Author’s note: You You may be interested to hear that my July/August 2012 Touchstone article, “Passing Through the Sirens: The Trials of the Christian Wayfarer in the World,” won an essay competition sponsored by the Character Project and Templeton Foundation.
Serious moralists of the past always warned Christians against three sources of temptation: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Most people can script the flesh and the devil into tempter roles of some kind, but what are we to make of the third category, the world? When we speak of “the world,” we usually mean either the planet we live on or everybody living in it. With respect to the first, who could imagine hills or turnips tempting the soul to hell? And regarding the second, does it not seem a bit misanthropic to seat the human race at the devil’s right hand?
Clearly, whatever our ancestors meant when they spoke of “the world” in cautionary tones, we have forgotten it. Since we may have done so at our peril, it behooves us to go back to where they started, and look at the view of “the world” they originally got from Scripture.