Home > Brandenburg, Culture, Fundamentalism, Law & Grace, Separation, Standards, The World, Worldliness > The Destructive Charge of “Legalism” Pinned on Rightful Application of Scripture pt. 2

The Destructive Charge of “Legalism” Pinned on Rightful Application of Scripture pt. 2

June 15, 2010

The term “legalism” isn’t in the Bible, so it is off to a bad start as a scriptural discussion.  And, yes, I know “Trinity” isn’t in there either.  It is kind of ironic that someone could get in trouble for something that isn’t in the Bible to start with, and in trouble for something that says we’re in trouble for adding to the Bible.  Nevertheless, “legalism” is a term we’re forced to discuss and deal with today.

Modern society relegates moral and religious concerns to matters private and personal.   They’re nobodies’ business.   You have the utter independence of the individual, offering freedom from all moral restraint or bounds.  On the other hand, legalism becomes the suppression of the individual to majority or authority rule.  The authority imposes standards which might elevate appearances to greater importance.  Someone might look the part without really meaning it.  Is there a scriptural place to regulate the lives of individuals by outward authority or law?

The laws themselves, as long as they’re scriptural, are not the problem.  Having less of them won’t solve insincerity.  We’re a nation of laws.  God is a God of law.  He provides standards by which to follow Him.  Jesus said that if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments.  We can keep His commandments and not love Him, but we can’t love Him if we don’t.  Reducing the commandments, the words, or the sayings to a manageable number, an amount we can keep, doesn’t make the living more about love.  The one falling short of obeying the commandments loves less.

Paul saw Galatians, who professed justification by grace alone, moving from the “faith alone” column to the “plus works” one.  This wasn’t the church having rules or standards.  These individuals weren’t shaking apostate Judaism.  They were still earning their salvation no matter what Jesus had done.   As a result, Christ was made “of no effect unto” them (Gal 5:4).  This mindset propagated by false teachers also effected already saved, truly converted believers.  They, who had “begun in the Spirit” “by the hearing of faith,” were influenced to “perfect” themselves “by the flesh” (Gal 3:2-3).   God accepts the fulfillment of Scriptural standards produced by the Spirit through the life of the believer.   The reduction of standards does not vindicate the acts of obedience any more than the addition of them.  The key for acceptable obedience isn’t the minimization of the rules but the grace by which they are accomplished.

The modern obsession with lessening restrictions, reflected in evangelicalism today,  doesn’t reveal God’s grace or His glory.  It manifests rebellious hearts and corrupt consciences.   God’s grace is a dynamic force of God that secures our working for Him.  Grace looks to obey the precepts and principles of Scripture.

Often evangelicals flash the term “legalism” to make room for a questionable behavior or habit.  I started part one of this two part series when a popular evangelical blog author attempted to defend a post about a popular television show (Lost) with another one against legalism.   The author said one of the forms of legalism is the pharisaism of adding to scripture.  Adding to the Bible is pharisaical and Pharisees are legalists.   However, legalism of the Galatian variety isn’t adding to God’s Word.  Actual scripture does just fine for Galatian legalism.

The evangelical charge of either legalism or adding to Scripture relates to the lasciviousness of evangelicalism today.  I want to use one obvious issue as an example—women wearing pants.  Why avoid it?  I agree that the Bible doesn’t prohibit women from wearing pants.  Case closed, right?  Wrong.   Deuteronomy 22:5 prohibits women from wearing the male garment.  Pants are the male garment.  So I’m coming from the Bible on this one.  And a woman wearing the male garment is an abomination to God, so this is a moral issue.  God is displeased by disobeying the prohibition.

Now this is where some say Christians have liberty because we have here one of these “doubtful disputations” of Romans 14:1.  We are not to reject someone in doubtful disputations.  Deuteronomy 22:5 hasn’t been doubtful until just recently when society decided they would overturn the symbols of God’s design of the two genders.  And if we’re going to still keep obeying Deuteronomy 22:5, we’ve got replace the male symbol, the male garment.  I get no answers, total silence, or a joke, from every person I ask to name the male symbol or garment that has replaced pants.  Evangelicals and fundamentalists don’t want women to be prohibited from wearing pants, so they say that grace, God’s grace, permits their pant wearing.  And since it is God’s grace that gives permission, it must be legalism now that prohibits.  This circuitous line of reasoning makes “the commandment of God of none effect” (Mt 15:6), another kind of pharisaism.

