The Worldview Wheel


The Worldview Wheel

"'Worldview' language is very common among Christians, particularly among Reformed Christians. But what are we talking about? Where did this way of talking come from? And where is it going?"

You can read through the 6 Worldview Wheel sermons that Pastor Douglas Wilson preached or you can purchase the audio download at canonpress.


The Worldview Wheel

"'Worldview' language is very common among Christians, particularly among Reformed Christians. But what are we talking about? Where did this way of talking come from? And where is it going?"

You can read through the 6 Worldview Wheel sermons that Pastor Douglas Wilson preached or you can purchase the audio download at canonpress.

Worldview Wheel I

Worldview Wheel I


"Worldview" language is very common among Christians, and particularly common among Reformed Christians. But what are we talking about? Where did this way of talking come from? And where is it going?

The Text:

"And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12: 28-31).

A Brief History of the Word:

Worldviews are inescapable, and every tribe, nation, and people in the history of the world have always had them. But we started talking about it in the late 18th century. The first person to use the word (Weltanschauung) was the philosopher Immanuel Kant. But he simply meant "sense perception of the world." But the word caught on, and almost immediately after this, other philosophers picked it up and began using it in a sense more familiar to us—meaning "framework of assumptions about the world." Throughout the course of the nineteenth century, the idea was important to philosophers like Hegel, Kirkegaard, and Nietszche. But conservative Christians soon picked up the idea to advance the idea of a fully-orbed Christian take on the world. This was done by James Orr and Abraham Kuyper, carrying over into the early twentieth century. The most recent round of play was initiated by Francis Schaeffer in the 1970s, who was largely responsible for making the word and concept a commonplace in evangelical circles. But as we have worked with the word, some important qualifications have been made.

A Worldview Wheel:

It is crucial to emphasize that this is an illustration, a parable, a metaphor. It is not a schematic diagram, or an attempt to scientifically dissect what a worldview cell looks like under a microscope. Another concern may be that it appears to be an illustration that is dangerously "evangelical," which is fine so long as you remember it.

The Axle:

Apart from the grace of God in Christ, effectually applied, men are inveterate idolators. This means that if the axle is broken, it does not matter how solid the spokes are in theory. In practice, the wheel won't turn—and eventually, the people will trade the whole thing in for something that will turn.

Each of the Spokes:

It is commonly assumed that a worldview simply consists of "what and how you think." And thus it is assumed that you can therefore get a Christian worldview out of a book, or send your kids to two weeks of intensive worldview training in the summer. Such things are not necessarily bad, but what is bad is the idea that a worldview consists of nothing more than propositional answers to questions. These things are not necessarily bad because you can fashion a spoke out of a book—but not the whole wheel.


—this is the element most people think of when they think worldview. How do you answer the ultimate questions? What do you think is true about the world? Example: "Christian, what do you believe?" "I believe in God the Father Almighty . . ." Competing example: "All that appears to be reality is actually maya, illusion, and everything is ultimately one."


—how do we actually live? How do you conduct business? Do you work hard? How do you educate your kids? Do you live in kindness? What kind of clothes do you wear? What kind of music do you sing and listen to? Example: "We would really love to have wine at our wedding . . ." Competing example: "Do you have any of those mudflaps with the silhouette girls on them?"


—what kind of story do you tell yourself? Where do you and your family fit into the story? Who are your people? What relationship do they have to all God's people? Example: "The Puritans came to New England because they wanted freedom to worship . . ." Competing example: "Many millions of years ago, the primordial ooze was poised for a major breakthrough . . ."


—how do you summarize and ritually enact your commitments? Example: The act of reciting the Apostles' Creed. Competing example: Saying the Pledge of Allegiance at every basketball game.

Some Cautions:

A worldview is a communal thing. An infinite number of detached ideas from an opinionated individual will not stack up to a worldview. Remember that the greatest commandment, identified as such by Jesus, was a commandment given to Israel. It clearly had ramifications for each Israelite, but it was a command given to the people of God collectively.

