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Legalism again

Bruce Blakey doesn’t exactly disagree with my post on legalism’s dangers (quoting him), but he feels the need to clarify what he is talking about:

Legalism is when you add to justification by faith alone. When you say that you must believe and be baptized or you must believe and home school or you must believe and avoid churches that use drums. Of course it is necessary to address issues like fornication, husband-wife relationships, and rebellious chidren. Those are all biblical issues and should be dealt with accordingly. Not every one who talks about legalism is antinomian (against law, living like there is no law). However I have noticed something interesting that you may have encountered as well. Some people who are very legalistic about things at church (no drums) are very antinomian when it comes to what their own children listen to and do. Go figure.

What am I getting at? Let’s teach the Bible. Let’s cut it straight. Let’s consistently apply it in our churches and our lives. Sola Scriptura. When we teach the Bible we have the great joy of seeing the Lord bring forth fruit for His glory.

Of course, I couldn’t agree more. Everybody would be helped by working through the series of articles collected at monergism on this topic.

However, again I feel we must clarify that just as the church is threatened by legalists, so also it is threatened, in some local churches, especially from certain doctrinal backgrounds, by “legalism hunters,” who scurry about and try to homogenize everyone’s behavior, stamping out variety and convictions on the part of other brethren. I have been in the middle of this situation.

Take homeschooling for example. To homeschool is not legalistic. Even homeschooling, plus joining homeschool para-church groups, plus subscribing to magazines, plus being excited about it, plus talking about how the Lord has blessed our homeschooling, all of them put together, are not themselves legalistic. (Somehow I wonder about the grammar of that last sentence.) Having a conviction is not legalistic, folks! But the above list is enough for many pastors and elders to believe that you have, indeed, divided the church by your supposed legalism. They are not willing for other brethren to hold convictions different from theirs.

But, brother homeschooler, the minute you start judging your brother, whether in thought, word, or deed, for not sharing your convictions, then you have become a legalist. You are bound by the text of Romans 14:4; you must, you are required, to believe that your good-hearted, growing brother is implementing schooling for his kids the best he can before the Lord. Even if he sends them to public schools!

Both of these extremes are such a danger. Nuff said for now.


Today’s post will juxtapose two views of legalism that seem perfectly opposed, but which I think both make good points.

First, for the “legalism is a real problem in the church today” side, Bruce Blakey says:

Legalism is a constant threat to Christianity. There are always those who come along to find fault and to add rules. If you are really saved, according to them, you will keep the rules that they have devised. Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, based on the Scripture alone, focused on Christ alone is not enough for the legalist. Therefore, salvation is not for God’s glory alone because legalism puts man in the place of God. It is all about what I do or don’t do rather than all about what God has done in the person of Christ. Legalism is so enticing because our flesh, our pride, wants some of the credit. Legalism is also very intimidating because we don’t want others to question our salvation or our spirituality. Legalism is attractive because it feeds a tendency in us all towards self-righteousness.

Sadly, a lot of legalism is spread by those who call themselves Calvinists or reformed. Keeping their rules is how you prove your election. How intimidating is that? Strange that those who proclaim the wonderful doctrines of grace want to add rules to grace. Even sadder is that they look down on those who do not hold their views. Sometimes the self-righteousness is overpowering.

But now, from the “I’ve heard them cry legalism so many times” side, here is Doug Phillips quoting Matt Chancey:

I find it odd that, in an age marked by an explosion of licentious antinomianism in the Church, most pastors are preoccupied with â??legalismâ? so-called. Teenagers in the church can be fornicating with one another; wives can be leading their husbands around by the nose; or husbands can be passive and withdrawn from their responsibilities, but is this kind of open rebellion against the law of God attacked by pastors? Hardly. Theyâ??re too busy condemning the father whose daughters wear head coverings and Pilgrim dresses. â??Legalism!â? he cries, and most of his sermons denounce such â??false piety,â? while temple prostitution takes place right under his nose.

