DEFINING INTELLECTUAL LEGALISM
When we think of legalism, we most often think of moral or behavioral legalism. Churches and Christian groups that are considered to be legalistic have rules that focus on or go beyond what is written. These rules may have to do with the length of hair, style of dress, issues concerning make-up and jewelry and more. The list is unending. It is possible for legalism to even go so far as to dictate how high one may lift their hands or if hands might be lifted at all. Some churches will allow a person to sing “hallelujah” but forbid that you can shout “Hallelujah!”
It is not necessary for these rules to have been written and posted on the wall. Usually, it is possible to discern what is and what is not permissible within one short visit. Churches with the name “Grace” something or other are sometimes the worst offenders. In fact, there may be a great deal of talk about liberty while people are in bondage, walking in the light of man rather than the light of God.
Scripture (often taken out of context or over amplified) is used as a club – as a means of making people follow the party line. Fundamentalism, while claiming to please God may in fact be doing the opposite, by turning people into the “merchandise of men” rather than the children of God.
There is another kind of almost cult like legalism that is rarely detected. This form of legalism is as dangerous and controlling as the behavioral form. Intellectual legalism prescribes what books, theologians and commentarialist are suitable to be read and which are not. Of course, no one goes through another persons library and totes out books by doctrinally unapproved authors. There is no visible mind control police that is made responsible for this sort of activity but it happens all the same.
INTELLECTUAL or THEOLOGICAL PROVINCIALISM
For a short time I lived on Vancouver Island. The shopping in Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city of less than 80,000, was somewhat restricted. If someone wanted to have unique drapes in their living room they might have to take the ferry from Sydney to Vancouver some seventy dollars and one and three-quarter hours away. Living on an island, while charming, can be restrictive and isolated. You can go anywhere you like but “anywhere you like” is rather limited. Similarly, “Reform” (a more acceptable word for Calvinism) live on an intellectual island. In time all “Reform” (Calvinists) grow to think and sound the same.
Go take a gander at my library and you will find some pretty prominent ‘Reform” authors on the shelves. You’ll find other writers and thinkers as well. You’ll recognize authors associated with the Methodists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Mennonites, Christian and Missionary Alliance – well you name it and you’ll probably find it there, even Roman Catholics. I consider myself to be well-rounded having embraced the full counsel of God through the mind of the collective church. Sure, I have to do my own editing. Certainly, there are ideas expressed in those books that I or other writers disagree with. So ? The Word of God declares that, the Holy Spirit is able to lead into all truth.I doubt if it is only the “Reform” (Calvinist) expression of faith that has discovered THE truth for themselves and the rest of Christendom. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” 2 Peter 1:20
This is not so with my “Reform” (Calvinist) friends. It does not take long before their shelves are cleared of questionable doctrine. Soon all one may see are an overwhelming number of books by “Reform” theologians. This is intellectual legalism and mind control. From this doctrinal in exposure every other control mechanism flows. Let me add one more time that this is what a cult does. Cults first intellectually isolate and then relationally isolate their adherents. While Calvinism does not meet the criteria of a cult per se, they practice adherent mind control in a similar way.
Take a look at your bookshelf and ask yourself if this isn’t so.
Detect spiritual imbalance in Christian groups by visiting and reading: