What Does Worldly Look Like? Part 3


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” [1] 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”). [2] 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

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Albert Mohler on Doctrinal Triage: A Response


In The Nick Of TimeBP News is the official press of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a recent “First‐Person” article (August 23, 2006), Albert Mohler issued “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity.” The article, which has been posted twice on Mohler’s own blog, reiterates an argument that he has repeated in several venues. It is an important argument, and Mohler expresses it thoughtfully.

Mohler’s thesis is that theological issues vary in importance, and that the level of importance affects the levels at which Christian fellowship is possible. Most important are “first‐order” doctrines. These teachings are the “most central and essential to the Christian faith.” They represent the “most fundamental truths of the Christian faith.” Indeed, “a denial of these doctrines represents nothing less than an eventual denial of Christianity itself.” Among them, Mohler lists “the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.”
Second‐order doctrines involve issues that create significant boundaries among believers, but that do not keep them from recognizing each other as Christians. Mohler believes that the debate between pedobaptists and credobaptists is an example, as are questions about the ordination of women. He notes, “Many of the most heated disagreements among serious believers take place at the second‐order level, for these issues frame our understanding of the church and its ordering by the Word of God.”

Third‐order doctrines are those over which Christians may disagree while remaining in close fellowship. Mohler names the debate over the timing of events surrounding the Lord’s return as an example of a third‐order dispute. Differences over such doctrines should not prevent believers from accepting one another “without compromise,” even in local church membership.

These three categories provide Mohler with a neat taxonomy for questions of fellowship. Third‐order disagreements should never affect Christian fellowship or cooperation. Second‐order differences may block cooperation at some levels, but should not bar Christians from expressing mutual recognition. Differences over first‐order doctrines—well, Mohler does not express an opinion here.
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Book Review: Alone With God


Alone With GodI dislike “legalese” in any context, but for this review a disclaimer is in order. I have served with Jason Jason for over five years on the staff of South Sheridan Baptist, now Red Rocks Baptist. When I first volunteered to review his book, Alone With God, I realized there could be some discomfort if I had to make negative comments. But I also knew that was a remote possibility since Jason and I had co-authored a discipleship manual, God And My Life. I recognized then his quality of thought, breadth of reading, and an ability to express himself well. I found this book no different, but now to the review.

I recall an experience related by Dr. Howard Hendricks in a Dallas Seminary class regarding his first experience at a devotional life. A brand-new believer, he had heard that we should read the Bible regularly, but he had no guidance. He did begin a reading program but let his personal like for knowing the end of the story first direct him. Turning to the end, he wasn’t far into Revelation before he realized he must have missed something along the way. So he turned to the middle and landed in the early chapters of Ezekiel. After several paragraphs of “sci-fi” multi-faced creatures, whirling windstorms, and a man eating his own writings, he decided the Bible was not understandable, at least for him. He put it down and did not pick it up again for over three years. Desire wasn’t the issue; not having a helpful plan was.

Alone With God endeavors to overcome that barrier along with others that might block a believer’s path to meaningful personal devotions. Without guidance there probably will be no progress. But why another book on the devotional life? Isn’t Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, or Our Daily Bread enough? Jason noted in his perusal of available resources a lack of practicality, although there were some that adequately addressed Bible study and a passionate walk with God. The deficiencies seemed more in areas of prayer and a meditation emphasis. So the author did not start out to write a book; rather, it grew out of a perceived need in youth he ministered to and questions raised in classes at various colleges and camps.
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In Defense of Big Words: A Sesquipedalian Manifesto


The ground squirrel never knew what hit him. He had gone exploring in our Neon’s engine compartment and met his end in the serpentine belt when my wife started the car on her way to pick me up from work. She heard the belt go. My father-in-law very graciously picked me up from work, brought me by Advanced Auto for a new belt, and helped install it. This was a good thing because, when they passed out mechanical skills in heaven, I must have been in the library; my father-in-law, on the other hand, has done a lot of his own auto repair. Despite his mechanical prowess, we had a rough time getting that belt on, mostly because of my scanty tool supply (again, library book sales are favored by the appropriations committee). If you have never tried pushing back a tensioner lever with a stray, unidentified metal bar, don’t. I had visions of everything slipping and my impaling myself on some gizmo and joining the ground squirrel in bulge-eyed rigor mortis.

