Philosophy Fridays: Nietzsche as Prophet of Modern Christianity, Part 2

Nietzsche was prophetic in many ways, both in his style and content. Walter Kaufmann compares Nietzsche to some biblical prophets because of the way he shared the angst and suffering of the very people to whom he was speaking.

Sometimes prophecy seems to consist in man’s ability to experience his own wretched fate so deeply that it becomes a symbol of something larger. It is in this sense that one can compare Nietzsche with the ancient prophets. He felt the agony, the suffering and the misery of a godless world so intensely, at a time when others were yet blind to its tremendous consequences, that he was able to experience in advance, as it were, the fate of a coming generation.[1]

The style of his writings certainly lends to an image of Nietzsche as a prophetic figure rising on the scene in the late 19th century. Merold Westphal agrees, adding that Nietzsche is not only a prophet, but also a positive theologian:

There is something quasi-scriptural and quasi-traditional about Nietzsche’s relation to the theologian. For he performs if we will let him, the task of a prophetic protest, the ad hominem critique of theology by its own professed standards. And for Jewish and Christian monotheism, if I am not mistaken, both scripture and tradition include important strands of prophetic protest. Amos and Jesus are quite different from Nietzsche, but all three managed to get very religious people angry at them in strikingly similar ways.[2]

The content of Nietzsche’s writings, however, contrasts sharply to that of biblical prophets. Whereas they often spoke humbly as the mouthpiece of God, he, as Kaufmann notes, spoke out of conceit and as one wretched, forsaken and, in keeping with his admiration of the Greeks, tragic. His style was shocking, but no less than his content. And it is his content that sets Nietzsche off from other critics of Christianity, both in its insight and foresight.

Even though Nietzsche did not write like a typical philosopher, he nevertheless thought as comprehensively as any before or after him concerning the religion and the transcendent. Iain Provan remarks that, “Nietzsche is undoubtedly one of the great predictors and shapers of the world in which we now live.”[3] What exactly did Nietzsche predict? Quite a few things, as it turns out. The primary concern of this essay is his foresight into the corruption of Christianity and the resulting death of God. Nietzsche saw clearly what this meant for the main concerns of philosophy—metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Metaphysically, the Enlightenment and the enthronement of scientific thinking left no room for God, “and with his death came also the collapse of all religious and philosophical absolutes—the collapse of the metaphysical and theological foundations of Western culture and specifically of traditional morality.”[4]

Epistemologically, the death of God meant the end of absolute truth, objectivity, universality and eternity. Fact is replaced by interpretation; Truth is replaced by truths. As a result, truth is only a metaphor, and only serves a practical purpose (to survive), not a transcendent one. Ethically, the death of God meant the end of a universal, normative ethic. Nietzsche called for a revaluation of all values that would go beyond good and evil and be replaced by a sliding scale of noble and plebian values.

Nietzsche was prophetic in many ways especially in his insight into Christianity and foresight of its direction at the end of the 19th century. His declaration of the death of God was not only perceptive in his own day, but a premonition of a future day when this event would finally be recognized in its fullness. The fact that Nietzsche was so astute concerning his own day has led some to downplay or deny his premonition of the future, but that seems to be an unnecessary dichotomy.[5] Also, Nietzsche was adept at detecting idolatry, and he foresaw the disaster that would befall a society that did not reject idols. He understood the effect that nihilism would have if a society went too far in its celebration of the death of God and abandoned all meaning and values. Regarding the death of God and idolatry, Nietzsche was tremendously prescient, and his vision of the future is worth exploring.