Another related issue is the fact that the communal nature of worldviews (and the g radual progress of the gospel through the world) means that American Christians (for example) will share many overlapping elements of their worldview with non-Christian Americans. Catechesis: who is your president? Lifestyle: where did you buy your garden hose? Narrative: are you going to shoot off fireworks on the Fourth? Symbol: standing for the national anthem.

This article was written by Douglas Wilson and the original can be viewed here:

Worldview Wheel II


Worldview Wheel II


We have seen that a worldview consists of four basic elements—catechesis, lifestyle, symbol/liturgy, and narrative. We need to consider each of these in turn, and see the necessity of the right connection of each to the grace of God.

The Text:

"But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:8-10).


Christians are inescapably logocentric. Christ Himself is the Word of God, and we learned about Him from the words of His messengers. The word of faith is preached (v. 8), and it is heard by the listeners. Those listening have the word near them—in their hearts and in their mouths. That which was in the mouth of the preacher is now in the mouth of the convert. It is in the mouth of the convert because it is in the heart of the convert, and it is there because it is in the heart of the preacher. Now what St. Paul urges here is confession and faith. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (v. 9) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead (v. 9), you will be saved. Now these truths overlap and indwell one another; we are not supposed to put them end to end. That means that you also have to believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, and confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the death. The apostle shows that there is a close bond between the thoughts of the heart and the confession of the mouth. The two can be separated, but only because of sin. When a man is whole, his heart and his mouth speak the same propositional truths.

Basic Christian Confession:

In the early years of the Church, assaults against the truth came in the form of various denials of the confession outlined above. In response to this, the Church faithfully confessed the truth. These basic confessions are still in use today; they are the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Definition of Chalcedon. What was the point of these confessions? They were, respectively, confessions of the rooted historical nature of the gospel, the fact that Jesus is God, and that Jesus fully man and fully God. I say that this is basic Christian confession because these creeds draw the line separating true Christians from heretics.

Mature Christian Confession:

As the Church grew and matured over time, the result was a refined and increasingly mature understanding of many issues contained within Scripture. The Bible talks about a lot of things, and not all of them are about the battle between faith and unbelief. As a result, many reformational confessions addressed issues which separate Christians from Christians. The 39 Articles are held by the historic Anglicans; the Three Forms of Unity are held by the Continental Reformed; the Westminster Confession is held by Reformed Christians in the English-speaking world; the Augsburg Confession is held by Lutherans, etc. This is not to say that the distinctives set forth in one or more of these confessions are unimportant; they are frequently very important. But the differences between the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession are not heaven/hell important. They are wet baby/dry baby important. The original point of confessions was to distinguish the Church from the world. The Reformation era brought us to the point where they began to be used to distinguish one part of the Church from another part of the Church.

Immature Use of Mature Confession:

At the beginning, the impulse was the same as it had been in the early Church, which was to distinguish the truth from heresy—this was the point of the Protesting Catholics setting forth their testimony and confession over against the Roman Catholics. But it was not long before the sidelong glances began. That which would justify Westminster against Trent does not justify Westminster against Augsburg. The former is in the spirit of the early Church; the latter can turn into mere factionalism or sectarianism. These are "our distinctives. We are theonomic, postmillennial, presuppositional, liturgical and . . ." But distinctives to separate from people that Christ has not separated from is illegitimate. Distinctives offered in charity will be how the Church matures and grows. Distinctives offered with pride and contempt will have the opposite effect.

Heart and Mouth:

Returning to our text, we should see that in Paul's mind, the heart and mouth speak with one voice. When this occurs, salvation occurs. When this occurs, to return to our illustration of the wheel, there is no break between the axle and the spoke of what is affirmed with the mouth. When someone affirms with the mouth what he denies in the heart, the wheel is broken. That denial might be simple hypocrisy, seen when someone joins a church simply because of the business contacts he thinks he will find there, or perhaps to "meet girls." Or the denial might be a convoluted and theologically sophisticated hypocrisy, seen in much liberal and postmodern thought. "What does it mean to affirm, exactly? And are we assuming too much about referentiality? And isn't it more important that people preach that Christ rose from the dead than to affirm a crude and fundamentalist kind of way that He actually did?"

