Thursday, October 18, 2007

Swindoll and Howard Hendricks on Christian Legalism

The latest issue of Veritas (a publication of Dallas Theological Seminary) includes an excerpt of a conversation between Howard Hendricks and Chuck Swindoll. A good portion of their conversation centers on the topic of Christian legalism. Chuck Swindoll has written extensively on this topic, of course, in The Grace Awakening, a book that all Christian legalists must read! Swindoll explains the way that Christian legalism usually is identified:

The problem comes when we get into areas that are not set forth in Scripture, either in precept or even in principle. . . . I think legalism begins when you do or refrain from doing what I want you to do or not do because it's on my list and it's something that I am uncomfortable with.
Hendricks adds:
One of the things I notice is that whenever Christians feel something is the will of God for them, they tend to want to make it universal. . . . I think we have a lot of that in our Christian community, trying to put our convictions on someone else.
Particularly interesting (humorous?) is Swindoll's advice for combatting Christian legalism:
The problem with legalists is that not enough people have confronted them and told them to get lost. Those are strong words, but I don't mess with legalism anymore. I'm 72 years old; what have I got to lose? Seriously, I used to kowtow to legalists, but they're dangerous. They are grace-killers. They'll drive off every new Christian you bring to church. They are enemies of the faith. Other than that, I don't have any opinion!
I have often battled the question of how forthright I ought to be with Christian legalists. It does seem that they need to be confronted as much as they like to "confront" others. But here we have the dilemma of not wanting to forget about grace ourselves. How much grace we should show toward grace-killers is a difficult issue to resolve practically.


Curtis said...

I think Hendricks is right on target (as Swindoll). I think most people define legalists as someone who has more rules than they do.

I love Mahaney's definition of Legalism: Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God, through our obedience to God.

I think I often fit that definition, God help me! I need grace-filled confrontation and reminder when I do.

BCJ said...

Thanks for passing on C.J.'s definition of legalism, Curtis. I really like it, especially in light of some discussions I've been having with another believer. I had not seen this definition before, and I think it is very good.

Dan Sardinas said...

Hey Ben! You continue to post awesome stuff! Thanks. I agree with Curtis...this definition is great. I also now have my own blog as our church has started a 40 Days of Prayer journey. Feel free to check it out.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. For some reason it appears that a lot of legalists are spreading their 'leaven' all across the internet. I am afraid for the young in faith, for these people will cut them down faster than anything i'm aware of.

Peace and Love,