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Theologian Pushes Christians to Ask What It Means to be Human in a Growing Trans-Human World

Theologian Pushes Christians to Ask What It Means to be Human in a Growing Trans-Human World
Dr. Carl Trueman sees West at tipping point on sexual revolution

Carl R. Trueman is Professor of Biblical & Religious Studies at Grove City College, PA. He was recently the main presenter at the Anglican Diocese of the Living Word's (ACNA) annual diocesan conference in Souderton, PA. VOL interviewed Dr. Trueman on his views and the release of his magisterial new book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, where he investigates the impact of technology and social media platforms on our construction of self. He presents how these platforms promote the expression of the inner self, thus reinforcing the romantic notion of self-identity being rooted in personal experiences and feelings.

By David W. Virtue, DD
June 3, 2024

VOL: Thank you for giving me your time Dr. Trueman. In your book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, you employ 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." Are there any more self's to explore or have we come to an end.

TRUEMAN: I hesitate to say we have come to the end; perhaps the trans-human self is yet to come. Transgenderism as a function of the sexual revolution isn't necessarily about sexual desire, but is rather about the role of the body in human identity. The onset of technological innovation has led to a world which has "made the unimaginable imaginable." Transhumanism is the raw material; it is not something that respects the integrity of the body.

VOL: Have we reached the bottom of the selfist sexual swamp or are their greater depths the culture has yet to explore?

TRUEMAN: The question must be asked how we can continue down this path and remain a viable society severed from the sexual codes which have determined how we live and who we are. How can we have some kind of stable concept of the family. Sexual restraint and human relationship that are complementary and contractual. It is hard to see how society can survive.

VOL: For centuries, Christian morality and a view of family has been a fundamental building block of Western society. But now that's being overthrown. What, in your mind is going to replace the family now that it has been overthrown?

TRUEMAN: I am not sure. I am interested to see that those who are dismantling the family have a positive vision to put in its place.

VOL: Can the nuclear family be recovered? Do you see any signs of hope in the culture, or are we doomed?

TRUEMAN: There are certain signs of a reaction. There is a reaction by traditional wives to the present breakdown. They did not exist before the insidious cultural revolution. There is a dissatisfaction with what is going on. Something in the past was clearly working better than what we have. I have no idea what will replace the traditional family.

VOL: The 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, 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." How far does all this go before it closes in and people realize this is insanity.

TRUEMAN: I am relatively hopeful with this issue. I see limits popping up to fight the cultural zeitgeist. You cannot fight nature cost free indefinitely. In the UK and Europe, we see a scientific push back.

VOL: In your attempts to publicly "contend for the faith once and for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) associated with the ongoing theological/ecclesiastic squabbles in the churches, what are your current priorities? That is, what issues should a Bible-based evangelical leader in the public eye be most focused upon these days? In the main, where are the churches going wrong?

TRUEMAN: First of all people must be catechized to address these issues. Secondly, depending on local circumstance school boards must be opposed to bringing in transgenderism. Priorities must be for the weak and most vulnerable; these we must protect first.

More obviously, I think, in the transgender movement than in the gay and lesbian community, if I can make that distinction. But transgenderism very clearly prioritizes inward conviction over bodily reality. In fact, the bodily reality must give way to the internal psychological conviction. Robby George, a professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton, refers to this as a kind of Gnosticism, a denying of the authority of the physical, particularly the body. So I would agree, yes, specifically and most obviously with transgenderism.

VOL: I am reminded of the E.R. Charles quote: "If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, the loyalty of the soldier is proved; it is for the soldier to be steady on this particular battlefield. It is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one crucial point." Francis Schaeffer said much the same thing...about beating the air with our words. So my question is, according to your best discernment, where are the devil and the world at this moment focusing their attacks? What are those few "crucial points" where we absolutely must fight back?

TRUEMAN: Anthropology as seen in C.S. Lewis in his book The Abolition of Man. Abolition implies the notion of what it means to be human. Lewis identified the central problem of the modern age: The world was losing its sense of what it meant to be human. As man's technological achievements were once again being used to destroy human life on an industrial scale, Lewis pointed to the dehumanization that was occurring all around. And as the war continued, the Final Solution and the atomic bomb served to reinforce his claims. Yet modern warfare was not the only problem. As Lewis argued, the intellectual and cultural currents of modernity were also culpable. The war was as much a symptom of the problem as a cause. Modernity was abolishing man. It represented nothing less than a crisis of anthropology.

VOL: What Are You Focused on Now?

TRUEMAN: Anthropology. What I am concerned is to help Christians over what it means to be human and the doctrine of God and the way we are in our daily lives.

VOL: In a changing and evolving culture what do you like most about teaching?

TRUEMAN: I teach Civilization and the Biblical Revelation (HUMA 102) and Christianity and Civilization: Modern and Postmodern Challenges (HUMA 303). I particularly enjoy HUMA 303 because it allows me to encourage students to think historically about how many aspects of modern society -- the sexual revolution, identity politics, consumerism etc. -- are rooted in longstanding historical changes in the culture and thinking of the West.

I also teach The Rise of Ancient Christianity for the Department of History and electives on the doctrine of God, on 19th-century thought (particularly Marx, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Newman), the thoughts of Charles Taylor, and the history of creeds and confessions. I confess that these are a bit self-indulgent -- they reflect interests I have had for a long time, connected to the big questions of 'Why does today's church think and speak as she does?' and 'Where does modernity come from?' He holds a Ph.D. Church in History from the University of Aberdeen and an M.A. in Classics from the University of Cambridge.

VOL: Thank you, Dr. Trueman.


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