This is an edited letter that I sent to a legalist who wrote in asking me to join forces with him on a project that promotes Bible reading. He included a long list of his unbiblical legalistic views. Here is my (edited) response:
Dear (Name Withheld),
I appreciate your invitation to join forces with you to promote Bible reading. This is a worthy goal. But please take a few moments to consider the following. I have been round and round on the head covering and women's silence issues, etc. and one can easily fall into very grievous error on these matters if they fail to consider what the whole Bible teaches on these subjects overall. Any of us can easily make the mistake of isolating certain Scriptures to the exclusion of others if we are not careful.
Properly promoting the Bible must include promoting a proper understanding of it. In all our getting, we are told to get understanding. It is not just the reading or hearing of the Bible that counts. The reading and hearing must lead to proper understanding and that is only gained by the leading of the Holy Spirit as we carefully consider the teachings of the Bible in context with itself. We cannot run off like a loose canon after reading one or two verses and then push a partial incomplete view as if that were the Bible’s overall view. If we fail to read the balancing verses we will gain a false understanding, which leads to a false theology and false doctrines on that particular subject.
The Bible doesn't put us under a taste-not-touch-not bondage on assorted issues. However, the idea of "taste not touch not" can be rightly applied to sin, to set us free from engaging in things like premarital sex and adultery. Those are blatant sins that are to be avoided. We remain free by avoiding such things that would entangle and harm us. In reality the Bible sets us free. It moves us towards more and more freedom in Christ. This is not a freedom to sin but the liberty to remain free from sin and to make certain free will choices that God allows. Legalism removes our ability to make the free choices that God allows us to make, and incorrectly elevates these unimportant choices into becoming theological issues.
Yes, Christmas as popularly celebrated is problematic and has some pagan roots. But a logical fallacy that we must not fall into is this: the abuse of something does not bar its proper use. Just because there are those who abuse Christmas does not Biblically bar me or anyone else from celebrating it with thanksgiving to the Lord just as I celebrate every day with thanksgiving unto the Lord.
We don't want to “be all about these kind of things” in our teachings and theology in general. The Bible expressly teaches us not to put people under this kind of bondage. I can prove this to you and send you the verses - just ask if you are interested. You are obviously not keeping these personal preference issues to yourself as the Bible commands. Instead, based on incomplete information, you are emphasizing your incorrect view of these things to other Christians in your circle of influence.
Please understand that a woman's hair is already her head covering and a women is only to remain silent with regard to usurping or contradicting the authority of her own husband. Women are not second-class citizens. Jesus is no respecter of persons and the Bible says that there is no male or female in Christ. The New Testament clearly shows that women can pray, prophesy, sing and teach. These things would be impossible if women were to remain silent in the legalistic sense that is often taught out of context today.
And no, we are not to be non-resistance pacifists. Jesus told His disciples to carry a sword. The freedom in this country that we live in and enjoy was bought and paid for by the blood of soldiers. To pacify is to appease and to appease is to invite war. If we refuse to fight we are sitting ducks to grievous enemies.
Legalism is a devastating thing that can get worse and worse in a person over time. There are actually guys out there who would stand by and do nothing and let their wives and children be beaten to a pulp or worse because they incorrectly believe it is wrong to fight back. This insane view is due to a total misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches on this subject as well as a profound lack of love and compassion. This doesn’t make fighting necessarily a good thing. Fighting is sometimes just the lesser of two unavoidable evils. It is a far greater evil to stand by and let a wife and children be harmed by a perpetrator because one does not believe in fighting. The lesser evil (which in this case is no evil at all) is to fight and protect them. The real evil is to do nothing and allow them to be harmed.
This is the kind of simple common sense logic that God expects us to use when we read and study the Bible. He expects us to be reasonable. We know this because among other things He says, “Come let us reason together.” [Emphasis added] God expects us to take into account the whole of Scripture and not isolate a single verse fragment like “turn the other cheek” and run with that as an all-encompassing doctrine for all related situations in life.
When Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, He was not telling us to lay down and become a doormat so any Nazi Germany that might come along could conquer us or our country. And, God is God of war (war against evil that is). He is not a God of appeasement. He doesn’t pacify or appease evil. Just read the Old Testament if you don’t believe me.
These things that you are adhering to and teaching are very dangerous. I want to encourage you to realize what you are messing with and how it can get worse over time (most legalists get worse with time). I think maybe you have been sitting under some really bad teachers. Because if you carefully read the Bible cover to cover for yourself and carefully consider all of its teachings together in context, I do not think you could remotely come to the conclusions that you have come to. It’s possible (if you misinterpret key things) but I don’t think it’s overly likely. This kind of error is usually taught. People usually don’t come up with this crazy stuff on their own. Similarly, the errors of Calvinism are something that is taught to people. The teachings of Calvinism are not something people would normally conclude after diligently reading the Bible for themselves.
Presently we differ greatly and I am not trying to conform you to my beliefs but rather lovingly point you to what the Bible really teaches on these subjects and what is clearly understood when the Bible is properly studied in context with itself. This doesn't mean that I deny that you are a Christian. I deny no such thing.
I don’t know if I covered everything you mentioned, but there it is. Yes, I agree that we should all read our Bibles. But I cannot join forces with a group that misinterprets so many things. Also, any joint promotion of this project could easily be interpreted as my endorsement of your group and such could contribute in propagating these problems. I think it is very important that Christians have at least a general overall like-mindedness before engaging in projects like this together. Lastly, with a family to watch over, a ministry and a business to run, my time is limited and I am very selective as to further things that I can get involved with.
In Christ’s Love,
He has had many weeks to respond. I never heard back from him. This is typical with legalists.