14
Jun
11

A bondage of another kind

Intellectual Legalism

“Walking in the light of men rather than the light of God.”

Strong doctrinal opinion can be as seductive and dangerous  as heresy. When we think of legalism, what comes to mind are certain extra-biblical restrictions concerning dress, form or behavior. There is, however, another less identifiable but perhaps more acceptable form of legalism. Many people have been promised liberty (a special truth or experience) only to find that they have been brought into the bondage of men.

There are certain doctrinal persuasions that are so strongly held that though they are not cultic they have managed to essentially accomplish the same thing – mind control.

Cults restrict exposure and association. Cults must separate and isolate their adherents from materials and all others who think differently. The fact is, there are some Christian groups which operate in a similar way.

This is one of my present concerns. There is a term which describes this sort of isolationism. This is called “theological provincialism.” The idea of “provincialism” concerns itself with a lack of perspective. The cultural application has to do with those who might live on an island or inhabit a region in a remote area of the world. These people are cut off from everyone but their own kind. Geographic circumstances forces everyone to think the same. People in these situations are forced to inbreed. In very real terms this is what happened to groups like the Quakers, Shakers and Amish. They moved onto their islands, destroyed their bridges and boats then established religious enclaves of a solitary nature. These groups, as well as others, have separated themselves but one does not have to become a monk, move into a monastery or take a vow of silence. One need not move to a rural area, grow beards, dress in black and dispense with motorized vehicles to accomplish the same purpose.

There are many identifiable groups which already do this. They are restricted from association and exposure from all theological perspectives but one. Let me name a few so the reader can see more clearly what I mean, The Church of Christ, certain Plymouth Brethren, Independent Baptists, Seventh Day Adventists, United Pentecostals. All of these groups, and I could name more, are elitists in their theological ideologies.

“The problem with seduction is it seduces.”

This statement may sound rather trite until one thinks about it. The entire point of seduction is that one does not know they have been seduced. In saying this, I doubt if those readers who need to hear this the most will even hear it. They will suppose that this must be about someone else. They might take offence at the suggestion that they have tacitly surrendered their minds and souls to the safe keeping of others.  They will say, “Well, certainly this is not me. I am free to read, consider and think as I want. I am not involved in a mind control group! I can leave anytime that I like!” A seduced person – a person who has misplaced their security -cannot leave anytime they like. Let me correct myself, they can, but they won’t. Like cultists they are not free as they have given themselves to others as their prophets and priests. They no longer rely on the Holy Spirit and Scripture but upon others as interpreters of truth.

Cults formally describe for their adherents what they can and cannot read, should and should not believe. Cultists are emphatically told that views contrary to or oppose their doctrinal interpretations are devil inspired and are heretical. Every cult separates itself from all other groups by claiming orthodoxy.  They assure their followers that they have come into a deeper light through the promise of a greater truth or experience. In fact, while being in complete error, Jehovah’s Witnesses  refer to faithfulness as, “walking in the truth.” Within a cult there is not the subtlety one might find in Christian groups.

With this in mind, I am seeing many others, even Christians that should know better by now, unwittingly overcome by the same spirit of seduction. In their desperation for spiritual reality some have gone after almost anything that glitters. For some it has been outrageous Pentecostalism, prophets that kick, giggle or jerk and for others they have been seduced by clever words and lofty intellectualism, but it is all the same.

Years ago, a Christian friend went off to Ohio to visit the “Glory Barn” in Ohio. It only took him one weekend to be seduced by the teaching of Hobart Freeman. He was so convinced that he bought three-hundred sixty audio tapes and brought them back to Canada. Weekend after weekend he drove off with his family to Ohio. He soon disassociated himself from other believers, pulled together a little group from a variety of area churches and in a short time would only hear Hobart Freeman and his associate teachers. Most interestingly, while Hobart Freeman was a cult leader himself, he had written one of the standard books on cults entitled, “Every Wind of Doctrine.” “The problem with seduction is, it seduces.”

This, to the reader might seem extreme. They might even say, “I would never fall for that!” Yet, everyday, many have and are. Though, unlike the cults which limit exposure and thereby determine what one can read or hear, other mind control groups accomplish the same thing in more sophisticated ways. They slowly, but just as effectively, move their adherents onto the island through endorsements. Once a person becomes convinced that certain preachers, academics, writers of books and blogs have a theological edge on truth – once they give themselves over to certain philosophical perspectives – they begin to clear their book shelves of all other views which might conflict with this or that particular theology.  There are certain writers and thinkers that are acceptable and others that are not. Ask any one of these folks for a list of books they might recommend and one can predict the titles and authors. When I read these authors (and I do), I know who they will quote. They will quote one another and thus we are shipped off to the theological provincialism of “circular reasoning.” The eye does say to the hand I have no need of thee. I can be almost certain and have rarely been disappointed in my expectations. They will only reference those in their own stream of thought. This is legalism and theological provincialism.

While my friends have been promised greater truth and liberty they are in reality brought into a smaller world where their thoughts are controlled and it is no wonder that they cannot (will not) leave as their prophets have spoken. Every opinion is constantly and emphatically supported by everything they come into contact with.

This is seduction and those who have succumbed to it have no means by which to see it. They have slipped into a prophetic movement whereby the prophet(s) speaks the only truth there is. Making it even more convincing are the amassed degrees, the media exposure, books they have authored, the conferences where-in they were keynote speakers, the smoothness of speech, the flawless grammar, spelling and punctuation. In spite of these handsome credentials it amounts to nothing more than mind-control and theological legalism. Every thought has been taken captive by men rather than Christ.

In this sense, people can depart from the faith and not even be aware of it.

Take time to read this small book on detecting spiritual imbalance in Christian groups. Read “A Larger Place” by Jeanne Hedrick by clicking the link below…    http://alargerplace.wordpress.com/

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1 Response to “A bondage of another kind”


  1. June 21, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    Great article Tony. For me, the biggest indicator of a health of a preacher or church is their desire for unity in the greater body. This involves humility, openness and the ability to minor in the minors.


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