In his day, much to his dismay, people continued to practice the trappings of Christianity even though, for all intents and purposes, they had stopped believing in God as he had been traditionally understood. Nietzsche was frustrated that no one seemed to understand the possibilities that lay in the future now that God was dead. “He foresaw a point in the future when its reality would dawn widely on Western culture, leading to widespread nihilism…He also foresaw that most people would be unable to accept the intrinsic meaninglessness of existence, but would seek alternative absolutes to God as a way of investing life with meaning.”[6] The prospect of “alternative absolutes” was just as troubling to him, since he knew that anything that was absolutized (except the self) could quickly become the foundation for the next oppressive religion. This does not mean that Nietzsche wanted to return to the “instinctual swamplands of the primitive psyche.” As Danto explains, “It is a call to creativity, to new structures and to fresh ideals, in the light of which we might make ourselves over in an image of our own. God being dead, there is no reason to cringe in the corner of an unreal guilt. And let not something else take the place of this supernatural god, to make us feel humble and insignificant.”[7]

The evidence seems abundantly clear, then, that Nietzsche is widely regarded as not only possessing amazing insight, but also foresight. Just what did he foresee? The following section will address two of Nietzsche’s major critiques of Christianity, followed by a historical summary of how Christianity had changed by Nietzsche’s day to become something deserving his scathing attacks.

[1] Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychology, Antichrist, 4th ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974), 98.

[2] Merold Westphal, “Nietzsche as a Theological Resource,” Modern Theology 13:2 (Apr 1997), 216.

[3] Iain Provan, “To Highlight All Our Idols: Worshipping God in Nietzsche’s World.” Ex Auditu 15 (1999), 19.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Arthur Danto emphasizes Nietzsche as philosopher rather than prophet because Nietzsche did more than just proclaim God’s demise, he also proposed an alternative to Christianity; Arthur C. Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher, expanded ed. (Columbia Classics in Philosophy; NY: Columbia University Pres, 2005), 218. Earlier in his volume, however, Danto seems to accept the idea of Nietzsche as prophet to some degree. Speaking of the way disaffected teenage killers sometimes reference Nietzsche as an inspiration, Danto notes that he does not think that to avoid this misuse, Nietzsche would have wanted “his thought to be relativized to a metaphor and turned from exhortations into tropes. He wrote clearly and pungently and ornamented his texts with brilliant images, the better to prepare the mind for receiving the sharp and pointed messages it was his prime intention to plant into the flesh of the soul. When one lays out the propositions, they stand on their own. The philosopher was in the employment of the prophet; Preface to the Expanded Edition, xviii; emphasis mine.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Danto, Nietzsche as Philosopher, 176.

Is the Book of Acts Intended to Be a Model for the Church Today?

Many of the differences in the various evangelical denominations and flavors of Christianity in the world exist because of conflicting views of the early church in the Book of Acts. Pentecostals and Charismatics understand the gifts of tongues, healing, and miracles found in Acts to be normative for all times, while others see them as only temporary. Some understand the “Jerusalem Council” to be normative for church government, establishing an episcopalian form of hierarchy, while others see the incident as confirming apostolic authority in tandem with congregational rule. Still others read Acts as a collection of stories from the “Golden Age” of Christianity for which we are to pine away in sentimental reminiscence.

The underlying problem in many faulty readings of Acts stems from conceptions of the book that find no actual support in Scripture. As a corrective, Richard Gaffin reminds us how not to read Luke and Acts.

If, as is too often the case, Acts is read primarily as more or less random samplings of earliest Christian piety and practice, as a compilation of illustrations taken from the early history and experience of the church—a more or less loose collection of edifying and inspiring episodes, usually with the nuance that they are from the “good old days, when Christians were really Christians”—then we will tend to become preoccupied with the experience of particular individuals and groups recorded there, to idealize that experience, and to try to recapture it for ourselves.

But if, as ought to be the case, Acts is read with an eye for its careful overall composition and what we will presently see is one of Luke’s central purposes in writing, then these passages and the experiences they record come into proper focus.

Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost (P&R, 1973), 23.

Gaffin proceeds to clarify that Acts 1:8 is the program specifically given to the apostles, and therefore we cannot indiscriminately take Acts to be the proper pattern for everything in the church today. It’s not that Acts is completely unrelated to the church’s mission today, but rather that Acts 1:8 and the whole book is only derivatively applicable to us today. The reason, says Gaffin, is that the apostles actually completed the mission given to them in 1:8, as confirmed by Colossians 1:6, 23.

This is an an important insight that has at least two implications. First, it corrects many of the erroneous notions that have arisen from reading Acts as examples of piety and practice to be emulated with no input from the later New Testament. And second, it frees us from a concept of the church that was never intended to serve as the sole ideal. The later New Testament demonstrates what became the settled norm for the church.

