January 2, 2010 by Stacy McDonald

Legalist Hunters and the Hypocrisy that Empowers Them

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Not sure where to start with this post. Something has been bothering me for a while; and, while I’m tempted to just let it spill out as it comes, it’s such an important topic, I’m hesitant. So maybe I’ll just begin with a little brainstorming and create a “real” post later.

While I agree that legalism is a dangerous problem in the Church, most of the complaints I hear of late have more to do with reactionism than they do true legalism. Entire blogs are set up “warning” other Christians how they may spot legalistic churches or groups, or even how to judge whether or not a friend is a legalist. Most of their warnings aren’t based on Scripture or reason; most of their complaints are based upon their personal testimonies or experiences from when they, themselves, were legalists.

To me, that’s the most disturbing part. Since when are we called to superimpose our own past sins or judgmental attitudes on others? If you were a legalist at some point in your life, and thought that anyone who (insert extra-biblical teaching here) was sinning, then own your own sin; but, don’t get it in your head that all your brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to “look like you did” on the outside have the same sinful mindset on the inside!

Another related issue is idolatry. We focus on someone we “think” has it all together and we follow them, seeking to live like they do. Rather than study for ourselves and stand firm in what we believe, we often blindly embrace someone else’s convictions. Then, since the convictions weren’t our own to begin with, we’ll waver and eventually give up in despair; because really, we weren’t truly obeying God; we were just going through the motions. The result is that we blame the one we’ve been blindly “following.” We blame our idol for our idolatry.

We must know what we believe and why. We must not follow anyone but Jesus. God is a jealous God and He wants our unrivaled worship, devotion, and love.

Legalism is real; and it is ugly. But if you are guilty of it, why not spend your time repenting, rather than reporting?

Since these are somewhat rambling thoughts, I’d love to hear your input.

To finish these thoughts, read Legalism: Yours, Mine, and Ours here.



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81 Responses to “Legalist Hunters and the Hypocrisy that Empowers Them”

  1. Thursday's Child says:

    I agree with you and look forward to reading more.

  2. Patty says:

    Thanks for beginning this conversation. I hear the word "legalism" bandied about as a catch-all phrase. Once something is dubbed 'legalism', it is beyond scrutiny. What might be helpful is a definition of legalism.

  3. Happy Hermit (happilyhiddenhermit@gmail.com) says:

    I love this , sometimes it really bothers me when people get angry that I don't embrace someone else's calling. I have my own.

  4. Civilla says:

    I think today we have confused legalism with personal holiness. We need personal holiness. But we've taken personal holiness and called it legalism and said it is wrong.

    You are right, sometimes people project their past sins on other people who may not be that way at all.

    Overall, I agree with you, Stacy, and we should not blame our idols for our idolatry, however, sometimes people in control take advantage of those who are weak like this (in looking to idols). They actually encourage the idolatry because they like the attention and control. If we are in a leadership position, we need to make sure that we don't encourage others to idolize us, because if we do, then we play a part in their sin.

    There are those (like cult leaders) who take advantage of the unsuspecting who may be young or naive, maybe not having grown up knowing the Bible, or are going through a bad time and are vulnerable, and that is victimization.

    I believe God will judge these leaders for that; however, we all need to take care that we don't become easy victims of these people, by guarding our hearts and learning to have our own relationship with the Lord rather than looking to people to be God for us and idolozing them.

    There is always somebody out there ready to take advantage, and we don't need to be their victims. Sometimes other people need to step in and rescue these victims, who have lost control and are possibly brainwashed.

    What I'm trying to say is that victims sometimes play a part in their own victimization, but that doesn't mean that the victimizer is guiltless.

    We all need to be aware of who we are listening to. There are spiritual predators out there. Don't become their victims. If you are going through a hard time when you are weak, you need to take special precautions and get close to the Lord for help so that these people don't take advantage of you. Don't aid and abet these people in their victimization. You do have a responsibility there.

  5. J & A says:

    I think this post is important for your readership, especially, to hear. I include myself among them, of course, but I tend to be the minority on your blog as I don't always agree with you 100% of the time. Many (most?) of your readers do. I think it is good for them to hear straight from you that following a person (or idea) somewhat blindly because their lifestyle, marriage, personal dogma or faith looks 'ideal' or 'perfect' is not at all what Christ expects or calls us to do. You have a very devoted readership (rightly so) but I do believe many of them are a little myopic at times.