Christmas in 1953 - same old story

How well C. S. Lewis captures my longtime thoughts about Christmas. In his book, Letters To An American Lady, which I recently scored in hardback (woo-hoo, thanks, Half Price Books!), Lewis says this, on November 27, 1953:

“I feel exactly as you do about the horrid commercial racket they have made out of Christmas. I send no cards and give no presents except to children.”

My always-changing view of Christmas includes the following elements:
- Christmas has great music! At least the traditional and historical music…
- Christmas is two holidays! If I celebrate elements of the “commercial racket,” it’s not because I believe it has anything to do with the other holiday.
- I like my family, and I like doing nice things for them! But maybe we could give all that stuff a new name….?
- Maybe the Puritans were right when they abolished Christmas?

Comments? Anybody who wishes to comment should probably read Lewis’s wonderful essay, Xmas and Christmas.

First steps into Podcasting

I’ve posted a Podcast feed address on the Sermons page of Cornerstone Baptist Church. Now, every time I post a sermon on the web page, I’ll update the RSS file, and folks who link to this in their Podcast client will automatically download Dr. Tullock’s sermons without any effort whatsoever. Hi tech!

Baptist Confessions of Faith

Check out the exchange of opinions on confessions of faith in Baptist churches over on I also appreciate Phil Johnson’s comments about the articles here.

New Perspective

What Reformed blogger hasn’t said something about the New Perspective on Paul? Well, I haven’t.

I have at least one friend on the other side (sorry you’re not at Nortel anymore, Jay!), but I remain distinctly uncomfortable with making the New Perspective the centerpiece of a new rethinking of the Bible. This is different from saying that there are not new insights and new “perspectives” to be gained. Semper Reformanda.

This week I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from the peaceful and helpful cautions from D. A. Carson, found in MP3 form here.

Verizon FIOS

OK, switched over. Fiber was coming down the street. Unused fiber. Unlit fiber. Fiber that was lonely, next to copper that was hot. This could not be allowed to continue.
So Verizon came out today and switched my voice & data over to fiber. Now, I can blog at 5Mbps down, 2Mbps up.

I’ve already surfed the Verizon site to see what they expect me to do with all that speed. Surprise — they want me to watch movie trailers and listen to music! Is that all they can come up with? Wasn’t I doing that already? (or at least, the kids were.)

Now, here is how to use fiber optics. Put the whole library of Andy Griffith, The Rockford Files, Perry Mason, Star Trek, etc. online. Charge me fifty cents to watch a half hour episode, or a buck for a one hour show. Don’t bother me with monthly fees — I won’t pay them. But give me a chance to see just one more Rockford Files show with a late night pizza, for a dollar, and I’ll melt like — well, I’ll melt like mozzarella cheese.

Back from Vacation

Our vacation was not one which was conducive to blogging. There are no wide area wireless networks in the Texas State Parks, who were my hosts for 14 nights.

What a state this is! Our family just scratched the surface of this great state, staying in eight different places and mostly concentrating on sites connected with Texas history. My ranking of the best state parks for tent camping, out of the ones we used:

8. Lake Houston. Yuck. The tent area doesn’t have a bathroom. You have to walk a half mile to the showers. Watch for copperheads.
7. Palmetto. Nice spots, but you have to drive to the showers in your car.
6. Goose Island
5. Huntsville. Too crowded.
4. McKinney Falls. Nice swims in the river, but tent spots are tiny and bathrooms are old.
3. Guadalupe River. A really wonderful location, but small, un-flat tent pads made life a little difficult.
2. Enchanted Rock. The rock is enchanting, but the tent spots are mostly not near the parking lot. Hike to your campsite.
1. Stephen F Austin - the cleanest and best kept. Like camping in someone’s back yard.

Challies Dot Com

I guess a lot of blogs start by referring readers to the blogger’s other favorite blogs. I hope everyone has heard of Challies Dot Com, written by a Reformed gentleman in Canada. I don’t really know how people get enough time to sit around and write up all the insights that a person like Tim Challies does. I don’t know him, but I’ll certainly shake his hand when I do.

Do I exist?

More to the point, does Joe exist?

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