What strange new world are we now living in?


Laurie Clow offers this review of Carl Trueman’s new book Strange New World (Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois: 2022):

As I move inexorably to the end of my sixth decade and celebrate (?) over 25 years ordained, I find myself increasingly becoming a grumpy old man. My background in social sciences, a graduate of Economics, Politics and Political theory, my years teaching and my continued reading in these areas have always meant that I thought I had a handle on the world around me. My conversion to Jesus in my early 20s from radical Marxism meant I could hold my own with social commentary and the new thinking of the new century. However, recently I have become increasingly bewildered as the ‘normal’ methods of evangelism and apologetics have broken down. Nothing is quite what it seems and the surrealism of Lewis Caroll, Kafka and the Matrix have become the reality of social discourse and moral identity. Everything means what each individual wants it to mean and the certainties of life, especially those expressed in Christian terms, have become anachronistic and heretical to the prevailing wisdom.

Carl Trueman’s concise and rigorous exposition of the development of this Strange New World over the last three centuries seeks to explain how we have got here. He demonstrates how these ideas have transformed all levels of society. He challenges Christians to understand this process so that we can begin to re-engage with culture effectively, rather than being left reeling on our heels wondering why our brilliant methods no longer work. His work is timely, as the corporate trauma of lockdown and Covid 19 seems to have stripped away the final ‘traditional’ veneer in all areas of culture. Cultural flux is profoundly disorientating, especially to Bible-believing Christians. This dissonance confuses and causes fear that we face a dystopian future that will marginalise and ridicule our faith. Trueman, however, is not on a moralistic crusade to return us to a non-existent, idyllic past but is providing a genuine attempt to help us understand contemporary culture and so not be subsumed by it nor just attack it as wrong. So how does he do this?

Main themes

Trueman lays out the intellectual genealogy of our age, bringing together philosophy, ethics, politics and cultural theory—from Erasmus, Descartes, Rousseau and Bentham’s Utilitarianism to Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and beyond. You do not have to be a well read student of philosophy and cultural theory; Trueman is accurate in his summaries (for those who have read these authors) so that we can trust his analysis, and yet accessible and straightforward in his exposition of these for the non-specialist to be able to engage—this is his avowed task, as stated in his introduction. He introduces us to Hegel and Feuerbach, Reich and Sartre, Althuser and Marcuse, the radical feminists and transgenderism and their impact on popular culture and identity.

He defines the “contours of the modern self” deriving these from his multifarious sources. He identifies the replacement of shared, objective frameworks with the authority of inner feelings—subjectivity rules and truly all things are relative. He suggests that sexual desire has become central to the expression of these feelings and that this previously personal realm has been politicised; all activity is political and therefore to be expressed in the public realm. The final contour is the recognition that technological changes, especially in the area of communication, have enabled the ability to ‘imagine’ beyond a localised context. He then presents a three tiered framework to help us to think clearly: firstly, the nature of identity and personhood; secondly, the politics of recognition; and finally the power of the imagined community. As we keep these three areas in mind, Trueman’s analysis begins to help us make sense of what we are experiencing. I found myself jotting down notes, not just to remember but to illustrate Trueman’s points from my own experience and also to add my own reflections. I like a writer who leaves me room to ponder and respond to his ideas.

Within Trueman’s helpful framework and his contours of the self, he settles on three main areas and these form the meat of the central chapters of the book. Again, he is helping us understand and leaves his responses until the final chapter of the book.

1. Expressive Individualism

This is the drive for the ‘real me’—increased self-awareness, self-assertion and self-definition. This asserts that the self is changeable and we can grow our own self. We are masters of our own destiny and so we create our own identity—not conforming to the norms of society. These norms are oppressive and an assertion of the power of the ruling elite (class, patriarchy or whatever is viewed as oppressive), therefore to self-actualise must be the most authentic existence. Social institutions such as school are no longer the places of formation but the places for performance and so the expression of self.

