Mahaney: “Worldliness,” ch. 1

Review: Chapter 1 – “Is This Verse in Your Bible?” by C. J. Mahaney in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, C. J. Mahaney, ed.

A friend of mine loaned me his copy of this little book for my review. Since it is a compilation of six essays by five Sovereign Grace Ministries clergymen, I thought it best to review the book section by section.

The foreword is written by John Piper. In the forward, he makes the statement “What does it look like when the blood of Christ governs the television and the Internet and the iPod and the checkbook and the neckline? Most people have never even asked this question, let alone answered it. The only way most folks know how to draw lines is with rulers. The idea that lines might come into being freely and lovingly (and firmly) as the fruit of the gospel is rare. That’s why this book is valuable.” (p. 11)

The rest of the foreword is of little note, but this statement reflects the horror of ‘drawing lines’ found in most evangelical circles. The statement, as it stands, is basically nonsensical. I think that I get what Piper is after – we are not under the Law, but under grace. But there is a line. It isn’t drawn by a ruler, at least a not a man-made one. It is the rule of the revealed will of God, found in the Bible (and to some extent in nature, see Rm 1.26, 2.14, 27, 1 Cor 11.14). But we do understand that the New Testament attribute of godliness is adopted by a heart that orients itself properly to God, then applies itself to conforming to God’s expectations (rules), and not the other way around. This understanding is, I think, what evangelicals like Piper are after in statements like this, but the way they are stated express their seemingly instinctive abhorrence of the “R” word (“rules”). It weakens their arguments for godliness and opposition to worldliness, I believe, because it encourages a ‘shrinking back’ from the very expressions of godliness that God expects.

The first chapter of the volume is by C. J. Mahaney, pope of Sovereign Grace Ministries. The chapter has commendable points and raises issues that many evangelicals rarely, if ever, voice (at least from my perspective). So I commend Mahaney for raising these issues and being as forthright as he is. I think his chapter is handicapped by a significant error, but let’s commend him for the good he accomplishes along the way.

Mahaney begins with the story of Thomas Jefferson and his pen-knife. Jefferson famously compiled his own Bible, picking out basically those teachings of Jesus of which he approved. He felt quite comfortable ignoring much of the Bible. Mahaney makes the point that many who have whole Bibles in fact are operating as if they have their own custom Bibles after the manner of Jefferson because they ignore ‘inconvenient truths’ they find therein (my term). The verse that is the object of the question found in the chapter title and Mahaney’s Jefferson illustration is 1 Jn 2.15, “Love not the world”. He does a good job challenging the reader to think about this passage and applying it to daily life. He uses Demas as a warning illustration of the dangers of ignoring the verse (I think he might read a bit more into the story of Demas than the Bible provides, but the points he makes here are sound regardless). He notes (pp. 21-23) that the evangelical mindset is softening towards things of the world, noting, “The greater our difference from the world, the more true our testimony for Christ — and the more potent our witness against sin. But sadly, today, there’s not much difference. The lines have blurred. The lack of clarity between the church and the world has undercut our testimony for Christ and undermined our witness against sin.” (p. 23) I would say, “Amen!” to that! Amazingly, Mahaney even uses the words “slippery slope” to express his concern about the softening evangelical testimony — doesn’t he know that there is no such thing as slippery slopes? How gauche of him!

Mahaney’s definition of the world we are not to love is:

“The world we’re not to love is the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God. The world God forbids us to love is the fallen world. Humanity at enmity with God.”1

He defines worldliness this way:

“Worldliness, then, is a love for this fallen world. It’s loving the values and pursuits of the world that stand opposed to God. More specifically, it is to gratify and exalt oneself to the exclusion of God. It reject’s God’s rule and replaces it with our own (like creating our own Bibles). It exalts our opinions above God’s truth. It elevates our sinful desires for the things of this fallen world above God’s commands and promises.”2

The definition is acceptable in its first two sentences, but as he gets ‘more specific’, he veers off into a different idea entirely, the idea of idolatry. The problem with worldliness isn’t simply ‘idolizing’ things in the world, but adopting the values and pursuits of the world as if they are legitimate (godly) values and pursuits for a Christian. Hopefully I will be able to make this distinction clear as we go along in this review.

