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Articles

Introduction:

 

Before I share the letter I sent, let me first mention that rampant legalism is possibly the worst affront to Christian liberties that we face today. From time to time I get emails from people asking me to visit their websites and lo and behold almost invariably they send me to some legalist freedom-stealing pit of condemnation and fear. I grieve for the Christians who are ignorant of what the Bible really teaches and are foolish enough to buy into the errors of these often well-meaning people. 

 

Below is a copy of a yet another email that I sent out to yet another legalist who wrote in. This has been edited for posting here on Christian Liberties / Truth Guard. In this letter (now converted to article format for posting here), I deal with erroneous legalistic beliefs on the topics of:

 

  • Head Coverings
  • Holidays
  • KJV Only-ism
  • Foot Washing Rituals
  • Divorce and Remarriage

My hope is to deal with individual issue in individual articles at a later time, but for now please allow these brief summaries to suffice. This article is written is such as way where you should not need to read the actual letter that was sent to me in order to understand what is being discussed. 

Dear (name withheld), 

First, I really do appreciate your kind words (he complimented my writings). But am I missing something here? Upon briefly visiting your website, it seems that we are from two vastly different sides of the camp. I appreciate your heart, your overall apparently kind-hearted disposition and your obvious intentions to do good, but I found a number of grievous views at your website. If I have misunderstood or misrepresented any of your views below, please forgive me and feel free to correct me, because I just briefly scanned your material due to the fact that there was so much to look at in a short time. That said, please allow me to proceed.

In the Bible we find the following extremely clear passages that basically tell us all to keep personal preferences to ourselves on many of the subjects that you emphasize (I am not saying that the negative descriptions of the persons at fault in these passages necessarily fits you): 

16Let no man therefore judge you in meat [food], or in drink, or in respect of an holyday [holiday], or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. 18Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increases with the increase of God. 20Wherefore if you be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are you subject to ordinances, 21(Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? 23Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body: not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh. Col 2: 16-23

 

 

1Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats [food], which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 6If you put the brethren in remembrance of these things, you shall be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto you have attained. 7But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself rather unto godliness. 1 Tim 4:1-7

 

 

The passages are regarding Christian liberty (of course not to be interpreted as a license to sin) and these set much of the ground work for what I am about to say. Unfortunately, much of your website deals with issues of personal preferences, subjects that the Bible commands us to not push our views on. We have far bigger problems in the church to deal with today rather than confusing Christians with rebukes about issues of personal preference such as holidays, preferred Bible translations, etc. Making sins out of things that are not sins or creating doctrines where no such doctrines exist is a dangerous practice that we must avoid. The Bible commands us to “teach no other doctrine”. 

 

 

Head Coverings

 

If a Christian chooses to wear head coverings, it is not for me or anyone else to criticize them (although the presence of head coverings in a church is often {but not always} a sign of serious legalistic issues). But if a Christian takes the valid theological view that a women’s hair is already her head covering, then they will be set free from the incorrect idea that they have to wear a hat in assembly. If a Christian woman who knows this fact still chooses to wear a head covering, then that is a matter of her personal preference. Although I disagree, I cannot rebuke her even though I know it is not necessary. Regardless, a head covering (in addition to woman’s hair) is not a doctrine that should be taught or strongly encouraged (or maybe even enforced) as it seems you do. Similarly, I cannot let my freedom to eat or abstain from certain foods be a stumbling block to my brothers and sisters.

 

Holidays

 

Also applicable here is basically the entire chapter of Romans 14, and even more specifically verses 4-10. Here and in other places, the Bible makes it very clear that we are to let people decide for themselves what days are holy or not holy to them. And, just because certain holidays may have some pagan roots or connections long ago doesn't mean those things can't be used today or ”redeemed” in a sense for God's present use. We all have some pagan roots (in a sense) if you consider the fall in the garden. Do we throw ourselves out the window?

