In the conflict over fundamentalism and culture, meta-debate seems to have overshadowed debate. Healthy debate is what occurs when two parties look at the real points of disagreement between them and try to support their own position on those points.
Meta-debate is what happens when we debate about matters surrounding the debate. At its best meta-debate may help clarify and focus the real debate when it happens. It may lead to healthy debate. But it is not the debate itself, because the real points of disagreement are not in focus.
But meta-debate quite often breeds confusion and makes the truly differing claims and supporting arguments less clear rather than more clear. This sort of meta-debate takes many forms from trading insults, to assigning ideas to the other side that they don’t really hold, to framing the debate itself in a way that obscures its true nature.
One example of the latter is the phrase “imposing preferences.”
I’ve been hearing this term for years and still hear it quite often. If you’ve used it in communication with me recently, please don’t think I’m targeting you specifically. It’s an expression that has long lived in my “If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times” file.
Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jan./Feb. 2013.
“Why do people in churches seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute?” That profound question was posed by one author thirty years ago.1 Do you think such an assessment could still be made three decades later?
We live in an entertainment saturated society. And the danger of living in such a society is to prefer a more fun-filled deity, trivializing the one true God and minimizing His holy standards, happily entertaining ourselves with illusions of Christianity. No sense of awe, little reverence, lots of laughs. The problem is that all of this is so corrupt and unbiblical, soon (and quite predictably) the punch lines start to grow old, smiles are replaced by yawns, and yawns lead to carelessness, heresy and moral defection.
The New Testament warns us to “offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (ESV, Hebrews 12:28-29). It seems all too often that talk of the consuming fire of the Lord God Almighty gets extinguished by entertaining, happy god-talk.
Gimmicks, fads, and feel-good faith is replacing the real thing in the lives of all too many Christians. Knowing Christ and His Word has been replaced by the notion that ministries must be based on philosophies that are entertaining or therapeutic. The solid foundation of truth has been obscured by the bright lights of the stage and overlooked for style, image and hype. The end result is that we have fallen prey to the insights and mindset of the world of entertainment, swallowing powerful myths such as the desperate need for fun and relevance-at-any-cost.
We need a clear understanding of who we are and where we live and where we’re headed.
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.