Mahaney is correct when he says, “[Worldliness] exists in our hearts. Worldliness does not consist in outward behavior, though our actions can certainly be evidence of worldliness within. But the real location of worldliness is internal.”3 As he tries to explain this, however, he moves to 1 Jn 2.16, as he should, but he is using the NIV which I think leads him astray in his thinking. This is how the NIV translates the familiar 1 Jn 2.16:

NIV 1 John 2:16 For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.

Compare this with the KJV and the NAU:

KJV 1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

NAU 1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

The first and third phrases in the NIV are quite distorted from the original.

Mahaney quotes David Powlison on this, who, he says, is paraphrasing Calvin. “The evil in our desires often lies not in what we want, but in the fact that we want it too much.”4 Mahaney proceeds to give his version of the same quote: “The ‘cravings of sinful man’ are legitimate desires that have become false gods we worship. It’s wanting too much the things of this fallen world.”5

This, in a nutshell, is where Mahaney’s chapter begins to be lacking. Earlier, he had correctly talked about the world as “the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God.”6 But now, he speaks as if the problem is not with the things we want, but with the way we want them.

David Powlison and his cohorts talk a lot about idolatry, and their ideas find a ready voice in Mahaney, who is quite close to Powlison, et al. The concerns they raise are often worthy concerns. Idolatry is certainly a problem in the human spirit. But the problem with worldliness isn’t simply with how you crave for things, but with what you crave for. Those things are ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’. These are things in the world we are not to love because they are evil in themselves.

The flaw in Mahaney’s argument is that he makes worldliness out to be the evil that is within. The real danger of worldliness is the attractive evil that is without.

Mahaney’s mistake is evident when he goes on to refer to ‘sexual sin’ as something included in the second category, ‘the lust of his eyes’. Most commentators, I think, usually refer to sexual sin under ‘the lust of the flesh’, the first category of 1 Jn 2.16. But since Mahaney appears to be confused about the meaning of these phrases by the error in the NIV, he mentions it in connection with the second category, warning his readers not to limit ‘the lust of his eyes’ to merely sexual sin.

You can see this expressed as he tries to make application:

“If you’re more excited about the release of a new movie or video game than about serving in the local church, if you’re drawn to people more because of their physical attractiveness or personality than their character, if you’re impressed by Hollywood stars or professional athletes regardless of their lack of integrity or morality, then you’ve been seduced by this fallen world.”7

You see, he is making the problem out to be an inappropriateness in your desires, not an inappropriateness in the object of your desires. (Inappropriateness in your desires is a problem. But it isn’t worldliness.) Worldliness is loving a world that is evil in itself and opposed to God.

The fact is that in many, many cases, there is something wrong with the new movie or video game that makes it inappropriate as an object of Christian affection. Perhaps we should say in ‘most’ or ‘almost all’ cases! There is something wrong with the ‘star’ mentality the world promotes, Christians shouldn’t be impressed with Hollywood stars or athletes at all.

Well, we could go on. Do you see what I am saying?

As Mahaney moves to the third category of 1 Jn 2.16, he talks about boasting. But he speaks of it in such a way as to be describing simple pride, a notable sin to be sure, but it isn’t the hubris of the world as the world that he is talking about.

Again, the mistakes Mahaney makes here seem to be the consequence of relying too heavily on the NIV in this passage. The way he handles the passage makes me wonder if he is aware of the underlying Greek. He doesn’t engage with it all and thus appears blissfully unaware of the real issues of the passage. Not that one must be seminary trained to be in the ministry, but this may be an evidence of his lack of training. What is surprising in this connection is the number of well-educated evangelicals who endorse his book. But, as evangelicals, I don’t expect them to engage carefully with this text either. They may not view the world positively, but their tendency is to view the world at least ‘neutrally. The Bible views the world negatively, and the Christian must be on guard against it.

