Whatever Happened to Worldliness?

You don’t hear much preaching against worldliness these days. Having grown up hearing negative references to “the world,” “worldly” and “worldliness” on a fairly regular basis, the absence seems odd to me sometimes. On the other hand, where worldliness is still a frequented topic, the term seems unclear, disconnected from biblical intent—or both. Whatever happened to worldliness?

More than one phenomenon is occurring.

First, we have a problem of omission. In some cases, this is due to nothing more than uncertainty by pastors and teachers as to how to handle the subject effectively. But sadly, in many ministries, the neglect is due to philosophies of ministry that embrace worldliness as the number one way to “reach people” and achieve “relevance.” What has happened to worldliness in these cases is that—as a pulpit and classroom topic—it has been shelved.

Second, in some ministries, the terms “worldly” and “worldliness” occur rarely from the pulpit simply because they occur rarely in Scripture. Though references to “world” abound in the Bible, “worldly” occurs only twice in the KJV (Titus 2:12 KJV, Heb. 9:1 KJV). The 1984 NIV uses it ten times (Luke 16:9 NIV; Luke 16:11 NIV; 1 Cor. 3:1 NIV, 1 Cor. 3:3 NIV; 2 Cor. 1:12 NIV, 2 Cor. 1:17 NIV; 2 Cor. 5:16 NIV, 2 Cor. 7:10 NIV; Titus 2:12 NIV). Still, the term “worldliness” does not occur in the Bible at all. So, what has happened to worldliness in these ministries is that it is being handled biblically using different language.

Third, in more traditionally fundamentalist ministries, we have another problem: obscurity. A thing is obscured when it’s only partially visible, when it lacks clarity—and it may lack clarity despite the fact that we refer to it quite frequently. What has happened to worldliness in this case is that it has been confusingly distorted either by inconsistent use (equivocation) or by consistent misuse (often in the form of an assumed, though faulty, definition).

PTC, Culture and “the world”

A week or so ago I attended (and this time, participated in) the second, bienniel Preserving the Truth conference in Troy Michigan. The focus this time around was “Christ and Culture.” Since the conference organizers (and most attendees, I’m pretty sure) are traditional fundamentalists, attention to “culture” meant there would be a good bit of attention to “the world” and the idea of worldliness.

Personally, I applaud that. Though fundamentalism has always had some missing links in its thought about culture and the world, we can hardly do worse in this day an age than to ignore the topic completely. It’s a huge battlefront—and will be an even larger one in the future as Christian sexual ethics in particular become more and more incomprehensible (or “hateful” in some cases) to the average American.

But in addition to giving thoughtful attention to a vital subject, the plenary conference speakers made several timely and important obserations. A few worth noting:

  • Christians must cultivate (no pun intended) awareness of the ways our culture influences us. Way too much oblivious absorption is going on.
  • By default, believers should view cultural norms and trends with suspicion.
  • Christians must approach cultural questions with a humble, yielded, “living sacrifice” attitude (in contrast to a “my rights,” a.k.a. “my liberty,” emphasis).
  • The affections in that sense are indeed integral to handling the old “what about believers who don’t see the harm and how do we help them?” problem.
  • Similarly, we do “need to get past an act ethic to a virtue ethic” (Paul Hartog’s phrase, if my notes are accurate. The idea is that we need to see values as the key—and understand how things that are good in themselves become bad because they are part of a messed up set of values.)
  • The “world” passages truly are extremely important for ordering our relationship to culture.

Whatever it is, we’re agin’ it!

But these strong points were accompanied by the long-standing problem of definition. We cannot properly apply the “world” passages to cultural matters unless we first understand what the world, in the negative biblical sense, is. And even then, we’re only half way there. Once the intent of Scripture is clear to us, we must have an equally clear understanding of the life choices we’re facing. To hitch up the trailer, you have to align both the powered vehicle and the trailer then successfully join them. And the right sort of hitch combination is required. So we have to understand the Word and the culture before we can apply the Word to the culture.

Arguably, confusion about the meaning of “world” and “worldliness” has hindered both sides of that application process. Too often, “the world” is, in the minds of leaders, synonymous with an unexamined set of no-no’s. And then, in the more muddled cases, both the no-no’s and the idea of “the world” become part of an impenetrable bit of circular reasoning: Why is cultural trend A wrong? Because it’s obviously “of the world.” How do we know it’s “of the world”? Because it’s obviously wrong.

