationship is funded by the West becoming a third-world society. The description “third-world” is not an economic term. Rather, “third-world” is a way of describing how a society grounds its morality.

First-world societies ground their morality in the Pagan myth. Second-world societies ground their morality in the Christian faith. While different in important ways, both first-world and second-world societies have transcendent principles that fund their sense of morality. Third-world societies, by contrast, have no such transcendent principles behind their morality. Instead, third-world societies base their morality on the world around them. Trueman borrows from Taylor again, arguing that third-world societies have an immanent frame. There is no transcendent reference point.

How should we describe the “morality” of a third-world society with an immanent frame? What we are seeing in Western culture now, Trueman argues, is a turn from traditional morality to emotivism. Borrowing the term from the work of MacIntyre, emotivism is a description of morality when moral judgments are interpreted as a mere expression of preference. In other words, emotivism is when a culture interprets moral claims as nothing more than the emotional responses of an individual to a state of affairs. The logical outcome of a third-world, immanent frame society is emotivism because there is nothing transcendent to give stability to moral claims.

A psychologically focused, expressive individualist, emotivist society represents a fundamental break from all previous iterations of Western culture. It is no surprise, therefore, that our current culture seeks to largely forget the past. But our culture is going a step further. Our culture is seeking to destroy the past. Third-world cultures, according to Rieff, tend to destroy previous cultures through various cultural media. Art, to take one example, is a way in which a third-world culture rejects history through the creation of death works. Death works are a self-conscious repudiation of the history and values previously held by a culture. Trueman points to the famous Piss Christ, where a crucifix is submerged in urine. Through these death works, the ahistorical tendency of third-world societies is manifested.

Part I is arguably the most important section in the book. Trueman does a masterful job giving his reader the analytical tools necessary to understand, articulate, and interact with Western Culture. Trueman offers two remarkable bits of help to his reading audience in the first part. First, he gives the reader different individual tools for cultural analysis. Most thoughtful Christians are not familiar with the works of Taylor, Rieff, and MacIntyre. Trueman takes the best insights from each of these thinkers and presents them to his reader in a most lucid manner. Second, Trueman does a great service to the reader by synthesizing the thought of Taylor, Rieff, and MacIntyre. It is helpful to be aware of some or all of these writers. But the real genius of Part I of The Rise of the Modern Self is that Trueman combines the insights of these thinkers, giving a synthesis of philosophical tools that are greater than its parts.


Part II: The Foundations of the Revolution

In Part II, Trueman gives his audience an account of how Western culture developed this new sense of self that funded the sexual revolution and culminated in the acceptance of transgenderism. If Part I gives the tools to discern where Western culture stands at this moment, Part II begins to explain how Western society has so fully capitulated to the sexual revolution. As Trueman explains, “psychological man and expressive individualism did not emerge in the twentieth century from a vacuum, nor were they self-caused. Like all historical phenomena, they have a genealogy, a story that stretches back in time and makes their emergence and their cultural dominance comprehensible” (106). Trueman works with three categories of the progenitors who, according to Trueman, paved the way for a new understanding of the self: Jean Jacques Rousseau; the poets Wordsworth, Shelley, and Blake; and the thinkers Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin.

The problem inherent in tracing the genealogy of psychological man and expressive individualism is finding a proper starting place. Trueman makes a well-justified decision to start with Jean Jacques Rousseau, “the Other Genevan,” as the fountainhead of the modern sense of selfhood. While many may not have read Rousseau—or even know his name—Trueman identifies him as a key figure for the modern transgender movement. Why is Rousseau so important for understanding Western Culture? First, because he represents a self-conscious turn to the self. One of Rousseau’s most important writings is his Confessions, modeled after St. Augustine’s work by the same title. In Confessions, Rousseau makes a sustained argument for the priority of the inward psychological life as the key to human identity. Second, Rousseau lays the foundation for the development of expressive individualism in arguing for the natural goodness of the individual and the corrupting power of society.

There are two basic types of human love, according to Rousseau, amor de soi-même (Trueman translates this as “self-love”) and amor propre. Self-love is the basic human desire for self-preservation and survival, a natural-born instinct in every person. But through contact with society, the individual develops amor propre, a love for rivalry and competition that, according to Rousseau, is the fount of every vice (117). These focuses in Rousseau make a compelling case for starting with him as the fountainhead of the expressive individualism so pervasive in Western society and the transgender movement. Trueman writes that it should be “clear that some such construction of freedom and selfhood as that offered by Rousseau is at work in the modern transgender movement. That it is the inner voice, freed from any and all external influences—even from chromosomes and the primary sexual characteristics of the physical body—that shapes identity for the transgender person is a position consistent with Rousseau’s idea that personal authenticity is rooted in the notion that nature, free from heteronomous cultural constraints, and selfhood, conceived of as inner psychological conviction, are the real guides to true identity” (125-126).

