Legalism vs liberalism which is worse?

Legalism is possibly more dangerous than liberalism, so fight for grace! Grace is absolutely foundational to the Christian walk, and should be a massive emphasis for us, as anybody who has been around this site for a long time, or for that matter a church belonging to the family of churches I am glad to be a part of, will most likely realize.  The Christian’s relationship to law and grace has been emphasized thanks to the ministry of Martyn Lloyd-Jones who’s excellent work on Romans impacted so many, including the young Terry Virgo who then devoted his life to building churches that are filled with grace.  We are fools if we think that we know it all, however, and someone once said, “inside every person of grace is a legalist trying to get out.”  As a result of this it does our souls good to be confronted regularly by teaching on legalism.  Thus, when I came across this fantastic post on the dangers of legalism by Micah Fries I was thrilled.  Here are some excerpts to whet your appetite:

  • “When I grew up, the great enemy of the gospel was almost always known as “liberalism”, or possibly, “moderate theology”. Today, however, it seems that we must equally be on guard against a different enemy. This new enemy is just as old as the first, but it is often more difficult to spot. Of course, it would be the enemy of legalism. These two polar opposites of liberalism and legalism both stand apart from each other, in a sense, but in a very real way, they both accomplish the same goal; that of undermining God’s word.
  • While liberalism claims that scripture says too much, legalism claims that scripture does not say enough”
  • “Liberalism is often easy to spot, and . . .is easy to ridicule. Legalism is not nearly so easy to highlight, and often seems to find a more comfortable home amongst us.”
  • “Legalism is a subtle, creeping cancer that masquerades as holiness”
  • “A certain mark of legalism is a capacity to recognize others’ sins while failing to see our own.”
  • legalism worries more about “its reputation” than it worries about Jesus’ reputation”

READ THE REST and Follow Micah Fries on Twitter.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he seves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso.

Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway.

Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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  • Paul

    I’m not convinced these are two separate groups/types of people.

    What were the pharisees? Legalists (they tithed spices) or liberals (they taught that you could hate your enemy, dishonour your parents etc.). They had really replaced God’s law with their own law.

    Legalists today can be found in many forms. Sure, there are mega-conservative ‘thou shalt not look upon thy neighbour’s beer” types – but then lots of so-called liberals can be just as legalist with their own rules. People who harp on about free grace and hate ‘legalism’ will often have their own alternative rules (e.g. ‘thou shalt buy fair trade’, ‘thou shalt not talk about abortion in church’ ‘thou shalt not criticise other peoples’ Church practices no matter how Biblically warranted’ and ‘if you don’t mention penal substitution you haven’t preached the gospel’).

    I’m beginning to be convinced that nowadays it’s more a case of ‘whose law?’ rather than ‘law or no law?’


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