Romanticism rejects the idea of original sin, later thought rejects the concept of God and so in a postmodern (no shared language), post-structural (no shared economic or political narrative), post-religious (no God) and post-Truth (no shared epistemology) world, identity can only be found in the individual’s psyche, and the individual’s inner thoughts are the only place of authenticity and authority. The nature of individual and corporate identity is plastic, forever being remade in the image of each individual.

2. Sexual Revolution

This individualism as the final arbiter in all matters of truth and conduct finds its inevitable expression in the sphere of sexual interaction. Now the breaking down of patriarchal oppression and the rejection of Victorian cultural values all masquerading as Christian truth cannot be a bad thing—but Trueman shows us where the logical conclusions are causing us to land. All psychology has been sexualised and all sex has been politicised. It is no longer about who we are, because what we do defines what we are. Trueman questions the extent of the logic of this politicisation of sexual activity and its definition by internal feeling, suggesting boundaries must come somewhere. 

The full expression of self-desire must at some point affect others negatively and this causes a breakdown in expressive individualism. He also recognises the tension between transgenderism and some parts of the lesbian, gay and bi-sexual community. He takes us through the realisation of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity rights in political legislation. All are free to express their opinions in these areas apart from those espousing culturally heretical views on the nature of identity and sexual activity—faith groups.

3. Social Imaginary

This unusual phrase (read the book to discover why he uses it) brings us to the conclusion that expressive individualism unleashed in the realm of sexual politics now changes the whole corporate psyche with respect to understanding what is true. The social whole can imagine itself to be whatever it wants to be. This plasticity of identity has demolished authority in what had been seen as the key institutions of society—the family, the church and the nation. All has become fragmented and the new consensus groups are now primarily located and fed by social media; the internet becomes the place of formation. 

The Church is despised as the bulwark of imperialism, slavery, racism and exclusion. Traditional family is rejected along with patriarchal hegemony and blended families are normalised. The nation is seen as oppressive and the fruit of empire. Individuals are defined against the collective. As any external identifiers are removed the drive to the individual psyche for definition and authenticity accelerates. “The self is entirely plastic” and there is an accelerating “liquefaction of previous structures” (p126).

Trueman’s Response

Trueman begins to draw his review together and his final chapter is a Bible-believing Christian’s response. He does not stand in judgement but presents a genuine attempt to call the church to respond to its context quickly and effectively. He recognises that any attempt to re-impose any normative culture, ethics or morals will be considered a power-play by a previously privileged elite seeking to oppress the articulation of individual authenticity. Appealing to spiritual realities or anachronistic texts, such as the Bible, will be deemed a sign of intellectual weakness and an attempt to inhibit individual freedom. God is dead so all morality is manipulative. 

In a time when the normative notion of selfhood is psychological, then to hate the sin is to hate the sinner (p157). 

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech now appear illogical—the confidence trick Marcuse warned us about.

However, Trueman calls the church to advocate for the primacy of hope as seen in the promises of Scripture, the reality of Jesus’ actions in effecting the salvation of the world and also the presence of hope in the Jesus Community—the church. He suggests that we need to reimagine not the content of our message but the method of its expression. Our apologetic method needs to be authentic, reflecting our inner lives with Christ, and expressed in non-hyper rational terms. We present Jesus who brings freedom and authentic identity—the way and the life, not just the truth. The prevailing cultural narrative is that all are free to choose their own identity; this should be a strong area for Christians. 

Trueman calls the church to examine itself, to see where it has been infected by the cult of personal happiness—christianised expressive individualism. He encourages us to not remain in the place of lament for the passing of Christendom but to be the radical community we are designed to be. 

The church protests the wider culture by offering a true vision of what it means to be a human being made in the image of God (p 176).

We should be respectful, not aggressively arrogant nor passively quietistic. We should understand how and why culture is what it is and so engage in these terms.

Conclusion

I found Trueman’s exposition of the development of cultural reality helpful. It enabled me to piece together elements that I had intuitively seen and experienced in my frustration to communicate the gospel to the community in the last quarter of a century. His reflection on the apologetic method was also an encouragement to reevaluate our approach as we enter the second quarter of the 21st century.