 

I am grieved at the celebration of Santa Claus and the resulting distraction from Christ and all the materialization, commercialization and the over emphasis on giving and receiving material gifts. But we can correct those things and bring them into proper balance without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Christmas time may not be accurate date-wise but it is still a great blessing in our country in part because it is a great opportunity to reach out to people for Christ. Many unbelievers are at least "tuned" in or receptive to permitting a conversation on the subject of Jesus during this time. This can be a great door-opener to witnessing. Imagine the greater problems that we would suffer far beyond the annoyances of Santa Clauses and Easter Bunnies if we had Buddhist holidays instead!

 

I am not judging you for not wanting to celebrate certain holidays. That is your right and I am to keep my view to myself from the perspective of trying to “condemn” you for your view or strongly persuade you to change it. While you are free to share you view generally, I am reminding you not to press your view on others legalistically where people are made to feel guilt or condemnation for non-compliance with your views.

 

But nevertheless, let me ask, what would you like to have seen happen in the USA? Have Buddhist or holidays of other false religions come flooding in instead? At least Christianity is not a false religion. Should we have no Christmas and no Easter holidays when at least some people are open to Christ-specific spiritual things on those days and in those seasons? I cannot condemn you for not wanting to celebrate those days. But I cannot push my views on you either. All I can do is remind you that we are not to make a big deal out of these kinds of things. People can celebrate any day they want to celebrate or forgo celebrating any day that they want to forgo and we need to keep our views and personal preferences to ourselves, except obviously regarding issuing warnings about a blatant highly occultic holiday such as Halloween that clearly celebrates death and horror imagery.

 

KJV-Only Error

 

 

The KJV-Only view (the claim that only the King James translation is authoritative for today) is seriously flawed for many reasons. I will briefly touch on a few of the reasons here. Many of those who hold to the “King James Only” view don’t realize that such a view prohibits the Bible being translated into other languages and therefore requires that someone who speaks a foreign language (such as Chinese) to have to first learn English before they could read the Bible. This is pure nonsense.

 

The Bible in Chinese is just as valid as the Bible in English. In other words, the Bible properly translated into Chinese is just as valid as a good Bible translation in English. It is impossible to preserve the nuances of the King James wording in the Chinese language, or in any other language, so for those reasons alone the idea of the King James Bible as God’s only authoritative Word today is nonsensical. Of course this is not the only argument against such a view.

 

The KJV Bible as a translation is absolutely excellent. It’s a great translation. As an English speaking person, it is by far my favorite for word structure, flow and meter, but I still translate certain words into modern English. There are a number of archaic Old English words that few people today can remotely understand. If you prefer words like “ye, thee and thou”, then that is your personal preference. But if you think that is how God expects us to talk here in 2008 AD, and you push that upon people, then you need to rethink your view. God is interested in the meaning, understanding and obedience to His Word, not the particular foreign language that it is conveyed in. The Word of God rendered in proper modern English is more valid today than in Old English. This is because Old English is obsolete and not used and because very few people still understand it. The Scriptures in the original languages of Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew are authoritative, not a 1611 translation of them into Old English. We must still consult the original languages no matter what translation we use.

 

Yes, there are some very bad translations e.g. The Message (which is not a translation at all but rather one man’s outrageous commentary put to chapter and verse and passed off as a Bible) and there are some not so good but marginally acceptable translations (e.g. NIV, etc.), but the existence of these is not a license to throw the baby out with the bathwater and make the KJV exclusively authoritative. Another common sense proof is this: if KJV-Only proponents are right, then that would mean that we had no valid Bible available to us prior to 1611 when the King James Bible was first introduced in very archaic Old English. Such a view is hardly consistent with (and totally contradicts) their idea of God preserving His Word through “translations” or whatever they want to call them.

