Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Worldliness

Disclaimer: I can’t claim all the following thoughts are original. Some come from “Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World” by James Montgomery Boice. Some are found in other books and blogs. And a few of these ideas are my original embellishments.


As Christians we do ourselves a disservice when we view worldliness as a set of sinful , unholy or unsanctified actions. For example, some denominations have made dancing or movie theatres an issue of fellowship. If you participate in “the dance” or “the theatre” you are considered carnal and are put out of fellowship. And this is too bad, not because dancing or theatres are necessarily helpful for the Christian, but because this uses legalism to attack the manifestations of worldliness. Legalism always seems like the quickest path to spirituality, but it never accomplishes anything of real spiritual worth. Furthermore we distract ourselves from the real issue when we attack the manifestations of worldliness rather than attacking worldliness itself.

Worldliness is best understood as a world view. It is a world view based on secularism, and it uses materialism, pragmatism, humanism, relativism, pluralism and hedonism as the means to accomplish a secular goal. Worldliness seeks to advance a secularist agenda, which means that we are to understand the world, live in the world, use the world and relate to the world in a manner that pretends that God does not exist or is not relevant to everyday life.

Because worldliness is a world view, a specific set of actions that a church bans cannot attack the root of worldliness. And it doesn’t matter if you are using rank legalism to attack the manifestations, or whether you are attacking the manifestations from the purest of spiritual motives. Attacking the manifestations is like swinging your sword through smoke. It accomplishes nothing.

It is only when we start to think like Christians that we have a hope of slaying the root of worldliness, for when we think like Christians about everyday life we banish the influence of secularism. Rather than pretending that God doesn’t exist or is not relevant to everyday life, we start to see God at the center of everyday life. And then we start to think about everyday objects, everyday events and everyday activities in a Christian manner. At that point a new world opens up to us. It is a world filled with real spirituality, not the mere semblance of spirituality that legalism provides. Finally we are unshackled to achieve Christian liberty, not the rules and chains of legalism.

Perhaps the most striking thing to notice about this freedom is that those who are bound by legalism will think that you have cast off spirituality in favour of worldliness. But they have it all wrong. You have cast off worldliness as a worldview and so have freedom in Christ. When you are thinking like a Christian and relating to the world like a Christian, the occasional visit to a movie theatre or sporting event or afternoon spent talking to the neighbour about your lawn will have no affect on your spiritual state.

The corollary of trying to use legalism to achieve victory over worldliness is found in the attempts by Christians to achieve spiritual goals and meet spiritual objectives through secular means. Take for example homeschooling. Christians can homeschool in a secular manner (even while using Christian curriculum) and try to achieve goals that only true spirituality can achieve. Homeschooling can be seen as a goal in and of itself. Or homeschooling can be seen as the primary means of building families or making our children useful to the Lord. I’m personally convinced that when done properly (if we are really approaching homeschooling as Christians and thinking about it like Christians) homeschooling can be a means of blessing from God. But this will only happen if our hope is in Christ and not on homeschooling.

This tendency of Christians to try to achieve spiritual goals and meet spiritual objectives through secular means can also be seen in churches. For many, spiritual achievement is measured by the 3 B’s (budgets, baptisms and buildings); all of which are easy to measure but none of which define real spirituality. The fact is real spirituality cannot be measured. It can be seen. It can be experienced. It can be recognized. But it CANNOT be measured. And if you are trying to measure spirituality you will be driving all the wrong behaviours. Call me foolish or prideful, but I know enough about human nature to be able to build the biggest “3 B” church around, if I did not care about encouraging real spirituality. In fact, anyone who sits down and thinks about it for 5 minutes could also create a “3 B” mega-church.

So what are we going to do? Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch and pretend we have achieved a superior spirituality? Crack down on those who dare violate the dictates of legalism, all the while relating to this world in a secular manner? Or will we recognize worldliness for what it is; a world view based on secularism that tries to get us to relate to the world in a manner that pretends that God does not exist or that God is not relevant? This alone will not accomplish real spirituality within us, but it is one step on the path to real spirituality.

1 Comments:

Blogger Kim said...

I’m personally convinced that when done properly (if we are really approaching homeschooling as Christians and thinking about it like Christians) homeschooling can be a means of blessing from God. But this will only happen if our hope is in Christ and not on homeschooling

I really like that!

Legalism is about legislating morality, and as history has continually shown, that will never happen.

Excellent piece.

7:09 AM  

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