Two Pegs For All Commandments and Prophets
Carl Trueman’s book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution offers his thesis that the western culture/society has collapsed as seen by humans’ acceptance and normalization of diversity in sexual identity. Trueman’s argument is tethered to his outline of the journey of history that has led to society embracing humans search for identity that is shaped by one’s psychological feelings to be seen and heard and expressed as an individual. Trueman is convinced this has left our society on the precipice of moral/ethical decay that has untethered us from the Biblical truths that gird Christian moral authority.
I found myself exhausted attempting to enter into conversation with Trueman. Although I appreciate his passion that we see the western communal fabric eroding from the pervasive consumeristic individuality, I struggle with his leap to judgmental proclamations around the moral decay seen in the diversity in sexual identity.
even now in our sexually libertarian world, certain sexual taboos remain in place, pedophilia being perhaps the most obvious. Not all expressions of individuality, not all behaviors that bring about a sense of inner psychological happiness for the agent, are regarded as legitimate. Whether any given individual notices it or not, society still imposes itself on its members and shapes and corrals their behavior. Now, while we might hope and pray that things such as pedophilia and incest remain taboo, we cannot be sure that such will be the case because sexual codes have changed so dramatically over the last few decades.
Trueman lacks an insight about the way power plays into understanding what is taboo/sin. To equate LGBTQ+ identity/relationships with pedophilia is dangerous and quite narrow. It negates that LGBTQ+ relationships have equal capacity as heterosexual relationship to be healthy. Incest and pedophilia have to do with power dynamics not appropriate healthy intimacy.
As I pastor, I approach scripture as an integrated whole. One Biblical truth is that God desires for humanity to surrender the power that we took in the Garden of Eden. Is this not one of the major issues Christ came to upend and redeem in all of creation? In the forward, reference is made to Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn’s Templeton Address, “Men have forgotten God,” which I find an unhelpful proclamation in this context. It raised a critical thought for me. Is it possible that having an ultra-left or ultra-right interpretation of scripture is what reveals one has forgotten God? Or at least a view of the word that reflects an understanding of the flow of scripture?
The nuances of life in God and understanding scripture are many. Genesis chapter 3, the fall of humanity and ALL of creation is revelatory of humans’ desire to be like God. If we think we have moved away from that just because Jesus has gone to the cross and is resurrected, don’t we fool ourselves? Why don’t people of faith even begin to hesitate to consider this truth before making claims? Is God fully loving? Do we think we have the capacity to define how or who God loves?
Does Trueman begin with a God who loves individuals and places us in community with each other to love like God loves? Trueman applies a less than nuanced understanding of the psychology of identity to dehumanize people of color, and the youth of the Western world. The mystery for me, is that as a pastor, Trueman lacks the ability to contextualize Jesus words, “I tell you the truth, you must change and become like little children. Otherwise, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The lion’s share of his focus is on sexuality as it relates to dehumanizing the LGBTQ+ community.
Another question Trueman raises for me is how does one understand the nature of scripture; inspired or infallible? One’s belief on this question often informs the theology of hermeneutics. Doctrinal orthodoxy has been the impetus for burnings at the cross, crusades, extermination of Jews, and supporting slavery.
How does one who clings to the infallible word of God interpret passages like a mother and father dragging their glutton of a son to be stoned to death in Deuteronomy 21:18-21? Inspired or infallible? Depending on one’s hermeneutics, one could be considered an adherent of Sharia Law and applaud “shame honor killings”. Jesus invites us contextualize the power dynamics when he asks, “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
Is God all loving? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is asked which commandment is the most important. Jesus responds, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” 
I serve a congregation that is a More Light church; we are an open and affirming congregation to/for the LGBTQ+ community. I do not presume I have the authority to define love for God. It is only through a glass, dimly that I interpret.
Everything hangs on the pegs of love. Jesus strongly encourages us to count the cost of following in His path. This leads me to ask, what does it cost someone like Trueman to surrender the power he holds to love like Jesus? What if I would be faced with the question, “What if you are wrong about your stance on LGBTQ+?” I do know this: If I am wrong about my interpretation of the wholeness of scripture and accept and embrace my LGBTQ+ siblings, I can still stand with integrity and dignity that I have responded to commandment of Jesus to hang all commandments and the prophets on the pegs of love. As Christ reveals, love is sacrifice; sacrifice, not as a hope of delayed gratification of inclusion in God’s kingdom but motivated to offer space for wholeness for the other.
 Trueman, Carl R., and Rod Dreher. The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2020. Kindle. Page 52.
 Ibid. Page 11.
Ibid. Page 67
 Ibid. Page 126.
 Matthew 18:3 New Century Version
 John 8:5
 Matthew 22:39-42 The Message.
11 responses to “Two Pegs For All Commandments and Prophets”
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Thank you for writing such a bold post in response to such a dangerous philosophy that has been labeled as theological. While we continue to read resources from conservative and right-leaning worldviews, I hope we can actually hear from the other side of the spectrum.
Thank you Andy. My hope is that since this is a global perspectives degree that we will read authors on the spectrum of an issue. It would make sense for us to have that built into what we engage.
Nicole, I appreciate the fact that you raised the issue of inspiration and infallibility of the Bible. I believe Christians talk “past each other” too often having a different view of that issue as well as hermeneutics. A question based on what you wrote. This question is a real-world issue where I serve: do you think polygamy or polyandry are power issues or other ways to express appropriate love?
Roy I agree about people talking past one another!
OK point of contention…..was there a reason you singled out women with the polyandry? Polygyny is when men have more than one wife.
Anyway, in a gut response, I would say polygamy is about power. Here is one article about the subject focusing initially on creatures other than humans.
As you see power/control is an important aspect of polygamy in nature. In humans I imagine, ironically, identity is a huge part of understanding the role of power in an individual.
Nicole, no intent of contention with women! I asked about polygamy and polyandry just to see if multiple spouses for either gender created the same dynamic. I have not met anyone in polyandry by the way. I was curious about the power dynamic you wrote about in your post. I heard a bad joke a while back: what’s the punishment for polyandry? The punishment is being married to more than one man…
Good questions about the nature of scripture and interpretation. I expect the arguments for gay marriage will continue forever, just like both sides of the abortion debate continue to go back and forth. Difficult conversations I’m sure you face in the congregation you serve.
I would agree that the debate on these issues will be with us until we die.
Nicole, great post. Very challenging, for me that is. Sexuality (LGBTQ+) is a challenging topic. But I like where you end, the tenant of love. To love God and love others, we can’t go wrong. Now, we might disagree with this process and what that looks like, but I stand in solidarity with you on that front: may we, the Church, love God and love others well. Lord help us!
Eric, thank you brother! I respect and love you. You are a blessing to me. It is beautiful we can sit in different places on a subject and still be together.
Nicole, thank you so very much for your post and thoughtful and authentic engagement with Trueman’s book. I love your ‘two pegs’ piece towards the end and the issue of inspired or infallible and how we often pick and choose what is infallible. Humility seems to be another theme in your post.
If you could ask Trueman one question about his scholarship, what would you ask?
Okay Nicole, I am disappointed. Where is the cute video to lighten the mood? I count on you for putting a smile on my face in this process… No pressure. This was a very powerful, and passionate post. Like Eric, this is something I struggle with on many levels. While I attempt to approach everyone from a position of love, and grace I have to say that I am still learning how to walk with tension in this area.