Finally, as Mahaney comes to his conclusion in this chapter, he advocates that the solution is “the cross of Jesus Christ.”8 His solution is to replace the world with meditation on the cross. This is very Piper-esque, and the current rage and all that, but I think it is an anemic and indefinite response.

What is needed instead of worldliness is ordinate affections – loving the things God loves – and godliness – a sense of the terror of the Lord that governs the heart and mind. We won’t achieve these ends by merely keeping rules, but we must cultivate a love for things that God loves in order to overcome the love of the world. Mere mystical meditation on the cross is insufficient to overcome a skewed value system. We need to replace the spirit of the world with the spirit of Christ – the values of the world with the values of God.

In conclusion, I appreciate the desire of C. J. Mahaney to address this subject. It is a start. But there are some fatal flaws in the argument and I think some worldly Christians can read this chapter and remain in their worldliness.

don_sig2

Notes:

  1. p. 26, emphasis his []
  2. p. 27, emphasis his []
  3. p. 29, emphasis his []
  4. Powlison, quoted on p. 30 []
  5. p. 30 []
  6. p. 26 []
  7. p. 31 []
  8. p. 34 []

Comments

  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I think your cautions are very valid, however I am ‘cautious’ in return about the fundamentalist tendency to condemn ‘things’ without examining the human heart. I see enough of this unthinking ‘this is worldly, that is worldly’ categorisation to feel that a balance between CJ and Don is probably a helpful thing!

  2. d4v34x says:

    How exactly does Mahaney function as a pope in SGM?

    • @Jonathan

      I agree that there is a lot of “unthinking” going on. Partly this is a normal human function. We don’t want to think too much, so we listen to people we admire/respect and let them set the tone. I try not to name too many things as “worldly” in my own teaching, rather try to teach people what the Bible teaches about the world and godliness. See my series at gbcvic.org on “Godliness-Worldliness” for an example.

      @Dave
      Well, that was a bit over the top, no? Although the SGMSurvivors would probably agree. If you look at the SGM corporate structure, I think CJ has a lot of clout in that group. Don’t know if he dominates the entire denomination, but he does tend to be the go-to guy among them.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. Keith says:

    “the problem with worldliness isn’t simply with how you crave for things, but with what you crave for.”

    If that is so Don, then you should not be calling for “ordinate affections”. Ordinate affections (ordo amoris) as discussed by Augustine (who coined the term), Edwards, and Lewis (to name a few) is exactly what Maheny is describing. It deals exactly with how you crave for things. It does not deal with what things you crave because there is no thing which is evil in and of itself.

    Ordinate affections means loving things to the degree and in the way that they were intended to be loved. If you love anything more than you love God — you have an inordinate affection for it. If you love a lesser thing more than a greater thing (your car more than your wife for example) — you have an inordinate affection.

    There is no thing which is wrong in and of itself. All wrong and evil is a privation (the absense or abuse) of a good thing. Evil is always parasitical — without a good thing to corrupt, evil cannot exist. Wealth is not evil — greed and envy are. Feminine beauty is not evil — lust, fornication, and adultery are. Strength is not evil — tyranny and cruelty are. In other words, again, privation of good things is evil.

    “Those things are ‘the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’. These are things in the world we are not to love because they are evil in themselves.”

    The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life cannot exist apart from a person who is lusting or proud. They do not exist “out there” apart from persons desiring good things inordinately.

    Keith

    • Fair enough, if what you say is correct, then I have misunderstood the term.

      Regardless, the problem with worldliness is loving something outside of one’s self, not loving good things in the wrong way. His specifics are problems, but they aren’t worldliness.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Keith says:

    What is something outside one’s self that is bad in and of itself?

    • The world and the things in the world.

      1 Jn 2.15-17 is very clear. The problem addressed in the passage is not something internal, it is something external and objective. We are clearly told not to love four things: the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. The issue is not that we are loving the world and these things in the wrong way, the issue is that we are not to love them period. This is what Mahaney missed in his essay.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Keith says:

    What is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life?

    Could you point me to the lust of the flesh that is outside of a person (the lusting possessor of flesh), to the lust of the eyes that is outside of a person (the lusting possessor of eyes), to the pride of life that is outside of a person (the proud possessor of life)?

