Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Worldliness – ed. C.J. Mahaney

©2008 Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL

With a Foreword by John Piper, and cover blurbs from the likes of Randy Alcorn, D.A. Carson, and Mark Dever, this little collection of essays would seem to be the perfect tool for helping Christians grow in their faith. The subtitle gives the reader the gist of the book: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World. This is not an effort to identify worldliness as much as an attempt to remind Christ followers of the need to be separate from the world.

The editor, Mahaney, sets the stage for the scope of the book with the first (I’ll call them) sermon. The focus of the book is on a verse in 1 John (2:15) which reads, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.” An explanation ensues to put into context the difference between the term world John uses here and when he writes “God so loved the world . . .” in the gospel bearing his name.

Other sermons included in the collection deal with the Christian and Media (Craig Cabaniss), Music (Bob Kauflin), Stuff (Dave Harvey), and Clothes (Mahaney). The final entry is a work by Jeff Purswell on “How to Love the World”.

This book will be a challenge for some, a stumbling block for others, and just another book to still others. It is not a book for a wide-ranging audience. It is written to help Christ followers grow in their walk with the Master. It will likely anger many of those who number themselves in the Christian community because of the high standard that is espoused. The writers themselves admit to struggles with meeting the ideals put forth in the writing.

In general, I find the collection to be faithful to the Scripture. The authors take to task a generation of believers who have allowed worldliness to infiltrate their numbers to the point of being no different from the world. It is because of this worldly trend in the church that many readers will get angry and toss the book out the window. It is also this trend that makes a book like this sadly necessary.

As with any book of this type, some readers will latch onto the truths pointed out and use them as a sledgehammer to cream their neighbors with. Giant football fingers will be donned to point at the sinners who need to take this chapter or that to heart. Many will use the essay/sermons in this little book to gain new heights in legalism. Such is the danger of any book like this—and often of any sermon that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.

Most of the chapters dealing with specific areas where worldliness is increasingly tempting are well written and founded faithfully to scripture. While the fashion chapter is lopsided toward women and can be seen as chauvinistic, Mahaney points out the reasoning behind his focus on women’s fascination with worldly fashion.

The closing chapter is probably the least coherent of the essays and might seem a little awkward in a book designed to help us turn away from the world.

Included in the book are thought questions for each chapter and a couple of appendices which address more specifically ways that women can be more scriptural when choosing the clothes they wear.

I don’t recommend this book for wide circulation—even among the Christian community. I do, however, believe that this would be an excellent tool in the hands of someone who desires to become more like Christ. Because of the concerns I have with the book being used as a foundation for legalistic finger pointing, I have to hold it to three out of five reading glasses.

—Benjamin Potter, November 25, 2008


Carrie said...

Thanks for the caution. I frequently fall under the "legalistic" catagory myself. I like good, solid biblical thought but tend towards leaving out anything involving grace. It's helpful to hear where I would need to be careful with a good like this.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review Benjamin. If I may point out a number of places in the book where legalism is addressed:

- note Randy Alcorn's endorsement, "Every chapter raises the bar of Christian living without falling into legalism"
- p. 17
- p. 25
- p. 29
- "The L Word" section on pages 44-45
- p. 118
- Application question #2 on page 181

Also, it helpful to note that a majority of the chapter titles include the phrase "my heart" to reinforce the fact that this book was written for personal application not finger-pointing:

God, My Heart, and Media
God, My Heart, and Music
God, My Heart, and Stuff
God, My Heart, and Clothes

Thanks for your review, though. And blessings in Christ!

Benjie said...

Thanks for adding those things that I left out of the review. Understanding that the authors were diligent (as well as the cover reviewers) to caution against legalism, coming from a fundamenntal evangelical background, I know how easy it is for some of us to get caught up in finger pointing. Even with the caviats included in the book, I see the possibility of legalism--not on the part of the authors, but in the application of believers.

You are right about the addition of "My Heart" in each of the chapters. My intention was not to overlook or over simplify anything. When I addressed the chapters, I simply wanted to point out the topic discussed.

Sorry if this review has been less than stellar.


Benjie said...


Thanks for reading. If you get the chance, I hope you read the book. Understanding your own propensity towards legalism will probably keep you from turning this book into an "I told you so" kind of book. It has many challenging passages that are designed to help believers raise their personal expectations that they might do what we're called to do as Christ followers--namely, become more like Christ.

Steve said...

You might find the following blogs about C.J. Mahaney of interest:



Hope this helps.


DebD said...

I think you're right that books like this can be difficult to whittle though. One man's worldliness is another man's "barely making it through by the skin of my teeth." Perhaps a good followup book would be on the subject of judgementalism and Christian humility.

As always, I enjoy your book reviews for Semicolon's blog.

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