The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self by Carl Trueman–Book Review

How did our culture get to the place we’re at today?

Why do we need to demonize and insult those with whom we disagree?

How did sex and sexual identity become political issues?

Why is free speech being rejected on college campuses and institutes of higher learning?

What effect has technology had on our understanding of the world?

When did we lose respect for history?

What does it mean to be a human being?

In this fascinating and compelling read, Carl Truesdale confronts these and other questions that trouble many of us today.  He maintains that the current changes in world view were not brought about recent events such as the “free love” of the 60’s or the LGBTQ+ alliance today, but rather through a slow molding that has taken centuries to complete.  He examines strands from philosophy, psychology, science, literature and art that have led us to reimagine our identity and our culture.


According to Trueman, we are now living in a time when many people do not accept the view that the world has a sacred order and meaning which human beings strive to discover and conform to.  Instead  the world is seen as mere raw material to be used by the individual to create their own purpose.  Our age is one of the “Psychological Man.”  The greatest good is self-actualization of the individual, which comes about through finding  personal identity and pursuing it in a way that gives pleasure.  His conclusion is that the majority today:

“… (do) not root … their social orders, their moral imperatives in anything sacred.  They do have to justify themselves, but cannot do so on the basis of something sacred or transcendent.  Instead they have to do so on the basis of themselves.  The inherent instability of this approach should be obvious.”

This is a book to read slowly and carefully.  You will learn about the ideas of Rousseau, Wordsworth, Shelley, Blake, Nietzsche, Marx. Darwin, Freud and others.  You will study movements, ideas and disciplines including radical feminism, surrealism in art, communism, romantic poetry, pornography, politics, religious choice, animal rights, pop culture and the rise of transgenderism.  You might consider Trueman’s book a crash course in Western Civilization over the past 200 years.

Trueman’s conclusions?

We’re all part of and influenced by today’s secular age.  Not everything is bad;  for example, the emphasis on human dignity is to be applauded.  Trueman predicts that gay marriage is here to stay, but possibly not the current fascination with transgenderism.  Religious freedom is likely to be curtailed.

What can Christians do?

  • Reflect long and hard on the connection between aesthetic-based logic and the core beliefs of the church
  • Recover both natural law and a high view of the physical body
  • Be a community

He compares Christians today to the church in the second century.  At that time Christianity was a marginal sect in a dominant, pluralist society, viewed suspiciously.

“This is where we are today … a pluralist society has slowly but surely adopted beliefs, especially beliefs about sexuality and identity, that render Christianity immoral and inimical to the civic stability of society as now understood.”

VERDICT:  5 Stars, You will learn a lot, if you are willing to put in the time and read deeply.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

For reviews of other Crossway Publishing books see these posts:

Lead by Paul David Tripp–Book Review

An Introduction to John Owen by Crawford Gribben–Book Review

What If I Don’t Feel Like Going to Church by Gunner Gunderson –Book Review



Competing Spectacles by Tony Reinke–Book Review

“…. never satisfied are the eyes of man.”  Proverbs 27:20

Here’s how author Tony Reinke defines spectacle:

“…a moment of time, of varying length, in which collective gaze is fixed on some specific image, event or moment.  A spectacle is something that captures human attention, an instant when our eyes and brains focus and fixate on something projected at us.”

Humankind is always seeking a spectacle.  There were the gladiators of Rome, the Greek games, the Victorian theater, the shows of  military might in modern times.  In today’s world we have raised the spectacle to an art form, one that continually engages our attention by way of readily available technology.  We have turned politics, consumer goods, entertainment, tragedy and even ourselves into a constant stream of images that distract and distance us from what is taking place around us.  We have turned these “spectacles” into modern day idols that have taken the place of God.  For Christians, the true spectacle, the one we should focus our mind and attention upon, is the crucifixion of Christ.  This is not a spectacle we have seen, but a “spectacle of the ears.”  All of the other “competing spectacles” are vain attempts to fill the void within us caused by our hunger for God.

This book addresses so many topics, it’s impossible to cover in one review.  Topics range from Paul’s preaching of Christ crucified in Colossians, to the views of the Puritans on entertainment and theater, to avatars, gaming and our shrinking attention span.  Is the church a spectacle-maker?  To what extent is it okay for Christians to watch films and entertainment that depict sinful activity?  At what point has worship been reduced to entertainment?  Are we using our technology to create an alternate existence, one in which we have perfected the image of ourselves that we want others to see?