Many who grew up hearing this sort of case against certain musical styles or entertainment venues or clothing trends came to the conclusion that the whole question of worldliness ought to be dismissed as nothing more than some traditionalists’ method of imposing their stodgy tastes on everyone.

But that’s a tragic mistake.

In cultures, things such as fashions, musical styles, language, etc., have both meaning and influence. More importantly, the NT is full of warnings about our relationship to “the world.”

In my view, the road back to taking worldliness seriously—and also to getting it right—starts with understanding and teaching what “the world” means in the New Testament and doing so in a way that is persuasive, memorable and handy. It’s a tall order, because the topic is complex—not easily reducible to soundbytes. But it’s work well worth pursuing.

(Tomorrow or Friday, we’ll post an article by Les Lofquist that includes such a study of “the world.” In the mean time, if you have a few minutes, take in Dave Doran’s January 11 video or Kevin Bauder’s excellent audio series—if you can find it. We’re still looking for a link. An article series of my own is available here at SI, though I tend to see it now as a slightly clumsy first effort.)

[node:bio/aaron-blumer body]

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Steve Newman's picture

A thought-provoking beginning - looking forward to more....

Questions come out of all this for me, such as:

1. I agree that there are a great amount of Christian ministries today that simply "embrace worldliness". My fundamentalist roots and Scriptures such as I John 2:15-17, Romans 16:17-18, etc. tell me that I'm supposed to separate from them (there's that word again!). Therefore, I'm "judgmental", which seems to be the sin above all sins today for those believers with a worldly mindset. I'm concerned about the ministries that embrace worldliness and how much they want to marginalize those who judge it. The strategy seems to be to "suck up all the oxygen" and to leave no room for any others to be right because they are (a: judgmental; or (b: small (what could be a worse sin than that!); or (c: "not cool".

2. I agree with the idea of the "virtue ethic". It is not so much the individual acts of worldliness as the "love of the world" that is the issue. Do you think that there has become an acceptable form of "Christian worldliness" that is both world-like in its emphasis on "being in with the in-crowd" as well as being "separate but parallel" to the world. So our trappings of culture are not just like the world of today, but slightly separate and trailing the culture. Aren't we "worldly" just as much as someone who is stuck in a certain era of culture?

Brenda T's picture

Aaron,

Are these the audio files you're looking for?

http://seminary.wcts1030.com/resources/mp3-audio?start=10

 

Thanks for bringing up this topic. I look forward to the Lofquist article. It's been my recent experience in talking with people that worldliness (to them) refers only to materialism or greed. Anything else that's suggested to be worldly is excused as long as people's hearts are right or they are sincere. There tends to be a misuse of an Augustine quote that gets paraphrased as "Love God, and do whatever you please."

JNoël's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

Therefore, I'm "judgmental", which seems to be the sin above all sins today for those believers with a worldly mindset.

 

The beauty of American history has declined into the insidious nature of everyone doing what is right in his own eyes, sugar coated by the words Freedom and Liberty (whether patriotically speaking or scripturally speaking).  We all have some degree of this mindset, and I believe it is one of the greatest obstacles to overcome in order to stay on the holy road and off the worldly road.

 

 

V/r

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Brenda, yes, the page you linked to there does have the 5 part series by Kevin Bauder. I'll probably add that link to the main article later.

Steve N wrote:
 Do you think that there has become an acceptable form of "Christian worldliness" that is both world-like in its emphasis on "being in with the in-crowd" as well as being "separate but parallel" to the world. So our trappings of culture are not just like the world of today, but slightly separate and trailing the culture. Aren't we "worldly" just as much as someone who is stuck in a certain era of culture?

I'm not sure how useful the phrase "like the world" is (much depends on what "being conformed" means in Rom12.2 and what 'the world' means).

I remember hearing--and seeing--the illustration often of "the world" drifting in a particular bad direction. The speaker would say something like "let this spot represent the world 50 years ago" and over here is where Christians were (further in the good direction; let's say left). Then the world moved to here (moves to the right) and Christians went here--where the world used to be. And so on.

My thought at the time was if you extrapolate that thinking backwards into history you can do it until you reach the Flood... and then eventually Adam. If it's bad for us to be 'three steps behind the world' now, was it OK in 1628?

I don't think we can reduce our relationship to "the world" to a matter of distance or, much less, reduce what the world is to what we can see in culture ("world" has to include only some of what can see and much of what is not visible at all).