    Of course, I am too – all part of the whole 'sinner' package. ;-) Regardless, this was a good post, and one I heartily appreciate. If you ever organize your thoughts on this into a longer post, I'd be definitely interested in your perspective.

    One more point: I think the term 'legalism' is VASTLY overused in the modern Protestant (Reformed?) churches…it has such a stigma that people and congregations go to such lengths to not only avoid it but to call it out at every turn. Maybe the energy could be better used focusing on how to make your OWN relationship with Christ a stronger one and a brighter light to those around you.

    (I use 'you' in the general sense, not the specific.)

  6. Meg says:

    We are such weak creatures, we actually seek out "religion" rather than a relationship with the Living God. Its easier for us to follow man-made rules than to seek God for our steps. We just want to know what is expected of us and we will do it, rather than to take the time to seek God's will in His Word, pray for insight and listen to His leading. We are insecure, wondering if we really hear His voice because we are(sadly)unaccustomed to doing this. We are weak, but He is gracious and patient. Christ is our example, our faith must be ruled by love…not finger-pointing. Thank you Stacy!

  7. Ginger says:

    How very true! When we see others that do the same things we did when we were legalistic, we assume they have the same proud heart we did. I think that's called judgment. ;)
    And blaming the idol for our idolatry– those are wise words!!

    Thanks much for bringing this to light. Praying that God will use it to continue speaking to me.

  8. Carrie says:

    Stacy,
    I am not quite sure where you are going with this, but one thing that has become an issue with my circle of friends is being called legalistic because we want to protect our children from blah, blah, blah…and I am finding that there may be a group out there who doesn't want to take the time and discipline in their own lives that it takes to do certain things with their life or in their children's lives so the families who do are labeled legalistic and God is all about Grace and I am going to show grace and mercy and look at me, I had bad parents and God did a work in me and on and on it goes trying to justify why they will not do such and such and why the others are legalistic and trying to impose harsh rules on them, etc…
    (and maybe this should not be posted….some of my friends read this blog…but it TRULY IS a problem with calling things legalistic that are commands of God or just a good idea….
    I cannot wait to read your post when it is done.
    Carrie

  9. Mrs. Dole says:

    Great post Stacy! As I read, I was reminded of the first chapter of Isaiah, where Israel is *doing* the things that the Lord has commanded, but because her heart is far from Him, He is angered at her.

    I think that sometimes we get so busy in the *doing* that we forget about *being*. I need to be a follower ~ of Christ, not of a man or a woman. I need to do the things I do out of the right motivation with a heart towards God, and not be satisfied with those things that I do. I do need to be obedient to the Word ~ but if that obedience comes at the price of forgetting the One to whom I am being obedient, then it is a stench to Him.

    I know that within my own experience, when someone lays that label on someone else, it is often because the one labeling is convicted by the other's behavior. My hope, my prayer is always that I would be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's prompting in my life and if I find something someone else is doing convicting, I would seek the Lord and see what He would have me change in my own life, instead of setting my heels and labeling a brother or sister in Christ.

    That we would all be like Mary and just sit at His feet and soak up His teaching ~ our lives would reflect that, and perhaps we would be much less likely to *be* a legalist, or to condemn someone else as one.

  10. Jennifer says:

    Wonderfully said, Civilla and J& many need your clear-sight. Your warnings are good, Stacy; I've personally seen a large legalistic group idolized and put up high, with each member acting as a judge of masses.

