The New Legalism?

My colleague Anthony Bradley and I have offices a few doors down from each other. One of the courses he teaches is a first-year worldview course in which students spend a lot of time talking about the world around us and examining their own assumptions about what it is we’re doing here. One of mine is a sophomore-level course called Principles of Cultural Interpretation, in which we go through three books carefully (James K.A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom, Andy Crouch’s Culture Making, and James Davison Hunter’s To Change the World) to talk about culture and human nature and power and how the world changes.

The two courses build on each other nicely (students in mine often cite books from his in their papers), and we often talk to one another outside of class about trends and ideas we see that crop up in the classes. One thing we’ve talked about is the problems our students encounter when they’ve been groomed their whole lives to believe they must do something extraordinary in order to be faithful.

So it was with no surprise that I saw Tony’s tweet of a few weeks ago and subsequent blog post about the dangers of what he calls the “new legalism.” I was a little surprised by the subsequent firestorm it produced on the internet, and even found myself fielding some emails from people who were confused about why we would be discouraging students from living “missionally” (which, of course, isn’t quite the point).

All that to say: Bob Robinson has done a terrific job at the High Calling of fleshing out and expanding the ideas, and his piece is well worth a read, even if you aren’t sure what all the fuss is about!


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