Thursday, January 26, 2023

Creating Man in Our Own Image…

…or the problem of the thing being measured being also used as the yardstick.

Indeed, the notion of the self with which we now intuitively operate in the West – that of something plastic that we believe we can shape in any way we wish – is arguably simply one example of a much broader worldview of the whole of reality.

Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution, by Carl R. Trueman

How did we come to this?  What ideas shaped western man to the point where there is nothing fixed, nothing certain, nothing objective, no such thing as truth? Trueman offers the thinkers that he considers necessary for us to have come to this point – Rousseau, the Romantics, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Reich.

Necessary, but not sufficient.  How many in the West have heard of these men, let alone read anything by them?  Some of these were not even influential in their own day; why are they such a powerful force in ours – a century or more later?

Trueman will attempt to answer this question – how did these necessary-but-not-sufficient preconditions become sufficient?  He admits up front that even when he is through the reader might conclude that he has done nothing more than pile on a few more necessary preconditions without generate sufficient conditions.  Fair enough.  But pile up enough preconditions and eventually you will get the right conditions.

What he is after is to explain the how and why of our going from a fixed world to a plastic world – a world in which we have come to believe that we can shape reality to whatever we wish it to be.

Imagine being born a few hundred years ago.  Almost certainly you would have lived your entire life in the village in which you were born.  You would have married someone from the village, raised a family in the village, been baptized and buried in the village church. 

Your children would likely have remained in the village for their lives – and your sons likely would have learned their profession from you while your daughters would have learned how to be a wife and mother from your wife.

Every year, you would live the same cycle – governed by changes in seasons, changes in the time of sunrise and sunset.  Not only could you set your watch by it, you could have set the entire calendar by it.  Had this village been in western Europe, you would have belonged to the Catholic Church.

In other words, a very stable – even fixed – pattern of life.  But not our world.  Modern transportation, ease of migration, availability of education, social mobility, technology, science, medicine.  All have contributed to the changes in life’s rhythms and patterns when compared to that of the patterns in village life a few hundred years ago – a more plastic world.

I used to have to find my place in the fixed world of the village; now I can create my place in the wide-open spaces of the world.  I can shape my world – my being – to my will.

In 1400, the world seemed fixed, stable, and solid.  Today it seems as pliable as playdough.

Modern culture sees the world as raw material to be shaped by human will.  Trueman sees technology as having played the biggest part in this change.  As noted earlier, is technology to be considered just another necessary but insufficient precondition, or was it the sufficient condition that enabled the ideas of the aforementioned thinkers to be put into effect?

Technology reinforces the idea of “individual.”  In almost every way today we can individualize our experiences – music, news, videos, recreation.  Again, the individual is placed at the center of his reality.  The world is seen simply as “stuff,” to be molded and shaped according to the will of the creator – the modern individual.

We are the ones with power, and we are the ones who give the world significance.

Technology is the addition, the rise of something that gives the individual power and authority.  On the other side is the collapse of traditional external sources of authority and identity.  Trueman offers three examples to demonstrate this reality.

First, the Reformation which fractured the Church in the West.  Institutional unity was lost, and with it the Church’s claims to authority.  Nations could choose the direction of their faith.  Eventually, the choice would be individual – completely upending who had power in the relationship: the priest or the parishioner. 

It was now the parishioner who could excommunicate (in a manner of speaking) the priest.  Perhaps this also touches on one of the reasons why many churches today cater to what they view as the popular culture as opposed to Biblical (objective) truths.

Next is the traditional family – historically to include multiple generations.  The family is presented as oppressive and tyrannical, often dysfunctional.  No-fault divorce has lowered the bar for the dissolution of marriage – we just don’t feel like it anymore.  Single-parent families, blended post-divorce families, various combinations – all serve to erode the stability and authority of the family.

Finally, the nation.  While the nation-state is a relatively new idea, the idea of a stable community – one with known, understood, and accepted traditions and customs – is as old as man.  Without these accepted traditions and customs, is there such a thing as a nation?  This question is being answered today, with many parts of the West demonstrating that there isn’t. 

Religion, family, nation.  Once, the answer to the question “Whom am I?” would have been “I am Carl Trueman, a Christian and the son of John, English by birth.  Today, almost every one of these traditional identity markers is subject of ridicule and derision.

Without these external markers of identity, we turn inward; as Trueman puts it, institutions are no longer authoritative places of formation, but of performance.

Trueman then goes to the loss of sacred order.  Cultures have traditionally justified their moral orders by appealing to traditions rooted in sacred order.  Moral codes have authority because they are grounded in something outside of, or beyond, this immediate world.  God, for example, or natural law, or the Tao, or created order, or the Oracle at Delphi.  You get the idea.