  11. Mrs.L says:

    Hi Stacy,

    We live in California and the prevalent problem in the church is definitely antinomianism (anti law) not legalism. It is common for many churches to preach the benefit of justification and ignore the other important benefit we receive in Christ which is sanctification. Our redemption in Christ includes both of these blessings. Likewise many would only recognize the pedagogical use of the moral law (convicting and driving us to Christ) and not the third use of the law (restraining sin and conforming us to Christ) as stressed by Calvin and the WCF. This misunderstanding of how God uses His holy law by the power of the His Spirit brings many unwarranted charges of legalism from a paradigm that misconstrues scripture in its entirety. It is not uncommon to know professing Christians that not only condone their daughter sleeping with her boyfriend but also let it go on in their own home. The fundamentalist legalism of the Appalachia, the Southern United States and parts of the Midwest is rarely seen in California, in fact, just saying the word sin brings charges of legalism. Many in the
    church confuse legalism which has to do with endeavouring to earn our Justification before God through our good works as well as adding man-made rules and regulations to God's revealed Word ….with the Christian's duty and responsibility to obey God's holy law by the power of the Spirit, which we are commanded to do in Scripture ( Philippians 2:12-13, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Psalm 119:1-6, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Galations 5:14-23, Matthew 19:17).

    Love in Christ,
    Pam Leding

  12. Stacy McDonald says:

    Jennifer, yes, legalism is a real problem in the Church, simply because we're all sinners; but, that's not really what this note is about. Here I'm referring to folks who think they know who is and who isn't a legalist (people they don't even know – and surely don't know their hearts) because of how they "think" others look or live. Huge presumptions are made. Because of their own past legalism (or idolatry) they assume the same sins in others and label their brothers and sisters.

    I'm considered a legalist by some and a libertine by others. And folks on both sides have shunned or slandered me at various times in my life. All I can do is serve my Lord in whatever way He enables me and forget about what man thinks. (Psalm 56:11)

    Civilla, you are right. There will always be Tyrants, false teachers, and cult leaders. Jesus warned us of that. But the answer isn't to use speculation or exaggeration to rant about what is "probably" motivating someone. The answer is to warn the flock to follow God and not man – to know that false teachers exist and be wary.

    "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16)

    I'm not advocating blaming "victims," (though I admit I hate that label) but, I am all for teaching and equipping Believers to take personal responsibility. Again, there will ALWAYS be wolves. Part of the problem I see is that many Christians are scattered – outside of a sound church with faithful elders to shepherd them. They become lost in a sea of strange voices.

    "That we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:14-16)

  13. Stacy McDonald says:

    EXCELLENT comment, Pam! Thank you!

  14. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Stacy, this is a very important subject. Thank you for being brave enough to tackle it. I like the title of your blog post. I, too, have noticed the hypocrisy of some of the "legalistic hunters."
    I have also noticed my own hypocrisy!

    Yet, as you say, legalism is and always has been a problem among Christians.

    I find your writings to be helpful for all Christian women, and surprisingly non-judgmental and gracious – given what some have said about you!

    I enjoy your blog, Stacy. It is beautiful. Don't let the "hypocrisy hunters" get you down or silence you.

    God bless you and your loved ones in this new year and always,

    Mrs. Webfoot

  15. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Stacy said:
    I'm considered a legalist by some and a libertine by others. And folks on both sides have shunned or slandered me at various times in my life. All I can do is serve my Lord in whatever way He enables me and forget about what man thinks. (Psalm 56:11)>>>>>

    Stacy, I can really relate to what you say here. Yes!

  16. Jennifer says:

    "Here I'm referring to folks who think they know who is and who isn't a legalist"

    Yes, and the people I mentioned before both do this and are legalists themselves, ironic since they claim to be Calvinists. Their hearts are all over their sites and words.

  17. Stacy McDonald says:

    Jennifer,

    I say this in all gentleness – what you are doing here is exactly what I'm talking about. Though you're not naming names, you're still making sweeping statements. Why not simply share how God has revealed an area of legalism in your own life? Or perhaps share why a particular teaching is or can be legalistic. Why point fingers at people, making accusations that are impossible to prove without ascribing false motives?

    You said, "Yes, and the people I mentioned before both do this and are legalists themselves…"

    You can't even say this without being guilty of what you accuse "them" of being!

    And I'm confused by your statement here, "Ironic since they claim to be Calvinists…"

    What does any of this have to do with whether or not they are Calvinists?

    You also said, "Stacy; I've personally seen a large legalistic group idolized and put up high…"

    Even if that is true, and your accusations of legalism are correct, why not allow the false teaching to speak for itself – telling others why ___ is legalism? Why not encourage others to look to God and not man? This would be more profitable and in line with 1 Cor. 13. Our goal must be to win those in error, in LOVE. Speak the truth; but, speak it in love.

