Friday, January 09, 2009

The People Who Can Convict Hearts While They're Talking About Worldliness

I plan to read C.J. Mahaney's Worldliness in the next few weeks. Right now I'm finishing a series of sermons delivered at Covenant Life Church on what it means to be in the world and not of it. I've been told Mahaney's book was developed largely from those sermons.

As I've listened to them, I've been struck by how much these pastors are leading their congregation to weigh the same kinds of worldliness issues any church in the fundamentalist orbit would. Perhaps I'm oversimplifying or my memory fails, but it seems to me that the only meaningful issues difference is that Kauflin dismisses as ridiculous the notion that a rhythm with an off beat is innately carnal.

What's really striking is how consistently Mahaney, Kauflin, and Harris circle back to deal with heart issues. Especially Mahaney. So we hear him saying, "Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline." He asks his church to consider internal priorities and motivations and values—the kinds of questions that aren't likely to create universal standards or binary decisions, but are designed to help believers understand the condition of their own hearts.

Seems as though there's a big difference between that and "I can tell a lot about how spiritual a guy is by the length of his hair," or "Am I telling you that because my wife and daughters don't wear slacks that you shouldn't either? Yes, that's exactly what I'm telling you!" (True stories, both of them. Somewhere out there are about a thousand of you who heard the latter.)


Paul said...

I too have been encouraged to see CJ and others outside of the fundamentalist movement address these issues.

Many of us have heard them preached on at virtually every turn most of our lives, but not with the heart in view and not in light of the gospel. That makes all the difference.

Greg said...

Ha, that's funny, I listened to that series about six weeks ago and was struck by the same thing. I had a thought somewhere along the line that was something like "You can talk about this stuff and not be legalistic?" That might sound naive, but I'm sure you get where I'm coming from.

Kauflin cracked me up, and of course my favorite part was when he made a mockery of the "beat" argument.

Bruce said...

I listened to the sermons back when I first heard about the book, though I haven't read the book yet.

As you have noted, it is interesting to see evangelicals talking about a "fundamentalist topic," but I still had some disappointment in their treatment.

On the positive side, they did cover the topic of disciplined morality from a gospel perspective. However, it seemed like the scope was set by long-standing notions of what worldiness is: music, movies, and dress. These are indeed critical areas where worldliness rears its ugly head, but aren't there other ways that worldliness shows itself among American Christians?

With that, I am glad to see that the book adds a chapter on "stuff," in addition to the topics included in the sermon series of media, music, and modesty. Materialism and consumerism are definitely worldliness issues, and they are often ignored by those who may have a pretty strict approach to music, movies, and dress. We bow before our homes, cars, techno-gadgets, and for some of us, our library.

Might we think of other areas of temptation in this vein? What about lusting or grasping for undue political influence? Pursuing academic degrees for their own sake? Creating para-church organizations as extensions of my name and "brand" (i.e., I'm the founder, president, and CEO of John Doe Ministries)? I guess I'm thinking of pride/power/position here. Can we think of others?

Ben said...

Good points Bruce. Thanks. Materialism is way too easily overlooked, and I'm likewise glad it entered the conversation. I do think you're right to point out other areas.

Anonymous said...

I do wonder about the smugness of simply brushing off an argument against rock music based on its beat. Perhaps he isn't all that well versed in the arguments or perhaps he just enjoys the rock music and it isn't worth giving up. Perhpas there is still another reason. Who knows for sure.

It is truly nice to hear preachers who can convict through the heart, but that isn't to say that such conviction does not or should not manifest itself outwardly.

I have never and hope I never do preach on the exact length a girls skirt/dress should come down. But surely if a woman dressed the part of a hooker, that would not be acceptable.

Deal with the heart first and make it clear that the outward does not define the inward.

It isn't like the whole Mahaney movement isn't without significant theological problems.