One of the sermons I remember hearing in which this moving "world" and trailing church occurred, referred to it being worldly for women to show their calves in the 1940s (or 20s or whenever it was), and now skirts are much shorter, etc. The point seemed to be that the current fashions were worldly and not for Christians.

But the reasoning didn't hold up. If it was bad to bare calves in 19xx, why is OK now? In my view, it is OK now, but the case shows that "proximity to the world" (as in "what's normal all around us")  is not the criterion for answering these kinds of questions in any era. In some ways, being "normal" in the current culture is not a problem and in others it is. In some ways being "like" the culture of 1940 or 1910 or 1810 or 1610 is a problem, and in other ways not.
Though there is a cultural trajectory in the West that is mostly negative, it's not all negative... so it's not possible to strongly identify biblical holy living in terms of changes in culture and points in time.

.... I'm mostly thinking out loud here. Hope there's something useful there.

(It's way easier to point out inadequate answers than to provide adequate ones!)

Don Johnson's picture

Hi Aaron

Always a timely topic. Part of the problem with definition is that we are defaulting to a notion that "world" = "bad". From there we squabble about what part of our environment = world and what part does not.

The reality is that the world is everything around us. The Scriptures call us to "love not the world" and to pursue godliness. If we are pursuing the world and the things of the world, we are worldly. If we are pursuing God, we are godly, and we will eschew a good deal of what is in the world, or find it of only passing interest.

For example, next week we are going to have a group from our church go to a hockey game. Is that the world? Of course it is. Is it worldly to go to a hockey game? That depends on the heart. There are things that happen at hockey games these days that are really grievous to Christians - the loud music (oh, how I miss the organ players in the old hockey rinks!), the Vanity Fair environment, the cheerleaders (in some places), etc. Even the game itself can be a grief to Christians if it is pursued with devotion that should be reserved for God.

But is it worldly to enjoy a hockey game once in a while? Mostly not.

Of course, most Americans wouldn't probably understand the purity of the hockey experience, so maybe my illustration is lost on you all!! (heh, heh)

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Rob Fall's picture

Don Johnson wrote:
Snip

Of course, most Americans wouldn't probably understand the purity of the hockey experience, so maybe my illustration is lost on you all!! (heh, heh)

Brother, for many Americans, baseball season doesn't really start until our team either wins Lord Stanley's Cup or our team is eliminated from winning it.

 

Viva Los Tiburones de San Jose.

 

2012-13 first the Giants win the World Series, the Niners take the Super Bowl, come spring the Sharks win the Cup.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Jim's picture

Often in Fundamentalist circles worldliness is ...

 

Someone else [Person B] doing something one [Person A] doesn't approve. Could be:

  • Person B having the latest IPhone or techno-gadget
  • Person B going to a movie / renting a video (say from RedBox) while A only watches TV shows from the 60's (Bonanza (one of my favorites!)
  • Person B having nicer, more contemporary clothing than A
  • Person B's vacation that is more expensive than Person A's (say Person A stays at Motel 6's and B at the Hilton)
  • Person B having a newer car or fancier options (heated seats) while Person A drivers a clunker.
  • Person B having a better job (or a perceived better job) than A
  • Person B having a retirement plan while A has failed to save

And then you have the traditional fundamentalist taboos: dancing, cards, drinking (it's always 'social drinking' (which I would surmise is much to be preferred than anti-social drinking!). But taboos that A has accepted (say the wife wears slacks out to shopping) are OK

Then the "my music is better than your music". Why? Because my music is better than your music!

Throw in the homeschooling, Christian Day school, vs public school debate as well. (Best, Good, very-bad!)

And then A's kid goes to the remote North woods  Bible College  while B's to the U!

Cynically ... there you have it!

 

 

christian cerna's picture

As a result of this idea of 'Political Correctness' that has taken a hold of our minds, Christians have been programmed to not express unpopular ideas, save in the privacy of their own homes. Christians can see that expressing their beliefs at school, or in the workplace, or even on the street, will get them into trouble.

Add to that, the fact that Christianity in this country has become commercialized, and does not differentiate itself from the world, but rather tries to imitate it, in order to seem more attractive to the unbelievers. When I was young, it was considered ungodly to listen to Rock, or Rap, or watch movies with monsters or witchcraft. But now you have 'Christian' versions of those types of music, and now you have the so-called 'Christian' media telling us that it is not only OK, but actually spiritually edifying to read books like The Hobbit or The Narnia series. 

