Worldliness and the Problem of Disordered Love

Recent discussions about the nature of worldliness reminded me of a statement that dates from the late fourth century. In his book On Christian Teaching, Augustine (354–430) discusses what it means to live a holy and just life. He says that a person who lives such a life

has ordered his love, so that he does not love what it is wrong to love, or fail to love what should be loved, or love too much what should be loved less (or love too little what should be loved more), or love two things equally if one of them should be loved either less or more than the other, or love things either more or less if they should be loved equally (1.59 [1.27]).

Both Pearson and Ben mention the concept of “loving the world” in their posts (cf. 1 John 2:15–16). As I understand it, the essence of worldliness includes an improper love of things that are not God. That is, it involves thinking and loving like the world. God has called us to love certain things which he has created (our spouses, fellow believers, etc.). But we go astray in ways that are “worldly” when, as Augustine said, we either love things we should not love or we love things that we should love but we love them to the wrong degree. Such disordered love inevitably finds expression in our values, priorities, and actions.

Christians may disagree about specific applications in the area of worldliness, but I think we can all agree that we have a tendency to love God less than we should and a tendency to love other things either more or less than is proper. This is to say, the problem of worldliness is one with which we all struggle.

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2 thoughts on “Worldliness and the Problem of Disordered Love

  1. Brad says:

    “We renounce all your spectacles, as strongly as we renounce the matters originating them, which we know were conceived of superstition, when we give up the very things which are the basis of their representations. Among us nothing is ever said, or seen, or heard, which has anything in common with the madness of the circus, the immodesty of the theatre, the atrocities of the arena, the useless exercises of the wrestling-ground. Why do you take offence at us because we differ from you in regard to your pleasures? If we will not partake of your enjoyments, the loss is ours, if there be loss in the case, not yours. We reject what pleases you. You, on the other hand, have no taste for what is our delight. The Epicureans were allowed by you to decide for themselves one true source of pleasure — I mean equanimity the Christian, on his part, has many such enjoyments — what harm in that?”

    Those were the days

  2. PhilipT says:

    Amen.