The Gift of God:

The use of propositions to confess our faith is absolutely essential. And the fact that we confess something with our mouth (and that doing so is essential to salvation) means that we do presuppose certain things about language. Language is a trustworthy gift from a trustworthy God; it is not an evolutionary by-product. Adam was created speaking. Our toddlers are born as naming creatures, and they grow up into it. This is also the grace of God.

Now what should we do with grace? What are we to do with a gift? We are to simply receive it, with gratitude. We are not to over-analyze it. We are not to over-engineer it. We must not become victims of a false analogy. It is wrong-headed to say that "we build telescopes, but cannot see God. We build listening devices, but cannot hear God. And we invent languages, but cannot to with or about God . . ." It is false to say that we invented the idea of propositions; they are the sheer grace of God—whether we want to say the magazine is on the end table or Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth.

This article was written by Douglas Wilson and the original can be viewed here:

Worldview Wheel III


Worldview Wheel III


We are considering in turn each of the "spokes" on our worldview wheel. Thus far we have seen how all four spokes work together, and we have considered the spoke of revealed and objective propositional truth. We come now to the second spoke, which is the way we actually live.

The Text:

"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed" (James 1:22-25).


St. James is very clear, perhaps more clear than we would like. He says that we are to do the word, and not just hear it. Those who hear without obedience, he says, are self-deceived. What is the point of the deception? What do they think is true which is not true? They have come to believe that hearing truth is tantamount to living the truth. In other words, if you put up with a preacher to tells you (all the time) to love yourwife and to respect your husband, the mere fact that this is taught (without apology) at the church you decided to go to, this must mean that you are doing it. But this is self-deception, James says. He then gives us an illustration. Such a person looks in the mirror, sees the spinach in his teeth, and immediately thinks, "Whoa, better do something about that." But what he does about that is to step away from the mirror, which has started to reveal certain unpleasant truths about him. The mirror obviously has a critical spirit. But the man who stands in front of the mirror of Scripture (the perfect law of liberty) has a certain constancy about him. He "continueth therein." He is not a forgetful hearer. But James is no works-monger, even though this man is a "doer of the work." Note especially that this man is blessed in his deed. Raw doing by itself is just as fruitless as raw believing. The blessing of God's grace is absolutely necessary.

St. Paul and St. James:

Last week we focussed on Romans, where St. Paul teaches us to believe in our hearts, and to confess with our mouths. Here we consider St. James, teaching us how true faith results in action. These two emphases are not inconsistent with each other at all. To continue with our metaphor, if there is a break between the axle and the propositional spoke, there will also necessarily be a break between that axle and the lifestyle spoke.

This Is Why . . .

Over many years, we have sought in this congregation to have practical teaching from the Word on God on many practical aspects of our lives before God. We have diligently sought to establish the assumption that doctrine in the airy heavens is worthless, and that the precious doctrines of our holy religion were given to us in order that they might be lived. And this is why we have sermon series on child rearing, on marriage, on vocational pursuits, on finances, and so forth.This is not instead of expository preaching through books of the Bible, but in addition to that, as an important complement to it.

We believe there is a distinctively Christian approach to marriage, to the education of children, to the management of household finances, to the work ethic we are to exhibit when we get up in the morning. Pushing it further, we believe there is a distinctively Christian "take" or approach to auto mechanics, and dentistry, We do not believe that we have this approach well in hand, or that there are no disagreements between Christians on such subjects. But we know what we are pursuing.