Trueman is clearly an Englishman in America, he is able to criticise both ‘right’ and ‘left’ and does not fall foul of saying there is only one way of doing this. In the light of his excellent review of culture, he offers insights as to how to progress—but they are only principles not rigid claims for methodological purity. He recognises what we can learn from the cultural changes he has reviewed, not least the reality of the reflective inward journey and its importance to reinvigorate the outward mission of the individual and the church. He writes in the tradition of Niebuhr and his contribution to the discussion about Christ and culture is invaluable.

This is an important and useful book. It helps church leaders of all types to grapple with the big ideas, while seeing the specific application in daily life. It is not a book that judges and deprecates the church for its lack of critical engagement with modern culture nor does it castigate the church for its apparent capture by the forces of 21st century culture. It is a book that affirms the church and seeks to inform the church’s mission in individual evangelism, apologetic exercise, and cultural engagement. Despair and fatalistic optimism are not the order of the day; we are called to remain in the place of hope, stand in faith and continue to declare the Gospel (Hebrews 11.1). 

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


Laurie Clow is Rector of St Leonard’s Chesham Bois in Oxford Diocese. After undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Politics and Economics at Manchester University, he taught at Hutton Grammar School in Preston (even teaching Steve Borthwick briefly!). After ordination training at Wycliffe Hall in the mid 1990s and postgraduate theological studies at St John’s Nottingham, during his Curacy in Staffordshire, he served his first incumbency in the Hampreston Team in Dorset. Married to Wendy with three adult children, he became a grandparent this week and is the Bass player and singer with the legendary clergy rock band Dogs Without Collars.


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52 thoughts on “What strange new world are we now living in?”

  1. Interesting. For a few years some of us have been arguing that the American phrase ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ has been leading the Anglo world, perhaps the western world astray.

    A better goal, that is more in line with the Kingdom, is ‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of harmony’.

    This would echo in the hearts of post-moderns since they already know happiness is vapourware and it would chime with the needs of our world — with the brokenness of war and the brokenness of damage to the plant causing climate change.

    That the Messiah came to bring harmony between God and mankind is then a logical step. And that our Father wants to spend eternity in harmony with those who love him coherent with that.

    Happiness is about self, harmony about community. Scripture shows that it started with two people in a garden being self centred and ends in a community in harmony with the Creator.

    Reply
  2. To apply Occam’s Razor:

    Broadly speaking, we (UK society) have moved a God-fearing, bible-believing nation to one that is secular in approach and outlook. We have put creature over Creator (Ro. 1:25-26) made mankind gods (Gen. 1:27).

    Weak leadership from our national church (C of E), coupled with the injection of sociology into theology, has made the C of E (as both a church and institution) fully Laodicean (Rev. 3).

    Until the process is reversed, the situation we are in will remain on an downward trajectory.

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  3. Thank you for putting this up. I think it is a shorter more concise version of his, The Risee and Triumph of the Modern Self:Culture Amnesia.
    His, is a voice of sanity. Although he has taken out American Citizenship, he was educated in UK, and retains an English accent with hint of a West Country lilt.
    There is also much recorded teaching of his on Church history, to be found on the internet.
    Would that the CoE hierarchy get on board in its progessive clamour, and press the reset button.

    Reply
    • Sounds like it.

      While I largely agree with Trueman, it is possible to over-intellectualise. The sexual revolution was led, very simply, by the invention of the contraceptive pill for women and the continuation of sexual desire. The Pill allowed single women to become as promiscuous as men had always been, because it was unilateral and they lost their fear of pregnancy, thereby triggering an orgy; and it allowed married women to remain in the job market for as long as they liked, causing hourse prices to become geared to two incomes, not one. I do not believe that married couples who use the Pill are sinning, but the consequences for society are huge and they have not been come to terms with.

      Reply
  4. My observation of the “tension” between LGB and T people is that it is largely fictitious. There are several dark money groups (like LGB Alliance) who are in the media a lot, but they have very little support from actual LGB people. They will trott out wild claims against trans people for straight audiences, but I’d wager support for trans equality is as high amongst LGB people as independence is amongst members of the SNP

    Reply
    • Someone at a blog I used to frequent steeled himself to go to the Pink News webpage regularly, and reported that the battles there between gay “Born this way” activists and Trans “You can be anything you want to be” persons were vicious. You can seee the incompatibility in the quotes I have just given, and each side believes it passionately. That is a recipe for battle. Why should we believe you rather than my acquaintance? Perhaps a visit to Pink News would enlighten us.