I read with interest some of the arguments of the “lovers of grace” for justifying the night time soap opera.  Here is one from one of the contributors there, Frank Turk:

Now, before stuff gets a little out of control, there is nothing that happened in the course of the 6 seasons of LOST which is anywhere near as gritty and frankly carnal as what happened to Er, Tamar, Onan, and Judah and his son Perez.

Frank argues that the content of biblical narratives justifies watching some sex scenes on television.   His argument says that if it’s OK to read the Bible, and it is, then it’s also OK to watch something equal to or less sinful.  I’m not going to provide opposition to this justification in this post, but I wanted you aware of what they’re saying.  Phil Johnson adds this:

But it’s not really necessary to portray Rob and Laura Petrie sleeping in separate beds in order to preserve the purity of the viewing audience, and it’s not inherently sinful to be exposed to a story in which someone commits adultery–or even worse.

I think Phil is staying a little purposefully ambiguous, but he’s creating space for watching acts of adultery committed on television.  It’s along the same lines of the Frank argument above.  And overall, those who question this line of reasoning, they say, are “legalists.”  And Phil would add that this kind of “legalism,” the type that questions this type of viewership based upon moral grounds, is more dangerous than emergent or emerging types of license.  And this is coming from those who claim to be conservative evangelicals.

Was Job a tad legalistic when he followed that whole “covenant with his eyes” standard (Job 31:1)?  I guess Job was just trying to rack up merit points.  Either that, or he thought that having the right thought life would help him please God.  And He did love God.   We’re commanded by Paul, “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom 12:2a).  But how can we follow that requisite for presenting our bodies a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1b)?  Well, it’s by being transformed “by the renewing of our minds” (Rom 12:2b).  And how are our minds renewed?  They are renewed by what we fill them with.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Clean in, clean out.   Christian leaders shouldn’t be encouraging their listeners to belly-up to the garbage trough.  What do you think?

Now I say that these boy-who-cried-wolf type of accusations of “legalism” destroy.  They encourage lasciviousness and license.  They sear and suave the conscience.  They encourage false worship.  They impede holy living.  They excuse sin.

In the last week someone wrote that these “legalists” require lists of rules for their adherents in order to compensate for personal insecurities.   And then as a way of reaching unattainable spiritual heights, made impossible by the sheer magnitude of the regulations, the followers obtain special relics to overcome their spiritual shortfalls.  Mark Farnham says these fundamentalist relics were objects associated with fundamentalist saints, like the signature of a well-known preacher or the car of John R. Rice or Jack Hyles’ ring.  Interesting theory.  I wonder if a heavy collection of C. H. Spurgeon memorabilia would count as spiritual relics as well.  Or perhaps treks to the meccas of Together for the Gospel in Louisville or Shepherd’s Conference in Southern California might result in some pure spirituality that someone might otherwise be missing.

Following Farnham’s line of reasoning, I see evangelicals and fundamentalists also reaching for an abounding grace formerly unreachable without the relic of the worship team, the contemporary chorus, the goatee beard, the powerpoint screen medium, and the casual polo shirt.    Some mixture of these ingredients effuse Christians with a grace elixir capable of bringing them to a different spiritual dimension.   Grace is available to those hungry enough to release the ball and chain of an old version of Scripture, a stifling shirt and tie, and a constraining television standard.  Nothing says grace quite like your best Sunday t-shirt and a Jars of Clay logo on the bottom of your skateboard.

  1. J. Paul Hornick
    June 16, 2010 at 6:50 am

    Quite interesting. I think those who do not want to have standards are saying so simply because they know that it is wrong and want some sort of justification for it or else no accountability. My pastor is currently preaching on the subject on Sunday Nights.

  2. June 16, 2010 at 6:53 am

    If a person doesn’t know the difference between a storyline that includes a mention of an immoral act, and a graphic description or realistic reenactment of that immorality- that is someone whose spiritual discernment I seriously question. Believe me- I used to read Stephen King and Sidney Sheldon novels in Chapel when I was in high school- I know the difference between a line like “He cursed a blue streak after slamming his hand in the door” and actually spelling out every obscenity and profanity uttered. And I know what it does to the spirit when you have a steady diet of that kind of material.

  3. June 16, 2010 at 11:11 am

    J Paul, I think so.