Such sentiments are gone – the Supreme Court says that objections to gay marriage is motivated by nothing by traditional bigotry.  Instead, our culture is to be measured by nothing but…our culture.  Competing voices battle to create a new order, with no standard or objective means available by which to judge other than who screams the loudest. 

Where this self-created and self-measured standard has most exemplified itself is in regards to sex.  The advent of the pill is central to the story.  No longer did a man need a job, live a clean life, provide long-term security.  With the pill, all risks – financial and social – were dramatically lowered for both the man and especially the woman.  Marriage and monogamy easily became quaint notions, if not even looked down upon.

Then there is pornography, moving from Playboy behind a brown cover to now easily found and explored on the web.  Trueman noted that even a baby’s onesie can be found with the words “Future Porn Star” emblazoned on the front.  So much for any notion of the exploitation of those in the adult film industry.


Arguments based on the authority of God’s law or the idea that human beings are made in the image of God no longer carry any significant weight in a world devoid of the sacred.

Instead we have arguments based on the authority of the inner self – creating myself in my own image.  Using my self as the yardstick by which I measure…myself.

Why has this played out so explosively in the realm of sex?

Once the authorizing of the inner psychological space happened, it was perhaps inevitable that sex would become more and more significant.  Sexual desires are among the most powerful inner feelings that most human beings experience. 

The deepest of the inner self, the most powerful feelings of the inner self.  Hence, the most important manner by which one can express his inner self.  Historically it has been moral codes regarding sex that have been the primary focus across most societies.  Therefore, such codes are also the most important codes to kill.


  1. I think technology has been a factor in allowing modern man away from natural law. It gives us a mirage of power. We see technological advancement and think mankind can manipulate nature in anyway desired or possible. When humans get too much power or even if they incorrectly think they are powerful then start to think of themselves as gods. See Daniel 4. Good example because it is pre-Industrial Revolution and shows this tendency to be inherent in man. Replacing God with man is also found in Romans 1. Of everything created man stands at the top.

    But the modern version of this disease had to have the factor of scientific materialism. This wasn't scientific in reality but philosophical. The elites chose to see humanity as simply a biological machine. If that is the case there is no God, no morality, no purpose (other than what we make for ourselves). No natural law. Once that constrained is removed then humanity is "free" to pursue whatever he wants and yes sexual desire and gratification become the focus for whatever reason.

    These guys "Rousseau, the Romantics, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Reich" and more led humanity down that philosophical path which Francis Schaeffer also describes in How Should We Then Live?

  2. This is helpful . I try to write something but am not able to organize thoughts in any organized, understandable way. Many of you have attended to better things in life than my self. So do not want to just ramble. So will just leave it there . My Place is with the "Trousered Apes" and "Urban Blockheads". :) .It's okay, I can bring some light there and some are open to more than Instant Carnal Pleasures.

  3. A pendulum swings far to the left and right only to eventually find equilibrium in the middle. I am definitely of the position that technology didn't do anything to us, we created it and gave it purpose. Because years of stasis and togetherness logically left us with a desire to see new things that satisfied our individual tastes. Just as now 200 years of industrial modernity has left many searching for the simple and pure and communal. But it all came from us. And this is the key point upon which it all hinges. Are we the creators and progenitors of all we survey or are we it's victims?. I much prefer to believe the former, which also happens to be the truth. How can humans even call themselves victims of that which humanity itself has wrought? I can't get with that mostly because I'm not inclined to follow the types who would aim to surrender me to a victim mindset. Yes it's tough out there and much is broken. But you are the power behind all of it and have the power to impose your will on it and live how you choose. If you have not given any thought to how that is then you're no victim, you're just lazy.

    1. Technology is a tool. How that tool is used is determined by individuals - some working for good and some for evil. The less grounded man is in a proper (natural law) ethic, the more likely the tool will be used for evil.

      I am trying to find a way to "impose my will" (as you suggest) on the guy with his finger on the nuclear button. Obviously you have figured this out. Please share it with the rest of us.

  4. We live in a time that was spoken about long ago. Knowledge has Increased, people run to and fro. Man has become a lover of his(and her) self. It is true Technology is not to blame any more than Nuclear fission is to blame. The blame lies within the heart of us all. We could power the world with Nuclear reactors but we chose to build bigger and better bombs. There are 2 ways to go .One is wide, one is narrow.
    The Narrow way, Love the Lord you God with all your heart and minds and love your neighbor as yourself. The Broadway is if it feels good do it. It is that simple. But that does not please a lot of people. They want what they want and they want it now. We are not here to be served. We are here to serve. Serve not and thou shall not be served.