      Reply
      • Anton

        I read pink news only roughly a weekly basis and I haven’t seen any of what you claim.

        Your quotes don’t seem to have posted.

        I know tons of lesbians and gay people and don’t know a single one who opposes trans rights or feels threatened by trans people. On our fridge we have a postcard which says “trans rights are human rights” which was made by a gay clothing brand.

        Of course you can find individual gay people who oppose trans rights, you can find individual gay people who oppose gay rights(!), but overall in my experience they are few and far between

        Reply
          • Anton

            What quotes?

            I misunderstood you about PinkNews. I thought you were saying that pink news had articles showing hostility between gay people and trans people, but what you actually meant was that some of the people commenting on the site oppose trans rights? I’d gently suggest people commenting like that are unlikely to be gay!

    • Peter, don’t bear false witness. The LGB Alliance (I donate to them) and its offshoot, LGBChristians, of whom I am a member, are funded from the grassroots. The accounts of the former are online. We do not trott out wild claims against trans peeps for straight audiences. We are just gender critical and do not like nebulous concepts like ‘gender identity’ superseding sex, as powerful lobbies would have it. Nobody is against ‘trans equality’, whatever that means.

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  5. I don’t think I’ve ever seen traditional family rejected as such. Its just less common now, but probably still the majority. Allowing gay people the right to marry and parent isnt in opposition to straight couples doing the same. The only thing I can think of is the BLM rejection of the nuclear family, but they weren’t saying don’t have traditional families. They were saying don’t have families in silos because doing so diminishes the agency of women

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  6. Since its birth Christianity has been counter-cultural it has triumphed in countries and societies far more Godless Lawless and Vicious than our current climate.
    Christianity is an Overcoming phenomenon. It has been and still is “Salt”
    These end times will become more lawless, a casting off of restraint [rules of order]. More perilous [exposed to imminent risk of disaster or ruin.] – like standing on a cliff edge [e.g the CofE -Ian Paul.]
    However, Christianity has already broken all bounds, many of our “freedoms “have been won through the Christian Message and action.
    It has never been nor ever can be forsaken.
    I heartily recommend a fabulous book by Glen Scrivener
    The Air That We Breath
    Available @ speaklife.org
    And
    @Thegoodbook.com
    Much lauded by Tom Holland and other notable historians as a tour de force,
    others “A book full of insight for our times.
    “A must read if you want to crack the code of what is going on in our culture.” Etc.and etc.
    Alternatively you could read the Bible and assimilate it for all it is worth.
    Of these perilous times Jesus foretold and advised
    “SEE THAT YE BE NOT TROUBLED”
    These are just the birthpang times,something is about to be born.

    Reply
    • I think westerners have a problem distinguishing Christianity from “the way we lived in the 1950s”. I’d argue western culture of the 1950s wasn’t any more Christian than western culture of the 2020s

      Reply
      • What a cliche. It is true, not false, that laws started opposing Christianity directly afterwards: namely, the 1960s and Roy Jenkins. And if you think anyone harks back happily to most people smoking and the clean air act not being in operation, then….
        Eras don’t transplant themselves! You just adopt the succeeding aspects of any era (the succeeding options) and jettison the failing options. Like the disgusting family-destroying options of latter years, the pill which causes hormonal imbalance, the ingratitude for the incredible way we are created, the fall in sexual desire, the pesticides, the uncaring abandonment of children to a childhood that is hijacked by pornography – and so on.

