Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Great Malaise of Modern Society

Written by: on April 14, 2024

I love learning a new word. My family and I often enjoy sharing new words we’ve learned, although I find it much more challenging than they (my mom and wife) do to weave them into my everyday conversations. I often write them down (I have pages of Dr. Clark’s ‘one-liners’) or highlight them in books. Not to boast, but to credit the ideal argument or describe something with intellectual precision in my writing. It’s remarkable how a single word can encapsulate the complex maladies of modern society, a theme Carl R. Trueman thoroughly explores in his book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.


At times, I find myself grappling with discomfort or fear, unable to fully articulate the daily unease I experience. Its an odd dichotomy because I also feel confident and feel my “spiritual swag” often too. I can’t help but see the darkness everywhere and with each new book and reflection, I’m awakened to the forces that influence our world. Trueman’s analysis resonates deeply with me, highlighting how our era is sculpted by sex and tech, or what I bluntly refer to them as, “modern idols.” His notion of cultural amnesia[1] strikes a chord; yet, I believe the answer has always been before us, plainly laid out in the Bible. We observe recurring narratives of rise and triumph, echoing the perpetual human struggle with God and our inherent need for redemption. Why, then, does global society still resist this narrative, choosing instead to exalt self-satisfaction? We neglect our true calling through misguided priorities, letting the lure of instant gratification and spiritual battles derail us, thereby widening the rift between sanctification and walking in Spirit.

Personal Take

I found reading Trueman’s book to be a rewarding experience. His insights across a variety of topics are presented with open-mindedness and articulated from a perspective that strives to be unbiased. Yet, in his final prologue, Trueman offers a personal reflection that grounds his academic observations. He reminds us that “this world is not our home,” suggesting a transcendental perspective on current societal trends. Additionally, he warns that “lamentation and polemic always run the risk of being less prophetic and more therapeutic in their motivation and effect,” urging us to reflect deeply on our motivations and the impacts of our discourse.[2] This thoughtful blend of scholarly analysis and personal meditation enriches the reader’s understanding of the complex interconnectedness of culture and identity.

I believe the main point of triumph is in the awareness of the profound cultural shifts that have led to a modern understanding, specifically sexual immorality. Trueman argues that these shifts have redefined identity, freedom, and morality in ways that prioritize personal expression and subjective feelings over traditional norms and objective truths. He adds, “When healthy sexual activity is considered a matter to be judged by instinct, then inevitably those institutions that disagree with such will be seen as problematic and as hindering human authenticity and freedom.”[3]

I also interpret “triumph” as the dark successful embedding of this new conception of the self within society. Where self-identity and personal fulfillment are prioritized above all. This triumph is largely characterized by the dominance of expressive individualism, where personal expression is seen as the highest form of authenticity and the key to achieving personal happiness and societal recognition.[4]  Trueman traces how this shift has been influenced by intellectual movements and key figures in philosophy, psychology, and politics, and how it has led to significant changes in societal attitudes towards issues like sexuality, gender, and personal rights.

At its core, the triumph Trueman describes is the broad acceptance and normalization of a view of the self that emerges from within the individual, rather than being shaped by external societal or traditional norms. This marks a significant shift in Western thought and culture. Yet, amidst these changes, I firmly believe that my true identity is rooted in Christ and it offers the greatest reward, peace, and satisfaction. It is in Him that we find reliability, trustworthiness, and something worth giving our lives for.

Many of us have metaphorically “died” to ourselves, navigating our journeys, triumphs, and challenges. However, society does not appear to share the Jesus Model where we find true fulfillment. Not in our constructed identities or politically driven movements but in Him alone. This book served as a great reminder that we must tune into our spiritual instincts and guidance, building the endurance necessary for our faith journey. As the author of Hebrews encourages, “For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” And, “Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings great reward.”[5] These words remind us of the profound spiritual reward that comes from steadfast faith and enduring commitment to our spiritual path.


[1] Truman, Carl; The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, 10

[2] Ibid, 438-439.

[3] Ibid, 168

[4] Ibid, 441

[5] Heb 10:35-36

About the Author

Michael O'Neill

Director of Operations / Executive Pastor at Kinergy, Inc. Federal 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. An experienced entrepreneur, leader, father, wellness professional, and owner of a multi-location medical practice with my wife, Nicole O'Neill, MD.

7 responses to “The Great Malaise of Modern Society”

  1. Tonette Kellett says:


    Excellent recap of Trueman’s works, as always. I loved your last paragraph about dying to self. As Christians, that’s really the bottom line. I shared in a blog some time back that I keep a little coffin on my desk about the size of a GI Joe toy with a quote from Amy Carmichael: “See in this thing a chance to die.” It reminds me daily to die to self in every big and small way.

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thank you, Dr. T. I agree, it is the bottom line. I also love how your focus is always centered on Christ. That is a powerful visual and smart reminder. If we can keep getting that part right, I am hopeful for the rest.

  2. mm Becca Hald says:

    Michael, Great discussion on Truman. I am with you – I love words. I especially love learning words in other languages. I love words that do not have a direct translation to English, that convey a feeling or an emotion beyond what we think. So here is a word for you… the Greek word hypomone:
    “1. The capacity to hold out of bear up in the face of difficulty, patience, endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance… especially as they are shown in the enduring of toil and suffering.
    2. The act or state of patient waiting for someone or something.”
    (A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Ed.)

    We need hypomone, endurance, perseverance, tenacity in order to follow Christ. As you wrote, “This book served as a great reminder that we must tune into our spiritual instincts and guidance, building the endurance necessary for our faith journey.” How do you build endurance to run the race?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      THANK YOU, Becca. What a great word? I definitely received this and I am grateful! This word fits perfectly with our ministry and I will certainly add this to my lexicon arsenal – as soon as I can confirm I am pronouncing it correctly… 😉

  3. mm Daron George says:

    Dr. O,

    I really like that you highlight Trueman’s exploration of the influence of sex and technology, which you refer to as “modern idols,” on contemporary culture. I like the view of “modern idols” when it comes to tech and sex. I’m going to be borrowing it. HAHAHA

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      It’s all yours! I really believe it. The devil would be ridiculous to use the idols of the past. He is relevant and gives his people exactly what they want and we have to see through it. Thank you for being on the Jesus team. It’s an honor to serve with you.

  4. Alana Hayes says:

    OH MY GOODNESS!!!! This line: Many of us have metaphorically “died” to ourselves, navigating our journeys, triumphs, and challenges.

    Hit me in my core. Thank you for such a great analogy and post!

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