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legalism vs. witness: moral claims in christian discipleship

It can be difficult to navigate the tension between the danger of legalism and raising the expectation of Christian discipleship to a high level.

There is no place for legalism in Christian discipleship. All of our kingdom-oriented action is enacted out of faithfulness and gratefulness on the basis of what has already been achieved in Christ. But of course none of this means there are no imperatives in Christian discipleship.

I know that personally I have been accused of pedalling legalism. As regular readers would be aware, I am passionate about and active in areas of social justice. At times I have offered prescriptions as to what I believe are just actions as we attempt to live in faithfulness to the gospel in the world. These prescriptions occasionally lead to accusations of legalism.

In saying this, I would wager that the same accusers often prescribe different standards of, say, sexual fidelity. Not that I am against fidelity (in fact I think it is quite revolutionary in our consumer culture!), but it does beg the question as to whether some would view such fidelity as a form of legalism.

Whose legalism? becomes a relevant question.

The Denial of St Peter by Gerard van Honthorst (c. 1623)

What, then, is legalism? Read the rest of this entry

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