Friday, October 14, 2022

Some reading

Here are some brief thoughts on three books I read recently - they're not particularly connected, except to say that they are all books which take things seriously, and I appreciated that.  All three are good reads, and I'd recommend them to you.

Firstly, and most substantially in terms of both volume size and intellectual depth, I got around to reading Carl Trueman's The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.  The book is itself a triumph, albeit a painful one.  Here we get a reasonably detailed look at how the West got to be where it is today - framed by looking at how it came to pass that a statement like 'I am a man trapped in a woman's body' came to be taken as both serious and important, rather than considered to be nonsense, as it would have been until relatively recently.  In short, Trueman shows how the self became psychologised (that is to say, my internal reality defines who I really am), the psychological became sexualised, and the sexual became politicised - broadly, those movements correspond to the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries in the intellectual history of the West.  I found the analysis compelling, and I would say the book needs to be the starting point for any attempt to address, from a Christian perspective, the descent of our culture.  Trueman only begins to hint at a potential answer t the question of what should be done, but there is material here to build on in the future.

Second, a much briefer book: Mike Reeves' Gospel People.  Subtitled A call for evangelical integrity, this book falls into the genre of 'appeals to evangelicals to be more evangelical'.  Against the backdrop of debates over whether the very term 'evangelical' has become too tarnished to be of use - especially given the political associations the term has picked up in the US - Reeves shows the theological priorities at the heart of historic evangelicalism and calls the church to return to its roots in the gospel.  His summary of the heart of evangelical identity, in terms of theological markers, is very helpful, rooted as it is in the doctrine of the Trinity.  The only disappointment in the book, for me, is that Reeves repeats the old Stott line about adhering to compromised denominations.  I understand his point that evangelical unity is not primarily institutional but spiritual and doctrinal, but I can't understand why institutional expression of that unity should be so quickly dismissed as a desirable goal, nor why it should be okay for evangelicals, given their beliefs, to be institutionally bound up with heretics.  But the reason that sticks out for me is that the rest of the book is so clear on gospel priorities.  I commend it to you, particularly if you've been troubled about the future of evangelicalism as a movememt.

Third, I've been reading Deeper by Dane Ortlund.  I'll be honest, I've not finished this one.  I've had time, and it's a short book, but it does demand slow reading, and so that's what I've been giving it.  The question of how we go deeper in the Christian life is perennially important, and from my perspective half-way through, this book is a good answer.  It is by pressing into Christ, continually repenting of sin and looking to him, that we grow as believers.  Our great need is not a technique, but the Lord Jesus himself.  This one would be good for anyone, even or perhaps especially if you don't particularly feel the need for it at the moment.

Take up and read!

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