    Susan R, Exactly. To miss that distinction, which, it seems to me, they avoid purposefully, is putting on your no-discernment glasses and asking all of us to put them on too. Paralleling the reading an account of bad behavior in the Bible and watching it in all its body undulation, making a moral equivalent of that, what is it that these evangelicals are promoting?

  4. d4v34x
    June 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

    Devil’s advocate time. Did Job run around enforcing his covenant with his eyes on other people?

    While I, with accountability to my wife, have made a covenant with my own eyes, I do not presume that every other man needs to have the same specific covenant with his. What things are potentially problems for me may not be for them. They may have to have an entirely different covenant regarding things that are deadly serious for them, but might seem silly to me.

    I think I *would* be legalistic to insist that all the specifics of my covenant be included in his.

  5. June 16, 2010 at 11:42 am


    I’m not sure if in the last line you actually told us what you believed after playing D’s advocate in the the first two paragraphs.

    Anyway. What I think about what Job did doesn’t matter. He was defending his practice by telling how it is that he remained morally pure. I believe we are to be regulated by scriptural example. The ‘looking upon a maid’ would be wrong. I think we can go to other passages to find that as well. I think the inclusion of Job’s testimony in scripture says that every man should make a covenant with his eyes. It seems that many evangelicals make covenants of a different kind with their eyes—‘you’ll be less of a legalist, you’ll be a greater lover of grace, if you look upon a maid,’ an anti-Job kind of thing. By the way, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t broken the covenant that I’ve made with my eyes. But I’m not keeping that covenant as my basis for salvation.

    So to conclude. I believe every man, if following scripture, should make a covenant with his eyes. Not one ‘look upon a maid’ is helpful.

  6. d4v34x
    June 16, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Is your understanding of look upon a maid the same as your understanding of look not upon the [alchoholic] wine or is it more in the neighborhood looking at a woman when various circumstances (lack of modesty) make it easy to lust?

  7. June 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    What’s the difference between having a seared conscience and a suaved one? How does one get a seared conscience? So saved people can have a seared conscience also and not just false teachers who command to abstain from meat and marriage? What is the “hot iron” there conscience has been seared by? Is there hope for either state of seared or suaved conscience? Is there any hoped for believers who might have a seared or suaved conscience? The next question just comes to mind when I think about a seared conscience- In Eph 4:18-19 is there any hope for the people being talked about?

  8. June 16, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    When it comes to the idea of “enforcing” one’s standards on others- exactly what does that mean? We can’t force someone else to believe that watching simulated sex is wrong, but we’re sure as shootin’ not going to sit under their ‘ministry’ or allow them to teach our kids.

    It is also a different scenario to live next door to a family that sheds their clothing in the summer like a Golden Retriever sheds fur, and turning on one’s television in one’s living room in order to watch barely clothed men and women of all ages cavort on screen for one’s amusement. One cannot avoid seeing nakedness in our day and age, but why go there on purpose?

    My question on this topic is usually- Would you allow your friends and neighbors to talk and act in your living room the same way actors/actresses behave on screen? Or- if your friends and neighbors engaged in such behavior on their own turf, would you sit around the dinner table describing their actions in detail to your wife and kids? Or would it be shameful to speak of those things which are done of them in secret?

    BTW, even though we often paraphrase and say that Job covenanted not to “look” upon a maid, Scripture doesn’t use the word “look”, but the word “think”. (Job 31:1) It is intuitive IMO that he means not to lust after, and isn’t speaking merely of the acknowledgment of the existence of a female in the general vicinity.

  9. Gary Johnson
    June 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    I appreciate what you have written. It seems in our day the general trend is to see how much each person can get away with and still have a testimony for the Lord. Though I am not familiar with those you are quoting, and therefore know nothing about them, I think of the passage in II Peter 2:14 which states, “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin” when I read such foolishness. When someone who professes to be saved tries to justify the viewing of fornication and adultery, something is terribly wrong in the heart. There is little doubt that there are a lot of hirelings and false teachers in pulpits across the country.

  10. d4v34x
    June 17, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Susan R :When it comes to the idea of “enforcing” one’s standards on others- exactly what does that mean?
    …It is also a different scenario to live next door to a family that sheds their clothing in the summer like a Golden Retriever sheds fur, and turning on one’s television in one’s living room in order to watch barely clothed men and women of all ages cavort on screen for one’s amusement.
    My question on this topic is usually- Would you allow your friends and neighbors to talk and act in your living room the same way actors/actresses behave on screen?…

    Mrs. R., As to your first question, I meant my statements more in a local church setting. Do you pursue the steps of confrontation/restoration with a person you know watches a show you could not allow yourself to watch? Or one who takes his family to the local swimming pool or beach? Or one who assigns and discusses /East of Eden/ at the public high school where she teaches?