The truth is, the line between Christian and non-Christian has been blurred so much, that it is hard for people to even know what Christian is supposed to look like.  

 

Jim's picture

Young Person B goes out to see the Disney move Wall-E with two children she is baby-sitting (better to call it child-care because they were 10 and 12) for a weekend. Young Person A, citing that that one theme of the film is environmentalism, is shocked that Young Person B would view this film.

(This is a real story)

My wife and I saw this film on a hot hot day when we were vacationing in Northern MN. Oh the air-conditioning in the theater! I had a glorious nap for much of the middle of it!

By the way ... isn't environmentalism a good thing?!

The point of this post and my previous is that the Person A judging Person B is a problem in fundamentalism. And it is wrapped in the cloak of identifying "worldliness".

 

Jim's picture

Young man is preparing to teach on 1 John 2 which includes this classic passage: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

Sensing that he may be clueless about the text I met with him several weeks before the lesson. We read the passage together. I asked him "what is worldliness"? He cites various examples.

At that time a permutation of the IPhone was released. The student (the old Person A not approving of Person B's behavior!) mentioned another student buying the latest version of the IPhone as an example of worldliness.

--------

Several years later ... he has a smartphone ... I still have a 5 or 6 year old flip phone.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Don J wrote:
The reality is that the world is everything around us. The Scriptures call us to "love not the world" and to pursue godliness. If we are pursuing the world and the things of the world, we are worldly. If we are pursuing God, we are godly, and we will eschew a good deal of what is in the world, or find it of only passing interest.

It's really more complex than that. The "world" in the sense of everything around us is what God made and declared "very good." It cannot be wrong to love what God has declared very good.

Add to the mix the fact that some passages express the disjunction between love of God and love of the world in radical terms. To even be a friend of the world is to be an enemy of God in James 4:4-5.

The only possible conclusion we can draw is that "world" does not always refer to the same thing (whether the Greek is kosmos or aion) and we have to discern on a passage by passage basis what we're looking at.

If a hockey game is "of the world" in the sense of John 17:14  we should never attend or view one at all. There's no room for moderation there. On the other hand, if the game is "of the world" in the sense of 1 Cor. 7:33 (an exact match in that example is not likely!) the activity's relationship to the world is in itself, not relevant to when or how we use time in that way. Other factors dictate.

 

Several years later ... he has a smartphone ... I still have a 5 or 6 year old flip phone.

This is more like asceticism, Jim! Meditate on Col. 2.23!

(I'm actually still a flip phone guy myself... or as I like to call it, a "dumb phone." We should start a club: the older your phone the godlier you are. I didn't even get a cell phone at all until about 2009... because that was the year they stopped being worldly)

Anne Sokol's picture

my sympathies are with Jim in this quest. it's hard not to by cynical about it all  ;) 

I think worldliness is perhaps first of all our mindset, even just the things are minds are set on. 

I don't have a way to express it except through example. Lately I've been thinking a lot about our finances, and it's interesting, being in an international marriage and seeing what we each think are important things financially.  Trying to wipe away things that are cultural (maybe "worldly", in that it places self-care as a main priority), and ask God to renew my mind and make me think His ways about money--about retirement, about vacations, security, saving, about a lot of things. Things that don't have frontal Biblical commands or directives, that are principle-guided, and asking myself if I'm laying down Biblical principles to guide me or culturally-created expectations of "normal."

 

 

 

christian cerna's picture

Jim wrote:

 

The point of this post and my previous is that the Person A judging Person B is a problem in fundamentalism. And it is wrapped in the cloak of identifying "worldliness".

 

 

But what is judgement?

Is warning a brother about the dangers of gambling, the same as judging him? 

Is correcting my brother who has a habit of crude joking, judging him?

Does rebuking a person who is involved in an illicit relationship with a woman, count as judgment?

Is there not a valid place for exhortation, or reproof in the church?

And if so, over what matters can they be practiced?

Do not the apostles exhort believers to keep themselves pure, in mind, body, and spirit? 

Are not certain songs, or movies, or books, capable of corrupting the hearts and minds of people?

And if so, should we not judge those things, to avoid being caught in the snare of the devil?