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  7. It has to be said – whispered perhaps, on an Anglican blog – that church history is a huge deterrent to conversion in Western civilisation today. The argument runs that the past was rubbish, the past was Christian, therefore Christianity is rubbish. That is poor logic, of course, but wars between nations calling themselves Christian, civil wars between factions calling themselves Christian, and a life for the poor who toiled the land scarcely better than in pagan cultures, cannot be denied. We must get back to gospel Christianity as a way of being changed for the better in ways we cannot do for ourselves, and forget all politicised Christianity, which is by definition law not grace and which began in the fourth century, turning the church into a means of social control. In the New Testament there were many bishops (overseers) per congregation rather than vice-versa, and no ‘ordination to the priesthood’ which had the effect of denying the priestly identity of all believers set under Jesus Christ as High Priest. I suggest that the housechurch has a great future and that evangelism means getting away from ways to try to prove the truth of Christianity and just telling a story – in modern language a narrative. That’s *your* truth? No, you too will be judged! “I don’t believe that!” Fair enough, that’s up to you. And move on to someone else. More detail:

    https://church14-26.org/starting-a-church-14-26/

    Reply
      • I’m certainly not sold on house churches. It was high on the agenda for growth, when I first became a Christian in the 90’s with Laurence Singlehurst promoting them as Cell churches.

        The dangers can be false teaching. Sure, these are only examples, but I’m aware of two that self destructed through heresy and lack of oversight yet were lauded as models to follow.
        No doubt there will be good examples in the opposite direction, but I’d be wary, even as I am about any local church of whichever denomination, or none.

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        • Better, Geoff, thasn having a huge hierarchy, which if Satan penetrates it can wreck the church across an entire continent than in one town. Some would say that that is a summary of church history.

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          • Hello Anton,
            Church history, is hardly the starting or end point of a life in Christ, and it is not something I’d advocate, for most ordinary believers who have no interest, but it is something of which you are aware such as in discussion here with HJ and others such as dominant liberals.
            How are we to be discerning?
            How are we to be aware of the doctrine of demons and false gospels?
            There are believers who have no interest in the OT (Church History in the broadest sense).
            Church history restricted to the theology at stake, what was being taught and practiced, it is suggested is important for leaders. They are still being fought over today such as the doctrine of God, doctrine of scripture, atonement, redemption, Kingdom of God, the fall (and while it is lost in the mists of time the theology of Pelagius v Augustine remains much in evidence, and much much more.
            What statement if belief would the church sign up to? Sorry I read your link ages ago but can’t recall it. But enough from me on this.
            Trueman and Scrivener and others set out tge Christian stall to engage in the public square or market place for some believers
            Our church is currently going through a course of Two Ways to Live, from Australia to help in the spread of the Gospel. While I have personal reservations about some of it, any that contributes to the spread of the gospel it to be welcomed and open to be used of God. It is here, where we can overthink it, it seems to me.
            There are and have been other models, such as “Evangelism Explosion” but most seem to rely on involvement of self-selected enthusiasts.
            Being ready to give a reason for faith is for all believers in Christ. In includes “conversational evangelism” which probably involves lifelong learning and listening. 1 Peter 3:15
            To end with probably a misquote from Surgeon, I think: if you find a perfect church don’t join it, otherwise you’ll spoil it.
            There are churches I’d not be part of as we are called to be under authority and I’d not come under the authority of heretics, false teachers.
            That is a main reason I didn’t become a member of a local URC, (after a serious medical episode reduced my ablilty to drive to church) during a decade of attendance even though the local minister’s teaching wasn’t false, to become a member there had to be agreement with the URC teaching which was now “espousing ssm”. Additionally I’d have to come under the authority of the elders and despite asking, I had no idea what they believed. From memory and I could be wrong here I have no recollection of the church gathering reciting a creed together signifying a common held belief.
            One of the elders, didn’t know what a creed was, to be able to discuss it with a questioning family school child, who had heard about it at school.
            That church is now independent, signed up to FIEC after the minister retired and families from another independent evangelical church in the city ( led by a former CoE minister) moved across the city to live in the community and lead the church.
            But enough from me. We are off road in the long grass, and the article is out of view.

    • Anton

      I think its even worse than the case you make. The attitudes you describe are from my parents generation. My generation and my kids generation would more likely not see Christianity as having any relevance at all

      Reply
        • Anton

          Those are the attitudes I encounter. The boomers were put off church and Christianity. Their children and grandchildren aren’t even interested in why their parents and grandparents left.