The Fruit of the Spirit:

This is simply the obvious place to emphasize something that needs to be evident in each spoke. As you make what would be called lifestyle choices, be careful that your standard is not to "suit yourself" or to "indulge your own opinions." The manner of choosing must be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Gal. 5:22-23). These traits are not to be operative merely the fellowship time after church. They are to be the governing attitude when two moms are talking about eduction options, when a kirker family approaches someone else in the church to conduct their business, when they are sorting out the difficulties because that someone did a slipshod job, or conversely, if the customers took advantage of their brother, when you are talking about alternatives in medical treatments, when you are urging your friend to buy the Ford instead of the Chevvy, or vice versa.

What Gets in the Way:

Of course, the Sunday School answer is that "sin" gets in the way, but this is too general. What kind of sin? In every area of our lives, whether it is our deeply held beliefs, or our symbolic and liturgical desires, or the story we tell, or the way we choose to live our lives, the sin that intrudes like nothing else is the sin of pride and envy.

We are imitative creatures, because that is how God made us, and we are competitive and envious creatures because of Adam's fall. Put this together, and you can have a real mess. Imitation brings us together and envy brings us together in conflict. And because we are Christians, we have long since learned to say, "It is not that I wanted that job, it is the principle of the thing."

The Cross of Christ:

Without the cross of Christ being proclaimed regularly and with power, lifestyle claims in the name of the Lordship of Jesus Christ are the most dangerous thing in the world. This is why it is so necessary to remain robustly evangelical. What raw lifestyle claims wind up doing is bringing a bunch of Christians together who claim the ultimate sanction of Christ's lordship for whatever "lifestyle"they want everybody else to adopt—whether bread baking, classical and Christian education, bee-keeping, alternative medicine, political involvement, and you-name-it-ism. So make your decisions before the Lord, and check the connection of this spoke to the axle of grace three times every day. If you are an opinionated fellow, check it seven times.

A day schooler and a homescholer (both well schooled in grace) have a blended and harmonious lifestyle together. But two people who share the same method (detached from grace) will soon fall to quarreling about the color of the textbooks. "But it is not the blue, but the principle of the thing . . ."

This article was written by Douglas Wilson and the original can be viewed here:

Worldview Wheel IV


Worldview Wheel IV


We come now to a third "spoke" on our worldview wheel, which this week will be considered under the heading of ritual, liturgy and symbol. We have considered the value of propositional truth. We have considered the importance of practical lifestyle. Now we are going to reflect on the importance of the unspoken but embodied aspect of worldview.

The Text:

"We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of thethrone of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man"

(Hebrews 8:2).


Our word liturgy comes from a word used in the Bible. Our common use of it comes from leitourgos, which refers to a minister in the priestly sense. That is its meaning here in our text, but it is also found this way in Rom. 15:16, and perhaps in Heb. 1:7. It also refers to a minister in a more general sense (Phil. 2:25), and even to the civil magistrate as God's minister (Rom. 13:6). The minister in a priestly sense is the one who officiates at the altar, in accordance with the stipulated ritual assigned the the law. At the ultimate level, in the heavenly places, the Lord Jesus Christ enacts the ultimate liturgy. Knowing that every element of a Christian worldview on earth answers to something in the heavenly places, we should consider this. Our liturgies, our rituals, our symbols should self-consciously be an echo of what God has said in heaven.

Inescapable Liturgy:

Considering these texts, we therefore have scriptural grounds if we divide liturgy into two broad categories—formal and obvious, and embedded because it is largely invisible. The former makes a visitor ask a question like "Why do they do that?" And the latter might go unnoticed for generations without provoking a single question from anyone. An example of the former would be raising our hands in the singing of the Gloria Patri. An example of the latter would be why we have the pulpit in the center instead of off to the side—because exposition of the Word is central, not peripheral. And in some churches that do this, it might even mean that the Word is central as opposed to man-made traditions that are never required in the Bible—like having the pulpit in the center, or having a pulpit at all, for that matter. The former example (raising hands in the Gloria Patri) would become an example of the latter if everyone began doing it, and there were no exceptions for several hundred years. Then it would become a ritual observance invisible to everyone, and observance that retreated into the woodwork.