 

The Foot Washing Error

 

 

Jesus demonstrated ultimate humility, service and servanthood through foot washings. This was symbolic and must be properly applied today symbolically. Jesus told us to have communion in remembrance of Him, not foot washings. Servants in Bible times would wash the feet of visitors as a matter of hospitality shown on behalf of their masters.

 

Legalists who push foot washings today miss the point and the big picture. There are many far more appropriate services that we can do for Christians today, even for unbelievers that would be on par with foot washing in the Bible, things that would not seem extraordinarily odd in our culture today. I have no problem with being odd for Christ in general. I have no problem with being a stranger and foreigner in this land, a peculiar people and even hated when it comes to the Gospel and the doctrines of the church. But again we cannot make a doctrine out of something that is not a doctrine. Foot washing was necessary back in Bible times due to people walking with near bare feet in sandals, manure and the resulting health and comfort issues. Jesus used a very lowly service of His time to demonstrate the principle of extreme servanthood. People (believers and unbelievers) are not walking around in sandals down dusty manure strewn roads here in the USA or in most other modernized counties. If one should encounter a less modernized country where this is going on, great, they might very well appreciate foot washings.

 

But not only are most Christians (and unbelievers alike) not going to appreciate foot washings here in the USA, they are going to think you are a full blown nut case. If we are going to be considered a nut case, let it be for Jesus and the Gospel! It is written, “For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.”  So let us be fools for Christ in the right way. It is not written that by the foolishness of foot washings many will be saved (or discipled).

 

We have to use common sense and be open to adapting the more trivial things that the Lord allows us to adapt to the culture of the day. This doesn’t mean that we change the Gospel or the doctrines of Christian living or church traditions in order to “accommodate” the culture. But there are valid equivalents in today society for things like foot washings. Today we can do an equivalent act of service without forcing a 2000-year-old service upon the present culture and making idiots out of ourselves. But the legalistic mindset will not permit any such logic and common sense to prevail.

 

If instead of foot washing, Jesus had instead filled oil lamps as an act of service, legalists would undoubtedly push the use of oil lamps today (and maybe even discard light bulbs all together) just so that you could perform the same service. This is the theological insanity of legalistically interpreting the Bible.

 

In a country where the people have full shoes yet sandstorms are prevalent, hair washings would be far more appropriate. Consider Christian doctors in 3rd world countries where they are treating dangerous contagious diseases for their brethren. Wouldn’t it be the height of foolishness for them to dispense with all that so they can perform foot washings instead? God expects us to use our reasoning abilities, to think clearly and use common sense when reading, studying and applying the Bible.

 

Imagine if in Jesus’ time the people of that day were overrun with flies and imagine if everyone had flies stuck in their teeth from walking down the road and the servants of the house cleaned the teeth of guests as a service of hospitality and courtesy. Then that teeth cleaning would be symbolic of ultimate servanthood. No flies? Then there is no need for that exact type of service. It would be ridiculous for Christians to perform teeth cleanings like that if there were no need.

 

Legalists in general have a very hard time using such common sense and separating or differentiating the symbolic from the literal.  Do you want to be a good minister of Jesus Christ? Of course you do. And in so many words 1Tim 4:6 (see above) tells us how: We are essentially supposed to set Christians free from bondage (not put them into it).

Divorce and Remarriage

 

Far worse than all this, and far more dangerous than any of the above issues, are some of your views on marriage and divorce which are absolutely outrageous. Please, send those poor souls (who you condemn for remarrying after their spouse has left them) to someone who knows what they are talking about in this area and who can give them real comfort and guidance. You offer grievous fear and condemnation where no condemnation or fear should exist.

 

For example: a wife cheats and runs out on her husband and kids. He offers her reconciliation. She refuses to repent and leaves anyway. He grieves for this catastrophic loss in his life and the loss in the lives of his children. He files for divorce based on her continued unrepentant unfaithfulness. A few years later, he remarries a wonderful Christian woman who helps him raise his kids and they have a number of Godly children themselves. According to your insane legalism on this issue, he cannot remarry without living in continual sin?!

