Legalism in Baptist Churches
Most Christians don`t realize it. They have a vague idea of legalism, whether they are high-level people or churches where they don`t play rock music. This plays into the hands of evangelicals. Now their right-wing opponents can be called enemies of the faith. When their people read Galatians, they do not think of people with false gospels, but of people with high standards. Totally agree! They are proud of the teachings and as if their way of interpreting the Bible is right and the rest is wrong. They comment like listening to good music only according to THEIR definition and that speaking in tongues has stopped and it`s in the Bible. So not all those who claim to speak in tongues are true now. (So they seemed that their interpretation was the right one and that the rest of the churches were wrong) This has made our church very proud and seems to be the best. The Law left the Pharisees (and their followers) miserable because they saw it as a vehicle of glory, a means of salvation. They used it illegally and the result was a shrunk, joyless and bitter existence.
This is the result of misinterpretation of Scripture and the replacement of God`s grace with legalism. But properly understood, God`s law is good, exposes our self-righteousness, and exposes our depravity. It shelters us from the justice of Christ, won on Calvary by his selfless love. It frees us from our law-keeping work and leads us to green pastures of deep and overflowing joy in Christ alone. Second, let us look at the issue of alcohol. I know this is a hot topic on both sides. People who are pro-alcohol seem to have as much grace as those who are pro-alcohol. I have already written about this (see chapter 7 of this book). I know that the scriptures warn that alcohol is dangerous. I also know that this calls for a blessing.
What do we do? Will we add restrictions where the scriptures do not? Will we take the easy path of legalism through the difficult and difficult path of grace, wisdom and discernment? 10 out of 10 for the independent fundamental Baptist churches I grew up and attended for part of my adulthood! I still struggle to find a church in my small southern town that doesn`t embody at least some of these points. And many of these disagreements lead to the formation of different churches, and there we get different denominations. I also think it`s normal for a church to be proud of its teaching and the things it believes (otherwise why believe it?) I think the problem arises when we believe that because of these teachings, we have the only access to the Holy Spirit without realizing that other people can sincerely love God, but simply see things differently. Technically, I have been a Southern Baptist all my life, but this statement needs to be clarified. When I say that I have been a Southern Baptist all my life, I mean that the only churches I have been a member of are the Southern Baptist churches. I received two degrees from a Southern Baptist seminary. I have worked in four Southern Baptist churches over the past 20 years. Over the years, I could have left. But I didn`t. I persevered. During the ups and downs, I intentionally maintained personal loyalty to Southern Baptists as a denomination. That`s why it`s so hard for me to find a good Bible-believing church here in my city.
We have one Catholic Church, one ELCA Lutheran Church, two United Methodist Churches, 2 Baptist Churches, one Church of Christ, one United Church of Christ, one Church of God and one non-denominational Church. I think it is perfectly acceptable for a pastor to point out false teachings. Should this be the ONLY goal of the sermon each week? No. But as a Bible study? Yes! Praying for these churches is a good thing. However, I do not think it is wrong to speak of “wolves in sheep`s clothing” when appropriate. This is off topic. I am not convinced by him. There may be problems, but it is not legalism. It has excellent resources against legalism. This is my blog. Follow the comment policy. Amen! It`s great.
And there are many good churches that truly reflect Christ – which is even more of a reason to leave if you`re in a legalistic church! It is the same when we apply lawism to God`s open and free norm. God has built the fence He desires. He, the wise and good Father that He is, has delivered the right standard. If we build another fence and force others to do it, we are only asking for trouble. What usually happens is this: once people realize that they have been unduly restricted, they get rid of the man-made restriction. But what happens next? It was their teachers, their parents, their friends, their faith who told them that “false restriction” was the “true normal.” Now trust is broken. “Did I teach the Bible wrong all the time? Can I trust everything my leaders have said? Suddenly, and quite aggressively, people begin to come up against the real fence that God Himself has erected. Because trust has been broken, people don`t know where the true barrier (God`s true standard) is. They begin to doubt the existence of a fence. They climb on it, pierce it and run into the forest with the wolves and all the dangers associated with being outside God`s standard of protection.
And, Sam, it`s IFB legalism and child abuse that are satanic. 6. You would never be caught dead if you teamed up with other Christians as part of a city-wide multi-church outreach (like Dare 2 Share Live) because some of the participating churches could be those “liberals” who allow guitars in the church and get their worship leaders tattooed. Harris began to see the effects of his own legalism when it was replicated in others as his popularity grew; He even tried to fix it. You wonder if a “directive, when combined with biblical teachings, produces legalism? How? If the implementation is coupled with the principle and is indistinguishable from it, then it is equated with the principle and therefore assimilated with Scripture. Failure manifests itself when one has a reason to move from one implementation to another, to meet another local church, where the same coupling is established between biblical principles and another implementation without distinction from Scripture. Without making a clear distinction between implementation and principle, we undermine the principle. Third, is there a problem with institutional rules (of the Church) for the sake of harmony that go beyond clear biblical mandates? For example, some churches I used to go to as a child forbade Sunday School teachers from going to the theater so as not to be offended. Now, we know that the scriptures say nothing about going to the theater per se, but it was a guideline to prevent others from stumbling (who are weak in this area – think idolaters), etc. Many Christian colleges also have such rules.
Are you saying that it is legalistic to expect these higher standards for faculty and staff or church leaders? Thank you for your thoughts. I like to read articles and blogs about what others believe. I grew up in a warm Catholic home with its share of dysfunctions. We followed the “rules” of our faith, but I was the one who always asked why, and even as a small child, I couldn`t accept all of this as feasible. Throughout my life, I have met people of many faiths and I have had very religious friends who call themselves Christians. They are kind, well-meaning people who seem to “feel” their faith fully. I envy them, but I don`t think I have a personality for their belief in God. I admire them for what they do for others (as I personally believe we should) and for the sense of community they feel in the churches they attend. I tried to reconnect with organized religion as an adult, but I no longer feel the need for it in my life. I still appreciate the pomp and beauty of a Catholic Mass, but I am afraid of being an all-or-nothing person. There are too many things I socially disagree with in all Christian religions, so I don`t feel like I`m living authentically if I ignore the “rules” that don`t make sense to me and can often lead to excluding others in society – people like my gay sister and other friends.
who are gay, women who want autonomy over their own bodies, etc. I appreciate your thoughtful contributions and know I can always learn more. We live in a divided country right now, and I`m doing everything I can to understand how others see the world. Do you see where I come from? Many people today say, “Be careful. You cannot establish a rule that goes beyond the scriptures. This is legalism. Yet we often MUST establish rules based solely on biblical principles. Otherwise, half of the women in our churches would wear skirts that are too short or trousers that are too tight. Do you understand what I mean? And I think I`m going to borrow Jeff Foxworthy`s songs “You Could Be a Redneck If” and “You Could Be in a Legalistic Church If…” See if they resonate (and I hope for your sake they don`t!).