A Caution

As you have gotten accustomed to worship here, or as you have invited friends or relatives to worship with us, perhaps one of the things you have had to discuss is why the whole thing seems so "thought out" or "planned." Doesn't this exclude the leading of the Holy Spirit? Well, no, not really. "For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ" (Col. 2:5). The word for order here is taxis—which could be rendered as regimentation. The idea that genuine feeling is necessarily spontaneous feeling is a modern idea that dies hard.

Without A Word:

Ritual actions are a way of speaking without speaking. If a group of men outside are praying, and they all take off their ball caps while doing so, they are speaking eloquently and they are doing so without a word. How is this possible? This should make us mindful of what St. Francis said to some of his disciples when he told them to go out and present to the gospel to everyone they met. And, he said, "use words if necessary." But this does not make this form of worldview enactment a type of spiritual miming. What if ritual or symbol were just a way of putting on white grease paint and acting it out instead of just saying it? Then the criticism leveled against many ornate liturgists would hold—that it is all just "a show" offered for entertainment. But ritual shapes us, as much as any Bible verse you may have memorized. As one of the early church fathers said, "Lex orandi, lex credendi." The law of prayer is the law of faith.

A Sampler:

Ritual actions in worship required by Scripture:

bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, the use of water in baptism, singing psalms, the public reading of Scripture, the exposition of Scripture, worship on the first day of the week, and so forth.

Ritual or symbolic actions in worship consistent with Scripture:

standing for Scripture reading, pulpit in the center, the image of a cross, use of the Heidelburg Catechism in worship, use of the Apostles' Creed

Ritual or symbolic actions outside worship consistent with Scripture:

Sabbath dinners, baby showers, learning the catechism, wedding ceremonies, saying grace over meals, prayer and blessing over the children at bedtime, birthday cakes, wedding rings, school uniforms, subscribing to the Westminster Confession of Faith, tapping your cleats with your baseball bat, graduation ceremonies, etc.

The Cross of Christ:

We considered a few weeks ago the truth that without the cross of Christ being proclaimed regularly and with power, lifestyle claims in the name of the Lordship of Jesus Christ disintegrate into a suffocating moralism. The same kind of thing will happen to ritual—if you have not been bored to death by religious mummeries, then you don't know the full meaning of stupefaction. Remember the axle of grace, and that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the basis of all God's grace to us. Many find explicit ritual (temporarily) refreshing because they are bored with the inanities of superficial and frothy worship. But apart from evangelical faith, this is like trying to deal with dullness by rearranging the furniture. Fine, but what are you going to do three days from now?

John Bunyan once said it would be better for your heart to be without words than for your words to be without heart. The same goes for your symbols, your rituals, your ceremonies. It would be better for your heart to be without rituals than for your rituals to be without heart. But fortunately, because of the grace of Christ, it is not necessarily one way or the other. You will have symbols and rituals. Two questions: Will they be biblical? And will they be heartfelt?

This article was written by Douglas Wilson and the original can be viewed here:

Worldview Wheel V


Worldview Wheel V


We come now to the fourth spoke of our "worldview wheel." We are not using this illustration for the sake of some sort of mandatory hokiness, but rather to fix the point in our minds, and, more importantly, in our lives. A worldview consists of far more than the thoughts a man thinks.

The Text:

"And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way"

(Mark 12:12)


Jesus has just told the parable of the vineyard. In this story, a certain man planted a vineyard, leased it out, and then went into a far country. He sent various messengers to collect his rents, but they were all badly treated. Finally, he sent his son and he, being the heir, was killed. This is not a detached and timeless story about owners and renters, in the tradition of Aesop. Making that kind of application is legitimate, but one problem with this is that it can make us lose the primary point of the parable.

