Pharisees and Legalism

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by donnA, Jan 3, 2002.

  1. donnA

    donnA
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    So, as you see it, what kinds of legalism do christians pratice?
    Isn't a list of rules, legalism? Your not christian if you this or this, if you let me see your toe, you might not be a christian, If I walk crooked, it's proof I'm not a christian.

    Paul said(someone give the reference to this, because I know you know it), all things are lawful, but all things are not benefical(helpful), is that helpful to our lives, to our spiritual lives or what? Does it give us free reign? No, of course not. But there is a fine line between christian living, and legalism. Too many times we cross over.
     
  2. Helen

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    You might be interested in this, Katie --

    23 years ago, when we flew over to Taiwan to adopt our oldest daughter, we adopted her through a Christian mission. Although we were staying in Taipei most of the time, our baby was born in Hualien, on the other side of the island, and we flew there to formalize the adoption.

    Hualien is in the mountainous area near the incredible Marble Gorge. There are a number of indigineous tribes in that area who escaped being either slaughtered or assimilated by the conquering Chinese years ago. Our daughter is from one of these tribes.

    In learning about them, we found out that when the Christian missionaries first came to Taiwan, they were horrified that the little toddlers were allowed to run around naked, and introduced diapers to the culture. Hundreds of babies in the following years died of diaper rash infections! Taiwan is extraordinarily humid and hot and fungal infections are frequent.

    There was a reason the toddlers were naked. They were healthier that way.

    Or consider my youngest daughter who, for the first two years of high school, was so disgusted with girls who were wearing skimpy clothes and being 'come-on's' that she swung to the opposite extreme just so no one would ever even dream that she was that sort. She wore baggy everything and a backwards baseball cap and looked for all the world like some poor war orphan who had been digging through a dumpster for clothes! Those clothes were AWFUL! But she sure could not have been mistaken for 'sexy' in them! Today she is coming into her young womanhood with grace and beauty and MOST of those clothes are a thing of the past. She usually coordinates her outfits now and looks really darling.

    Some people would have criticized her before (she and I did go the rounds a few times!), and some would now. Yet she has always been modest and friendly and a wonderful friend to all kinds of people -- including the kids who are disdained by others. She has developed an integrity and honesty which is awfully rare for 17 years old.

    And yet, when she was at a roller skating rink with a Christian youth group lately, the youth pastor read her the riot act for joining in the competitions (like "red light green light" and short races and such) because "Christians don't try to prove they are better than othrs." She came home pretty confused about the issue.

    The upshot of it is, in my mind, that those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit will be led to dress and act appropriately to the culture and modestly in regard to the culture they are in.

    It seems to me that legalism is a way of trying to imitate the leading of the Holy Spirit. And the imitations are never the real thing.

    Of course there is dress and behavior which are obviously nasty and inappropriate. And then there is dress and behavior which is impeccable. And in between are most of the rest of us. Being sensitive to the culture we are in when we travel is important, and so is being sensitive to the different people in our own lives at home.

    I guess what I am trying to stutter my way through is that legalism tends to get in the way of an awful lot of things which are good: healthy relationships, the freedom to follow God and not man, cultural understandings...

    I'm not so sure but that the prostitutes of Jesus time did not dress inappropriately according to the modest standards of the day. But Jesus still talked with them and ate with them. And I am willing to bet that when those who responded to Him were transformed by Him, they immediately chose a different style of clothing.

    In Matthew 23, Jesus upbraids the Pharisees for a number of things. One thing is whitewashing a grave filled with dead men's bones. That's what legalism does. While the Holy Spirit changes us from the inside out, legalism attempts to reverse the process. Whitewash the outside and as long as the looks are fine, don't worry about what is going on inside!

    I prefer God's way. Thanks for bringing this up! I know from your posts that we are both on the same side in this issue, but it felt good to spout off a little anyway... [​IMG]
     
  3. BWSmith

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    The idea of "legalism" being bad is agreed upon across the Baptist spectrum, however conservatives interpret "what the Pharisees did wrong" differently from moderates.