    1. Kevin, perhaps, as Trueman offered, he just piled on one more precondition - the precondition of technology. Perhaps the one necessary condition is that we no longer find any reason to live by any objective truth as understood in natural law.

      Man has killed God, as Nietzsche would write. Man has forgotten God, as Solzhenitsyn would say regarding the explanation for the First World War. The entire answer can be found here, I think.

      Yet, there is value in the steps offered by Trueman. Why is it that sex became the target? He answers this question well. Yet, we know there is one more step - after inventing our own genders, we are being told we will invent our own humans. From transgenderism to trans-humanism.

  5. What I actually fear is that Modernity (technology, scale, secularism, prosperity) has erected an iron dome over us, and we can no longer perceive the transcendent. Now we know how the old pagan loyalists must have felt when the Oracles started telling them that the Old Gods--the faith of their fathers--had fallen silent.

    Back in the days of Christendom the Church was one head of the two-headed eagle governing all society. Now, a Muslim tsunami and two World Wars later, the Divine Mandate of the monarchy, and Christendom itself, is gone and does not appear headed back. The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have made clear they will stay carefully in the bounds the secular democratic (i.e., atheistic) State sets for them, so they frankly no longer exist as the Church qua Church. (I don't want to start an argument with anyone, but Protestant Christianity really isn't in the ballpark; it's more just sectarianism and ideology).

    The current times belie a deep-seated spiritual crisis, and the Churches are, candidly, not stepping up. (To be fair, they no longer have this capacity; they no longer occupy the same psychic space in their modern congregants' minds).

    No idea how this ends but we are definitely on the cusp of a change, as broad and deep as the former change from the the Old Gods to the One God. If modern man loses his sense of the transcendent we will be in for a very rough time indeed.

  6. An interesting take on the word "Church". Jesus did not say upon this rock He would build the "Church". But He did use the word Ekklesia. It was not a "religious word". It was well know among the Greeks. A Place called the Pynx I think it was.
    It met outside the city and was separate from The Government. Also the Early Church was actually expelled from the Temple welfare. It was an actual government not like the worlds governments run by force. Churches have mostly become feel good clubs, sing a few songs have some announcements a message maybe a cracker or a wafer for a snack and see ya next week maybe. They pray to the governments of the world for benefits like that 501c3 thing.
    Jesus the Christ (not his last name but His title) runs His government through the hearts and minds of the people through faith hope and charity. It will most likely take the same kind of scenario for that to happen these days. This has become an issue with my and my house now that I am 68 .they all want me to get on Socialist Security. Myself am not gonna do that it is the wrong Altar to pray at. I hear all the arguments. I paid into it I deserve it. Well not so Fast, I did not pay into it ,it was taken from me by force. Now it is true that no one has to sign up but back when we was kids it was sold as the next step to adulthood so you can get a job. You can not get rid of that mark once you receive it ,but I do not have to take that dainty from the Kings Table. I still get letters from the IRS because I sent back all the "stimulus checks " with a letter saying no thank you. They say they do not know what the payment is for.

    1. Until I get every penny back that was taken from me against my will, I will do so. Still, the ledger is in no way close to balance :-)

      I will not rely on it, however, for my security or the security of my family and loved ones.

    2. Have no issue with that Bionic. We each have our reasons and choose what to do. My choice is mine and am not implying it is for any one else. My main reason for saying anything here is not to say I have the answers but It does seem this is a safe place to speak and the sit back and listen to others. Also do not make any claim that my answers are to be obeyed! LoL . Also ben reading Strange New world. It is very good and can see his points. Remember Myself is not a "Learned man" . My beginning was not so hot. But The one constant thread through out my life has been My Relationship with Our Heavenly Father, He has kept me even through all my follies. Now I will say there is reaping and sowing. And also your statement does mean something for me to consider. It may be my own pride speaking here, not sure but am open to hear. Always remember I am not here to Argue against any one but am just a seeker. Hope that makes sense.

    3. Kevin, no issue or argument with me. This is an area where conscious can lead different people to different answers - however, the answer of petitioning for government aid or benefits is the red line.

      I just remember my thinking through this when people would say "I will never take anything from the government," or some such. Of course, we take streets and sidewalks and use fiat currency...but more to the point...

      ...I thought about receiving my tax refund. I receive this the year after I paid the taxes - a time mismatch. In reality, the money I paid the government has already spent - I am receiving money that someone else is currently paying.

      So how is this different than something like social security or medicare - both of which also come with a time mismatch, albeit a much more distant time mismatch?

      Again, I do not write this to suggest you are wrong or might do something different. I understand the principle of your position and see it as appropriate. I am just offering an overview of my thought process.