The church in Acts, therefore, serves as a testament to the signs and wonders God performed to confirm his founding of a new entity, the church. At the same time, it points toward the rest of the New Testament for what we should consider normative today.

Philosophy Fridays: Nietzsche as Prophet of Modern Christianity, Part 1

My day won’t come until the day after tomorrow. Some people are born posthumously…The sort of predilection strength has for questions that require more courage than anyone possesses today; a courage for the forbidden; a predestination for the labyrinth.

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, Preface

That Friedrich Nietzsche was a prophet is neither a new or particularly insightful observation. He saw himself as one who straddled the past and the future, acting as a bridge for those in the present to understand and attain a future vision. Many readers of Nietzsche also see him as prophetic. The question remains, however, of what, exactly, was he a prophet? One should not be quick to assign an omniscient scope to Nietzsche’s foresight, for he certainly did not foresee the way his writings would influence and inspire some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. A chastened sense of prognostication, then, needs to be assigned to Nietzsche.

One of Nietzsche’ primary targets (if not the primary target) was Christianity. To even survey all that he said regarding Christianity would require as many volumes as he himself wrote. An examination of his attack on Christianity reveals a recurring pattern, however. Nietzsche attacked Christianity primarily in its expression in 19th century Europe (especially German Lutheranism)[1], more so than he did the Christian faith as given in the Bible and historically interpreted. Nietzsche’s knowledge of the Bible is questionable and his account of its contents alternately reveals insight and ignorance. What Nietzsche did know quite well was the nature of European Christianity in its post-Enlightenment expression, an expression that he found to be particularly distasteful and destructive of life as he saw it. As he said, “What decides against Christianity now is our taste, not our reasons” (GS, Book 3, 132, p. 123).

The purpose of this series of essays is to demonstrate that Nietzsche’s critique of 19th century European Christianity was not only insightful, but prophetic in that he understood the effects of the corruption of Christianity to an extent that few in his day could have foreseen. It will also be demonstrated that ultimately Nietzsche’s critique of the Christian faith itself falls woefully short, and reflects nothing more than an aesthetic bias against some elements of Christian faith rather than a genuine philosophical challenge.

[1] Nietzsche has little to say about American Christianity, probably because of his apparent disdain for anything American: “what do I care about the pathetic drivel of American idiots and asses?” (EH, “Why I Am So Clever,” 4, p. 92).

How Important is the Trinity? Jesus Thinks It Is VERY Important

I’ve often reflected on the rather obvious thought that when his disciples were about to have the world collapse in on them, our Lord spent so much time in the Upper Room speaking to them about the mystery of the Trinity. If anything could underline the necessity of Trinitarianism for practical Christianity, that must surely be it!

Sinclair Ferguson, in an email to Robert Letham, April 4, 2003; cited in Robert Letham, The Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology and Worship (P&R, 2004), 1.

Do Works Save? No, But They Evidence Salvation

It’s very hard to derive the idea from the Bible that good works save a person from his sins. Scripture is very clear that we are saved only by grace through the righteousness of Christ. The idea of salvation by grace alone through faith alone was bitterly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation. The Catholic reasoning said that if good works were not required for salvation, there would be nothing to hold over the heads of people to motivate them to do good. This is exactly opposite of the teaching of the Bible. Scripture says that good works flow naturally from a heart than has been regenerated. Paul rejects the idea that salvation by grace produces lawlessness (Rom. 6:1). Instead, says Paul, it ought to produce a desire to please God unlike anything before that was motivated by guilt or fear.

On the other hand, there are those who believe that once a person is saved, he can exhibit no spiritual fruit, that is, no evidence of salvation. The apostle John rejects this idea throughout his first epistle.

The Sermon on the Mount causes many to stumble because it seems to teach works salvation. But the point of the Sermon on the Mount is that genuine believers will practice good works as a result of their regenerated hearts. Herman Ridderbos explains this eloquently:

What Jesus thus requires is that men reflect the light which they received from Him. The endowment of the Kingdom accomplishes good works in its recipients, and thus the Kingdom finds embodiment in the lives of the faithful.

