A Mountaintop Work

From the mountaintop, the many wandering roads, woods, streams, farms, and hills below, a seeming confusion of the arbitrary and happenstance, resolve themselves into order.

Anthony Esolen reviewed Carl Trueman's extremely important work, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, in the current edition of Touchstone Magazine. Esolen's opening paragraphs put into words the very reaction I had when I first read Trueman's book:

Carl Trueman, professor of History at Grove City College, has written what I call a "mountaintop work". I refer not just to its intelligence and breadth of learning, but to how it works in the mind of the reader.  Like Joseph Pieper's "Leisure: The Basis of Culture", C.S. Lewis's "The Abolition of Man", and Christopher Lasch's "Culture of Narcissism", this work takes you to the summit of a great height, from whose vantage the many wandering roads, woods, streams, farms, and hills below, a seeming confusion of the arbitrary and happenstance, resolve themselves into order, so that you see not only what your guide points out to you, but plenty of other things as well, and not individually, but in all their many and often unexpected relationships. It reveals a world - or in this case, an anti-world.

This is exactly how I felt after reading Trueman's work - like the heretofore random cultural chaos and cacophony suddenly made cohesive sense. It is a transformative book for anyone willing to do the work of thinking through it. And there is a lasting effect to having the fog blown away: the more you think about his thesis, the more you see confirmations of it all around you. I consider Trueman's book to be one of the most important books I've read this century.

Another book that has had a similar effect on me, when I recently read it, is Michael Heiser's The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. This is a transformative work for the reader's understanding of the world we live in, and the supernatural lens through which the original readers of both the old and new testaments would have understood their world. Heiser makes so much sense of things I have read all my life but never understood - things that sort of hovered in the background of my consciousness but were mostly filtered out while reading because of their (to me) inexplicability. Heiser does a fantastic job of making biblically rigorous sense of so many curious things - Nephilim and other giants, the identity of "heavenly council" around God's throne, - something which crops up all over the Old Testament, the "watchers", heavenly creatures of many kinds, God's propensity to speak in the 1st person plural, the "angel of God", why Eve seems unsurprised that the snake was speaking with her in the garden, and much more. The ancients' acceptance of the correspondence between our world and the heavenly realms, their interrelatedness, is a fascinating thing to unpack. (See Daniel 10 for an interesting anecdote in this regard.)

You will be doing yourself a favor if you read either of these books.

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