Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A Smart view of legalism which almost balances the horizontal and the vertical element

A more sophisticated view of legalism like the following (but advanced a little further) may silence those who critise the view that Paul was countering legalism in Galatians.

Legalism is primarily a God-ward thing. It's a way of making and keeping yourself acceptable to God. From this flows the legalism that is directed towards one another It's a way of scoring sanctity points in our fellowships, and exerting what one postmodernist called a "truth regime" - it's about pride, power and control. It simultaneously glorifies man and "unsecures" man. Thus its true opposites are grace and faith.

From a good article on Legalism by Dominic Smart on Beginning with Moses. He presents eight anitidotes to legalism, although in my opinion they could do with being a little less abstract and bit more centred on the life, death, resurrection, and assension of the historical Christ. Paul did that I think. Paul also appealled to the experience of the believers and not 'just' doctrine, and although that is against my inclanation, and most modern thought I think we need to find a way.

I may be horribly wrong on Galatians, I have been before and am pretty scared of saying anything on it as a result, but I post what I'm thinking.


At 8:24 am, Blogger Alastair said...

My concern is that we avoid the position that makes the sin of the Judaizers merely a particular instance of a more general human failing. I think that this evacuates Galatians and Romans of a significant amount of their force.

The 'legalism' of the Judaizers, although it has much to teach us about more general human sins, should be read against the bakground of the Jewish Law, a Law that was given to the Jews alone at a particular point in their history.

At 9:30 am, Blogger Dave K said...

I agree absolutely, I want to avoid that position too, but I am not that good at doing it while also wanting to talk about general human sins. However I was quite aware that I was emphasising the 'more general human failing' of the Galatians, striping it of the peculiarities of the role of the Jewish law.

I often think that the debate about the NPP is basically an example of the preacher/academic split. The preacher is only concerned to read Galatians to apply it to the situation of Christians today, and the academic is only concerned about 2000 years ago. The preacher has only got 30min so tends to simplify the historical situation, emphasising the common 'general human failing' before moving on to the 'real stuff' of application. After a while the preacher forgets he was simplifying the historical situation and thinks the simplification is the complete historical truth. The academic has his/her own problems.

I was aware of the failings of my post in the above department, due to lack of time and being too lazy to think hard. However the peculiar role of the Jews and the law in God's redemptive plan should have entered my head at some point but it didn't, sorry about that.

Talking about legalism and Paul feels like juggling to me, and I'm not very good at juggling. I hope that comment made some sense.


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