Now the job did get done but with a good deal of exertion that the right tools would have eliminated. Words are much the same way: having the right ones on hand can get the job done much more quickly and efficiently. Christianity deals in ideas that overturn the world. It would be an advantage to us to be able to explain them adequately. Whether you attended seminary or not, whether you are in the ministry or not, you should work to build your vocabulary (and, as a closely-related corollary, your conversancy in concepts and ideas). As a matter of fact, vocabulary building should be an ancillary ministry of the pulpit and the Sunday school classroom.

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4, ESV). Admittedly, building a working vocabulary takes time and energy, but foresight should see the net gain in the future. Imagine you want to build a cabin on a lake. Will it take time and effort to dig a well? Sure, but do you want to spend the next five decades traipsing back and forth to the lake for water? How about clearing the brush for a roadway? Lots of work, but it beats carrying the groceries three miles.
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Development of a Philosophy of Christian Higher Education


At the SharperIron website, there are a number of Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries represented by contributing authors, forum administrators, members, and visitors. Now that a new academic year has just begun, it might be a useful exercise for us to reflect on our postsecondary institutions and consider why they do what they do. To get started, perhaps we should ask, “What is [insert the name of a given institution]’s ultimate goal, or mission?” The purpose of this article is to generate discussion on the development of a philosophy of Christian higher education. A philosophy statement serves as a general framework for guiding how and why a college operates. In particular, this author is interested in focusing on undergraduate education, although there is relevance to seminary/graduate level education as well. This draft is a work in progress about my own views and does not represent the position of any particular college or seminary.

For administrators of colleges and universities, the linking of a college’s activities and efforts to its mission is of utmost importance. Not only do accreditors expect institutions to show evidences of the connection between units’ strategic plans to the institutional mission, but the effective operating of any kind of organization relies on everyone moving together in the same direction toward a shared overarching goal. This may naturally lead us to ask, “What is the purpose of Christ-centered higher education?” It seems to many of us that the ultimate aim of Christian higher education should be to lead the student to a greater level of Christlikeness. Thus, if we really believe that this is the standard measurement, then we may conclude that a Christian college is successful if it has helped the student to become more mature in all areas of his life, but specifically in his personal relationship with the Lord.

What are the ingredients for this spiritual transformation of college students at a Christian college or university? One way to approach this question is to examine the college experience as seen in the inputs, the environment, and the outputs. Researchers of higher education often view student development through the input-environment-output (I-E-O) model developed by Alexander Astin (1993). The philosophy statement elaborated here generally follows the I-E-O approach, specifying the preliminaries (inputs), the process (environment), and the product (outputs). To begin with, however one must understand the context in which Christian institutions exist.
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On the Merits of Mere Traditions


Note: This article was originally posted December 21, 2005.

Traditions get picked on occasionally by Bible-believing people. I have done some of that picking myself and don’t regret it. Traditions are, after all, things handed down and honored by time, repetition, and the sharing of them by groups of people, and they are not necessarily rooted in any authoritative expression of the will of God.

But attitudes toward tradition tend to be polarized in an unedifying way. We have our unabashed tradition defenders and our unabashed tradition bashers. Those in the former group have rarely met a tradition they didn’t love, and those in the latter group feel quite the opposite. But perhaps both groups are missing something. Maybe the best course is to side with the tradition defenders in presuming traditions innocent until proven guilty but also to side with the bashers in aggressively putting traditions on trial. (I’m speaking metaphorically here, not joining the ACLU!)

There are good reasons to believe that a mere tradition, that is known to be just that, can be a very powerful thing for good and that those who run madly in the opposite direction of anything that looks or sounds old are doing themselves a great disservice.

What Mere Traditions Are Good for

One of the first things God did when He was forming a people for His name was command them to establish traditions (Scripture quotes are from the New King James Version).

… you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go… . and there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households … (Deut. 12:5-7)

Observe the month of Abib, and keep the Passover … in the place where the LORD chooses to put His name. You shall eat no leavened bread with it … (for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste), that you may remember the day in which you came out of the land of Egypt all the days of your life. (Deut. 16:1-3)

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Young Fundamentalists Survey


Note: This article was originally posted September 19, 2005.

In February of 2005, we completed our survey of the young fundamentalists and presented the results at the National Leadership Conference. Since then, I have highlighted several of the results here on SI. However, the editing process is now complete, and we are releasing the results.

The document is 259 pages. I have included the comments on several of the questions that allowed people to respond with a comment. However, to make the survey easy to navigate, I have moved the comments to the end of the document.

Click on this link to download the results.

2005 Young Fundamentalists Survey Results


Jason Janz

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