 

 

Jim's picture

 

  • Is warning a brother about the dangers of gambling, the same as judging him? Response: Not all judgment is bad judgment. Gambling is pretty black and white. It’s gaining at the expense of another’s loss
  • Is correcting my brother who has a habit of crude joking, judging him? Response: Yes is is (the good judging!) but we are to exhort one another. Hebrews 3:13
  • Does rebuking a person who is involved in an illicit relationship with a woman, count as judgment? Response: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and many other verses
  • Is there not a valid place for exhortation, or reproof in the church? Response: Answered above
  • And if so, over what matters can they be practiced? Response: Need to be discerning between absolutes and preferences. Fundamentalists have a tough time with this! (see chart above)
  • Do not the apostles exhort believers to keep themselves pure, in mind, body, and spirit? Response: Yes
  • Are not certain songs, or movies, or books, capable of corrupting the hearts and minds of people? Response: Yes but best to teach the principles and let the Holy Spirit apply the details (or else we will preach a list of books, movies, songs!)
  • And if so, should we not judge those things, to avoid being caught in the snare of the devil? Response: Yes

 

My list several posts above are peripheral issues. (Buy the new IPhone … etc)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'll add to the judgment track that the problem, as far as fundamentalism goes, is not really a "judging when we shouldn't" problem so much as a "judging what and by what" problem.

That is, if we judge that a believer is, in the vernacular, "not right with God" because he applies a passage differently, how have we reached that conclusion?

Not all applications are created equal.. we're talking about degrees of certainty, and sometimes the degree of certainty is quite high. Nobody here would argue (I'm pretty sure) that using web porn is OK since the Bible mentions neither the Web nor the visual stuff we call porn. It's an application with a very high degree of certainty.

We can't categorically say "all applications are 'just man made rules'" to be dismissed as trivial points of contention.

One thing the conference got me seeing is that while we need to be humble and cautious in how we judge others (they really did emphasize this... along w/ emphasizing the need to not be ambiguous and tentative about what's clear) having a yielded spirit really does solve a whole lot of problems up front.

While we have to avoid judging motives more than is warranted, some make it pretty clear in their words, facial expressions, tone, etc., that they really are only interested in being as cool or self-indulgent as they possibly can while maintaining a claim of devotion to Christ. There's no convincing somebody like that to take a serious look at what they're doing and "prove all things."

It's not a coincidence that (as M. Minnick pointed out at the conf.) Rom.12.1 comes before 12.2... there does have to be a laying on the altar first before asking "what is good in this culture that I should enjoy?"

juitdeflesch's picture

In studying for a sermon on the mount series, I read D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  In reference to treasures on earth/in heaven, he described worldliness as anything that was temporary, or thus related only to this world.  It made me rethink my definition of worldliness.  (Of course, different Scriptural contexts may have differing shade of meaning or application.)  Aaron is right that worldliness is not being preached.  It appears to me that the topic needs to preached [correctly!] more now than 40 years ago.

John Uit de Flesch

Andrew K.'s picture

In studying for a sermon on the mount series, I read D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  In reference to treasures on earth/in heaven, he described worldliness as anything that was temporary, or thus related only to this world.  It made me rethink my definition of worldliness.  (Of course, different Scriptural contexts may have differing shade of meaning or application.)  Aaron is right that worldliness is not being preached.  It appears to me that the topic needs to preached [correctly!] more now than 40 years ago.

Yes! And that's precisely the context given in 1 John 2:17, that the world is "passing away." I think this meaning would harmonize quite well with Jesus' warnings with regard to His Second Coming:

31On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32Remember Lot’s wife. 33Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. (Luke 17)

Thus the warning against worldliness would seem, to me, to be emphasizing the dangers of growing too attached to the present state of things, since it stands ready for judgment. Otherwise, risk the fate of Lot's wife when He comes.

神是爱

Don Johnson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

The only possible conclusion we can draw is that "world" does not always refer to the same thing (whether the Greek is kosmos or aion) and we have to discern on a passage by passage basis what we're looking at.

Well, duh... of course. But I'm pretty sure you already knew that I didn't mean the created world.

Aaron Blumer wrote:
If a hockey game is "of the world" in the sense of John 17:14  we should never attend or view one at all. There's no room for moderation there. On the other hand, if the game is "of the world" in the sense of 1 Cor. 7:33 (an exact match in that example is not likely!) the activity's relationship to the world is in itself, not relevant to when or how we use time in that way. Other factors dictate.

