What is Legalism

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What is Legalism

Postby nakedpreacher » Fri Dec 25, 2015 1:40 am

It was mentioned in another strip but I believe that we probably all have different definitions. I have my own thoughts on the subject but I will wait on that for others to respond. SO...
What Is Legalism?
If, when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil; we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby Petros » Fri Dec 25, 2015 2:02 am

For one thing it is relative. Each has rules. How many, how detailed, how much one is a stickler, how much one has invested in the rules. So - not easily defined, unless one is legalistic about the criteria.

VERY roughly - the Jehovah's Witness translation is legalistic copared to the Good News version.
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby prairieboy » Fri Dec 25, 2015 2:05 am

Legalism is the belief that our actions contribute to our righteousness, or take away from our righteousness, instead of the belief that our righteousness is perfect in Jesus.
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby jjsledge » Fri Dec 25, 2015 12:53 pm

Something I came across a while back:

"Trying to keep the law is actually a declaration of independence, a way of keeping control. Keeping the law grants us the power to judge others and feel superior."

Comments?

Jerry
Those who judge the motives of othere are simply revealing what's in their own hearts. Frank Viola "Revise Us Again" p.89
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby nakedpreacher » Fri Dec 25, 2015 11:00 pm

Jerry, I would like to see a few more people respond before I weigh in, but I would be interested to know where and from whom the quote came, that is a good one. It is very similar to some from Bonhoeffer.
If, when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil; we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby jjsledge » Sat Dec 26, 2015 12:16 pm

Wish I knew who, where and when. I would like to read more of this author. I may need to check out Bonhoeffer.

Jerry
Those who judge the motives of othere are simply revealing what's in their own hearts. Frank Viola "Revise Us Again" p.89
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby jasenj1 » Sat Dec 26, 2015 8:45 pm

This one is rather tough.

There are many admonitions to keep God's commands in the New Testament (John 14:15 and the many cross references found there). And there is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and many other passages that describe the attitudes of Christians. And Romans 6:1-2 which exhort us not to sin any more.

So clearly "good" Christians obey rules of some sort, and do and don't do various things.

And yet there are many other verses that speak of freedom in Christ and not being in bondage (Gal. 5:1, et al.). Paul spends many, many verses telling Gentile converts not to be subject to the Law, that to do so is to nullify the work of Christ. My impression is that these verses are dealing with following the Law as a requirement or prerequisite for salvation. Works to earn God's forgiveness and grace, which is different than doing works from a position of knowing one has salvation.

I'm sure many books have been written on this subject by people far smarter and wiser than me. My personal opinion is that legalism is an over-emphasis on following rules, especially rules that involve personal appearance and behavior. Legalists rarely are concerned about how many widows and orphans you've cared for, or how many prisoners you've visited, but are very concerned about what type of clothes you wear, what you drink, what type of music you listen to, and such. The "rules" rarely involve being kind, generous, or patient with others. But revolve around giving off an appearance.
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby Bare_Truth » Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:21 pm

I think that in answering this, it is much more instructive to not only ask "what is Legalism" but also address "What it is not". A false charge of legalism is often a false defense for doing "one's own thing" when "one's own thing" is not what God calls for.
In Romans Chapter 3, Paul wrote: 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Not exactly a definition but rather a tacit understanding: Legalism is believing that Paul got this one wrong and that keeping the law will justify one before God.
Also in Romans chapter 3 Paul wrote: 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
And again legalism is the ignoring of this truth.

However by contrast: Having high esteem for the law and seriously using it as a guide to Christian conduct, and realizing that once a Christian has matured there will be a strong resemblance between that Christian's conduct and what the law prescribes and proscribes! Albeit the mature Christian will understand the modification of the law between the old and new testament, and how the spirit of the law is now the replacement for the letter and it is grace through faith that has replaced myopic compliance to the letter in order that love for our fellow humans who are made in the image of God may replace the letter of the law.

But respect and understanding the goals of the law and still complying with them is not in and of itself legalism. It is merely respect for, and use of, the wisdom of the "schoolmaster". The more fundamental the law in question. the more directly it is applicable. It is still wrong to murder our fellow humans, but the spirtual extension says that we must not even hate them.
Mat 5:
21 ¶Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:.....
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby jochanaan » Sat Dec 26, 2015 11:35 pm

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/legalism?s=t
1.
strict adherence, or the principle of strict adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
2.
Theology.
the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

So you might be a legalist if you:
*judge a person's relationship with God based on how they look or how many times they go to church or some other easily quantifiable metric, or
*fear that you will lose your own salvation if you fail to measure up to such a metric.
You can live your life in fear--or you can live your life.
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby bn2bnude » Sun Dec 27, 2015 11:34 am

Bare_Truth wrote:I think that in answering this, it is much more instructive to not only ask "what is Legalism" but also address "What it is not". A false charge of legalism is often a false defense for doing "one's own thing" when "one's own thing" is not what God calls for.

