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Humanistic Legalism in the 21st Century

June 29, 2017

As we talk about moral instruction, as Paul does in 1 Timothy 4, we must recognize something very important. As Christians, we are often quite aware of times that people are calling evil good. In other words, we pretty easily identify when people are saying that something is moral, when the Bible says it is sin. What can often go unnoticed however, is when human beings create their own laws, and claim that something is sin, that the Bible says is not sin.

What we are seeing in the 21st century, is a group of people creating sins that the Bible does not consider sinful. This is the definition of legalism. We must recognize that all legalism is not explicitly religious, although when human beings create their own laws, they are taking on a prerogative that belongs to God alone. Therefore, even cultural legalism is religious in nature.

We are seeing this take place with moral progressives. They are telling people that certain things are evil and wrong, that the Bible says are simply not sinful. A good example is the idea of cultural appropriation. What many people are saying, is that it is sinful for someone of a certain ethnic background, with a certain culture, to “steal from” another culture. So if an American appreciates something from Asian culture, like certain clothing styles for example, and incorporates it into their lifestyle, they are committing an evil act according to progressives. However, as Jordan Peterson points out, “There is no difference between cultural appropriation and learning from one another.” He points out that appreciating other people’s cultures, and sharing cultural ideas, is the basis of peace. Peterson states, “One of the things that the various groups of people have to offer one another, is the tremendous value of their culture.” So what we end up finding, is that people are saying that it is sinful to learn from another culture, and incorporate that learning into their lives. What is actually a sign of peace and respect, is being turned into a cultural sin. More important than what Peterson says, is what Paul the apostle says. He asks “Why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to yhuman precepts and teachings?” (Col. 2:20-22). Saying that it is sinful to wear certain kinds of clothes, simply because a different group of people invented the style, is the definition of legalism. Paul is saying here that when it comes to outward things that perish, we should not listen to human invented laws. If God does not say it is sin, then it is not sin. At any rate, progressives do not even apply this law consistently, as they do not care if Asian culture appropriates American culture. Apparently this humanistic law only applies if you are American or European. Fortunately, God’s law cannot be selectively applied.

Another example of humanistic legalism in the 21st century, is in the idea of class guilt. Class guilt is actually a Marxist concept that is extremely dangerous. What we are often told today, is that you should automatically feel guilty for oppression if you are male, white, heterosexual, Christian, or rich. Therefore, all people in a certain class, are considered to have committed crimes of oppression just by the fact that they belong to that class, even if they have actually not committed a crime. The easiest example in which to see this, is in progressives’ view of rich people. If someone is rich, we must automatically treat them as if they are greedy, and selfish. There is a guilt by association mentality. Again, we hear this in regards to being white, or male. Now the Bible does say that all people are sinful, but it does not say that all people in certain classes are guilty of the same crime, simply by being a part of that race, gender, or class. That is actually the definition of racism and discrimination. The Bible says, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin,” (Dt. 24:16). People’s sin is supposed to be examined on a person by person basis. According to Scripture, it is actually sinful to group a whole bunch of people together and consider them all guilty of the same crimes, by association. Some rich people are honest, have never oppressed anyone, and may actually be actively working to help the disenfranchised. They may be sinners in some other ways, but to assume they are guilty of oppression simply because of their skin color, or social status, is evil, and is directly refuted in the Word of God. This is unjust.

We do not have time to get into the religious undertones of these ideas, but they can be shown to be influenced by monistic religion and philosophy (the idea that all distinctions need to be done away with), and of course atheistic Marxism. Even if they are not explicitly religious, they are defining right and wrong in unbiblical ways. As Christians we must reject this type of legalism.

May we pray that we grow in our discernment as the culture continues to move in an unbiblical direction. May we have wisdom to engage in the culture, and stand for the truth of God. May we not be influenced by those trying to make us guilty according to human precepts and teachings.

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