WeeklyTech #138

The Sexual Revolution, the modern self, and cultural engagement

This is a transcription of the Digital Public Square podcast interview with Dr. Carl Trueman. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app to get new episodes each Monday morning or listen online.

JASON THACKER: Dr. Trueman, thank you so much for joining us here on the podcast. As we get started, can you tell us a little bit about your background and why you decided to write this book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self as a church historian?

DR. TRUEMAN: I was a classicist as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., went on to study Reformation history—particularly Reformation thought at the postgraduate level— and then spent many years teaching at two universities in the U.K. and later at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where I primarily taught church history. My academic focus was on 16th-17th century themes. John Owen, the English Puritan, was a particular interest at one point. My latest book, of course, has little or nothing to do with anything I’m actually competent to comment on. The narrative begins in the 18th century and comes up to the present day and deals almost exclusively with secular thinkers and secular thought. Personally, I reached a point in my career a few years ago when I wanted to do something else. I’d done pretty much everything I wanted to do on the Reformation and was looking for another challenge. 

It was then that I was approached by Justin Taylor of Crossway and Rod Dreher of the American Conservative, asking if I would be interested in writing a short introduction to the thought of Philip Rieff. I started reading Rieff then in order to get some kind of idea of what that would entail and became convinced that a more interesting project would actually be using some of Rieff’s ideas to think about the state of culture today. This was right about the time that Obergefell v. Hodges was being decided by the Supreme Court. The issue of gay marriage and transgenderism was exploding onto the the national, if not international, scene.

I am also a Christian. At the time, I was not just a professor, but also a pastor. And I became convinced that there was a place for somebody to try to explain the sexual revolution in a way that would allow people, particularly Christians, but not exclusively Christian people, to think about the sexual revolution more holistically and to see it as part of an ongoing narrative in the West. And this book, which was researched primarily on a James Madison Fellowship at Princeton University in 2017 and 2018, is the fruit of all that.

The Rundown

How Christian Natural Law Arguments Work in Public Apologetics – Andrew T. Walker | Henry Center

For many Christians in our culture, it’s easier to stay silent when one is in the minority opinion about a controversial topic rather than risk disturbing the status quo. Of course, there are wisdom issues about knowing when to speak up, and not everyone is called to join the battle in all the same ways. 

South Africa’s private surveillance machine is fueling a digital apartheid – Karen Hao and Heidi Swart | MIT Technology Review

As firms have dumped their AI technologies into the country, it’s created a blueprint for how to surveil citizens and serves as a warning to the world.

Why the past 10 years of American life have been uniquely stupid – Jonathan Haidt | The Atlantic

Once social-media platforms had trained users to spend more time performing and less time connecting, the stage was set for the major transformation, which began in 2009: the intensification of viral dynamics.

Injured Parties – Alan Jacobs | The Hedgehog Review

Our current social media platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook, are best understood as madhouses in which we have incarcerated ourselves. It is wise to check yourself out if you possibly can, but if you cannot, then your best strategy for maintaining your own mental equilibrium and aiding in the restoration of healthy social proprieties is to practice this tactful inattention.

John Adams’ Fear Has Come to Pass – David French | The Dispatch

When I try to explain the aspirational genius of the American founding, I always refer to two documents—one of them one of the most famous documents in the English language, the other far more obscure. They’re by the famous “frenemies” of the American founding, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.