What does it mean to be worldly

Before being confirmed Catholic, I went to a lot of different Protestant churches. Every church emphasized the theme of not being of this world. As Christians we were told to be a part of the world, but not in it. This took many different forms; some churches prohibit drinking, others feel called to redeem the world. According to the latter, one could use worldly tactics as long as it glorifies Christ. I remember how the Young adult pastor at Vineyard church held a meeting on Halloween and gave a whole sermon incorporating Twilight. Catholics, for the most part, take the opposite approach. Most Catholics desire a liturgy free from worldly influences, which explains why music is so controversial. In most parishes, it feels like going back in time. I think the uninitiated or uninterested tend to have difficulty swallowing church teaching because there exists a disconnect between parish life and their own. This leads me to wonder, “what makes a person worldly?” 
To my surprise, the Bible never says “to be a part of the world, not in the world.” The closest example is 1st John 2:15,

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.

Paul echoes this message in Romans 12:2,

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Lastly, Jesus himself said,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)


“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes two the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

From these passages, it would seem that there exists a dichotomy between the way’s of the world and the will of God. The Bible encourages us to discern the will of God, be transformed, and to not conform ourselves to the ways of the world, or to love the things of the world.
In other words, what makes a person worldly is “a persistent rejection of the claims of God in favor of the world’s values and desires.”(1st John 2:15-17 commentary, IVP New Testament Commentaries, InterVarsity Press). For the sake of brevity, I would like to assume that the Catholic Church’s teachings conform to the will of God. If this is true, then those, who reject the church’s teachings in favor of societal values, also reject the claims of God. If we adopt worldly values than we do the very thing the Bible tells us not to do. How have we adopted worldly values?
The Church teaches the following:

  1. divorce is contrary to the will of God
  2. Birth Control is contray to the will of God
  3. Marriage is between a man and a women
  4. sexual unions occur during marriage

The world teaches

  1. .divorce is a private decision and is ok if not ideal
  2. Birth Control is a women’s choice
  3. Marriage is between two consenting adults regardless of sex
  4. You can have sex anytime as long as it is consensual and both parties are of legal age to give consent

Now the worldly stance contradicts the Church’s stance. The Bible says that we cannot serve two masters. One must have control over our beliefs, words, actions, and ideals. Now I do not wish to convince the reader that they should adopt the Church’s stance. If you wish to believe that women should be allowed to use birth control then that is a reasonable conclusion to make. However, I merely wish to point out that it puts you at odds with the Church’s teachings. If you refuse to adopt the Church’s teachings then you are rejecting the claims of God in favor of your own values and beliefs. By doing so, you become a follower of the world and not a follower of Christ. I realize that this statement comes across as extremely judgemental. I want to stress that while I do believe striving to follow Christ is our ultimate purpose and Christian duty, we all fall short. I do not presume to know the state of anyone’s soul. I do the only thing I know how to do, which is praying for those, who may struggle following Christ. God loves you and has endless mercy for you, he wants to do amazing things through you, but it does require surrender.
A common objection to the above argument entails denying the Church’s authority to make claims regarding the will of God. These people tend to claim that the Church is merely mistaken in its interpretation. These people either want to re-interpret the Bible in a way that is consistent with their own beliefs or dismiss the bible entirely due to certain passages that make no sense to follow. These people commonly cite the laws prohibiting shellfish or the passages about dancing with snakes to point to the absurdity of following the Bible. I would like to respond to these objections in my next post.

Posted in Apologetics.

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