Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Response

PD, you are way out of line on this one. I doubt any of us would defend the standards as a thorough, consistent, praiseworthy charter for Christian community but to loosely and erroneously wield the warning passages you cited concerning false teachers is absurd. Whether you intend to or not you have wrongly indicted godly, gospel-savoring faculty and staff who uphold them (whether they agree or not) as accomplices.

As I wrote to you before, "legalism" is a favorite term of slander in evangelical circles and is rarely used correctly. Its not wise behavior (I will not be alone with another woman), or cultural behavior (I will keep my Bible off the floor in Muslim settings), or community-conscious behavior (I will not invite someone to drink without knowing where they stand). Properly defined legalism is behavior that strives to earn salvation. It can be any of the former examples or none of them. Our heart is the issue. Knowing my spiritual laziness I can place the strictest of standards on myself and still revel in the free grace of the gospel alone. But I can also throw off all standards entirely and revel in my self-righteousness for doing so. The right set of standards (behavior, culture, community) does not automatically preclude which I will do.

You have failed to account for the “amoral” standards in the New Testament: widows must be 60 to receive charity (1 Tim 5.9), do not eat food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 8.12), or drink wine in certain circumstances (Ro 14.21), “abstain from the things polluted by idols” (Ac 15.20), don’t pursue circumcision after conversion (1 Cor 7.18), let only 2-3 persons speak in tongues and prophecy in any given service (1 Cor 14.27), eat at home before gathering to celebrate communion (1 Cor 11.34). These standards are a blend of wisdom, culture, and community-consciousness and yet they still leave a lot of effeminate, adolescent ground uncovered. Paul was able to articulate a robust, grace-filled gospel in one breath and deliver these standards in the next without jeopardizing his message and so can we. I’m not putting, say, CIU’s prohibition of shorts to class on par with Paul’s advice in terms of Christian wisdom, but that is a question of the caliber of the standard and not the appropriateness of standards in general. If your gospel is so frail in the face of standard suggestions, what will become of it when the NT writers’ take off the gloves for moral imperatives (Ti 2.11ff; Heb 12.4; 1 Pt 1.17; Jas 1:25; 1 Jn 2.15; Rev 2:5, 23)?

I am willing to be wrong, but you appear to be pressing legalist charges where they simply won’t stick.

12 comments:

jim thompson said...

kylene is funny. but i appreciate the combing out of what LEGALISM means. good call, dave.

pd, if you could write the standards, what would they be?

david said...

Kylene and PD, I don't mean to be harsh as much as vehemently opposed to what's being said. It may be fine to throw "children of hell" or "Goddamn them to hell forever" language at CIU as an institutional abstraction but if those words are intended to mean anything eventually they have to attach themselves to all the individuals that make up the institution. To say "I have a problem with that" just doesn't seem to carry the weight of my concern.

Kenny said...

In David's defence I think PD knew exactly how harsh the response would be to this artile and the following "answers to questions". It's not like this is the first time we have talked about this. All that to say I don't think David was mean at all. PD I love you but I really believe you are dangerously close to choosing an argument and making scripture fit it. It really sounds like you have an agenda (and I know you do...). This blog is a great place for us to bounce ideas off each other so take our comments in that light. Obviously you wanted our opinion because you posted this. Well you know my opinion (I felt like most of your "answers" were directed towards my arguments), I just really disagree with even your answers. Love you man.

John Paulling said...

We were doing so well.

Jon Furst said...

P.D. I always appreciate that you are willing to stick your neck into places nobody else would, but I definitely have to agree with David on this one. Your argument would leave us closer to anarchy than a fellowship marked by love and sacrifice.

John, this is why we can't have nice things.

John Paulling said...

I really don't like talking about this. As David has said before, "If I had a nickel for hour I wasted talking about the standards." So, despite my better judgement, I will comment. While I can't say that I agree with the way PD argues his point (i don't believe we should repent of our goodness (Gal. 5:22), I do believe humble obedience can prove that one is more spiritual than the next, and might possibly gain you glory, and honor, and immortality (Rom.2:6-7), if you sign something I think you should go ahead and do what you said you would) I will say I'm not into Evangelical academic institutions legislating extra-biblical morality. The text that has been quoted from Col. 2 has still not been dealt with sufficiently. That text does say, and I say this understanding that it is a hard statement, that those that insist on these obscure ethical imperatives are not, "holding fast to the Head" (Col. 2:19). I also am willing to be wrong, but this text must be dealt with. Anna, brought this to my attention tonight that, it is interesting that the pseudo-prophets emerge with the most force on these kinds of things. Her experience has been with those of more charasmatic leanings, and their insistence on tongues, gold dust, and the like. I agree that these things are to be talked about with humility, but it is not right to side-step the legitimate points that have been raised. All that being said, I would die a happy man if this could all be solved without me ever having to talk about it again.

david said...

Okay, now I am starting to feel like a child trying to sneak in the final word. I don't think the standards are "extra-biblical morality" but simply extra-biblical standards. Somehow Col 2 has to fit the amoral standards in the NT that Paul himself instituted.

John, I'd be very interested to hear a exposition of Romans 2:6-7.

John Paulling said...

yeah, i've been thinking about that text a lot lately, Rom. 2 I mean. I'll see what I can do.

John Paulling said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jim thompson said...

This quote was from an email that piper got. He included it in a footnote in his book that responded to NT Wright. It feels like an appropriate two cents to add to the legalism discussion.

“When I read EP Sanders what stood out to me was that legalism was in almost every quote that he gave from Judaism in his attempt to prove that it was not legalistic. It became clear to me that Sanders doesn’t know what legalism is. In fact, it appears that this is the case with most of the New Perspective. They appear to be thinking only in terms of hard legalism, which is the notion that either your works bribe God or that they are self-produced by our own effort. But, as you flesh it out, hard legalism does not exhaust the definition of legalism. There is also soft legalism, which is the belief that your God-empowered obedience justifies you before God, or that you ‘become saved’ by faith but ‘remained saved’ by God-produced works (which includes the idea that final justification is based on obedience). In fact, sanders acknowledged that the first-century Jews believed that they got into the covenant by grace but ‘stayed in’ by works. But he failed to realize that this is legalism. The New Perspective – and those taking their initial cues from it – typically conflate legalism and Pelagianism, seeming to think that because they (or the first-century Jews) are not Pelagians, they therefore cannot be legalists. It needs to be made crystal-clear that these are distinct issues. You can utterly reject Pelagianism and yet be a legalist. You can be a Calvinist legalist, and Augustinian legalist…. The essence of legalism is the belief that our right standing with God is based on, comes by means of, or is sustained by our works – regardless of whether those works are self-produced (hard legalism) or whether they are completely produced by God’s grace in us (soft legalism).”

John Paulling said...

i don't like that.

Paul-David Young said...

second that.

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