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Carl Trueman delivers the annual Scudder Lecture at Midwestern Seminary

Posted March 30, 2023 by Brett Fredenberg

KANSAS CITY, Mo—Carl Trueman, author and professor at Grove City College, delivered Midwestern Seminary’s annual Scudder Lecture on March 29, addressing the question, “What is a human?”

Prior to the lecture, President Jason Allen expressed his gratitude to Dr. Trueman, noting him as a clear and convictional voice on contemporary cultural issues.

Allen said, “As a lecture established and endowed many years ago, the Scudder Lectures bring speakers to campus to explore the biblical basis for dealing with contemporary issues in social, cultural, or ethical contexts. This year, we have a speaker who certainly fits the bill of those expectation as a proven voice along these lines.”

He continued, “Dr. Trueman is a friend of many of us on this campus. He’s joined us on campus several times and is one who many of us know and delight to hear. He’s one of my favorite thinkers, writers, and speakers, and it’s a delight to welcome him to campus this year to discuss this important issue.”

Trueman began his lecture by referencing what he believes to be the most pressing issue of the contemporary era, the question of anthropology.

“Different periods of church history raise different challenges and different questions,” Trueman said. “Our own day, I think, raises the question of what it means to be a human.”

Despite cultural confusion on gender, he explained how the deeper issue rests in what it means to be a human being.

Trueman clarified the uniqueness of human beings amongst all other creatures on the planet. He noted that the distinction between ‘who we are’ and ‘what we are’ is fundamental.

Expounding the problem of how contemporary definitions of human beings have changed, he discussed the challenge of technology.

He shared two specific temptations that technology provides for human beings: (1) viewing the world as raw material to feed our identities, and (2) viewing ourselves as raw material to be transcended. Technology, he said, does both.

Having written extensively on the topic of expressive individualism, Trueman went on to discuss four specific ways that technology fuels a belief in the “radically free will.”

First, he spoke to musical technology.

He said, “Every culture with which I am familiar has historically placed a great importance on music. Music was something that drew people together. But now it’s something that separates us. Music has moved from something that was communally produced to something that is individually consumed.”

Second, he discussed medical technology, citing key examples in the areas of plastic surgery and gene editing. He showed how medicine has gone from being primarily restorative to being transformative.

Third, he discussed technology and sexual ethics. He gave the example of pornography, stating how it dehumanizes all who are involved and turns human beings into consumers and takers rather than givers.

Finally, he discussed technology and transhumanism.

He said, “Transhumanism is a philosophy that believes that the limitations of the human are to be transcended through the use of technology. Whether for the desire to live forever or reinvent oneself, biology is to be overcome by the use of technology.”

Through these four examples, he explained how people have reimagined what a human being is. With the help of technology, people today strive for independence and sovereignty in new and diverse ways.

To conclude, Trueman discussed a path forward and reiterated the relevance of the Christian conviction that human beings are bodies.

He said, “As Christians, we must reflect upon and reassert the importance of our bodies. It’s the difference between watching a play and being at the theater. It’s the difference between being in church and hearing the Word proclaimed and watching the Word proclaimed on a screen.”

“We are bodies,” he said. “Our bodies are not mere instruments that help realize ourselves, our bodies are ourselves. The body teaches us that to be human is to be dependent. Conversations about music, sexual ethics, medical technologies, and transhumanism should all be rooted in an anthropology of embodiment.”

To view the Scudder lecture, visit here.


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