    "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

    "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:1-6, NKJV)

  18. Jennifer says:

    "You can't even say this without being guilty of what you accuse "them" of being!"

    Yes, I can. I've seen their teachings firsthand, from their own lips, and the broken lives it's caused. And since I am not naming names, I don't see how you can say I'm pointing fingers. Avoiding judgement doesn't mean we ignore the truth; you spoke of legalism, I merely pointed out that I've seen it. How can you know my statements are sweeping and my motives are legalistic rather than honest when you don't even know what/who I'm speaking of? Are you yourself trying to ascribe a motive to my heart, which you cannot see? Your defense is rather sudden.

    "Or perhaps share why a particular teaching is or can be legalistic."

    Works above faith-that's legalistic. And that's what they teach, which is why it's ironic that they're Calvinists: they appear to think God needs their help by giving everyone a list of how to live.

    "why not allow the false teaching to speak for itself – telling others why ___ is legalism?"

    For the most part I do, though many tentatively stepping towards this group are deceived by them. The Bible says to call out false teachings and those who spread them deliberately receive very harsh, not gentle, treatment. Love is not always gentle, and neither is God.

    "making accusations that are impossible to prove without ascribing false motives?"

    That doesn't even make sense to me. The "accusations" are very easy to prove and how, again, can you say the motives are false when you don't know who I speak of? I don't know what resides in their hearts, but I know their actions, which are quite obvious.

  19. Civilla says:

    I think it is an astute observation that if perhaps a person has been very legalistic themselves, they can inadvertently project that onto others who are simply trying to live a holy life. I never thought about it that way.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Pardon if my last post sounded aggressive. I have no doubt at all that your own motives are pure and honest, Stacy; I just found that you were mistaken about mine. Legalism isn't usually one of my weaknesses, but I try hard to keep my legs from being tangled in the strands of pride. When I'm horrified by one's behavior, it's easy for that feeling to be followed by, "Thank God I'M not like…" As it is, God moved me today to edit something I wrote three years ago in public; it had to do with blatantly bad doctrine, but nevertheless my attitude and certain choice of words in my criticism were not good.

  21. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Jennifer:
    For the most part I do, though many tentatively stepping towards this group are deceived by them. >>>>

    Jennifer, if this "group" is so dangerous, and if you really love God's people, you need to say what group it is.

    Otherwise, you are just expressing your personal opinions about the beliefs of others, which you are free to do, of course.

    You write well, Jennifer, but at times its a bit over the top. I'm glad that you are concerned that some of us might fall victim to some dangerous group of "spooks" out there, but most of us are not as dumb as we look.

    Most of us do have some discernment skills that God has helped us hone. Most of us have been disciplined by Him from time to time. He doesn't allow those idols in our lives to go unchallenged.

    Your concern is largely unfounded, but I appreciate your passion.

  22. Stacy McDonald says:

    Ladies, can we get back on topic? This post was not an invitation to point out groups who we believe are legalistic – in some ways, just the opposite.

    Jennifer, I appreciate your apology and accept it, wholeheartedly. You are a sweet girl and I look forward to getting to know you better.

    Please know I was not judging your motives, only pointing out what I saw as an inconsistency. But perhaps I was mistaken and you meant something else.

    You are right; you have not named anyone. And I appreciate that. Let's just pray for those who are entangled in legalism, and teach the Truth to those who are willing to listen.

  23. Jennifer says:

    Mrs. Webfoot, I am not speaking of spooks, nor did I say anyone was dumb (none of you LOOK dumb, either!). Thank you for your compliments, you are kind, but I think you misunderstood me. Sorry if you thought I was indicating that anyone here, or any victims of deception at all for that matter, are inferior in intelligence. I've been one myself.

    Stacy, thank you for your gracious understanding and patience. I appreciate your Christian spirit a lot. Apologies for any topic derailment! May God grant me the heart to teach the truth as He wishes me to.

  24. A Country Helpmeet says:

    What bothers me on this issue, is that many freinds and fmaily in "my" circle acuse me of being Legalistic because I wear skirts and take the Word of God Literally.

    Legalism is simply "adding" to God's word. Men whom add their own laws around the scriptures. As long as we follow the Word of God as He commands, that is all that matters! Not what those others may or may not think. I simply tell myself to pray for them.