If Rousseau is such an important figure for the development of Western Culture, how then did his ideas become broadly circulated? The answer, according to Trueman, is found in the world of art, specifically in the realm of poetry. In a chapter titled “Unacknowledged Legislators,” Trueman explains that the Romantic movement is permeated with many of the ideas found in Rousseau. He focuses on three poets from the expressivist strand of Romanticism, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Blake.

While Trueman’s chapter on the poets demonstrates much in common with Rousseau, one does wonder whether this chapter should have been filled out with more examples. Trueman explains that this chapter demonstrates how Rousseau’s ideas permeated Western Society. Picking one artistic discipline (poetry) from one strand of Romanticism does show a clear continuity with the thought of Rousseau. However, one does wonder if this shows how Rousseau’s thought became more broadly influential in society. Perhaps the presence of Rousseau’s ideas in these three poets shows not how Rousseau’s ideas became popularized but merely that Rousseau’s ideas had already become prevalent by the nineteenth century. Moreover, Trueman’s case would be more compelling if he worked with a broader sampling of Romantics. Adding artists from other disciplines, such as painting or drama, along with representatives from Continental and American artists, would have made this chapter more compelling and useful for the purposes of the book.

The final section of Part II, “The Emergence of Plastic People,” details the 19th-century figure whose contributions helped undercut the idea of a well-defined human nature. Trueman makes an excellent choice in surveying the contributions of Nietzsche, Marx, and Darwin. Trueman argues that the convergence of these men and their thought helped produce psychological man. Psychological man is “plastic” in the sense that psychological man thinks he can “make and remake personal identity at will” (164). Nietzsche contributed to the rise of plastic men by advancing the metaphysical and moral implications of atheism. “God is dead,” Nietzsche’s mad character figure famously said.

The implications of atheism for Nietzsche were that there is now no set, objective meaning in a world where there is no God. Hence, we must abandon older views of morality, whether it is the traditional supernaturalism of Christianity or the Modern enlightenment religion of Kant. The implication of these moves is significant for the emergence of the new concept of human selfhood, Trueman argues. “At root, Nietzsche’s attacks on metaphysics, morality, Christianity, and Kant are really attacks on the concept of human nature” (173). In his work The Gay Science, Nietzsche works out the implications of his arguments, calling for man to see himself as a “blank slate,” rather than an individual example of human nature per se.

Marx also contributes to the development of plastic men by subverting the static conception of human nature, replacing it with a transient economic view of man. Marx’s main contribution to Trueman’s narrative of Western society is that Marx flips Hegel on his head. Whereas Hegel argued the dialectic of world history is driven by the ideas of consciousness, Marx inverts the dialect by arguing that history is driven by the material forces of economics. For Trueman, the significance of this move in understanding human identity cannot be overstated. Man’s self-identity is, according to Marx, based on transient economic factors. Man’s nature and sense of selfhood are, therefore, both plastic and relative rather than constant or fixed, and man’s sense of identity is tethered to the particular economic factors of the time in which he lives.

Building on the insights of Feuerbach, Marx argues that religion is an expression of man’s economic alienation. This inversion of Hegel has massive implications for the concept of morality. For Marx, morality is no more than “functions of materialist structure of society at any given point in time and serve the interests in maintaining that structure by justifying the form of life that suits the status quo” (185).

If Nietzsche provides the implication of Atheism and Marx provides a Materialist version of Hegel, then Darwin provides the destruction of teleology in the development of plastic men. Both Marx and Nietzsche appreciated the works of Darwin because of the antimetaphysical and the antireligious impulses of Darwin’s work. Darwin was not the first to advance a theory of biological evolution. Darwin’s uniqueness lay in his abolition of any concept of design in creation. The previous version of evolution had assumed the work of some divine creator or metaphysical principle at work in biology. Darwin, however, emancipated the evolutionary process of any teleology or end goal. Natural selection stood on its own as an explanation of the world we inhabit. Obviously, Darwin’s view of nature entails an antimetaphysical view of human nature, making Darwin another key contributor to the development of plastic men.

Trueman’s training as a historian comes out as he details the historical development of expressive individualism and the transformation of the West into a third-world. With the exception of the chapter on poetry, Trueman’s selection of thinkers who shaped and molded the view of the self in the West is prescient. And his ability to succinctly summarize their significant contributions is second to none.


Part III: Sexualization of the Revolution

Part III of The Rise of the Modern Self traces the interaction of the new conception of the self with modern psychology. Trueman shows how the new expressive individualist conception of the human person underwent sexualization through the influence of psychology. Then the sexualized self was politicized through the work of the Neo-Marxists associated with the Frankfurt school. The notion of humans being biologically fixed as either male or female was further broken down by radical feminists. These different movements formed the basis of the New Left, which would catapult these revolutionary views of the self into modern American life.

