Dr. Carl Trueman has written the book of the moment for Christian intellectuals this winter: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. He joins the entire Mere Fidelity cast and crew in this episode to where the modern notion of the self came from (at least since Rousseau) and how it led to the victory of sexual identity politics. If you’re wondering how the sentence, “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” came to make intuitive sense in our culture, listen on!

Mere Fidelity is sponsored by The Davenant Institute.

Seeking to retrieve the riches of Classical Protestantism and to renew and rebuild the contemporary church, the Davenant Institute provides two graduate-level degree programs in Classical Protestantism through Davenant Hall. Starting this winter term, Mere Fidelity’s own Alastair Roberts will be teaching a course on Exodus and the Shape of Biblical Narrative with Davenant Hall.

Use the code MF20 to receive a 20% discount when you register for Davenant Hall courses this winter term.

Crossway is generously offering a free copy of Dr. Trueman’s book to a new Patreon supporter of Mere Fidelity! To be entered in the drawing, just sign up to support the show on Patreon at $3/month or more before 11:59pm Central Time on Monday, December 7th. If you sign up to a whole year of support at once, you’ll receive an additional entry in the drawing; if you retweet our preview clip of the episode posted over at the @MereFidelity Twitter account, you’ll also receive an additional entry (for a maximum of three entries per supporter). The winner will be notified the evening of Wednesday, December 9th.


New Sponsor Discount Code [1:51]

Dr. Carl Trueman [2:23]

Book Giveaway for New Patreon Supporters [3:59]

How did the statement “I’m a woman trapped in a man’s body” come to make intuitive sense in our culture? [5:14]

Making Connections & Research Surprises [8:36]

Chief Interlocutors [13:02]

To what extent is the church complicit in the transformation of the self? [15:27]

Christianity & Romanticism as co-belligerents; Mercersburg Theologians [25:58]

Therapeuticization of the Self; We can’t go back, so what’s next? [31:13]

Cultural Structures and the Notion of the Self [38:00]

The Role of History in Forming Communities [47:30]


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Follow DerekAndrew, and Alastair for more tweet-sized brilliance. Thanks to Timothy Crouch for keeping us organized. Thanks to Tim Motte for his sound editing. And thanks to The Joy Eternal for lending us their music, which everybody should download out of gratitude for their kindness.

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. I agree with Trueman that Rousseau and the 18th-century romantics that have largely led us astray. The problem with going back to Scotus is that it leads us to reject the entirety of the liberal tradition. Such a project has few practical applications. And it glosses over the vast benefits the liberal order has bequeathed us. But it is possible to envision a liberal order lacking the radical individualism of Rousseau.

    It’s also good to recognize that things turned sour well before the 1960s counterculture came along. Consider sexuality. Trueman is right that we need to stop viewing sexual desire as the principal factor in defining identity. But the approach generally taken by evangelicals to homosexuality is itself dependent on the notion that sexual desire is fundamental to identity. That’s why CBMW is ardent in its efforts to construe any degree of same-sex attraction as sin. That’s because CBMW has bought into the notion that “heterosexuality” is the state of human perfection. If Jesus’ singleness teaches us anything, it is surely that the experience of heterosexuality is not the state of human perfection. That’s why the evangelical approach to homosexuality is rightly viewed as cruel. Evangelicals only criticize sexual identity politics when it’s deployed to defend identities different from their own. So, it’s hard to mount a legitimate criticism of identity politics when you practice identity politics when it suits your interest.

    Like Matt, I wish that Trueman had been a bit more forthright about the fact that American evangelicals have largely bought into Rousseau. In many ways, they played a key role in legitimizing the very trends that they now decry. And I sense little willingness to undo that past. For example, I can’t see American evangelicals embracing asceticism, especially in matters concerning sex. So, it makes it difficult to proffer any persuasive critique of broader societal trends.


  2. […] to exist in public as their authentic selves. (Here I can’t help wondering if David has read Carl Trueman’s recent book and, if he has, what he makes of […]


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