Carl R. Trueman, Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution (Wheaton: Crossway, 2022), 208 pp, $17.99.
How did we get here? For society to have become what we have become, to value what we value, to disavow what we disavow, there must have been a trajectory. In Strange New World, Carl Trueman traces for us the course of change that has shaped society’s embrace of radical individualism which has defined for us a new sort of ethic, particularly a new sexual ethic.
It is possible that you have heard of Trueman’s The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. That work has been applauded by scholars since its publication. If that work has a flaw, it is that it may be too rigorous, too academic, for the average reader. Strange New World is the more accessible version of that tremendous work, offering the same analysis without all the weighty and difficult quotations that will slow some readers down.
In Strange New World, the author tracks for us a variety of changes in the way philosophers, artists, and other influential people have explained reality. For example, many now suggest that a person’s internal view of himself or herself actually defines that person more than does any external or physical reality. Technology has allowed for changes in our bodies and in our families that were never available to previous generations. In many parts of society, to object to or limit a person’s choices is now seen as doing that person harm instead of as honest disagreement as it was in times past. Those shifts have worked their way into a commonly held view of truth that has become prevalent in our society. These changes are impacting how many nations address issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of expression, religious liberty, sexual morality, LGBTQ issues, victimhood, and a host of other things.
Most of this book, like Trueman’s larger book, is an analysis of the patterns of thought and social change that have brought us to our present circumstance. This is not a theological study intended to teach a sweet lesson with each chapter. This is a faithful analysis of what society has embraced over time and why. The author does offer in the final chapter some very helpful points for modern Christians about how to navigate the world in which we live, functioning more like second century Christians in a world hostile to their faith.
When I read The Rise and Triumph of the Modern self, I recommended it for those who were willing to put in the work. Now I wholeheartedly recommend Strange New World. This newer work is shorter and more accessible with the same solid insight.
Note: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for posting an honest review.