Sigmund Freud is, according to Trueman, foundational to understanding the sexualization of the modern self. The “scientific” contributions of Freud have been discredited and discarded by most psychologists. Freud’s theories once regnant are now passe; his work is studied as a great historical figure for psychology but very few attempt to use his theories in clinical practice. However, Trueman argues that Freud is fundamental to the sexualization of the human self. While Freud’s psychoanalytic theories are largely ignored, his sexualized view of human psychology has become axiomatic in Western culture. According to Trueman, Freud created a life-explaining myth that human happiness is identical to sexual pleasure. “Such a position is in itself radical,” Trueman explains. “In making this claim, Freud is asserting that true happiness is sexual satisfaction, and therefore the way to be happy is to engage in behavior that leads one to be sexually—that is, genitally—happy” (217).

For Freud, ethics is a matter of taste or preference, and religion is an infantile way of dealing with our fears. If ethics is preferential and religion is meaninglessly childish, what then is the foundation and purpose of civilization? Freud saw civilization as a mechanism to prevent chaos and domination by the strong. Civilization is a way to curb man’s uncontrollable sexual drive so that everyone can have a shot at happiness, not just the few who have the power to force their will on others. Civilization is, then, a sexualized version of the social contract. “The social contract of Rousseau is, in the hands of Freud, turned into a sexual contract, exchanging uninhibited sexual license for sexual restraint. And the result is civilization” (218). This trade-off comes with a price—no one will be able to be completely happy because sexuality is limited to some degree or another to prevent anarchy.

This sexualized view of society and the self becomes politicized through the work of the Neo-Marxists in the early to mid-twentieth century. Marxism underwent a crisis as the historical projections of Marxist theory were proven to be categorically false. The countries that Marx said were on the cusp of revolution (i.e., Great Britain) rejected Marxism. Meanwhile, other countries that Marx had said were far away from revolution (i.e., Russia) embraced communism. Moreover, the first world war did not break down national identity in favor of class consciousness. Quite the opposite occurred as all classes banded together to fight in the name of their country.

Marxists responded to the flaws in Marx’s thought by seeking new categories to explain the relationship between the bourgeois and the proletariat. The Neo-Marxists at the Frankfurt School in Germany created a new understanding of Marxism, one more focused on cultural categories. The Frankfurt school attempted, in Trueman’s phrasing, a “shotgun wedding” between Freud and Marx (230).  Frankfurt scholars, such as Eric Fromm, Max Horkheimer, and Wilhelm Reich, combine Freud with Marx so that sex now becomes revolutionized. Sexual morality and political consciousness are fused together in a new manner. Sexual mores are, according to the Frankfurt School, a means of the bourgeois enforcing their cultural dominance, in particular through the patriarchal concept of the nuclear family. Reich’s solution to the family as an obstacle to revolution was that the state must be able to intervene in family life.

Trueman notes that the most remarkable aspect of this shotgun wedding is that the concept of oppression is transformed. Whereas Marxist thought identified oppression with economic categories, Reich and the rest of the Frankfurt School introduce Freud into Marxism so that oppression is both sexualized and psychologized. The importance of this move should not be underestimated. Oppression is broadened so as to include psychological, subjective categories. This lays the foundation for why, in twenty-first-century Western Society, the government must repress anyone who does “harm” to someone. That is, the government must repress anyone who causes feelings of discomfort or emotional distress to someone else, especially if the stress is tied to sexual identity.

The work of the Reich, Horkheimer, and Fromm is taken into yet another new dimension with Theodore Adorno and Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse argued that the ruling class of society created surplus repression by using sexual mores to oppress the lower classes. Political liberation, then, is tied to and based upon sexual liberation. The political implications of Marcuse’s politicized and sexualized view of the self are massive. Trueman points to Marcuse’s 1965 essay Repressive Tolerance as an example of the political aspect of this new view of the self. Marcuse argued that Western liberal notions of “freedom of speech” were just another tool that the upper-class used to keep dominance over the lower classes. In order to break this dominance, Marcuse advocated for two solutions. First, educational institutions are essential to breaking the ideological stronghold of the bourgeois over the proletariat. Second, freedom may only be achieved through repressing free speech.

The work of the Neo-Marxists and the Frankfurt School was concomitant with other philosophical traditions that help to create the modern view of the self. Reich and Marcuse sexualized the self and revolutionized sex. Modern Feminism added an additional element to the new conception of the self: a breakdown of the traditional binary view of human beings as being either male or female. The radical feminists of the twentieth century transformed the idea of “feminine” from a biological to a psychological category. Simon de Beauvoir is, in Trueman’s reading, essential to this trajectory in feminism. De Beauvoir writes in her Lived Experience, “One is not born, but rather becomes, woman. No biological, psychic, or economic destiny defines the figure that the human female takes on in society; it is civilization as a whole that elaborates this intermediary product between the male and the eunuch that is called feminine” (256). De Beauvoir separates gender and sex.