I would suggest that sometimes trying to analyze things from a negative view can be a ruse for not wanting to change...

Here is my definition of legalism....

When obeying ones own set of rules, whether or not they are "in the law" or "man made", becomes more of a priority than loving those around us...

Matt 22:36-40 (The Voice) wrote:Pharisees: Teacher, of all the laws, which commandment is the greatest?

Jesus (quoting Scripture): “Love the Eternal One your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is nearly as important, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The rest of the law, and all the teachings of the prophets, are but variations on these themes.

Here, we learn that if you love, rather than just keeping the law, you will fulfill the law

Luke 10:25-37 (The Voice) wrote:Just then a scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures tried to trap Jesus.

Scholar: Teacher, what must I do to experience the eternal life?

Jesus (answering with a question): What is written in the Hebrew Scriptures? How do you interpret their answer to your question?

Scholar: You shall love—“love the Eternal One your God with everything you have: all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind”—and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus: Perfect. Your answer is correct. Follow these commands and you will live.

The scholar was frustrated by this response because he was hoping to make himself appear smarter than Jesus.

Scholar: Ah, but who is my neighbor?

Jesus: This fellow was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by. Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance. Then a despised Samaritan journeyed by. When he saw the fellow, he felt compassion for him. The Samaritan went over to him, stopped the bleeding, applied some first aid, and put the poor fellow on his donkey. He brought the man to an inn and cared for him through the night.

The next day, the Samaritan took out some money—two days’ wages to be exact—and paid the innkeeper, saying, “Please take care of this fellow, and if this isn’t enough, I’ll repay you next time I pass through.”

Which of these three proved himself a neighbor to the man who had been mugged by the robbers?

Scholar: The one who showed mercy to him.

Jesus: Well then, go and behave like that Samaritan.


Here we see examples where two of the individuals in the parable are keeping the law, failing to love, the sinner or outcast -- Samaritan, however is the one who loves enough to help the man.

So, what does this mean to me... I hear people all the time say "Don't give those begging for money anything, they'll just spend it on alcohol or drugs". In contrast, they may also spend it on food or shelter. To quote a friend, God gives us money and we don't always use it in the best ways. While there are alternatives, buying them lunch for instance, that may not be what they need at that moment. I try to listen to the Holy Spirit (or an empty wallet) when it comes to whether or not to give money.

To me, it means tip well and engage a server rather than dropping a tract.

It me, it means put others ahead of your wants.
So, my question, in response is not "What is legalism" but "What is love"
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1 NLT)



If I speak with the tongues of men and angels but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Cor 13:1)
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby Petros » Sun Dec 27, 2015 12:57 pm

Indeed, a point. Legalism, eisegesis, heresy, fundamentalism, quietism and the like tend to appear mainly in fingerpointing debate.
The truth, the stark naked truth, the truth without so much as a loincloth on, should surely be the investigator's sole aim - Basil Chamberlain
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby nakedpreacher » Sun Dec 27, 2015 4:05 pm

Ok I believe the conversation pump is sufficiently primed. I want to qualify that for me this is a functional definition, by no means complete, exhaustive or even the only one, this is what it means to me. If you disagree (I really want to say "you are free to be wrong", but I won't on this subject) feel free to do so in writing because I think that that really is the point of this discussion especially. I hope that Iron will sharpen Iron.
Let me start with a little background. I started thinking about this about a month ago, spurred on by a conversation with my Mother In Law. The subject began with a the subject of drinking alcohol. My wife and I drink alcohol very moderately (neither of us get drunk ever, A glass of wine before bed or a bottle of hard cider). She explained to me that while she did not think that we are doing wrong (she has observed our moderation) she can not drink alcohol at all. I explained to her that If she feels that way, she should not drink. She explained to me that her whole life she has been accused of legalism because she refuses to drink alcohol, however the reason for her abstinence is that her mother's life was destroyed by alcohol and she could not risk that for herself. I explained that I did not believe that that was legalism but rather a personal choice, that legalism would be if she insisted that I must not drink alcohol. That is where the thought process started
I however realized that the charge of legalism from me is in fact a judgment on others. If I accuse another of being a legalist, I am myself judging their salvation, which is a more subtle form of legalism on my part.
Personally, if I am depending upon any work of mine to add to or secure my salvation, this is legalism, but really is the most innocuous form because it is a danger only to myself.
If, as a Christian I insist that any act of yours can add to or secure your salvation, that is legalism of a more dangerous kind because it endangers me as well as you. But this is also the case if I condemn you for insisting that I obey your legalistic code.
While I am not guilty of Insisting that you must not drink alcohol (this is only one example, although in America it seems to be the big one.) I am guilty of accusing others of legalism, which is in effect imposing my own standard
Ultimately the charge of Legalism can only come from myself without risking legalism. If another charges me with a lack of holiness or of being a libertine I can not counter with "you are a legalist" without my self engaging in my own legalism. My response to the Legalist must simply be to examine my life and to explain how my actions line up with scripture. Will this convince them of my opinion, probably not, but my accusation of legalism will likely fare no better. Only Scripture will do the convincing.
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If, when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil; we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby Ramblinman » Sun Dec 27, 2015 4:58 pm

There are a lot of assumptions in this discussion, perhaps we need to clarify the language before proceeding.
If you observe that a person seems to be of a Pharisaical or legalistic frame of mind...

