Pharisees Today

[The following rant was precipitated by someone who announced “Where we differ is that you have more of a legalistic approach to the Christian faith and I have a more liberating view of it. I say it is easier to convert a nonbeliver through love and kindness rather than beating them on the head with a legalistic Bible.” You know, it’s one thing to disagree with me. It’s another thing to criticize me if you and I know each other a bit, even online. But this is in another category altogether.]

I know that it is fun to criticize anyone more conservative than you and denounce them as a legalistic self-righteous Pharisee. After all, the Pharisees _were_ conservatives, so all conservatives are fundamentalist Pharisees, right?

May I suggest that it was the judgmental, self-righteous attitude that Christ had more of an issue with, not the theological and practical aspects of the faith?

In my experience, the people with the most judgmental, self-righteous, Pharisaical attitude are those who are so eager to tell others that they are being judgmental self-righteous Pharisees.

Is smugly looking down your nose, feeling all self-righteous and holier than thou, and denouncing someone as a Pharisee _any_ less wrong than smugly looking down your nose, feeling all self-righteous and holier than thou, and denouncing someone as a “sinner”?

* Isn’t it Pharisaical to call someone legalistic (as opposed to your wonderful loving and liberating attitude) if they quote a Puritan and some Psalms?
* Isn’t it Pharisaical to announce that others have no heart for the lost if they disagree with your take on evangelism?
* Isn’t it Pharisaical to ascribe motives to someone you don’t know or come to snap judgments about them?
* Is it so different if I say “The difference is, I am holy and you are licentious and wicked” and “The difference is, I am liberating and loving and you are judgmental and legalistic and condemning”?

It’s the _same_ attitude the Pharisees had. The only difference is that today, we’re using a different set of laws and traditions of men. But it’s the same smug, condemning, judgmental attitude.

Jesus did not condemn the Pharisees for their _positions_. He once praised them for their meticulous attention to the law, and held them up as examples of outward righteousness (Mt 5:20). He condemned them for their _attitude_. And I think it’s the same attitude that a lot of allegedly loving and liberating grace filled liberty oriented Christians have. It’s just like how liberals are all about free speech, unless you are conservative, and then they do their best to shut you up. In fact, that’s the best parallel I can think of.

Here’s a thought for you:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (Galatians 5:15)

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5 Responses to Pharisees Today

  1. Jared says:

    If it helps (or matters), I agree with you completely here.
    I know I’ve mentioned Pharisees before, but I honestly only try to do it when I think the situation fits. When I read or hear “how can a Christian hang out with those kind of people?”, it automatically suggests Pharisaism. Can you see why that would be?

    But I’m with you on the judgementalism cutting both ways, as well as holier-than-thou-ism. Apologies if I did that in our most recent scrum.

  2. I almost put in “And I don’t mean you, Jared” at the bottom of my post. Because I don’t.

    I did cut a whole list of “the laws of the new Pharisees” out because it would have sounded like I was blasting you and others that I wasn’t trying to blast.

    When I read or hear ?how can a Christian hang out with those kind of people??, it automatically suggests Pharisaism. Can you see why that would be?

    Of course. But I think what is different is the attitude behind the separation. You could also say “When I hear ‘Christians should tithe on their gross, not their net’ it makes me think of Pharisees” because Jesus mentioned the Pharisees’ incredible attention to tithing. That would be a very silly thing to think, because Jesus was criticizing them for their _attitude_, not the fact of tithing. (Although one could be self righteous about tithing I guess… you know what I mean.)

    If a person separates from the unregenerate because they are filthy and unclean and he is pure and good and holy and better than them and God loves him because he’s so good; that’s self righteous and Pharisaical and evil. Similarly, if someone hangs out with unregenerate sinners in order to be liked and accepted and because he’s careless; that’s reckless and licentious and evil. There are (arguably, at least) holy approaches to both. It’s very judgmental to ascribe motives either way. Ditto for a whole litany of things.

    It’s one thing to argue over an issue. It’s very different to ascribe motives and judge the heart of another.

  3. Ellbur says:

    I must say your arguement is quite illogical. The critique of your evangelism is directed in the form of an arguement, for the purpose of reform, or at least let other people hear the ideas.

    legal institution of religion is very different from philosophical debate. I can’t see how you would liken the two.

    It’s also poor reason to refute an arguement by declaring the subject not to be judged, or that it is very different in the minds of different people.

    It’s funny how you debate over attitude, and then cycle back to apply the arguement to the nature of the debate, as if this should prove anything. It’s like constant ‘yes it is’; ‘no it isn’t’; except with the added complexity of false logic and metareasoning.


  4. Jared says:

    I was thinking the same thing. I have to say that that critique is very dense. Perhaps he might dumb it down for us rubes?

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