    I don’t think anyone should watch a television show or movie for amusement.

    As for the people in your living room vs. the ones on the screen, context makes a difference too. That doesn’t have to allow for an entertainment free for all, btw.

    And regarding the table conversation, If my wife and I were counseling them, we’d here the general and ask no specifics be shared. Also the kids would not be present.

    What you’re getting at though is what I’m getting at from another angle. You’re essentially saying one cannot maintain a holy mind while doing such (which is not true for everyone), or its not worth the trouble to have to make the attempt (which is not always true in every situation).

    Have you ever read or seen Shakespeare? Have you been to an art museum? For that matter, have you ever seen /Sheffey/?

  11. d4v34x
    June 17, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Oh, also re: Job 31:1 KJV does indeed say “think”. NKJV says “look”. NIV says “look lustfully”, and ESV says “gaze”.

    I’d say all but the NKJV makes it clear what the writer’s intent is, and I agree with you.

    I only asked because it seemed to me that Bro. B. believed something a little different.

  12. June 17, 2010 at 8:13 am

    My dh and I pursue the steps of confrontation when another person’s moral (or immoral) choices have a direct affect on us or our family. We would also have to have a personal relationship with them- IOW, I don’t stand in front of movie theatres accosting people to see if they are Christians who’ve just attended an R-rated movie.;)

    I was speaking of leadership specifically though- if someone does not exhibit enough spiritual discernment and correct application of sound doctrine to procure our trust as being able to lead us and our family in spiritual matters, then we will not put ourselves under their leadership.

    When we talk about cultural expressions, such as fiction, art, music, etc… you are right about context. We should measure the content by the context, but in some cases, there is no context that would justify the content.

    I’m not a cultural anorexic, but I advise strongly against being a cultural glutton, whereby everything is acceptable because we have ‘liberty’. I believe we each have to strike that balance with our own conscience- and yet I do not have to bow to the judgment of another person on these matters either. If I think someone is making poor choices, then it is going to affect the significance of their role in my family’s life.

  13. d4v34x
    June 17, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Susan R :When we talk about cultural expressions, such as fiction, art, music, etc… you are right about context. We should measure the content by the context, but in some cases, there is no context that would justify the content.
    I’m not a cultural anorexic, but I advise strongly against being a cultural glutton, whereby everything is acceptable because we have ‘liberty’. I believe we each have to strike that balance with our own conscience- and yet I do not have to bow to the judgment of another person on these matters either.

    This is the very line of distinction I think is at the heart of this discussion, and I think the proper maintenance of this line has alot more to do with individual interactions between believers than blanket pronouncements of “Christians shouldn’t watch [popular TV show X] or read [Author Y].”

    And according to Romans 14, we do indeed have, to some extent, to bow to another persons choices for themselves and their families.

  14. June 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    As long as bowing to another person’s choice doesn’t mean I have to pretend to agree. 😀 I’ll grant that some choices may not be ‘sin’, but they certainly qualify as questionable under the precepts of wisdom and prudence.

    I think some blanket pronouncements are warranted, and we’d all agree that a Christian shouldn’t view pornography. But some folks don’t seem to realize that much of what is on tv and makes the NYT bestsellers list qualifies as porn- for example, a show called “Nip/Tuck”, and novels by Jackie Collins or Judith Krantz.

    BTW, d4- I appreciate your interaction on this topic.

    God is a God of holiness, and His laws give us just a glimpse of how holy He is and point us in that direction. Brushing His laws aside as inconsequential to the NT believer, then playing tiddly-winks with questionable materials is not the most effective way for a Christian to be “an example of the believers in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 1Tim. 4:12

    But as Bro. Brandenburg points out, the minute you start pointing out conduct as not being a good example of purity or faithfulness to the Word, folks get cranky and start calling you names. IMO it indicates the slippery nature of the foundation for their stated premise, since their their only defense seems to be to attack one’s character instead of dealing with the issue and providing Biblical support for their assertions.