    I don’t really care about defending Maheney. But what you are arguing appears to go against a couple thousand years of Christian teaching.

    • The three lusts are the things that make up the philosophy of the world. They are the things that are in the world, that make the world such that Christians should not love it or them.

      I don’t know if I am going against two thousand years of Christian teaching or not. Doesn’t really matter to me if I am. The Bible is the authority, not man.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  6. Keith says:

    Yes, the Bible is the authority, but it takes a lot of chutzpah to claim that 2,000 years of Christians who agree with you that the Bible is the authority have misunderstood it on this point. Leaving that aside . . .

    You still haven’t pointed to a single lust that is outside of persons.

    You haven’t shown a single “thing” that is, in and of itself lust. Philosophies aren’t “things” that exist independent of persons. Persons have philosophies. They can have good ones or bad ones, but no philosophy exists “out there.”

    “Lusts” don’t exist “out there” either. People have to lust — it comes from “in here”. Lusting is something done. Someone has to do it. It is like “throwing”. It is not like “rock”.

    Worldly people lust. To not be like the worldly people, we must not lust. These lusts are forms of inordinate affections, so we must not have inordinate affections in order to not be worldly.

    So — worldliness is the practice and philosophy of the worldly who seek to perpetuate and validate inordinate affections. Loving not the world results in in ceasing and rejecting these inordinate affections.

    To argue othewise requires one to point to some THING (an object, not an action) that, in and of itself, is evil. That has yet to be done.

    • Well, Keith, I’m not going to go around and around with you on this. I don’t think, in fact, that I’m in disagreement with 2000 years of church history. I think you are being deliberately obtuse. The passage speaks of the world and the things in the world as something outside of ourselves. Then it defines the ‘things in the world’. If you can’t see that, you won’t see anything else I say, so there isn’t much point in talking about it.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Keith says:

    I am not trying to be obtuse. I will gladly take a look and consider what your saying. I will try to see it if you point to it. Instead of calling me obtuse, perhaps you might explain? Is that really out of line?

    I’ll explain my understanding — Yes, as per the passage, lusts and pride are in the world. Of course they are in the world because persons are in the world. Take all the persons out, and these things would be out too. Persons in the world can be “worldly” (lustful, proud) or, by the grace of God, not. Lusts and pride are not in the world separate from people.

    Furthermore, there is no thing that in and of itself equals pride or lust that I can see. Pride and lust exist because persons misuse things that in and of themselves — in ordinate affection — are good.

    This understanding does not contradict the passage in question at all. Furthermore, it lines up with many other passages which matter too.

    I don’t see the need to go round and round either, but maybe you could explain your position instead of just saying that mine is wrong.

  8. Keith says:

    One more thing, Augustine gives great examples of “loving the things of the world” in his Confessions.

    He knew that promiscuous sex was wrong — it was an inordinate affection, a lust of the flesh — but he had come to enjoy it such that he did not want to give it up, even when he did want to give it up.

    The lust was his, but the lust was in the world (because he was), and he loved the lust.

    It could just be a bit more obtuseness, but I think the Apostle Paul mentions something similar (the good that I would do, I do not . . .)

    • Ok, Keith, please read on in the reviews of subsequent chapters of Mahaney’s book. The authors themselves bring up illustrations of the world infused with these lusts in music and movies.

      But to give an example here, would you think a Christian should love The Sopranos? Now, I have seen some segments of this show when it was on A&E. I don’t think I watched a whole episode, but happened across it and watched a bit of it. Do you think a Christian should be enamoured of it? Do you think they should love to watch the glorification of lust and murder that it contained? Do you think a Christian should walk around in a Sopranos tee-shirt, especially knowing the content and context of the TV show?

      Yes, the lust of the flesh does reside in my flesh. But it infuses the world and the things the world produces. Mahaney missed this by turning the attention to the self, arguing against fleshliness instead of worldliness. Both are problems, of course, but when you are addressing worldliness you need to address worldliness.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. Keith says:

    I’ve never seen the Sopranos, but for discussion’s sake, let’s say that it is completely vile — pornography mixed with glorification of greed and cruelty. Should a Christian love that? Of course not.