I would say that a hockey game pretty well fits into both of these passages in certain ways. But the command is to love not the world, it is not 'come out of the world'. We have to be careful with our involvement with things like a hockey game, it certainly can't dominate our lives and be a driving force in our thinking. But it can be enjoyed on other levels.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

PSFerguson's picture

Let me try an introductory stab at making some objective distinctions. This is a similar debate that often occurs when we discuss terms such as "worldly music" and CCM. A poor response that is often raised is that this is a purely subjective analysis as the Bible gives us no "objective standards" to determine what is worldly and what is not. R.C. Trench gives the following classic definition of aion:

All that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral, atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale.

Building upon Trench's definition, I define worldliness as anything produced by our zeitgeist world view which utilises forms to satisfy the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Galatians 5:19-21 offers objective elements for evaluating the things of the world.

Others will say how can we apply these definitions in the world around us. There are things that we should be able to discern with sanctified common sense in our dress and conduct as, “Doth not even nature itself teach you” (1 Cor 11:14). Scripture is filled with commands to weigh up the value of all things (Isa 7:15; 1 Thess 5:21; Heb 5:14; Eph 5:10; Philp 1:9-10; 4:8). For instance, the Scriptures record that there is a singing style of a harlot (Isa. 23:15) and a dress style of a harlot (Prov. 7:10). As these are not set forth in definitive detail, clearly the Bible expects us to be able to work it out!

It is interesting the unsaved world can parse such cultural forms and make objective conclusions but many Christians deny that this is possible. When I read a newspaper, I note they can look at the dress and conduct of a person and deduce it is "sexy" or "rebellious" or "provocative."  The Westminster Confession makes clear that the Bible is sufficient to judge what is worldly and what is not:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

...But I'm pretty sure you already knew that I didn't mean the created world.

That wasn't clear to me. Your "world" seemed to include everything material as well as everything cultural... Which is kind of what I've been talking about: overly broad generalizations about "the world."

I really can't recommend Kevin Bauder's series highly enough. (Link is now in the main article). I'd love to see it get to written form.

One thing that all the studies I've seen pick up on:

You have "world" and "age" used in the NT in the sense of all that is temporary. But there is a much more sinister sense as well. I've posted some examples of the latter up the thread already.

The "all that is temporary" sense calls for a relationship of detachment. The anti-God order sense calls for a relationship of uncompromising rejection.

Westminster Confession wrote:
by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men...

I love the good ol' Westminster, but this statement illustrates an unavoidable problem... We have to "deduce from Scripture" and when we do, the deductions become part of a "tradition of men." We don't add the latter to Scripture, of course, but they do become part of the body of faith of various congregations. The trick is to keep re-evaluating the traditions, giving them the respect they deserve without ascribing something like infallibility to them.

But the dominant attitude in American Christianity in general is to assume that these traditions/deductions are not of any value.

PSFerguson's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Westminster Confession wrote:
by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men...

I love the good ol' Westminster, but this statement illustrates an unavoidable problem... We have to "deduce from Scripture" and when we do, the deductions become part of a "tradition of men." We don't add the latter to Scripture, of course, but they do become part of the body of faith of various congregations. The trick is to keep re-evaluating the traditions, giving them the respect they deserve without ascribing something like infallibility to them.

But the dominant attitude in American Christianity in general is to assume that these traditions/deductions are not of any value.

 

Aaron, I do not believe the Confession is teaching here concerning mere church tradition when it refers to matters "by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture." The proof texts attached are:

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? (1 Cor. 11:13-14)

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying…. Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:26, 40)

 

So the Bible is teaching that there are standards that can be objectively determined. These are true in every century, culture, and continent. They don't become part of church tradition as they are objective standards derived from inviolable Scriptural principles.

 

Charlie's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I love the good ol' Westminster, but this statement illustrates an unavoidable problem... We have to "deduce from Scripture" and when we do, the deductions become part of a "tradition of men." We don't add the latter to Scripture, of course, but they do become part of the body of faith of various congregations. The trick is to keep re-evaluating the traditions, giving them the respect they deserve without ascribing something like infallibility to them.

But the dominant attitude in American Christianity in general is to assume that these traditions/deductions are not of any value.

