World (theology)  

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Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, while holding a copy of his Nicomachean Ethics in his hand. Plato holds his Timaeus and gestures to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms.
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Plato (left) and Aristotle (right), a detail of The School of Athens, a fresco by Raphael. Aristotle gestures to the earth, representing his belief in knowledge through empirical observation and experience, while holding a copy of his Nicomachean Ethics in his hand. Plato holds his Timaeus and gestures to the heavens, representing his belief in The Forms.

"And we created you as a being neither celestial nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal alone, so that you as a free and sovereign artist can mold and model yourself in the form that you prefer; you can degenerate to animal, but you can also rise to the higher, divine kingdom ... You alone have the power to develop and grow according to free will." --Pico della Mirandola, Oration on the Dignity of Man, tr. Jan-Willem Geerinck


  1. Of or relating to man and the planet earth, physical as opposed to spiritual.
  2. Concerned with secular rather than sacred matters.
  3. Very sophisticated especially because of surfeit; versed in the ways of the world.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

World is a key concept in theology.

In some religions, worldliness (also called carnality is that which relates to this world as opposed to other worlds or realms.

It is synonymous to earthly (relating to the earth) and shares its connotation with this world, as opposed to heaven.


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Christian views on the World

In Christianity, the concept connotes the fallen and corrupt world order of human society. The world is frequently cited alongside the flesh and the Devil as a source of temptation that Christians should flee. Monks speak of striving to be "in this world, but not of this world", and the term "worldhood" has been distinguished from "monkhood", the former being the status of merchants, princes, and others who deal with "worldly" things.

This view is clearly expressed by king Alfred the Great of England (d. 899) in his famous Preface to the Cura Pastoralis:

"Therefore I command you to do as I believe you are willing to do, that you free yourself from worldly affairs (Old English: woruldðinga) as often as you can, so that wherever you can establish that wisdom that God gave you, you establish it. Consider what punishments befell us in this world when we neither loved wisdom at all ourselves, nor transmitted it to other men; we had the name alone that we were Christians, and very few had the practices."

Although Hebrew and Greek words meaning "world" are used in Scripture with the normal variety of senses, many examples of its use in this particular sense can be found in the teachings of Jesus according to the Gospel of John, eg. 7:7, 8:23, 12:25, 14:17, 15:18-19, 17:6-25, 18:36. For contrast, a relatively newer concept is Catholic imagination.

The World, the Flesh and the Devil is a common figure of speech in the Church which reflects these sentiments.

Contemptus mundi is the name given to the recognition that the world, in all its vanity, is nothing more than a futile attempt to hide from God by stifling our desire for the good and the holy. This view has been criticized as a pastoral of fear by modern historian Jean Delumeau.

During the Second Vatican Council, there was a novel attempt to develop a positive theological view of the World, which is illustrated by the pastoral optimism of the constitutions Gaudium et Spes, Lumen Gentium, Unitatis Redintegratio and Dignitatis Humanae.

Eastern Christianity

In Eastern Christian monasticism or asceticism the world of mankind is driven by passions. Therefore the passions of the World are simply called "the world". Each of these passions are a link to the world of mankind or order of human society. Each of these passions must be overcome in order for a person to receive salvation (theosis). The process of theosis is a personal relationship with God. This understanding is taught within the works of ascetics like Evagrius Ponticus, and the most seminal ascetic works read most widely by Eastern Christians, the Philokalia and the Ladder of Divine Ascent (the works of Evagrius and John Climacus are also contained within the Philokalia). At the highest level of world transcendence is hesychasm which culminates into the Vision of God.

Orbis Catholicus

Orbis Catholicus is a latin phrase meaning Catholic World, per the expression Urbi et Orbi, and refers to that area of Christendom under papal supremacy. It is somewhat similar to the phrases Secular world, Jewish world and Islamic world.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "World (theology)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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