    But the reason one should not love that is because to love it would be to have inordinate affections — to seek in the absence or abuse of things to find pleasure and satisfaction.

    If all you are trying to say is that people can produce things which make inordinate affections appear attractive and that we should avoid those things — well then we have no disagreement.

    However, these things are all directly the result of what is inside us. These are not two hermetically sealed compartments (worldliness & fleshliness).

    What is the Sopranos (in my hypothetical version anyway) — it is the abuse of creativity, it is the abuse of women, it is the abuse of charity, it is the abuse of faithfullness, etc. If I watch it an am repulsed – well then I have avoided the world. If I watch it and enjoy vicarious participation in the abuses — well then I am worldly.

  10. Keith says:

    Perhaps I am obtuse, but I don’t even know what I’m being obtuse about, so I know that it can’t be deliberate.

    But, I see that your possess that most special of fundamentalist gifts — the ability to discern intention even when the one supposedly so intending is unaware of said intention.

    Sigh indeed — why bother to discuss when one can insult and sigh.

    • Keith, the world is not self. Both the world and self participate in the same sins, but the world is the world and self/flesh is the individual. The world, the flesh, and the devil, our three enemies are not one and the same.

      I’ve explained my position clearly, but you refuse to accept it. Obtuse. Deliberately so, in my opinion.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. Keith says:

    Of course the world is not the self — I said as much in the post immediately previous to your last sigh.

    However, the world cannot sin. Only personal beings can sin. Show me some sin that is separate from a personal being, and you will have made your case. Don’t and you haven’t — no matter how clear you think you’ve made your position.

    Show me one example of a sin that is not the fruit of a personal being abusing or neglecting creation. Can you?

    Or, will you just sigh?

  12. d4v34x says:

    It seems to me that the “lust of the flesh,” for instance, that, as Don says, is in the world, is the collective abandonment of unsaved individuals to what Mahaney referes to as their inordinate affections to the point where it becomes a societal norm. In which case it is both personal and impersonal (systemic?), and you both really agree.

    Time for a hug.

    :^)

  13. Keith says:

    I offered an olive branch similar to that suggested by d4 back in post 15 and which is in line with the paragraph of Augustine now under discussion. I said: “If all you are trying to say is that people can produce things which make inordinate affections appear attractive and that we should avoid those things — well then we have no disagreement.” But you wouldn’t receive it.

    I thought I was done with this discussion since you won’t even make an attempt to answer a simple question (“show me one sin apart from a personal being”). However, since you are bringing Augustine back in, I’ll try one more time.

    Who performs stage plays? Who watches and enjoys stage plays? Do stage plays and their enjoyment exist apart from persons? And, how does Augustine say that one is soiled by stage plays?

    Augstine says that one is soiled by the arousal of inordinate affections within one’s self. He says this even in the quote you reference: “For a man is more affected with these actions, the less free he is from such affections.”

    Of course, just like there are more verses in the Bible than I John 2:15-17, there are also more pages to The Confessions than the one being quoted. And, for those who have read the entire book, it is fairly clear that Augustine believes that sin and evil come from within persons. We sin because we are sinners we do not become sinners because we sin. He makes it clear that the root of all of this sin is the desire for autonomy — to not submit oneself (desires, actions, loves) to God. We want to be God or we want something else to be God so that God is not (we are idolaters).

    Augustine is also clear that the realization that all evil — even the pain and suffering caused by the brokenness of the impersonal parts of creation (like diseases) — are privations of good things is what helped him to reject gnosticism and accept Christianity. Evil doesn’t exist on its own. It is a corruption of something good.

    Of course, I am not arguing that Augustine is infallible. He made mistakes just like every other human (in my opinion some of his writings on baptism and on interaction with culture). All I am saying is that one of Augustine’s greatest contributions was his clear explanation of evil and sin and that he did not believe that sin was “out there” apart from persons — that’s what the Manichee gnostics believed and he rejected them.