The questions are not easily answered.  Reinke says,

“This book is a theology of visual culture, …. It will not help you prioritize your TV options…..It will not help you watch pop films through a gospel lens….Nor will it help you untangle the narrative threads of a thoughtful film…. More intentionally (it) … is a companion for Christians walking through digital detoxes, the now necessary periods of our lives when we voluntarily unplug from pop media, news media, and social media in order to de-screen our eyes and reorder our priorities.”

If you read this book be prepared to think hard about the many spectacles that vie for your attention every day.

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  Good, but dense, and it got a bit repetitive.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

he Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR part 255,

For more about the effects of modern technology see these posts:

Modern Parents Vintage Values by Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan–Book Review

You Are What You Do by Daniel Im–Book Review

Kids Today



Joan’s Pet Peeve #2– Is Anybody Listening?

A quote from Pope Francis:

“Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.”

— Message for World Day of Social Communications, Jan. 22, 2016
Here’s my pet peeve for the day–technology can be great, but why can’t I speak with a real person anymore?
We’ve been having trouble getting our newspaper on time lately — now, I don’t mean it’s 30 minutes late, I mean it’s hours late.  Every morning I end up calling the circulation department of the newspaper to report that we don’t have our paper.  When this happened in the past, I would usually be connected with someone who could tell me what the problem was–whether it was temporary or ongoing, and what was being done to resolve it.  Now there is an automated attendant.  You simply punch in a number, depending on your problem, and hear the message “your complaint has been registered.”  I guess I had been calling so frequently that yesterday, the automated attendant told me I should probably to speak with someone and so I was being transferred, but guess what?  I got a voicemail!  I asked for a call back, which I never received.
I also called my doctor’s office with a question about renewing a prescription.  Once again, I was answered by prerecorded message telling me to make a selection.  Since my call was of a “non-urgent” nature, I would have to wait for a call back. (Thankfully in this case, I did actually hear back from someone and was able to have a real conversation  HOORAY!)
My point is this:  efficiency is fine, but often a problem can be solved, or an agreement reached, unless two people actually connect.  Leaving a message may allow someone to “hear” my concern, but it doesn’t mean actual communication has occurred.  In fact, (at least in my case), it often leaves me feeling angry and frustrated.  There are times when I would prefer to wait for a while in order to speak with someone.  That is the only way to properly explain my issue and get an answer.  Even when call backs are made promptly, they may be missed as I cannot put my day on hold to wait.  When this happens, we are caught up in a telephone-tag situation.
Sometimes I feel that people really don’t WANT to communicate with others anymore.  It’s much easier to have a canned response or shoot out a text or email. The task has then been dealt with.  What happened to listening?  What happened to understanding?  What happened to responding with some real emotion such as “I’m sorry” or “I see what you mean” or “I care about what you’re going through?”
That’s it.  My rant for the day.  My point is this — let’s start listening to one another..
“He who answers before listening–that is his folly and his shame.”  Proverbs 18:13

Be Still

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Yesterday I got out a DVD I’ve had for a long time called “Be Still.”  It’s about contemplative prayer and features some well-known Christian authors like Beth Moore, Max Lucado, Richard Foster and Dallas Willard.  A major point in the discussion was that even when we pray we often don’t listen to God because we’re so busy talking to Him. We’ll never know God’s will for our lives if we don’t allow some space for silence, waiting and listening for His voice.

Of course the society we live in doesn’t exactly encourage quietness and rest.  “Multi-tasking” seems to be regarded as a virtue (what happened to focus or concentration on an important job?).  We live with what the DVD called “weapons of mass distraction”–smart phones, computers, ipods, net flicks.  We often don’t pay attention to one another or our surroundings, much less God.  We’re too consumed with our technology, our ability to get the answer we want, or the contact we need instantly.

I’m no better than anyone else at this.  I’m not as technologically connected as some, but I grew up in a family where working hard was expected and the biggest sin was being “lazy” (in other words, doing nothing).  I tend to fill up my days with one chore after another.  Prayer becomes just one of those chores to rush through on my way to the next thing on my list. Keeping my mind from racing is even harder than stopping my body.  I can be quiet, but I can’t be still.

God, however, invites us to rest in His presence, to be attentive to His voice.  How do you do this, ladies and readers?  I want to hear your suggestions.