(When the Time Had Fully Come, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957, 31)

So, is the light of Christ being reflected in our lives? If not, maybe there is no light! And if we are truly converted, good works, such as those described in the Sermon on the Mount, ought to be ever-increasing in our lives.

The True Nature of Christian Mentoring, Part 2

Mentor and his protege, Telemachus

Mentoring as life-sharing, experience-imparting and skill-training has a long history. The third-century bishop Gregory of Neocaesarea wrote an account of his relationship with the church father Origen, who became his mentor. When Gregory came to Palestine, it was for the purpose of having a relationship with Origen. Although he admired Origen’s mind, he wanted more than an information download. He wanted to spend time with the great bishop in order to learn from his life, not just his mind.

This view of mentoring was common in the early centuries. Clement of Alexandria wrote in his book on ethics, The Tutor, “The role of the tutor is to improve the soul, not to educate nor give information, but to train someone in the virtuous life.” Like others who wrote on mentoring, Clement understood the purpose to be “to form the soul in virtue” (Robert Louis Wilken, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Yale, 2003, 268).

This is the aspect that many students don’t realize they need just as critically as they need theological training or skills in biblical languages. But the truth is, more men wash out of ministry because of character issues than doctrinal deviation.

Character formation is not always welcomed by young protégés. At first, Gregory resisted Origen’s attempts to change him. Though Origen’s words “struck like an arrow” Gregory was not ready to undergo the discipline imposed by Origen. Gregory was more interested in argument and intellectual debate, but this was not acceptable to Origen. His aim was to “move the soul,” and he challenged his disciples to open their hearts and allow their wills to be molded by the good (p. 269).

Although learning a set of precepts was part of the mentoring training, “what counted for more was the example of the master and the bonds of friendship formed with the disciple…Friendship, said Gregory, ‘is piercing and penetrating, an affable and affectionate disposition displayed in the teacher’s words and his association with us’” (p. 269).

This personal relationship had a profound impact on Gregory. “Through Origen’s friendship with him, Gregory learned to love Christ, the Word, but he also began to love Origen, ‘the friend and interpreter of the Word’” (p. 269). Only when this relationship became personal, was Gregory finally persuaded to give up those objects that stood in the way of Christian maturity. The master had to first know and love his students before he could cultivate their souls, and like a skilled husbandman, bring forth fruit from an uncultivated field. “To correct, reprove, exhort, and encourage his students, the master had to know their habits, attitudes, and desires. Origen’s love for his disciples was part of the process of formation” (p. 270).

This is the soul of genuine Christian mentoring. It is not a business-like, formal transaction of a superior to an inferior; nor is it a feel-good stroking of a student’s ego. It is rather an intentional life-guidance that is based on the mentor’s genuine love for the student, so that he is able to give either encouragement or rebuke when needed, all the while the student knows he is loved and valued. This is true mentoring, and it is desperately needed today, both in the lives of those preparing for ministry of some kind, and any young believer who takes his or her growth in godliness seriously.

The True Nature of Christian Mentoring, Part 1

Mentor and his protege, Telemachus

Mentoring is a popular concept in ministry and education in the first decade of the 21st century. Books, conferences and journals on mentoring have sprung up in recent years, and various schools of thought regarding mentoring have emerged. While every Christian view of mentoring agrees that Jesus’ relationship with the twelve disciples serves as the foundational model for mentoring, the diversity of interpretations and applications of mentoring principles reveals that much ambiguity exists regarding the true nature of mentoring in real life situations.

There are many weak or erring models of Christian mentoring. One approach is to treat mentoring as information download where the mentor is merely passing on information to the protégé. This approach understands the student’s greatest need to be data that he doesn’t already possess. Another view conceives mentoring as mere accountability, where the mentor asks the protégé a number of questions in order to strengthen his spiritual discipline. The student is expected to share failures and successes honestly in order to experience both the joy and support he needs in his Christian life. Still another model of mentoring is practiced by those mentors who seek to mold the protégé into his own image, with all the same opinions, personality traits and idiosyncrasies. In effect, the mentor is trying to make a replica of himself, not helping the student become who God wants him to be.

