Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman. Crossway. 198 pages. 2022
In 2020, the author published The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution, a 434-page book, to wide acclaim. Trueman was encouraged by Ryan T. Anderson (who wrote the Foreword to this book) to write this condensed version of the original book, making it more accessible to a wider audience, but still a bit of a challenge to read. My wife and I read and discussed this important new book – using the helpful study questions at the end of each chapter – which we found to be excellent.
Trueman tells us that for many people, the Western world in which we now live has a profoundly confusing, and often disturbing, quality to it. Things once regarded as obvious and unassailable virtues have in recent years been subject to vigorous criticism and even in some cases come to be seen by many as more akin to vices. He welcomes us to this strange new world and states that we may not like it, but it is where we live, and therefore it is important that we try to understand it. To respond to our times, we must first understand our times. That is Trueman’s goal in this book.
Trueman offers much to take in and ponder in this book. In this brief review, I’ll try to share some of the main takeaways my wife and I had from the book, which we recommend that you read and discuss with others.
Trueman addresses the modern self early in the book. He writes:
“The modern self assumes the authority of inner feelings and sees authenticity as defined by the ability to give social expression to the same. The modern self also assumes that society at large will recognize and affirm this behavior. Such a self is defined by what is called expressive individualism.”
He adds that the modern self is one where authenticity is achieved by acting outwardly in accordance with one’s inward feelings. Continue reading →
Searching for Grace: A Weary Leader, a Wise Mentor, and Seven Healing Conversations for a Parched Soul by Scotty Smith and Russ Masterson. Tyndale Momentum. 256 pages. 2021 ****
Russ Masterson was a 35-year-old pastor who had just planted a church, and was attempting to keep his life under control. He was asking “How did I get here? and “How does this get better?” He attended a retreat and heard Scotty Smith speak, and Scotty’s words pierced his soul.
As his church grew, Russ’s questions and anxiety continued to grow as well. A year and a half after that retreat, Russ wrote Scotty and asked if he would mentor him, which Scotty agreed to. Russ tells us that Scotty came into his life at the intersection of head knowledge of the gospel and his anxious heart. As they met, Russ would take notes in his journal about what Scotty told him. During their monthly conversations, Russ would ask questions, and as Scotty and Russ talked, it was like time stood still. These were holy moments for Russ.
Russ wanted others to hear what he was hearing from Scotty so that they could live more peaceful lives. Learning how to live in the peace of God, through these seven conversations, is what this book is all about. Continue reading →
Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Crossway. 224 pages. 2016 ****
The authors write that at the heart the Reformation was a dispute about how we know God and how we can be right with him. Our eternal future was at stake, a choice between heaven and hell. For the Reformers there was no need more pressing than assurance in the face of divine judgment, and there was no act more loving than to proclaim a message of grace that granted eternal life to those who responded with faith. Though many will tell you that the Reformation doesn’t matter or even was a bad idea, the authors tell us otherwise. They state that the Reformation still matters because eternal life still matters. In addition, the Reformation still matters because the debates between Catholics and Protestants have not gone away.
The authors outline some key emphases of the Reformation and explore their contemporary relevance. Subjects covered by the authors include the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, sin, grace, the cross, union with Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, vocation, Purgatory, indulgences, justification, and the authority of scripture in comparison with the authority of the church and tradition. Continue reading →
Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller. Viking. 336 pages. 2016 ****
This book is considered to be a prequel to Tim Keller’s excellent 2008 book Reason for God. The author wrote the book to bring secular readers to a place where they might find it even sensible and desirable to explore the extensive foundations for the truth of Christianity. He compares the beliefs and claims of Christianity with the beliefs and claims of the secular view, asking which one makes more sense of a complex world and human experience. He challenges both the assumption that the world is getting more secular and the belief that secular, nonreligious people are basing their view of life mainly on reason. He then compares and contrasts how Christianity and secularism seek to provide meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, a moral compass, and hope—all things so crucial that we cannot live life without them.
Who is the book written for? The author states that if you think Christianity doesn’t hold much promise of making sense to a thinking person, then the book is written for you. In addition, if you have friends or family who feel this way, the book will be of interest for you and them as well.
He gives us two reasons to read the book. The first is practical. He first states not whether religion is true, but only to make the case that it is by no means a dying force. The second reason is a personal one. He writes that if you are experiencing unquiet and dissatisfaction in your life, they may be signs of a need for God that is there but which is not recognized as such.
This is a weighty read, not one that you will read through quickly. Of the many topics that he covered, the two that I got the most out of were his discussions of identity and particularly the problem that morals pose for secular people.
The author includes a list of five books for further reading that will give readers a good overview of Christian beliefs presented in the context of most contemporary arguments for and against their validity.
This was one of the best books I read in 2016, and I highly recommend it. Click on this link to read more reviews of Tim Keller’s books.Continue reading →