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          • Given that the boomers were the family destroying generation, we can certainly assign a lot of authority to what they think. Though you do not give any reasons for why they did/thought what they did/thought, not opine whether they were right or wrong. Maybe they just followed short term pleasure in an animal way.

      • So people are so unintelligent as blindly to follow what is normal in their generation rather than being capable of independent thought?

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        • Christopher most people follow what is normal in their generation by definition. I don’t think you’re going to get more bums on seats by insulting all the people who don’t currently attend!

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          • I agree totally. Most people do that.
            But you are listening to the people who unthinkingly do that ABOVE those who thinkingly do otherwise.
            Which means you think that lack of thought is BETTER than thought.
            Which is why you get the wrong answers.

  8. Are we really living in ‘a strange new world’? I don’t think so. The truth is that, when it comes to the battle between good and evil, we should expect insidious ideology and every technological advance to be used in the age old program of setting man against God – usually in terms of convincing people that He doesn’t exist and that whoever occupy the elitists’ palaces will guide us to a utopia of their own design. We are of course seeing all that in spades right now, but it’s nothing new.

    The variety of groups and personal goals involved (money, power, hierarchical position, satisfying deranged psychological needs) shouldn’t deflect us into attempts to theorise about some grand plan or overarching plot in which every last social or political phenomenon is playing its part. We all know about the WEF, the WHO, the UN, the EU, the banking and investment worlds, the military industrial complex. If we don’t because we haven’t kept up with the world around us, that could explain our confusion! But I don’t think it makes sense to spend lifetimes researching into how the various groups and destructive ideologies have come about (or how to argue against them).

    Instead, as Christians, we need to discern the spiritual battle which underlies these human storms. While much of it is circular, endlessly repeating but reflecting the changes in societies and technology, we know there is a linear trajectory being followed: human history is coming to an end – but in God’s timing, about which we shouldn’t waste time speculating. And that should bring us straight back to our Bibles which, paradoxically, shine a far clearer spotlight on the chaos of the world we see around us than the most up to date analysis can hope to achieve. But we do have to set aside our political and social biases (and maybe the comfortable but outdated assumptions of a dying Western world) and face, head on, the reality of what’s going on in the world around us.

    Jesus advised his hearers to learn the lessons of the natural world and apply them to what they observed in human affairs and the eternal realities which they were struggling to understand. The gospel remains as directly relevant to people today as it ever did. It doesn’t require sophistication so much as humble willingness to accept the obvious and simple truth of our human frailty – and our need for the God who created us to save from ourselves. I don’t think the power of that message to speak to the human mind is remotely constrained by all that’s going on today. We might yet discover that the very chaos and potential dystopia we’re now living in could create a radical new openness to the gospel. But if at such a time we allow ourselves to be deflected in the shocking way that has happened to the Church of England, we are in no place to offer the people of England and beyond what they need to hear. I fear that could be the damning judgement we face.

    Reply
    • @ Don B

      In a 1969 German radio broadcast, the then Father Joseph Ratzinger offered his thoughts on the future of the Catholic Church.

      The full text of the radio talk is well worth a read and is here:
      https://aleteia.org/2016/06/13/when-cardinal-joseph-ratzinger-predicted-the-future-of-the-church/

      He cautioned against two approaches. :

      “The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.

      I read these approaches to be a censorious self-righteousness and a liberal-modernist accommodation to the times.

      He continued: “The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality … If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are! As I said, it’s worth reading the full talk.

      Reply
    • @ Don Benson

      In a 1969 German radio broadcast, the then Father Joseph Ratzinger offered his thoughts on the future of the Catholic Church.

      The full text of the radio talk is well worth a read and is here:
      https://aleteia.org/2016/06/13/when-cardinal-joseph-ratzinger-predicted-the-future-of-the-church/

      He cautioned against two approaches.