The Westminster statement needs to be understood in historical context. "Good and necessary consequence" is speaking of a syllogism (consequence) of valid construction (necessary) in which both premises are drawn from Scripture (good) or perhaps one is from natural law or intuitive knowledge. These deductions, then, are not a layer of tradition added on top of Scripture; they are merely an explication of Scripture. For example, the Trinity is known by good and necessary consequence, since there is no passage of Scripture that gives us the whole doctrine of the Trinity; yet, the Trinity is not usually understood by orthodox Christians as being a layer of "tradition" on top of some pure biblical layer. At least, it's not like the tradition-theory of pre-Vatican 2 Catholicism, which is pretty explicitly extra-scriptural. 

This definition of consequence is much stricter than what most people think of when they hear a phrase like "deduced from Scripture." In my opinion, it's too strict. But, there is no room for subjective wiggle room. It's not a question of my deductions vs. yours. The disagreement comes largely about the premises. Once agreement is reached there, it's a very simple and secure move to the conclusion. 

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

christian cerna's picture

The Psalms give us the standard by which we ought to judge all music. God's original design was for man to use the talents that he has, to glorify God, to express truths about the created order, and to minister to his brethren. Therefore, music that does not bring glory to God, is not Godly. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

We don't have any of the music of the Psalms. At best, the Psalms can show us what song lyrics should be like, though even as that they don't stand alone, since we have three different kinds of singing legitimized in Col. 3.16.

But this returns us to the problem of definition. Everyone agrees that music must glorify God. The problem emerges in identifying what glorifies Him and what, in that sense, does not. To do that, we have to gather and infer principles from Scripture then hitch those principles up accurately to the choices we're facing today. So there are several very human, error-prone steps in that process.

christian cerna's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

We don't have any of the music of the Psalms. At best, the Psalms can show us what song lyrics should be like, though even as that they don't stand alone, since we have three different kinds of singing legitimized in Col. 3.16.

But this returns us to the problem of definition. Everyone agrees that music must glorify God. The problem emerges in identifying what glorifies Him and what, in that sense, does not. To do that, we have to gather and infer principles from Scripture then hitch those principles up accurately to the choices we're facing today. So there are several very human, error-prone steps in that process.

 

We have an example of Spiritual songs in the Exodus, when Miriam leads the women of Israel in a song of praise, after Pharaoh's chariots are swallowed up by water.

We also have the Spiritual song found in the book of Luke, that Mary sang, when she heard the Spirit-filled words that Elizabeth uttered, upon sensing that her baby had kicked inside her womb.

Charlie's picture

I don't think it's true, overall, to say, "You don’t hear much preaching against worldliness these days." Well, it might be, depending on who "you" are. This is a perspective issue. I think this is aimed at one particular type of person: a person who grew up in a specific type of fundamentalist church. People in that type of church don't hear that much of that type of preaching anymore, because ... well, it wasn't sustainable. Worldliness in fundamentalism was (is?) primarily about taboos. Taboos are designed to put clear markers between those who are in and those who are outside of a tribe.

Other Christians hear about worldliness a good deal. But the word is κοσμος, and many strains of Christianity tend to take that in a more cosmic sense. For example, Catholics appealed to teaching about the κοσμος to argue for more just international relations. Liberal protestants and progressive evangelicals identified the κοσμος with racism, sexism, and systems of entrenched economic poverty. 

I think that some of your broader concerns about entertainment and culture can be addressed along the same general lines as other Christians have. Where I think fundamentalists need to remake their thinking, other than getting over taboos, is having a sense that even their stand against the world is rooted in an even deeper mission for the world.

My Blog: http://dearreaderblog.com

Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere. ~ John Calvin

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

There's been a good bit of taboo thinking, I agree.

But not all of that is bad. There clearly is an "us" and a "them" and 2 Cor 6 is full of that, to name one passage.

But I grew up with a variety of perspectives on "the world" and "worldliness." Some speakers were parroting cliches. Others were trying to preserve fundamentalist identity. More than a few were simply trying to articulate the biblical call to live holy lives and "be not conformed."

When we look at the statements of Scripture on kosmos (and aion), what we come away with is an understanding that is in some ways more complex and in other ways simpler. 

Where simpler comes in is that we're able to pretty easily avoid this...

... Catholics appealed to teaching about the κοσμος to argue for more just international relations. Liberal protestants and progressive evangelicals identified the κοσμος with racism, sexism, and systems of entrenched economic poverty.

Not that the biblical teaching on kosmos/aion doesn't have some applications to international relations and social issues, but they are clearly not in focus.

josh p's picture

Aaron, thanks for the article and the links at the end. Both Bauder and Doran were helpful. I especially appreciated the careful analysis of the world "World" as used in scripture. 

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