    And, by the way, if one wants to apply Augustine’s view on stage plays to life today, then one needs to abstain from ALL fiction and drama — not just the “worldly” stuff. He would say that it is all worldly — even the BJU Classic Players and the Unusual Films productions. According to him, by its very nature it all encourages us to enjoy things vicariously in an inordinate way.

    I think he was wrong in this, but perhaps he was right. What I know is that he would have nothing to do with the fundamentalist habit of trying to figure out what the “good stuff” is and what the “bad stuff” is so that he can only watch the good stuff.

    So, to sum up, I never was trying to say that there are not bad things and temptations outside of Christian indiduals. I was trying to say that there are no sinful things outside of persons. If by “out there” you mean that other people are doing bad stuff and I should not vicariously enjoy their bad stuff — fine, no disagreement, like I said before.

    However, if by “out there” you mean there is impersonal sin out there, I just ask for one example.

    And, even the “out there” bad stuff of other persons can only be loved by me if I internally love it. I must watch what I love not just watch where I go.

    How can this be controversial or problematic?

    • Keith, do you believe there is such a thing as “the world” that is not “me” and that “me, myself, and I” need to keep our distance from it?

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  14. Keith says:

    Of course there is such a thing as the world, and as per I John, I think that I am not supposed to love it. I’ve said that repeatedly.

    • Ok, are there things in the world that are part of its makeup and are not “me” and that “me, myself, and I” need to keep my distance from?

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  15. Keith says:

    Seriously Don?

    You have not answered one simple question from me — “Can you show me one example of a sin that is not the fruit of a personal being abusing or neglecting creation?” But you want me to answer a series from you?

    Well, it’s your blog, so I guess you can do as you please.

    So, to your latest question, (1) of course (as I have said several times) there are sins in the world that are not yours. (2) of course I am not to love those sins.

    Where in the passage do you get “keep my distance from”. The passage says love and it is much more difficult to do. You can “keep your distance” from things all day long and still love them. That’s the whole point of Augustine — and I would say of Jesus to the Pharisees. It is not where you are but what you love that matters.

    If by “keep your distance” you mean “not love” then once again of course.

    • Yes, seriously.

      Now what are we arguing about? My article points out that Mahaney conflates the love of the things of the world with internal lusts. Granted, “me, myself, and I” have these same lusts and must battle them in my personal growth in sanctification. But that is not the same thing as “love not the world, neither the things in the world”. And in making this mistake, he does a disservice to his readers on the subject of worldliness.

      Then you jump in and want to argue as if these things aren’t in the world distinct from myself and that I am wrong for criticizing Mahaney…

      But in fact you do believe there is a world, that it is characterized by or contains these things, and that we are not to love it. So what are we arguing about?

      I think you just want to argue.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  16. Keith says:

    “My article points out that Mahaney conflates the love of the things of the world with internal lusts.”

    How do you love externally? If you love the things of the world it is YOU that is doing the inappropriate loving. By loving the world you are internally lusting (the two ing endings are important).

    “Then you jump in and want to argue as if these things aren’t in the world distinct from myself and that I am wrong for criticizing Mahaney…”

    I didn’t say you were wrong for criticizing Maheney (you may be, but that’s not what I said). Go look at my first post. I just said that, per your critique, you should not be calling for “ordinate affections” since that concept of worldliness is what you appear to be challenging.

    “But in fact you do believe there is a world, that it is characterized by or contains these things, and that we are not to love it.”

    Of course I believe there is a world (and I’m pretty sure that so does Mahaney). In this context, the things that are in “the world”, are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. This “world” is characterized by these things — who would say otherwise? The point of discussion is HOW is it so characterized? What makes it so? That’s one of the things we (I thought) are discussing. Is it so characterized apart from persons (I did not say apart from you alone, but any person whatsoever)? Or, is it so characterized because of persons? And, if it is so characterized because of persons, HOW did they make it so?

    “I think you just want to argue.”

    Well, I’m tempted to say, “Back atcha” and leave it at that.

    However, I will add that I do honestly think there are several important points here — important to real sanctification and holiness and growth in grace:

    1. You can’t avoid the world merely by avoiding certain physical locations or cultural activities. Those who “don’t dance, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls who do,” can be just as worldly as those who do. Reference the pharisees, the gnostics, the mormons, etc.