      “The future of the Church can and will issue from those whose roots are deep and who live from the pure fullness of their faith. It will not issue from those who accommodate themselves merely to the passing moment or from those who merely criticize others and assume that they themselves are infallible measuring rods; nor will it issue from those who take the easier road, who sidestep the passion of faith, declaring false and obsolete, tyrannous and legalistic, all that makes demands upon men, that hurts them and compels them to sacrifice themselves.

      I read these approaches to be a censorious self-righteousness and a liberal-modernist accommodation to the times.

      He continued:

      “The future of the Church, once again as always, will be reshaped by saints, by men, that is, whose minds probe deeper than the slogans of the day, who see more than others see, because their lives embrace a wider reality … If today we are scarcely able any longer to become aware of God, that is because we find it so easy to evade ourselves, to flee from the depths of our being by means of the narcotic of some pleasure or other. Thus our own interior depths remain closed to us. If it is true that a man can see only with his heart, then how blind we are!

      As I said, it’s worth reading the full talk.

      Reply
  9. Everyone it seems are trying to solve mysteries,
    The scientist is constantly at this work, Social psychologists and philosophers too
    Beauty therapists trying to understand the secrets of glowing wrinkle free skin. etc.etc.
    Clerics seeking to know how to grow a thriving, dynamic church. What should they try next? What is the secret to solving the mystery of declension?

    The Bible is replete with mysteries, but also a book of solutions of mysteries.
    I suggest asking Paul to solve the mysteries of church growth to maturity.
    The mystery, revealed in the Bible, is described in various ways:
    the mystery of God (Colossians 2:2; Revelation 10:7),
    the mystery of His will (Ephesians 1:9),
    the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:4; Colossians 4:3),
    the mystery of the kingdom of God (Mark 4:11),
    the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:19),
    the mystery of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9), and
    the mystery of godliness (1 Timothy 3:16).
    “He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things” (Daniel 2:21, 22).
    “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
    “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:27, 28).
    Instead of wallowing in our failures or our or fruitlessness, preach the “mysteries” “the riches of Christ”
    “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints – and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:18-20).
    And our Lord “‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

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  10. I read Carl Trueman’s ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’ towards the end of last year and it seemed to make a great deal of sense. When I had finished it, I went onto the next book I had stacked in my kindle pile – ‘Sikunder Burnes: Master of the Great Game’ by Craig Murray, where he gives a solid description of just how dissolute well-to-do ‘high society’ in Britain of the 1820’s was. This wasn’t simply gratuitously inserted just to make the book hot and spicy; it was necessary background to understanding the mind-set which led to the sexual exploits of Sikunder Burnes – which was one of the factors that led to him getting hacked to pieces in Afghanistan. Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Man who would be king’ is loosely based on Sikunder Burnes (and, in response to a comment David Shepherd made on the thread about slavery, Craig Murray thinks that Rudyard Kipling did have an understanding of the evils of the British empire – and is somewhat misunderstood in this matter).

    The whole point is that while Carl Trueman sees a trend of increasing depravity, what struck me from the opening chapters of Sikunder Burnes was that things seemed much more degenerate back then than they are now.

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    • There was certainly a decayed aristocracy then, but at least that period had the grace of more civic and social hypocrisy (hypocrisy being the compliment that vice pays to virtue), while the succeeding decades saw the rise of Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England, both movements characterised by great moral earnestness. The Victorian era was also the great era of social reform (think of Lord Shaftesbury and the plethora of charities and reform movements that arose. alongside the missionary movement).
      Churchgoing was on the increase in the 19th century. Today Britain is afflicted by the collapse of the oldline churches, godlessness among the indigenous population and the rise of Islam among immigrants and their heritage. This does not bode well for the future of Britain.

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      • James – I have very little idea what Muslim belief is supposed to be, but I don’t necessarily see the rise of Islam in the UK as such a bad thing – when the alternative being offered (from the overwhelming majority of the indigenous population) seems to be a complete vacuum.

        Some guidance here would be useful – is there a Muslim equivalent of the 39 articles – which indicate the broad lines of their religion? Is it probably a ‘gospel of works’ (if you do the right things then you get to heaven) – and if so, then there is clearly an opening for evangelism (the ‘right things’ are unattainable in and of yourself – you need Jesus – and that is what the crucifixion and resurrection were all about).