A genuine understanding of mentoring acknowledges that each of these models contains elements of truth, but each is insufficient by itself. In addition, a mentor dare not leave it up to a student to shape the scope of the mentoring relationship. I agree with Howard Hendricks that a mentoring relationship ought to be based on what the student wants to learn from the mentor and not what the mentor wants. However, many times the protégé does not know what he needs, or may seek to avoid some of the more pressing needs in his life. Students who want mentors often think what they need most is that information download I mentioned earlier, and don’t realize that their greater need is guided character development and spiritual maturity. Also, many protégés who think they are being open and honest with their mentor pull back and keep parts of their inner life hidden as soon as the mentor begins to address those areas.

As a result, the mentor and student must craft together the nature of the relationship, but the student must remain open to the mentor’s scrutiny in areas of his life that the mentor senses needs examination. In the few years that I have been mentoring, I have come to believe that what my students need most is a relationship with me where they can let down their guard, be transparent and honest about their true selves, watch my life with all its warts, ask questions, challenge my answers, have me pray for them and with them, and generally say to them what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

In Part 2 we’ll examine a vivid historical example of this kind of mentorship which occurred almost two millennia ago.

When Apologetics Does More Harm than Good

I am a firm believer in the believer’s responsibility to be prepared to give an answer (apologia) to those who ask him about his hope in Christ (1 Pet. 3:15). Apologetics has become a passion for me because I believe that the Christian faith can not only withstand every assault by unbelief, but that it easily overpowers every other belief system devised by men. I also believe that apologetics is not a concern just for pastors and theologians, but also for every believer. However, we live in a day when few Christians can actually “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion that raises itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:5). A number of factors have contributed to this malaise: decline in theology, weak preaching and teaching, and the church’s capitulation to the culture’s obsession with entertainment and banality.

Another factor that prevents apologetics from becoming the skill of every believer is the unfortunate direction that apologetics has taken in the modern era. In an attempt to answer liberalism and skepticism on their own turf, some defenders of the faith chose to seek to defend the faith purely on rational grounds, apart from Scripture. In effect, this move severed the apologetic from its very lifeblood, and turned apologetics into a largely philosophical affair. Even today, the vast majority of evangelical apologetics is practiced from an evidential approach, seeking to match the challenges of unbelief on their own terms. This seemed to work reasonably well until postmodernism came along and undermined the whole modern project of proofs and evidence. The truth is, however, that evidential apologetics was never really all that Christian to begin with. It was more theistic, leading those who became convinced to a belief in God, or a god. At that point Scripture was trotted out like an embarrassing family secret, kept hidden until that point, since the evidentialism could go no further than bare theism. Additionally, the confidence in philosophy has placed most apologetics outside the reach of the average Christian.

It was exactly this modern approach to apologetics that denied Scripture its central role which Abraham Kuyper rejected when he wrote that in the struggle against the anti-Christian worldview that was already dominating Europe at the dawn of the 20th century, “apologetics have advanced us not one single step. Apologetics have invariably begun by abandoning the assailed breastwork, in order to entrench themselves cowardly in a ravelin behind it” (Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1931, 11).

Kuyper, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands (1901-1905) and one of the leading intellectuals of his day, was also a pastor and educator, who founded the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880. He had a keen ability to discern the movements of culture and thought that were shaping his day. His writing is timeless, and much of what he wrote is directly applicable to the challenges we face a century later.

Writing about the mistake of trying to defend the faith according to the rules laid down by skeptics, he writes:

From the first, therefore, I have always said to myself, if the battle [against unbelief] is to be fought with honor and with a hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed against principle: then it must be felt that in Modernism the vast energy of an all-encompassing life-system assails us, then also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life-system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power. And this powerful life-system is not to be invented nor formulated by ourselves, but is to be taken and applied as it presents itself in history (p. 11-12).

What Kuyper is saying here is that it will not do to seek to defend the Christian faith with the criteria of reliability laid down by philosophy and modern unbelief. Since Christianity is an all-encompassing “life-system” (Kuyper’s word for worldview) antithetical to the life-system of unbelief, it needs a principle of its own to defend itself, namely the authority of Scripture. Anything less than an epistemological starting point in the self-attested authority of Scripture was insufficient to the task. Since Kuyper did not see this happening among the apologists of his day, he decried apologetics as worthless.