    If someone is going to state that it is acceptable to watch scantily clad men and women who are not married to engage in sexual activity on television for the purpose of entertainment, and that advocating for purity of mind and heart is legalism, then they must be compelled to provide some Biblical support for these conclusions. The stakes are too high for this to be treated as some kind of silly squabble.

  15. d4v34x
    June 17, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Mrs. R,

    I think we agree to a large degree here. Although I’m beginning to be prejudiced against entertainment types of shows/movies/books as a rule. At this point if it doesn’t deal significantly with *ideas*, I’m not interested. Of course, this still requires my wife and I use good discernment on content.

    I think as a tactic, pointing out/warning against very particular conduct or specific television shows is weak. Giving people a vision of the character of God and His holiness and what He is doing through is redemptive work in our lives is light years stronger.

    I bet if you and I compared notes about the things we used to do but don’t anymore, we’d find we quit very few because of a sermon preached against romance novels or R rated movies but rather the way some passage or message on who He is or what He has done motivated us to think His thought after Him. If so with us, how much do we expect the former tactic to work in the lives of those to whom we minister?

  16. June 17, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    “I think as a tactic, pointing out/warning against very particular conduct or specific television shows is weak. Giving people a vision of the character of God and His holiness and what He is doing through is redemptive work in our lives is light years stronger.”

    I agree that we are mostly agreeing. 🙂 It’s true that the major changes I’ve made in my life came from immersing myself in the Word, but the conviction that I needed to do so came from a message I heard by Bro. Sam Gipp.

    What I see in the OP is that some folks who are considered ‘leaders’ say things like “… there is nothing that happened in the course of the 6 seasons of LOST which is anywhere near as gritty and frankly carnal as what happened to Er, Tamar, Onan, and Judah and his son Perez.” I differ STRONGLY with this statement, and my dh and I only watched about four episodes of Season 1- and it was 3-1/2 episodes too many at that.

    The Bible portrays sin as *sinful* while the entertainment world views it as normal and acceptable and displays it proudly in high-definition full-color detail. Why would someone in leadership be casting stumblingblocks the size of Nebraska in the paths of believers who have yet to cut their wisdom teeth on Scripture? I can’t help but question the wisdom and discernment of someone who doesn’t see the difference between the scenes that I saw on “Lost”(and can’t describe in mixed company) and how the Bible describes the sins of men like Onan, David, Shechem, the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah…

    Legalism in Webster’s is “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.” It doesn’t address motives, which I think are at the heart of true Phariseeism.

    Matthew 23:3 “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

    I think we need to remember that Christ said no less than three times that anyone who causes a young one to stumble should be fitted with a cement necktie and tossed into the sea. Them’s harsh words, KWIM?

  17. d4v34x
    June 17, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I see your point about the stumbling block (and made the same point at pyros where the fracas occurred). But technically the stumbling block is not that DP/others watched LOST, but that they talked about it openly in front of the weak. I am content to let them use their discernment in their home about what they watch. They may well be able to watch LOST without temptation–that’s between them and God. When they parade that liberty, sorry, they lose on Biblical grounds.

  18. June 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    I’ve enjoyed the discussion between d4 and Susan R. I just want to be clear that what I’ve written about is the false charge of legalism, the destructiveness of that particular charge. That charge came out as a defense of the criticism of promoting the watching of LOST. I believe that we can scripturally say that it is a sin to watch certain television based upon scriptural regulation. Are the meditations of your heart then acceptable in His sight?

    Here are some posts I’ve written on television here at Jackhammer when we did a month on it:





    D4, you seem to be moving in a direction as a whole against something that I think is more dangerous as it relates to aesthetics in general.


    Thanks. I agree.


    The conscience is a warning device informed by the law written in our hearts. If we do something that is against the law in our hearts and ignore our conscience, the conscience will not operate as well the next time. This is how we have seared it. Suaving of conscience is very close to searing, except I think it relates more to excusing what we have done. We put suave on our own conscience, make it not work properly by coating it with something ourselves. Searing is ignoring, suaving is excusing if I was going to make it really simple. Yes, Christians do this. If they do it characteristically, I would wonder about their salvation, and this is all over evangelicalism and now rampant in fundamentalism.

    I think that a seared or suaved conscience can be returned to proper operation. Those people in Eph 4 you mentioned probably are apostates.

