Defining Legalism/Legalist

Discussion in 'General Discussions' started by eric m williams, Jul 14, 2015.

  1. The phrases LEGALISM and LEGALIST get bandied tossed around a lot in christian and pseudo-christian circles.
    Maybe it is time we actually defined the word in a way that doesn’t make it just another ad hominem tactic.

    Merriam-Webster defines LEGALISM as strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.
    Merriam-Webster also defines LEGALIST as an advocate or adherent of moral legalism

    Personally I have come to define a LEGALIST as a person for whom at least one but usually multiple issues have only two possible sides.

    This means that if you disagree with their view it can only be for one possible reason or structure of belief.
    In their mind your disagreement places you squarely in that one specified structure so they know exactly what you really believe and mean before you ever say a word or even in spite of your actual words.
    This is comforting to them, because it means they don’t have to think about how to respond. It also means that, because they already know what you actually mean, they don’t have to listen to you.

    A LEGALIST will only pay attention to small parts of what you have to say and those small parts will almost inevitably be the narrow pats they can pull out to justify the lines they have drawn.
    People most typically (not always) start calling other people or opinions legalistic when they don’t want to or cannot deal with the subject that the person is putting forward. This can happen with minor issues like carpet color and music choice as well as serious issues like salvation and baptism.

    In my experience, continuing to try to talk with such people is fruitless unless the Holy Spirit is leading me to do so. When I have known that it was the Holy Spirit's leading I usually find out later on that someone I was unaware of was listening/watching and that He used me to show them something.

    What are your thoughts?
  2. This is not a positive or encouraging topic!
    That is my thought.
    Jesus said woe to pharisees and lawyers. He really hated lawyers.

    If you need a lawyer to sort out stuff then i think its a sign you dont have the love of God in your heart.
    eric m williams likes this.
  3. Its an unpleasant topic, but if handled well it can be positive in the long run.
    Part of making disciples or being one is learning how to deal with problems in as God honoring a fashion as we can.
    Learning from each other can be very helpful. Not always fun, but helpful.

    Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.
  4. Pseudo-Christian circles?

    I simply call it as I see it, as discerned within by the Spirit of God.
  5. Human beings we are... we needs laws… specific instructions….

    ALL will agree on the Principle: SAVE ELECTRICITY

    Everybody will agree.

    AND YET: no one turns off the TV or lights when not in use, of turn off the water heater, etc.

    Human beings we are, we need specific instructions… thus: we create laws: “Turn off the lights when not in use
  6. Those who claim the name, but follow doctrine, practices, or beliefs that contradict Jesus words/scripture.
    Examples that immediately come to mind are mormon, jw, and biddy circles.
  7. Legalism will destroy your love for God, and peace with God! When your love and peace for God dies, so will your joy and hope die. Christianity and life will become hell for you, and you may not even know why.

    Legalism has many different tentacles. Legalism often comes in the slick, slimy form of "religion." Religion is often based on being coerced to obey rules to try to please religious leadership, as well as to try to please God. Religion is based on one's personal performance to one degree or another. Religion is actually Satan’s counterfeit to the real thing. What is “the real thing?” It is a love relationship with God. In this love relationship with God, we do not have to do a thing to try to be worthy enough to receive the fullness of God’s unconditional love for us. Our worthiness is found in our identity with Christ. Because salvation is truly a free gift, so is God’s unconditional love for us a free gift. When we give our lives to Jesus Christ as an expression of our love and appreciation for dying on the cross and taking the punishment for all our sins: Past, present and future sins … with that comes God’s unconditional acceptance -- God’s unconditional love. I can't be "good enough" to receive it, nor can I be "too unworthy; too undeserving" to be disqualified from receiving it. Yet when I identify with Jesus Christ ... it automatically is given to me FREELY!