        There should be opportunities for evangelism here – and I’d say (probably) greater opportunities than if you’re trying to convince someone who is completely apathetic.

        The trouble is that in many situations, the so-called ‘Christians’ have mucked everything up and done their best to give Christianity a bad name (c/f this is probably not true in the UK, but it is true in other places: Pentecostalist style churches in Nigeria, where the ‘success’ of the church is directly proportional to the amount of money the pastor has been able to cream off – exhibited by an ostentatious show of wealth – thus making the Muslims look like the people who are standing up for decency).

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        • A very benign and optimistic view of Islam, Jock – you need to learn about it! And you have no idea what kind of nightmare Nigeria is turning into.
          Look at Sudan as well. Islam in Britain means importing the world’s pathologies and racial rivalries. It will not end well.

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  11. “making the Muslims look like the people who are standing up for decency)”. Er.. do you mean those who abduct a school full of Girls in Africa?

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    • Alan – I’m convinced that they’re not all like that – and in fact you’re talking about the extreme lunatic fringe (which has been presented to us as main stream Muslim-ism). Consider what passes for Christianity in the United States of America. There are a lot of decent Christians there. At the same time there are lots and lots and lots of 24 carat weirdos doing very weird and sinister things in the name of God. If you were to select the worst excesses (for example the Christian Scientist view of appendicitis) – and present these as representative of main stream Christianity – well, I think you get the picture ……..

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        • Jock you have no idea what Islam is yet cinclude it can only be a good thing. You need to discuss this with members of our church who have been converted properly, in evidence, to Christ from an Islamic theocracy.
          I think you opine without being a member of any Christian Church. As if weirdoism is only ever out there.
          It is suggested that all Christians are weirdos in the secular world, worse in places of othe religions and tyrannies.
          We have people working in Africa, who recognise the huge dificulties, where lying to infidels is not only permitted but may be a method in the spread of Islam.
          A friend, a retired dentist, who was in the medical corp in Aiden speaks of his then pastor David Pawson recognising that central to Islam was spread by the sword.
          David Pawson aslo didn’t hold back in his critique of the icon at the heart of the United Nations.
          Probably far better is a starter book is by Christian apologist Andy Bannister who is a director of Solas Centre for Public Christianity – based in Dundee- who has a PH.D in Islamic studies and debates with represntatives from Islam (there are short videos on the site).
          The book is: Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

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          • St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney puts their service on youtube each Sunday. Their prayers for Sydney Muslims in Ramadan last Sunday’s service – were world’s away from Justin Welby’s confused comments and were a model of what Christians should pray: that Muslims may discover the reality of God’s love and mercy in Christ and discover that human efforts, however worthy in themselves, cannot obtain salvation.

          • Geoff – you weren’t responding to my comment (or else you have serious difficulties with comprehension). I don’t need to have any idea of what Islam is – except that people who follow it are not followers of The Way – and I’m convinced that the approach taken by you, Alan Kempson and James is unlikely to convict anybody of their sins and lead them to trust in Christ for their salvation.

            I’m not at all sure that singling out Muslim-ism as by far the worstest form that radical evil takes is either true or helpful. Anyway, apologies for getting this thread side-tracked – it’s supposed to be about other forms that radical evil take – as described by Carl Trueman and elucidated by Laurie Clow – more ‘western’ forms of radical evil (albeit different expressions of the same thing).

  12. Phil.1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. Moses, Jesus and Paul did not “do” negative energy.

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  13. Oh dear, how easily the comments become completely irrelevant to the post. I find the post very helpful: when we love Jesus and want to bring other people into that love, then we must understand what our culture is doing, and also, not doing. Jesus entered his culture fully in his incarnation, and as a result could speak to people using the things they all knew in order to illustrate his teaching and lead them closer to the Father. We also need to understand our culture, sufficiently for us to speak relevantly on behalf of the gospel. I’ve been a mission partner in a number of different cultures and I know at first hand how essential it is to speak the language and understand the culture in order to make sense to those around us.

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