1. To reach the conclusion that someone is "legalistic" is not necessarily unfair judgement if you are fully familiar with the situation.

2. Nor does it follow that when you perceive legalism in your neighbor that you intend to accuse him of it.
The Holy Spirit might lead you to take him aside to discuss the matter if you have earned the right to be heard, perhaps by virtue of a trust relationship.
Or in other situations, the Spirit may impress you to remain silent, to await a better moment to speak, or let the Holy Spirit speak to the person during his own prayers and meditation.
By the way, speaking gently to someone in private about a problem should not be called "accusing" unless it is accusing.
I refuse to say that there is only one way to deal with this issue.

3. If I were to be accused of being a libertine, I do try to examine my motive on the chance that I have indeed gone too far in that direction.
If I am satisfied that my accuser is misguided, I have no intention of changing my ways.
Of course, one option is simply to find a way to avoid that person from here on. Work or marital obligations may not allow that.

I may be confronted so forcefully and so often that I am compelled to explain why my behavior is compliant with the spirit of the gospel.
If my explanation does not satisfy my accuser, I usually ignore anything that does not seem like an open-minded followup question.
This becomes a Mexican standoff or to use a Cold War term, "Mutual Assured Destruction".
In other words, my ego does not require that I win an argument with someone who has no intention of considering my point of view.
I may to go to extreme lengths to avoid further argument; the tranquility that I gain makes it worthwhile.
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby nakedpreacher » Sun Dec 27, 2015 8:53 pm

In the past my first reaction was to label them a legalist and write them off. Certainly a calm conversation is the preferable option but often, especially when social nudity is the issue, the accuser starts off at defcon 1 and there is no hope of de-escalation. What I am referring to is making my response correct because it is the only thing that I can control in the situation. If I have judged them as a legalist then I have not judged rightly because I have looked beyond what I can see (actions which I am able to judge as right or wrong in the light of scripture) to what I can not and have judged their heart which only God is able to do. In re reading my post I did indeed gloss over a lot of stuff which should have been explained.
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If, when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil; we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
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Re: What is Legalism

Postby Bare_Truth » Sun Dec 27, 2015 10:52 pm

bn2bnude wrote:
Bare_Truth wrote:I think that in answering this, it is much more instructive to not only ask "what is Legalism" but also address "What it is not". A false charge of legalism is often a false defense for doing "one's own thing" when "one's own thing" is not what God calls for.

I would suggest that sometimes trying to analyze things from a negative view can be a ruse for not wanting to change...........


I am a bit puzzled by what you mean in this case as I do not know what you mean by, " trying to analyze things from a negative view". I do not also see why my comment would have triggered to raise the point you assert. So I suspect we are talking about different things.

I see my comment about asking "what is not legalism" because I believe "legalism" is often used as a cudgle to beat down the opinion of someone who sees in the scripture a requirement to do or not do something. By calling some position on a scriptural topic "legalism" is often a straw man argument. Because if the person using the term can get people to think the thing he opposes is legalism, he has successfully slandered his opponent's argument and the straw man can be knocked down. It was in that sense that I was thinking when I said it is good to understand what legalism is not.

When you talk about trying to "analyze things from a negative view", the only thing that comes to my mind at the moment is the sort of argument that says "But the Bible nowhere forbids condemns or disparages that" (what ever the particular idea is). The defender is making a negative argument by saying "there is no condemnation". That is of course exactly what we naturists do when we say the bible does not condemn nudity. In other words we say our opponent has asserted that for which there is no proof! And That which is asserted without proof may be denied without proof!

If however you had written
I would suggest that sometimes trying to analyze things from a negative view can be a reason for not wanting to change.....
I think I would heartly agree, but you wrote "ruse" When one has a reason not to change they ought not to and they have no need of a ruse to make a false case.
Someone once wrote wrote:If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary to not change!
and I think there is some wisdom in considering that when change is being advocated proposed.

So I surmise that what you mean by "to analyze things from a negative view" is not what I would mean. For that reason I wonder if you could give a few examples to clarify what you mean, so that I could get the sense of what you are asserting.
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