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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Comiskey

Context for the Chaos

‘The task of the Christian is not to whine about the moment in which he or she lives but to understand its problems and to respond appropriately to them.’

Carl R. Trueman

Why do we nod sympathetically at the woman who claims to be trapped in the wrong body? Why no wince at the man on TV or next door addressing his ‘husband’? Why does the US House of Representatives dare to vote on a ‘Gender Equality’ Bill this week that mandates dangerous, untested medical services for persons demanding them in vain attempts to destroy their biological sex?

Furthermore, why are persons who lovingly disagree with ‘transgender’ solutions and ‘gay marriage’ deemed stupid, immoral, phobic, and dangerous to others?

Carl Trueman knows why. And he makes the rather complex layers of thought over the last 500 years on which gender-bending ‘justice’ rests lucid in his recent book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (Crossways: 2020). A church historian and biblical scholar, Trueman is unsurpassed in making intellectual history plain for the non-intellectual—orthodox Christians like you and me who are far more modern in our thinking than we might think.

Parsing this book with our staff, Annette and I marveled at how enculterated we are, for example, our inclination to lend more credence to a person’s suffering and ‘right’ to resolve that pain any way he or she sees fit than to weigh how such choice damages the surrounding community.

Trueman writes (commentary, mine): ‘The intuitive moral structure of our modern social imaginary {how everyday people imagine society to be} prioritizes victimhood, sees selfhood in psychological terms {rather than divine purpose/design}, regards traditional moral codes as oppressive and life-denying, and places a premium on the individual’s right to define his or her existence. All these things play into legitimizing those groups that can define themselves in such terms. {The LGBTQ+ juggernaut, anyone?} They capture, one might say, the spirit of the age’ (p. 63).

Trueman doesn’t moralize; he explains. He sees clearly, for example, why sexual identity politics differ radically from racial equality but explains how the two have evolved into flip sides of the same coin. He helps us to understand how we got there. His task as an historian is to ‘explain an idea in context’ (p. 31) so that our often incredulous, ‘I can’t take this anymore’ response can become seasoned with wisdom and (I hope) measured, truthful compassion for persons who don’t think through the issues.

We are all heirs of the modern era; we have all contributed to concepts of ‘self’ and personal liberty that fuel the gender chaos at hand. Becoming aware is the first step in the right direction. We who claim an inspired vision of humanity need all the clarity we can get as to reach persons who wither without such a vision.


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