    2. Evil is not an impersonal force. God created all things and he created them good. Evil is the abuse of these good things. You can touch as little of this physical world as absolutely necessary to survive — or even less if you’re willing to die — and still be worldly. Reference the ascetics, the desert fathers, the monks.

  17. Keith says:

    And, now, any chance of an example of sin that is not the result of a personal being abusing the world?

  18. d4v34x says:

    Hi Don,

    What about this analogy?

    The worldliness of the world system is like an unrestrained epidemic, but the bacteria is not “out there somewhere”; we are already infected.

    So a focus on or constant proximity to the full blown cases and the attendant system of living both weakens our defenses and strengthens the bug.

    Agree?

    • Dave, I think I basically agree with the analogy.

      Keith, you are trying to distract from the purpose of my post. I have given you an example, but you refuse to accept it. The reason you do so is to assume that since someone “out there” or a set of someones “out there” also sin, and therefore it is personal to them, that there is de facto no real distinction between me and the world. You ask: “any chance of an example of sin that is not the result of a personal being abusing the world?” which is not what I am saying.

      I am saying that there is a world of sin “out there” that we call the world. It is distinct from me. It doesn’t matter that it is the consequence of other individuals and their sins, what matters is that it is a collective mindset in something ‘out there, beyond me’ that God calls the world and tells me not to love.

      So again, you just want to argue. You are attempting to derail my point by confusing it with something else.

      Obviously there is correlation between my lusts and the world, we’ve already admitted that. But there is also a distinction between me and the world, which, despite your protestations, you seem to practically deny.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

  19. Keith says:

    I’m not just wanting to argue. I’ve been baffled by your responses, and for some reason — even though you impune my motives — unable to stop seeking clarification of your possition and to clarify mine. I’ll try to stop soon.

    In all sincerity. The following are questions (not rhetorical questions) that should be able to be answered straightorwardly:

    1. You say, “I have given you an example, but you refuse to accept it.” When did you give me an example? I don’t recall seeing one. Could I bother you to repeat it or point me to it?

    2. You say that I, “assume that since someone “out there” or a set of someones “out there” also sin, and therefore it is personal to them, that there is de facto no real distinction between me and the world.” That is not what I assume (my thinking on this point is not connected to the fact that everybody sins), can you show me where I ever said that?

    3. You say, “There is a world of sin “out there” that we call the world. It is distinct from me.” I think that you believe that it is possible for a Christian to sin by loving the world? Am I right about that? If so, when a Christian does sin this way, is he, while he is loving the world, not a part of the world? Is he not worldly?

    4. You say, “There is correlation between my lusts and the world.” Do you think that you can have lusts that are not things that “are in the world”?

    5. Finally, related to #3 and #4 above, can something not be distinct from something else AND also be a part of it or be in it? I am distinct from “the human race”, but I am also a part of it — no? The tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop is distinct from the candy coating, but it is inside of it — no?

    • Ok, I think we can get somewhere now.

      1. The example I gave you was of the Sopranos. It speaks very much of the world as we know it, glorifies what the world glorifies.

      2. I think what I am reacting to is your statements above where you seem to imply this (at least to me). Here is one example: “Persons in the world can be “worldly” (lustful, proud) or, by the grace of God, not. Lusts and pride are not in the world separate from people.”

      3. Yes, a Christian can sin by loving the world, such love can be a different thing from mimicking the exact behaviors of the world, but likely, if unchecked, will lead to a complete breakdown of his Christian values. We are all earth bound, and we share in common with the world the same lusts and drives that bring about the world in all its anti-God orientation. Hopefully, a Christian is spiritually minded, is walking in the Spirit, not the flesh, and is by the grace of God living to God and not to the flesh or the world. But a Christian can let his guard down, be enamored by the dazzle of the world, and betray a world-like value system, appearance, etc, while perhaps not imitating its full lustfulness (at this point).