In this sense, Kuyper was correct—apart from the authority of Scripture, apologetics becomes an exercise in ever-increasing obscurity through philosophy and speculative metaphysics. This severs apologetics from its power source, and puts the practice of providing an answer for one’s hope outside the reach of all but the brightest philosophers. While philosophy helps to clarify our thinking when it serves as the handmaid of theology, when it is allowed to dominate apologetics, it does more harm then good.

Guest Post: Cystic Fibrosis and the Glory of God

By Pastor Jeff Diedrich

It has been almost eight years ago since it happened but few details escape my mind over the years as I recall the birth of our oldest boy, Zachary. With all our children’s births, there is the joy and anticipation of a new life entering the world. What a thrill to cut the cord and hold your child for the very first time!

Joy soon turned to sorrow as we realized that there was a problem. On the third day of his new life, Zachary was taken for X-rays and they saw he had meconium ileus which is an intestinal blockage. Surgery was scheduled for our baby to correct the problem. During the procedure, he went “code blue” and we almost lost our precious boy. After the procedure the doctor sat with my wife and I and told us that there was a good chance that our boy had Cystic fibrosis.

Those words fell upon us like a great weight around our neck. A million questions rattled in our heads. What is CF? How do you get rid of it? Why would God allow this? We later found out that CF is a genetic disease in which both parents must carry the recessive gene of CF.  When two carriers like Camille and I have children there is a 25% chance that each child we have will be given CF.  As we read more, we found out that CF is a disease which produces thick mucus that plugs up the airways of the lungs, the pancreas, intestines and other ducts.  CF patients are very susceptible to germs and must be very careful to stay away from people who are sick as well as germs in general. Every day they must do physical therapy to keep the thick mucus out of their lungs.

That night we went back to our room in the Ronald McDonald house and cried. I was in desperate need to understand what had just happened. Where in the Bible could I turn to better understand the theology of CF? Did God have a word on this matter? We needed hope.

The Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 139 which talks about the omnipresence of God. The more I read the more I realized that there is not a place on earth that God is not present- even the womb of a mother.  When I read verses 13-16, I was washed over with a sense of hope.

For You formed my inward parts; you wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works. And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.

The more I read the more my mind became settled about the matter. This text showed me that God was in Camille’s womb and intentionally took my recessive gene and stitched it together with her recessive gene in order to give Zachary CF. The word form refers to a potter carefully shaping clay. Skillfully wrought speaks of someone with great skill who weaves a beautiful tapestry. This was intentional.

No longer did medical percentages apply to our situation because God could have decided not to give any of our kids CF, perhaps they would only be carriers or completely free of any trace of CF. It gave us great comfort to know that our loving God was present at the moment of conception when our children became human beings. Our God does not arbitrarily reach into His cosmic bag of pain and scatter it upon the earth. God does not waste pain like that. He has a goal. A mission. A purpose.

Understanding this, how could our reaction be anything short of verse 14? This is the theology of pain that I was looking for.  It is a good thing we were tutored early, because in 2006 Elijah was born with CF as well.  As parents, we do not know what the future holds but we do know that God knows the number of all our days (v.16) and that with those days we want God to wring every bit of glory out of this disease so we can collectively say wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.

Editor’s Note: Jeff Diedrich is associate pastor at Abundant Life Baptist Church in Washington, PA. I have known Jeff for 25 years and have witnessed the grace of God in his life through numerous trials. His testimony in this post is a great encouragement to those who watch their children suffer.

Joel Beeke on the Worldly Person

The goal of worldly people is to move forward rather than upward, to live horizontally rather than vertically. They seek after outward prosperity rather than holiness. They burst with selfish desires rather than heartfelt supplications. If they do not deny God, they ignore and forget Him, or else they use Him only for their selfish ends. Worldliness…is human nature without God.

Joel Beeke, Overcoming the World: Grace to Win the Daily Battle (P&R, 2005), 16; cited in Worldliness, ed. C.J.Mahaney (Crossway, 2008), 27.