I was immensely blessed by the insightful book of Carl R. Trueman: Strange New World (2022). It really helped me make sense of where the culture is now in terms of the LGBT+ revolution (i.e. how and why we got here), as well as offering some very firm suggestions for how the church can shine for Jesus in this new age.
Definitely read the book yourself. But… for those who like the 1-page summary, here you go!
Summary of Trueman’s Strange New World
The thinkers who paved the way to today’s sexual revolution:
- Rene Descartes (1596-1650): mind trumps body
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778): feelings = the truest you; society corrupts this; born good
- Romantics: nature is superior to society in finding the truest you; born good
But these people still believed there was an absolute morality that these things pushed humans toward.
- G. W. F. Hegel: society shapes the way humans think about ourselves
- Karl Marx: economic relations between people shape our worldview; atheistic—sees religion as defining morality to keep the poor in bondage by the rich
- Friedrich Nietzsche: God is dead, and we must free ourselves from religion’s shackles of so-called “morality”; “Superman” = a human brave enough to live as he wishes, unconstrained by society’s current version of morality; ethics is a matter of personal preferences
- Oscar Wilde: the individual must break from the herd; artists lead the way as creators who transgress according to their personal feelings
- Sigmund Freud: sex is foundational to human happiness (the ultimate meaning of life); sexual desires exist from infancy; religion gives true security by curbing the violent, sexual desires we have
- Wilhelm Reich: agrees that sexual desires are destructive to the morality of today, but sees this as a human construct informed by economic classes that can be redefined (bringing together Marx and Freud); society must allow sexuality to be liberated, not curbed; traditional family structure is an obstacle; the struggle for liberation is psychological now (being our authentic self according to sexual feelings), not strictly economical (contra Marx)
- Plastic society + distrust in nation, church, family + technology = vacuum to find new authority
- The pill
- Social science “evidence” against traditional views of sexuality
- Cultural elites breaking from tradition
- Wanting to be recognized/belong + Internet = new affinities and allegiances
- Lesbians & Gays started in tension; Lesbians-Gays-Bisexuals in tension with Transgender & Queers; being victim to oppression (especially in a way that can’t be communicated to others) draws them together
There were some other things I’m missing in there. And obviously this is just quick bullets, so read the book yourself to get the explanation! But up to this point in the book (only 1-2 chapters left) I thought Trueman did an excellent job of showing precisely why we are in the predicament we are. However, I was noticing there weren’t many pages left and was wondering how these problems could be solved in so little time.
Well, I was pleasantly surprised to read on with some of the very helpful suggestions Trueman supplies for how the church can shine her light in the midst of confusion and darkness all around…
God Shines Through His Church
Here are some of the biggest practical steps he suggested for the church:
- Own all the ways I have “drunk” these very cultural philosophies we live in, but in different forms. Where have I made my own feelings or sentiments take precedence over God’s word, for instance? And repent.
- Repent of all the ways we as a church collectively have drunk in these cultural philosophies.
- Look to the 2nd century church as an example. They were strangers in the world, marginalized and seen as wrong, foolish, enemies of the society, or worse.
- Be a strong community and family that upholds biblical morality.
- Teach the whole counsel of God. He suggests looking to historic confessions and creed that have stood the test of time (in order to remove ourselves from our own cultural biases). But I’d go further to say we should stay “stubbornly biblical”. Go chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book through the whole Bible in our teaching, preaching, Bible studies, Bible readings, etc. When we focus on only certain themes or thematic studies, we inevitably gravitate toward our own preferences and can disregard the rest.
- Sing more biblical songs. Start with the Psalms if you don’t!
- Appeal to natural law more than we do. This is a practical way to reinforce Scriptural truths, but do so in a way that is a bit more felt and understood by people. For instance, point people to the design of male and female to be the best design for sex, and the reproduction of life, whereas homosexual sex can hurt the body.
- Be hopeful–God has put us in this very time and place as His ambassadors. What an honor! He plays the long-game. All will end up for His glory.