 

Brother, I know you mean well but that is theological quackery. You are hurting people with this stuff. You are messing with people’s lives and you don’t even know what you are talking about on these critical family issues. It is exactly these kind of teachings that are so unfair and condemning because this is not God's view. You totally misinterpret the Scriptures and teach this nonsense. You fail to use sound reasoning and take into account common sense, logic and most importantly the balancing Scriptures on the very same subject!

 

It is often well-meaning but misguided Christians who teach good faithful Christians that they are living in unrepentant sin when in fact they are not. It is the ones who teach this stuff who don’t realize that they are the ones who are living in unrepentant sin for teaching them this!

 

A Word on Legalism in General

 

As I have mentioned many times in my writings, there is nothing at all legalistic about following God’s Word. That is not legalism. I am not even referring to the main definition of legalism that pertains to returning to Old Testament Law in favor of New Testament teachings. The secondary type and often the most common type of legalism running rampant today is where many Christians misinterpret certain Scriptures (usually because they do not take into account the balancing teachings on the same subjects), and they go off half baked and half cocked and teach their fragmented half-truth or no-truth views to other Christians, often insisting that they follow their misinterpretations and misapplications of the Scriptures. This is the type of legalism that I am referring to here and the type that I see a lot of in the church today, in highly isolated house church circles as well as in some more mainline churches. Legalism makes set-in-stone doctrines out of things that are clearly not doctrines at all.

 

Legalists love to take that which is figurative or symbolic and make it literal. An opposite extreme is taking that which is literal and claiming that is it only symbolic. Both approaches are very dangerous. Legalists also take that which is literal (like the Bible’s express commands to not do what they do) and make those commands symbolic, not required or not pertinent to them! Lastly, the worst of legalists condemn people to hell for disagreeing with their ridiculous views.

 

In Conclusion

 

In the interest of time I have touched on only a few of the many problematic topics at your website. This is by far not an exhaustive critique of your website materials (not that you asked for one but I am compelled to try to help you and those who you might influence).

 

The Bible makes it clear that the whole idea of being a good minister of Jesus Christ is to set Christians free from manmade rules, not to create and impose our rules own upon them. Good ministers focus on pointing Christians to the Bible and teaching them how to properly study and correctly interpret the written Word for themselves without dependence on any man including themselves. Legalists on the other hand are very busy trying to do all the homework for other people and telling them what views they should and should not have on private personal matters and issues that are none of anyone’s business, except the person they are talking to. While good ministries set people free to find their Biblical God-given freedom in Christ, legalistic teachings put them into grievous bondage on many issues that are purely a matter of personal preference.

 

Instead of trying to be a theological expert in all areas, why not specialize in the areas where you can do some real good and where you have balanced views and leave the rest to other brothers who specialize in those areas. I noticed some things you said on your website that I thought were quite good. I wish you would park there. I see much merit in some of your work and devastating error in your other work.

 

 

I truly wish I could be excited by what you teach overall at your site but unfortunately I am not. It is just another site in a sea of many similarly highly legalistic websites. (Except yours has a better heart than most and you do not seem to be of a mean contentious disposition like the vast majority of other similar sites. So I think there is great hope for you). There is nothing legalistic about following God’s Word. But when we misinterpret and/or misapply the Word and then worse, when we require that others do the same, that is where things get really bad.

 

Many of the views that you put forth with such vehemence on your site you should be keeping to yourself. I am referring to your views that interfere with Christians’ freedom in matters of personal preferences.

 

I am not looking for a fight here or to debate these issues with you. I am very busy. But I find it disheartening when Christians get free of one problem (e.g. the institutional church system) only to fall into and/or continue promoting many other errors. It saddens me to have to issue this rebuke, especially to someone who likes my website.

        

 

 

In much love of Christ and concern,

 

Brother Paul Howey

 

HeavensRoad.com


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