    Legalism - religion - is about keeping rules. It is full of "Don'ts!" and "Cant's! and "Must does!" Legalism puts a yoke of bondage on a person that causes them to begin subconsciously hating God to different degrees, yet consciously refusing to believe it. Many have never wanted to become a Christian because they've seen what religion did to a friend or a loved one. Some have even left Christianity because the list of "do's" and "don'ts" became a heavy bondage that feeds rebellion in a person - not a genuine desire to please God because we GET to ... not because we HAVE to.

    Legalism - religion - can be likened to being in a marriage and constantly be told you MUST do this or that to PROVE your love for your spouse. Relationship that God desires for us to have with our spouse is based on the premise: Because I love my spouse so much, I can't help but WANT to please him/her in every way I can. Not because I HAVE to, or am SUPPOSED to ... but because I just WANT to.

    There is something in every one of us that wants others to accept us and love us unconditionally. Guess what? In Christ, God does! Sound too good to be true? Yes - it is hard for our logical thinking to receive this incredible fact, but I'm telling you the honest-to-God truth. In Christ, God instantly and forever loves us so unconditionally, that He died on the cross for us to PROVE His love for us ... if it's PROOF we feel we need.
    Paul K, Juk, Nanon and 2 others say Amen and like this.
  8. and here now comes the debate on LEGALITY

    Now, there is one who turn ON the lights outside the house…

    The reason: to scare away the burglar…

    The Law: "Turn off the lights when not in use"

    A debate can ensure on LEGALITY: no one is using it, it broke the law.. OR it can be argued that it is in use to scare away burglars….


    just a thought : )
  9. Biddy circles? I nver heard of them...
  10. Uh. I have solar lights. When its dark, they come on. In the garden anyway.
  11. Thats what my granddaddy used to call groups that thrived on gossip.
    The folks that just want to hear and spread anything they hear, without regard for the damage they cause.
  12. Online Christian forums are biddy circles much of the time. Thankfully, CFS tends to put the kybosh on that ungodly behaviour with a major rule. How refreshing that is!
    JG27_chili likes this.
  13. Sounds like some of the librarians i used to work with. A few were oncredibly nosy and i notice always wanted to gather for morning teas and eat lots of cake and chatter. Meh. I would be in the corner reading my bible.

    I did apply to work in a law library once. They get paid more than public librarians. Aside from looking up articles in lexus nexus, one of the tasks they told me they did was to polish the leather spines of the old law books that nobody ever used anymore. Lol. They had this thing for lawyers too that was like if they acted wrongly, they had someone actually highwr than them to bring them to account if they mispracticed.

    It was probably the law librarians looking up laws and saying hold on it says cant use that, its wrong. Or.. You forgot this act...its been replaced by this statute. i keep it all updated!
  14. Ugh I could never be a lawyer. If I was one it would be like ally mcbeal.
    How can you defend someone or something you know is wrong???
  15. I have a very simple definition to legalism.. It is belief that a person is able to do something on his own.. In opposition to what Jesus said.. I am the Vine and you are the branches.. Apart from Me you can do nothing.. legalism is opposite of that.. It is believing that we can do something apart from Jesus.. That is sticking to the laws..
    Paul K, Nanon and Grant Melville says Amen and like this.
  16. Legalism is a controlling nature. The type who says, "I don't like what those people are doing, so let's enforce some law on them, or make a new law against what they are doing." Strict adherence to the law. And if there is no law, then use political correctness.
  17. Good word ! Yes 'politically correct' thats precisely what legalism is. Ugh.
  18. Now in further discussion of legalism...

    In scripture (new testament specifically) there are a number of things that we are told to do or not to do.

    How do you work that into your definition of legalism?
  19. There is no law against love.
    I think thats in Galatians. It was talking about the fruits of the holy spirit.
  20. The NT is very different from the OT, in that Grace governs.
    Nothing in the NT is "do this or else this is your punishment" for believers. There is no "be baptized or else x-y-z" or "love as I have loved or else..." or "go and preach the gospel or else...".
    It is "these things you should do". I think legalism brings with it a punishment for breaking the law. And to be legalistic means to desire a punishment for those who do not obey.

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