Monday, August 22, 2011

So, lets get this straight...

moral application is not legalism. 

I don't think there's a word that I see more wrongly applied by Christians than the word "legalism" (even though I may exaggerate, it's way up there on the frequency list for sure). The late John Stott has some helpful definitions below for pastors (and for us):
"There are many pastors today who, for fear of being branded 'legalists', give their congregation no ethical teaching. How far we have strayed from the apostles! 'Legalism' is the misguided attempt to earn our salvation by obedience to the law. 'Pharisaism' is a preoccupation with the externals and minutiae of religious duty. To teach the standards of moral conduct which adorn the gospel is neither legalism nor pharisaism but plain apostolic Christianity" (Stott, Between Two Worlds, p. 158).
(H/T Doug Wilson)

Also, Tony Reinke get's at what I am talking about in a very instructive blog post:

"How do we define legalism? Because the term legalism is a very serious one (and because my heart is especially susceptible to it) I frequently think about how the roots of legalism sprout in our lives. So today I want to work towards a definition.
Three events from last year (that all took place back in Omaha in the same week) reveal why clarification on the dangers of legalism are necessary. First was a conversation with a woman who had decided it was okay that her daughter skip church for soccer games. “I don’t want to be legalistic about church,” she said. Another encounter was with a man who defined legalism as “living by lots of rules.” And the third encounter was over an issue concerning alcohol and how those who say Christians should not drink are legalists.
I’m not saying these people are right or wrong in their convictions. What I am saying is that each statement sadly reveals a misunderstanding about legalism. What we commonly forget is that legalism is dangerous whether your biblical convictions are right or wrong. Holding biblically accurate convictions does not automatically protect from legalism."
Read the rest HERE

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