Liberal Legalism

by jpserrano on January 2, 2012 · 0 comments

On this New Year’s day I only have one thing on my mind.  I admit it’s kind of random for the first post of the year–legalism.  I have been kicking this idea around in my head so I decided to write on it.

If your looking for definitions on legalism you can find it here, here, and here, so I won’t offer a definition beyond these.

I became very familiar with legalism when I attended a non-denominational church in San Diego.  The kind of legalism manifested there was of the conservative variety.  This legalism took the form best described in a saying, “Don’t drink, smoke, chew or date girls that do.”

But what I’ve encountered recently is a legalism that I had not expected.  I’m calling it- liberal legalism.

When I came up to Berkeley I experienced something similar to the above with different moral, theological, political stances and actions.  One can guess from the location what those stances are.  Instead, I have seen here not a questioning of ones salvation, which happens all the time in conservative legalism, but a backhanded self-aggrandizement and pity for those who don’t hold similar views.

It comes very slyly: perhaps Prius owners who look at others as not as evolved as themselves and their care for the earth.  Maybe it’s thinking that someone’s Christianity is faulty if they aren’t marching against the “imperialism of the United States.”  Often it comes in theological forms….basically with any hot button issue.

It is a belief that states that if the “other” (though they hate using this term, they utilize the mentality frequently) does not agree with the belief holder, then their Christianity is antiquated.

Liberal legalism is guilty of the exact same mentality as conservative legalism.  They both have the same attitude.

What both sides need to realize is that legalism of both types does not serve the faith Jesus taught.  It moves away from the salvific message of Jesus in freeing humanity from sin, death, and bondage and moves the message to one’s right actions.  It moves the location of grace from God to the person.

What both sides need to do is enter into real conversation with the other side and walk with one another in love.

What do you think?  Is there a liberal legalism?


If you looking for a good book check out Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda (Rockwell Lecture)

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