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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

younger than the happy meal? evangelicals, abortion and ahistoricism

An interesting and revealing article appeared on a Patheos blog some days ago claiming that the current and standard Evangelical view on abortion, that human life unquestioningly begins at conception, can in fact be traced to a point no less recently than 30 years ago.

In his post, entitled The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal, Fred Clark shows quite convincingly that the contemporary black-and-white approach to abortion, an approach that has been taken for granted by many as simply biblical, was not in fact the view of conservative Evangelicals 30 years ago. Read the rest of this entry

what is “justice”? a christian(‘s) perspective

Justice is a slippery term.

It can be used, from one point of view or another, to describe almost any conclusion regarding moral rightness. How the scales of justice are balanced often depends on the weights placed upon them, and this is in most ways a subjective affair. These weights may come in the form of such concepts as fairness, retribution, restoration and redistribution, or more cynically in realities such as greed and self-interest.

I cannot hope to outline a comprehensive or even convincing treatise of justice in this post, though sharing a few thoughts may be in order.

From a Christian perspective justice finds its definitive bearing in God. How to understand God is, however, not an easy task given both his transcendence and our interpretative horizons and limits.

Which commands of God are just? All of them? If so is a directive to genocide, such as those in the Old Testament, to be considered just? Does our ability as humans to obey such commands affect what is commanded of us by God? Read the rest of this entry

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