Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pharisaical Christians vs. Anti-Pharisees

Pharisaical Christians vs. Anti-Pharisees

By Xion
01.10.09 AT 12:45 PM
http://online.worldmag.com/2009/01/09/the-church-of-you/#comment-386607

The Church of You can refer to two forms of popular Christianity. One sees God as a celestial daddy whose role is to solve YOUR problems and make YOU feel better. The other sees God as a task master and holiness as something to be achieved by following a long list of dos and don'ts.

It is possible to stray to the left and do whatever you want ignoring God. But what few people understand is that it is also possible to stray to the right, as the Pharisees did, exalting their own righteousness over that of Christ. They celebrate their own works and traditions and operate on a system of merit, not knowing that their own righteousness is as filthy rags.

Pharisaical Christians ignore the grace of Jesus Christ. They don't know that we are accepted by God not because of anything we do, but by what Christ has done. God favors us because of the work of his Son. We are no better than anyone else.

And so, Pharisaical Christians thinking they are holier than everyone else look down on sinners and other Christians who don't measure up to their own standards. These hypocrites don't even meet their own standards, but point the bony finger of accusation against others.

These people also worship at the Church of You, sanctification being all about them and their own holiness, not the holiness of Christ.

My Reply

01.10.09 AT 9:12 PM

Most of the contributors to the referenced thread would do well to ask themselves, What is the opposite of the thing I criticize, and am I doing it? The opposite of Calvinism, for example, says, I decide to be saved and I keep myself saved when I avoid unpardonable sin. The opposite of intellectualism says, I obey the experts in my denomination like a good soldier, or I ignore doctrine, just gimme that emotional high.

By asking myself such a question, I learned something important from Xion. Yes, I easily slip into wrong attitudes about my long list of dos and don'ts. (Note to self: Add "Reject long lists of dos and don'ts" to my long list of dos and don'ts.)

Yet, it remains that those lists stem from what God reveals about human un-holiness. For example, if fornication destroys holiness, then doesn't public attire that provokes sexual desire also erode holiness? In place of God's Word or centuries of application of God's commandments, I arbitrate right and wrong. So, if I burn my list of such dos and don'ts, how shall I emulate my holy Father?

You say you are saved by grace; but how will you prove it to me? How will you prove it to the lost person who just waits to spring the label of hypocrite upon you? How will you reassure yourself that it was a heart decision and not just an intellectual exercise?

The opposite of Pharisaism, toward which Xion leans in his criticism, easily leads to the fall of many. Xion should make the point, then, not that lists of dos and don'ts are "wrong;" but rather that the dos and don'ts form the vocabulary of love notes to God, written not in lip service, but in deeds.

Even people in the Church of Others can unwittingly attend the Church of You when service becomes a foundation for self-righteousness. Any strength and any pet peeve can tempt us to join the Church of You.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe everybody is saved. Didn't Jesus come to save the "world?" Didn't Jesus take the sins of the world on him at the cross? Paul says thru Adam came death (for all) conversely he states thru Christ comes salvation (for all). The Gospel is the good news. Is that good news that most of us are going to Hell? No the Good News is that Jesus died for our sins all of them even our sin of unbelief. So do I need to prove grace to you. No I don't. Look to Jesus let him prove it to you. But if he can't thats okay because he takes care of you anyway.

Richard said...

Jesus did not come to save the world out of context. For example, John 3:17 says,

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

Before we chalk one up for universalism, though, read on:

He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already.... (verse 18)

In this context, condemned already conveys that the final judgment has already been pronounced, and only conversion can extinguish a future in flames.

Our Western eyes easily overlook the meaning of world. Ethnocentrism has always tainted Judaism. To the Jews who heard Jesus' words, world clearly conveyed a revolutionary message that God meant the good news for all peoples alike and not for Israel alone.

I commend the big heart of those who want all to be ultimately reconciled to God, but I can only sympathize with their discomfort when they read verse 36:

He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.

In other words, the unbeliever continues in a default state of condemnation and, should he die in that state, shall not see life.

Similarly, universal reconciliation fails to deal honestly with revealed truth about the final judgment. For example, John 5:28-29:

...the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

Revelation 20:7-15 illustrates the above passage in detail. It leaves little room for thinking that unbelievers can bypass hell.

By the way, one might chase the tangent of how one gets one's name written in the book of life. The answer further undermines universal reconciliation.

Universal reconciliation starts with an unbalanced view of God's love, holiness, and justice, and reinterprets the Bible in ways that strain its obvious meaning.

I thought twice before writing this post. Was it a minor point, or worth discussion? Anonymous asked a critical question: What is the good news? All the above leads to this:

Before Christ's redemptive act, the News of the Day, Every Day, was nobody goes to heaven. We had 600-plus commandments to show us that we all sin. We had the blood of various animals to temporarily hide our sins. We had a promise that God would provide a perfect, permanent solution to our estrangement -- some day. So, no, "most of us are going to Hell" falls short of being either news or good.

The good news declares that God offers Himself Christ's sacrifice, and He offers us a free gift of redemption and reconciliation, one sufficient for all who will receive it (even a sinful gentile like me). The good news applies not to the world as a corporate entity; it applies to you who hear it, whatever your people.

Unfortunately, that part about "free gift" demands a follow-up question: What will you do with this news? Will you (the reader, in general) reject it (either actively or by default)? Will you insult the Giver by trying to earn His gift through good deeds and ceremonies? Or will you acknowledge your need and inability and receive the gift?

What will you do?