In His parables, Jesus is frequently retelling the story of the history of Israel. He does so in a way that challenges the current corruptions of that generation, but also does so in a way that reveals He is dealing with the history of Israel. And He does it in a way that subverts the common assumptions. We frequently miss this because we are not steeped in the imagery of the Old Testament. We don't know what images, motifs, symbols, and so on, are being drawn on. Imagine someone today telling a story in which we were to find alabaster cities, fruited plains, and bald eagles. Those allusions would not be lost on us. The vineyard, according to the Jews understanding of themselves, was Israel (Is. 5:1; Ps. 80:15).

The Central Narrative:

The point in this is not that story-telling is a sign of mental health (although it is), or that well-adjusted people love stories (although they do). The point is that narrative is an inescapable element in all worldviews. It is not something you ought to have; it is something you will have, regardless. What you ought to have is the right story, not just a story. You can no more be without a narrative of "where you are" than you can be without a beating heart. So the issue is not storytelling or not, but rather faithful storytelling v. unfaithful storytelling.

Unfaithful Storytelling:

At the macro level, there are two great errors with regard to this. The first is the error of modernity, which likes to pretend that Science is all we need, and that storytelling is for the simpler ones among us, who need to be periodically amused. But despite their pretensions, they still tell us the story of how science delivered us from medieval superstitions, they tell us how we evolved from the primordial goo, they tell us how the evolution of the secular state delivered us from religious fundamentalism and its twin, fanaticism.

The second great problem is the idea that storytelling is the individual's prerogative, in order to express his inner, creative artesian well. But this radical privatizing of storytelling is a great tragedy. This really does reduce storytelling to the level of amusement. But great stories belong to a people, just as great creative geniuses do. Stories are corporate affairs, which does not destroy the great artist—it does, however, do some damage to some great egos.

The Story:

God has given us a Book that reveals His mind to us. Most of this book consists of stories, not didactic outlines. A significant portion of the remainder is poetry. The same fundamental story is told over and over again, in astonishingly different ways, and yet in a way that leaves us with the unmistakable sense that we are being taught how we are to live.

We do this by hearing the story, internalizing it. We are to be Bible readers, Bible listeners, Bible tellers. When we walk along the road, when we rise up, when we lie down. We point to the moon and we tell our three-year-old the story of how it got there.

We do this, in the second place, by seeing ourselves in the story. We do this by seeing ourselves in the early chapters, those already written. We also do this by seeing Scripture as the first four chapters, and the history of the Church is the fifth chapter—still being written. We refuse to separate history from story, an evil suggestion from the dragon.

Third, we are then to tell our own stories, drawing on the stock of images, phrases, motifs, themes, and structures that we find in the Bible. The Christian imagination cannot be free until it is captured by the Scriptures and the Spirit of God. When it is, the world will stand back in amazement. This is because, at bottom, Christians are the only people with a genuine story. We must not just walk away from the pabulum that we tell and sell, but at a corporate level, we need to repent of it.

The Kind of Story That Never Grows Old:

The story line is this: grace, envy, sin, promise, sacrifice, resurrection, and fulfillment. We have Eden, the Fall, Cain, the coming Messiah, the Cross, the Resurrection, and Glory. We have Faithful dying in Vanity Fair. We have the Stone Table and the shorn mane. We have the battle of Helm's Deep. We have Ransom calling down the powers of deep heaven. We have Roland and St. George, Beowulf and Dante. We have Br'er Rabbit, and we have the man who was Thursday. And beyond them all, we have the parables of Jesus, stories that would reward much more careful attention.

This article was written by DOuglas WIlson and the original can be viewed here:

Worldview Wheel VI


Worldview Wheel VI


Now we come to put everything together as we talking about worldview living. Not surprisingly, the thing to remember is the grace of God—the axle.

The Text:

"This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another"

(Gal. 5:16-26).