    Moderates see it as putting the letter of the law over the spirit of the law, and see that manifested in the near-Bible-worship that characterizes inerrantist fundamentalists.

    Conservatives see it as substituting one law for another, that is, putting the traditional midrash over the canonized "word of God". Hence, the Pharisees' problem wasn't that they ignored the spirit of the law, but that they ignored the "Bible" that we have today. They then interpret "liberalism" as equivalent to "another gospel".

    Same planet, different universes.
    ;)
     
  4. TomVols

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    It is sad and unfortunate that many Christians think obedience in any form constitutes legalism. Believing Biblical teaching has become legalism to many. Desiring that the Bible be taught and obeyed has become labeled as legalism. Legalism has become a catch word used to describe whatever we don't feel comfortable with.
     
  5. Helen

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    BW, Just for the record, I'm an inerrantist fundamentalist. So I guess I don't fit your caracature there!

    TomVols, thanks. That needed to be said, too.
     
  6. donnA

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> It is sad and unfortunate that many Christians think obedience in any form constitutes legalism. Believing Biblical teaching has become legalism to many. Desiring that the Bible be taught and obeyed has become labeled as legalism. Legalism has become a catch word used to describe whatever we don't feel comfortable with <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Since I started this thread I can only think you mean me.

    Well, you've got me wrong.

    I do believe in obedience, and teaching the Bible. But I do not believe in adding to what the Bible requires of us. Much of what christians seem to want to demand of other christians can't be found in the Bible. Such as the thread on what shoes you wear. Do what God tells us is one thing, do what man makes up to look and sound spiritual, is another. There is legalism in christianity, but not God's christianity. The Pharisees also took what God had said to the extreme, and came up with many mre things/laws that God didn't give, twisted what He had given. There are christians doing the samething, then denounce other christiasn who only seek to live God's way.
     
  7. TomVols

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    Katie,
    Whoa, hold it. I wasn't directing that at anyone in particular. Just wanted to make that statement which I believe is necessary when we talk about legalism. I should've taken a little more time with that statement and not typed it up so quickly. I apologize if it seemed like I was aiming it at you. I wasn't.
     
  8. donnA

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    Tom, then I'm sorry for misunderstanding your intent.
     
  9. Kathy

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    What some perceive as legalism may not be seen the same way to someone else. Yes, I agree that there are extremes, aren't there always? But having standards and convictions for one's own life to me does not constitute legalism. If I choose to wear dresses and/or skirts only (my example) and a friend of mine doesn't feel it necessary and possibly excessive, that is their opinion. I still have my standards and convictions, they are just different for someone elses.

    Kathy
    &lt;&gt;&lt;
     
  10. Dr. Bob

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    If I have to do something to gain favor with God, it is legalism. Oh, not the keeping of the Jewish law (tho they were DOING something) as the strict use of "legalism" is in the NT.

    God will not love me one bit more or less if I do ANYTHING good or bad.

    Man, I've got a great God. Why would I want to mess up my walk with Him by adding a bunch of man-made rules and policies. I have enough trouble obeying the direct teaching of Word without anybody (or myself) adding to it!
     
  11. Kathy

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    But don't you WANT to please God? I want to do things that please Him, and yes gain favor, if you will. It's human nature. If I help an old lady across the street, it's cuz I wanted to help her, and cuz I know that it pleases my Lord to do good things for people. In the same way, if I dress in clothes that I perceive as modest (and mind you, my perception is most definitely different from others), what is so wrong with trying to please Him in doing so? I'm not saying that ANYONE has to do the same...I personally think that alot of what is perceived (I like that word huh? *hehe*) as legalism is IMO, preference preaching and can be taken or discarded. God knows that I cannot in any way, shape or form uphold His laws and commands, but whats so wrong with trying? I know I'm saved and I know that there is nothing I can do to fall out of grace with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but I DESIRE to please Him...is that wrong?

    Kathy
    &lt;&gt;&lt;
     
  12. TomVols

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by katie:
    Tom, then I'm sorry for misunderstanding your intent.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    No problem. I should've been more clear.
     

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