Part IV Triumphs of the Revolution

The psychologization of the self was politicized and decoupled from the concept of sex or gender. These moves by psychologists, Marxists, and Feminists laid the foundation for the modern concept of the self so that the phrase “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” makes sense to Western hearers. How did this sexualized, politicized view of the self permeate American culture? Trueman answers this question in the fourth and final section of the book, Triumphs of the Revolution.

The new view of the self triumphed in American culture through the triumph of the erotic self. That is, American culture began to see the self as fundamentally sexual as Freud’s sexual understanding of human nature was mediated to the broader culture. The two chief instruments of mediation were Surrealism and the normalization of pornography. Those familiar with the history of art will at least recognize the name “surrealism,” associated with the strange works of Salvador Dali. Trueman shows that there was more to surrealism than a bizarre aesthetic. In fact, the bizarre aesthetic of surrealism was driven by an intense appreciation for the work of Sigmund Freud.

Surrealists like Dali took from Freud an appreciation for the interior life of man as being the expression of the true self. Surrealism sought to capture in art the world of dreams—the world where man is most uninhibited and true to himself. The Surrealist appreciation for the sexualized view of the man as promoted by Freud also led to their appreciation for the work of Marquis de Sade. In Sade, the Surrealist found a model for pure, uninhibited sexual liberation. This fueled the Surrealist goal of overthrowing Orthodox Christianity with its sexual morals. The intuition of the Surrealists is that Christianity must be overthrown through a sexual revolution.

Pornography furthers the new conception of the self through the normalization of pornography. Trueman notes that there has always been pornography in every culture. What is unique about the last forty years has been not the existence of pornography but the normalization of pornography. Hugh Hefner was a mainstream figure. His magazine featured interviews with A-list celebrities and politicians. His work gave pornography a social status that it had not previously enjoyed in Western culture.

Pornography’s objectification of women and the fact that it is based in fantasy, not the real world, is tied to the rise of an expressivist view of the self. Whereas monogamous heterosexual relationships situate sex in the context of a personal, moral relationship between a man and a woman, pornography breaks the bond between sex, relationship, and morality. Pornography de-personalizes the act of sex. Moreover, pornography allows for the fulfillment of purely internal sexual desires without concern for the effect those desires have on another person. In other words, pornography is the perfect vehicle for the modern view of the self as the emotive expressivist conception of the person is sexualized through the influence of Freud.

Trueman also shows how the expressivist conception of the self, being sexualized and politicized, brings a triumph of the therapeutic. Recent developments in law, ethics, and higher education show the new conception of the self leads to the primacy of the therapeutic. The emotive expressivist view of the self leads to human happiness and affirmation being central in ethics. From the issue of gay marriage before the supreme court to the ethics of Ivy League philosophy Peter Singer, the ultimate ethical principle is that no one should lack happiness and self-fulfillment. This therapeutic principle also drives the culture of college campuses. The development, in particular, of “snowflake culture” and draconian speech codes finds its origin in an emotional view of the self.

The final explanatory chapter of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self circles back to the statement that would so befuddle Trueman’s grandfather: “I am a man trapped in a woman’s body.” The triumph of the “T” in “LGBTQ” is perhaps the strangest development that flows from the modern view of the self. Trueman gives a helpful explanation for the genesis of the modern “LGBTQ” movement. While the various groups represented in this acronym are thought to be a unit in modern parlance, the groups themselves have competing interests that are often at odds with one another. Trueman shows that the “L” and the “G” did not go together in the early days of the gay rights movement. Shared enemies brought the gay and lesbian communities together. The AIDS epidemic combined with the culture wars that began under President Reagan joined these two communities together. In other words, the modern gay movement was formed for the purpose of shared political goals. The addition of the “T” to the cause of the “LGB” movement is a further instance of common enemies making strange bedfellows.


Conclusion: Tolle Lege

As this review has shown, any thoughtful observer of Western culture would benefit from reading The Rise of the Modern Self. Trueman’s work is a tour de force of intellectual history, showing how the rapid changes in the West are not as rapid as they might appear at first glance. Rather, the changes toward sex, sexual orientation, and gender are the byproducts of trends that are hundreds of years in the making. The Rise of the Modern Self will help its reader understand why there is so much diversity in our cultural moment. Everyone from seminary professors and pastors to laymen will benefit from reading The Rise of the Modern Self.


Scott Cook

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Crossway, 2020 | 432 pages

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