Have you ever heard of someone saying that someone else was being “legalistic”? Have you ever said it yourself about a friend or acquaintance? This word, legalism, is probably one of Christianity’s favorite insults or judgments to bandy about. For many, it’s an easy way to put a name to behaviors they don’t agree with, particularly when someone seems to be overly committed to piety. Or, to avoid the trap of legalism, we might say, “Well, I guess I could do [blank] because I wouldn’t want to be legalistic.”
But what is legalism?
I recently heard a definition for it on the radio that sort of makes sense, though it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. The speaker said that “legalism” is the separation of the Law from the God who gave the Law. In my own words, this would be a form of idolatry, where the Law…
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