The goal of these articles (Part 1, Part 2) is to challenge misconceptions about the world and worldliness by taking a fresh look at our authority, the Scriptures themselves. I’ve argued that the biblical concept of worldliness encompasses much more than the matters of fashion, entertainment, and material possessions that we fundamentalists tend to focus on when we use the term.
The Study So Far
Part 1 in the series focused on select passages that suggest worldliness encompasses all of the sinful attitudes and actions of our unregenerate past. Romans 12:2 contrasts two conditions, conformity to “this world”  and transformation through mind renewal. Believers are in the conformed condition to the extent that we are not yet in the transformed condition. “Worldly” here is the opposite of “transformed.” In 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, Paul links the untransformed condition to immaturity and fleshliness and cites envy, strife, and divisions as evidence of that immaturity. Finally, James 3:14-15 associates contentious, self-seeking attitudes and sensuality with wisdom that is worldly (“earthly”).  Together, these passages alert us against a host of ungodly attitudes we seldom think of as worldly.
Part 2 emphasized the importance of understanding what “the world” is in order to understand what “worldly” means. We found that Scripture sometimes uses “world” very broadly (the created order of earth and/or all its people) but sometimes uses the word negatively in reference to a flawed subset of that order. Furthermore, some references to “world” are strongly negative in tone and identify an even smaller subset of the whole, a world within a world, within a world. This purely sinister sense of “world” is clearly an enemy believers must shun at all costs, but how do we identify what truly belongs to that world? What is its defining characteristic?
A Time-honored but Inadequate View
Part 2 concluded that the defining characteristic cannot be association with unbelievers or even popularity among unbelievers. Whatever we say “the world” of Romans 12:2, 1 John 2:15, and James 4:4 is, total nonpartcipation and nonconformity are required. Though many groups have claimed that “unbelievers and their ways” are what’s in view in Romans 12:2, none have actually lived that interpretation. They have always chosen to allow conformity of one sort or another. Read more about What Does Worldly Look Like? Part 3