      To take the Sopranos example, the show is about some Mafia/mob type family, very violent and immoral (although the bits I saw weren’t explicit… I didn’t watch much of it). But a Christian can convince himself that there is nothing wrong with being a fan, wear Sopranos tee-shirts, mimic speech patterns of characters, etc, but not be actually committing immorality himself or anything close to the violent murders etc depicted.

      Now, there are obviously internal lust/pride problems that are going on in that kind of behaviour as well, but it isn’t just ordinary self-driven lustfulness, it is a ‘world-inspired-behaviour’ that we can call worldliness (as well as a few other things).

      4. Yes, we can have lusts that are not ‘things in the world’. I am working on a review of ch. 4 of Mahaney’s book. The subject is materialism. You can be a materialist without being particularly worldly. But obviously we do share the same flesh with everyone else in the world.

      5. Yes, which is why the subject does get confused. My whole argument with Mahaney is that he is missing the point about the world. The world isn’t just my own lusts run riot, it is the lusts of humanity in general, but without the restraining hand of the Holy Spirit and often polished and refined with a very sophisticated and attractive manner of presentation.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  20. Keith says:

    Thanks,

    Final comments:

    1. Well we’ll just have to agree to disagree here. I can’t see any way that “The Sopranos” is an example of sin that is not the result of a personal being abusing the world. People write the Sopranos, act in it, film it, edit it, compose and perform the music, etc. It is the worldly product of worldly people. I’m not trying to continue the argument, just wrap up without departing rudely.

    2. I think that the confusion here is the result of our focusing on different facets of the question. You are focused on the difference between “world” and “flesh”. My comments were to point out how the concept of “inordinate affections” connects these two things at some level. We can’t keep this discussion going for me to clarify my point further, so suffice it to say that I do think there is a distinction between the “world” and the “flesh”. I probably don’t think the distinction is the result of as great a separation of the distinct items as you do, but I do think there is a distinction.

    3. I think that here is the real crux of the matter. Perhaps here is our real disagreement — but then again, we’ve misunderstood each other a great deal so far, so perhaps not. Anyway, what you write in response #3 seems to miss the point of Jesus’ teachings. He said that to even look on a woman with lust IS committing adultery in one’s heart. To hate IS to commit murder. Etc. I think, I’m now seeing that you are wanting the category “worldly” to hold the “standards” items of fundamentalism (You mention “appearance” you mention “values” you mention being a “fan” of a tv show). Again I could be wrong, but I’m now thinking that you want “The World” to be movies and music and dress stuff and “The Flesh” to be thought life and internal desires. If so, no wonder the confusion and disagreeement. If what you are saying is that if I keep up certain “standards” I won’t be worldly, well I disagree. Again, we don’t have time to continue clarifying our points, but I will say that my disagreement should not be taken as saying that it doesn’t matter what we watch or where we go — it only says that those things aren’t enough to avoid worldliness.

    4. I’m not sure I see how you can be a materialist without being worldly — again, unless it’s because materialism doesn’t fit within your “standards” and “values” category? Or, perhaps if someone is a “materialist” because they are fearful and insecure? But in that case the real problem is trust, not materialism. Anyway, I’m assuming that you’re talking about wealth/materialism not philosophical/materialism (matter is all that exists). In either case we have a form of worldliness, but the wealth/materialism type is definitely wrapped up with pride and lust.

    5. “The world isn’t just my own lusts run riot, it is the lusts of humanity in general, but without the restraining hand of the Holy Spirit and often polished and refined with a very sophisticated and attractive manner of presentation.” I can agree with that. I just think that the way to avoid becoming a part of that world is to, by God’s grace, keep my own lusts and pride in check.

    • Keith, your problem is that you want to redefine worldliness, along with the rest of the current Calvinist crop. It doesn’t wash.

      See Kent’s comment on my review of Chapter 3 and follow the link to his blog and also to Peter Masters which Kent links in his article. Both excellent.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  21. Keith says:

    Actually,

    I think that fundamentalists made up their own definition of worldliness and it not only doesn’t wash (Biblically or historically), it also hasn’t produced good results.

    You’re recommending Kent? Well, you two have a good time.

    Peace.

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