St. Paul tells the Galatians to walk in the Spirit, and to reject the lust of the flesh (v. 16). The flesh and the Spirit are contrary to one another (v. 17). But if the Spirit is leading you, then you are not under (the condemnation of) the law (v. 18). He then gives us a list of the works of the flesh, and he says they are manifest (v. 19). The list includes sins that we would readily identify with "the flesh," but the list is much more broad than just renegade bodily desires. It includes idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, heresy, and so on (vv. 19-21). Those whose lives are characterized by this kind of thing will not inherit the kingdom (v. 21). The fruit of the Spirit is equally obvious (vv. 22-23). Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts (v. 24). That being the case, if you live in the Spirit, then you should walk like it (v. 25). And stay away from vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (v. 26).

Grace As the Integration Point:

Everything in the "biblical worldview" can be "just right," right on paper, that is, and yet everything can still be wrong. Your doctrine is right, your ethical standards are right, your liturgy is right, and your narrative is right. But if love, joy, peace, patience, etc. do not suffuse the whole of it, then it is a caricature of the biblical worldview, and not the authentic thing. The grace of God invades the world, and it changes things. If we cannot get away from the grace of God in "the spokes," then the sinful heart tries to keep the axle from turning in such a way that requires the spokes to move.

Without grace, propositional affirmation is the devil's religion (Jas. 2:19). Without grace, lifestyle standards are just suffocating moralism (Matt. 23:4). Without grace, liturgy is mumbo-jumbo and parading about (Amos 5:21-24). Without grace, storytelling confounds the protagonist and antagonist (John 8:39). And with all these things, apart from grace, the "better" it

is, the worse it is. Appealing to the argument, or the rules, or the tradition, or history is all worthless apart from the experienced and tasted goodness of God. This means joy—joy in the doctrine, joy in the living, joy in the worship and symbols, and joy in the story. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

A Balanced Wheel:

One of the way to tell if joy is missing (apart from the obvious) is that false oppositions are created—one man wants the wheel to have this spoke, but not that one. Another man wants it the other way around. A robust understanding of the biblical worldview embraces it all. The rationalist wants doctrine only. The liberal wants morals only. The sacerdotalist wants liturgy only. The postmodernist want narrative only. The biblical Christian wants it all, and it wants it all on the axle, and balanced there.

Actions and Words:

Two of these spokes involve actions, not words. The two others involve words, not actions. Lifestyle and liturgy are enacted. Stories and doctrines are spoken or written. All four enter their glory when they are done, or told, from the heart. Stories are no more protected from becoming a series of abstractions than catechism answers are. Both are propositional. Lifestyle is no more protected from becoming an empty drill than liturgy is. The issue is therefore not what spoke we prefer, or what emphasis we think needs to be restored, but whether God is pouring out his grace or not. Reformation is entirely and completely dependent upon the grace of God, and whether or not He bestows it is entirely up to Him. We cannot create this axle, and we cannot (by arranging or juggling the spokes) connect them to the axle. Reformation is the work of God. But when He works, this is what it looks like.

Turning Away from Vainglory:

Let us return to the last exhortation of our text. The Spirit and the flesh contend with one another. If the Spirit is at work in our midst, He will do glorious things—with our doctrine, our families, our worship, and our stories. How will the flesh counter-attack? How will the flesh contend with His work among us? What must we do if we want to walk in the Spirit in these areas? Not to put too fine a point on it, we must avoid vain glory, we must avoid provocation, and we must avoid envy (v. 26).

Envy is a disaster when you envy, and it is a disaster when you provoke by wanting to be envied. All of it is vainglory, whether you say it out loud or not. "Our liturgy is more refined than yours." There's a sentiment straight out of hell. "My short stories are not cliched and formulaic like so and so's." Good for you, and may we touch the hem of your garment? "Our family has much better entertainment standards than some families in this church do." That must explain why your family is no fun at all. "Our kids memorized the Shorter Catechism in the original Greek by the time they were three." Rah.

But please remember this is a matter of God's grace being present. The standards that people boast in are often true standards. Humility is not relativism.

This article was written by Douglas Wilson and the original can be viewed here:



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