    D4, regarding Job 31:1, “think” (KJV) is a hith verb, and it means in the hith, give heed to, attend to, observe. We have to assume some things based on the context, and I think we know what those things are—they aren’t in accordance with choosing to look at immodestly dressed women.

  19. June 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    If someone is able to watch “Lost” without temptation, then they don’t have a pulse, so that point is moot.:p

    It’s akin IMO to a thin person saying they aren’t a glutton simply because they aren’t fat. Gluttony is not about being fat, but about overindulgence. Saying “I can look at naked people fornicating without being tempted” is missing the point entirely. And you know what? NOBODY actually believes this argument, even as they use it to justify their behavior. Like I ask my kids sometimes- “Do I have STUPID tattooed to my forehead?” 😉

    I completely agree that the charge of legalism is very damaging, which is why this topic grabs my attention. It gives someone an excuse to dismiss the pull of their conscience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, which inexorably leads to destruction. It is also an attack on the character of people who are legitimately endeavoring to honor God with a pleasing sacrifice of ‘burnt flesh’. It makes a caricature of sweet-spirited ladies who are modestly dressed, children who obey their parents with good attitudes, husbands who bravely lead their homes and are devoted to their families, and pastors who gently guide and admonish their flocks. It’s the mantra of the 60’s and 70’s but now wearing a polo and Dockers, acting enlightened and entitled.

  20. d4v34x
    June 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Bro. B., I can’t tell if you said I am moving in a dangerous direction, or in a direction that is against something dangerous. Can you clarify?

    Mrs. R., As Jim Berg aptly puts it in /Changed Into His Image/ we all have designer lusts. What draws one will not always entice another. That is not merely an assertion, the Bible backs it up. Admittedly, and perhaps to Bro. B’s point, that is a different matter than embracing the true, pure and beautiful.

  21. June 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    D4, I was making a statement of something good for you.

  22. d4v34x
    June 17, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    I’m greatful for a God who works in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.

  23. Don Johnson
    June 19, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Hi Kent (and all)

    A very interesting discussion here. I have stumbled across it late. I thought I’d ask a question on this line in Kent’s article:

    God’s grace is a dynamic force of God that secures our working for Him. Grace looks to obey the precepts and principles of Scripture.

    I’ve been teaching on worldliness lately, using Titus 2.12 as key verse. Your statement here seems to reflect the central idea of Titus 2.11-12. Just wondering if you had that passage in mind when you wrote that.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  24. June 19, 2010 at 11:50 pm

    Hi Don. I was thinking of Titus 2 when I wrote that. Good seeing you.

  25. J. Paul Hornick
    June 20, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Regarding what the author said at SI concerning recommending only one school being legalism – 😉 he is obviously using some who do so for that reason, and making the others guilty by association. By recommending multiple schools, people recommend multiple philosophies. This runs the risk of putting Modernists and Remnant Christianity together as permissible.

  26. Clayton
    June 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I am enjoying the post. In my experience in my faith it seems that knowing who God truly is requires an immense amount of time in His Word and then meditating on it, and by his grace I desire less of what the world has to offer and desire more to be a part of what He is doing to advance His kingdom after more time in His Word. “Legalism” is really just a way to appear “godly” without really getting to know God. It allows someone else to tell you what you can do on the outside without being changed on the inside.
    Taking Kent’s example of Deut. 22:5, one would have to spend some time really meditating on the passage and asking several questions. Why is it thrown in between looking out for your brother’s possessions and taking care of helpless birds? And, is the issue here one of modesty or mixing the genders or both or neither? And then I would have to put it into context today knowing that we don’t wear robes anymore and no one seems to be advocating going back to them! So why would we stop at just women wearing pants and make that the big issue? Would we have to go on and say no to women wearing t-shirts and polos and baseball caps and tennis shoes and belts and any other apparel that began as mens apparel? I have been in many a fundamental church and school where the girls are dressed in culottes below the knees and t-shirts and tennis shoes? Why was the line drawn there? Weren’t they all at one time mens apparel? When and who decided it was okay for girls to wear t-shirts?
    My point is this: one must look at Scripture through the eyes of our covenant partner (Jesus Christ) and ask ourselves? Is what I am putting on today going to advance your kingdom and bring you glory or is it going to draw the attention to me and glorify me? We all know that a cross-dresser/immodest dresser is going to bring negative attention to themselves in any culture and in any situation.
    To draw the line at pants is merely an arbitrary line to make a point in an argument. It is an abomination any time one does something that draws away worship from the only One worthy of it!
    The law is a guide to keep us from the conseqences of sin. If I saw my wife going into our closet and stand there pondering whether to put on one of my outfits or one of hers, or vice versa, then I would know we have a problem! But I don’t see that happening! The law has guided us to not even consider those options, so we don’t wrestle with the impulse of wanting to be the other person.
    So I can look at Deut. 22:5 and come away with the understanding that God wants us to keep in mind that man and woman are created distinct and should look that way, so whatever you put on, above OR below the waistline should leave no doubt that you are the gender God created you to be. I can and should obey that “rule” and still have some freedom while being led by the Spirit in determining what that should look like on me and my wife.

  27. June 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm


    The person who wants to “appear” godly without being so can have low standards or high standards—the standards didn’t cause the motive or even action only to appear godly. Both lower or higher standards can be legalistic.

    Regarding the pant-skirt issue, which is the rest of your comment, if you are truly going to look “deeply” at scripture on this, I recommend you look at the words of Deuteronomy 22:5. If you are going to meditate on it, then meditate on the actual words. The verse assumes that there are distinctly male garment(s) and distinctly female one(s).

    Your t-shirt, etc. argument is nothing but a red herring. It isn’t an attempt to actually obey the verse. It is an attempt to muddle everything, make the whole thing a meaningless quagmire. T-shirts and baseball caps don’t make pants a non-issue. The pants have symbolized male headship in our culture. It is a uniquely male, as in male gender, dress. We can argue about t-shirts and baseball caps later, but let’s start with what’s obvious.

    And you’re reading into the text with making the verse about ‘drawing away from worship of God.’ You’re also reading into the text with the transvestism point. Sure the verse would forbid transvestism, but it prohibits more than that. And you are reading into the text with the ‘wrestling with the impulse’ issue. It says nothing about that. It also says nothing about ‘looking distinct.’ We will look distinct if we don’t put on the garment of the other gender. You also don’t have freedom to disobey God’s prohibition. Think Adam and Eve. Also Rom 6:1.

    Our culture once designated garments to be distinctly male and distinctly female. We don’t do that anymore, but that isn’t an excuse for Christians not to continue to practice this way. God says that the person who disobeys this prohibition is an abomination to Him.

    Thanks for coming over Clayton.

  28. Clayton
    June 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I agree with you about lower or higher standards taking on a legalistic bent.
    A man I am discipling recently made the comment that he just wants to dress nicer in public because he now knows he has taken on the name of Christ! No one had to tell him that. He gets what it means to take on a new identity. That is grace teaching him.
    What you all are addressing in this article is critical teaching in all churches today. I don’t think people understand the fact that we never get past the gospel story as our guide for decision making. That is the message of grace. Ephesians 4:32, Titus 2:11-15, Romans 1:16-17 among others all have shown me that I look to Jesus to see how to live.

  29. Jerry Bouey
    June 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    D4, you don’t have to be tempted by something for it to be a sin to be entertained by it. Pornography is wrong whether you personally are lusting for it or not. A sex scene on TV is wrong – regardless of how it effects someone when they watch it.

  30. Clayton
    June 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Kent, I was thinking about your reply above. To be biblical in regards to “male headship” we are given the length of hair as the standard there; not “who wears the pants in the family.” That is a cultural slogan, which is not in Deut. 22:5. I know I won’t change your opinion, but we both have to be held to the same interpretive standards.

  31. d4v34x
    June 28, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Jerry, I agree with what you say. But I make a difference between engaging with a narrative or poem or painting because of the ideas it examines and being merely entertained by a story. Pornography examines no ideas. It’s appeal is entirely carnal and fleshly and uses women as objects. Jack London’s /The Call of The Wild/, for instance, examines and, I believe, approves ideas that are in opposition to various principles in God’s Word. However, I would not discourage my childeren or brothers and sisters in Christ from reading it. I would want them to read it with biblical discernment. Somewhere between Shakespeare/Milton/Ted Kooser and dirty limericks/Madonna lyrics is a line that differentiates art from amusement. The same is true for any medium. That doesn’t mean all the content on the ‘good’ side will be depictions of godly living. My only real point is that while you could probably positively identify items on either side of the line in any given medium, I’m not sure you can find the exact location of that line for anyone but Jerry B. I wasn’t defending anything specificy, btw.

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