  25. BassoonJedi says:

    Stacy, I feel that God's Spirit must have prompted you to write on this. I have been reeling at the discovery of information on other blogs out there whose main purposes are to discredit you (and others like you). The information posted on their blogs… let's just say it had me wondering. I’m literally shocked at the number of boards/blogs whose sole purpose is to hunt down information on Christian sites so that they can mock it or dig up dirty laundry. That anyone would be so intent on actively pursuing such deeply disturbs me.

    When I stumbbled upon your blog, I was curious, puzzled, and intrigued. At first I scoffed but I kept reading. I am a highly educated woman who has served in the military, taught at university level, and published several books and articles. I am divorced and remarried with children.

    I sent you an e-mail then, asking a lot of blunt questions. You responded graciously and sent me a copy of your book. I read it. I didn't and probably don't agree with all the ideas in that book. However, some thoughts are still with me.

    One: all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial. Some of your detractors have made the point that, at times in history, women HAD to work to keep their families alive, therefore to elevate keepers at home is fallacious. Well, one may point out that at times, women had to be part of a polygamist society. Just because something is necessary at one point due to the evil intentions of others doesn't mean that it is prescriptive or God's highest ideal for all time. God set forth rules about how to treat slaves, too. I don't believe, Stacy, that you are trying to tell women who work outside the home that they are sinning.

    Two: A woman who makes the choice to stay at home needs encouragement. Supposedly your detractors have "searched the internet for evidence" to support "your" claim that being a housewife is not a profession held in high esteem, but found none. Ahem… really, now.
    At any rate, whether or not one agrees with that statement, it is certainly evident that many housewives need a sense of purpose and direction. Too many women waste this opportunity to bless others with the time and resources at their disposal if they choose to stay at home. Too many women become depressed from their own failure to interact with others or pursue noble uses of their time. Stay-at-home women can fail to understand that they can treat this time as God intends ALL OF US to use our time… for HIS glory. For those who say "God gave me the talent to run a business, therefore He expects me to use it," I still assert that this is for the ultimate end of glorifying HIM, not yourself.

    Stacy, I do believe (and I say this with good intentions towards you) that your standards are much higher than most. My interpretation of your comments today is that you claim whether or not this is good or bad depends on your heart attitude towards God… and that's between Him and you. I would agree that this is how all of us should approach our own standards. It is the best thing we can assume about other people's motives when we see that they hold a standard that is different from our own.

    At any rate, I'm delighted to see that you are willing to discuss this issue. May God give you His grace in abundance.

  26. L.H. says:

    I agree with many of the comments that legalism is a problem. Nevertheless, I think that Pam Leding brought up a great point when she pointed out that many people are simply uncomfortable with the word "sin" in general.

    Many feel that God is merciful and because of his mercy, we can live however we want to live. Some think that because we have a sinful nature, it is impossible to overcome a life of practicing sin all the time.

    But, I say, what about Romans 6:1-2 which says,

    "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?" (Rom 6:1-2).

    God does want us to walk in holiness, not by our own power, but his power.

    I agree that its strange how people think they can know another persons heart in order to decide if they are legalistic or not.

  27. Mrs A says:

    Thank you for your wonderful post. I believe there is a difference between following God's commandments and rules set out for our benefit and judgement of others. We are not to judge others but judge our own lives by His Word. If that is what is meant by legalism, praise God :) Wonderful post and lots to think of, thank you so much!

  28. Civilla says:

    I wasn't aware of the fact that there are blogs in existence just to spot legalism. My comments were more along the lines of being aware of true cult leaders.

    As to naming names, Paul came out and named names of false teachers and defectors from the Christian faith (Alexander and Hymanaeus, Demitrius, to name a few that I can think of off the top of my head), so I don't think it is always wrong to name names if you are truly trying to protect people from cult leaders or false teachers.

    I'm more wary of naming names because I don't want to get into trouble or just slander people. I was told that I should have named the name of a borderline cult that I blogged about, of which I was a member as a young person, but didn't want to do it, because I think that group meant well, you know? Plus, I wasn't perfect, either. And, that group really changed for the better over the years, from what I've heard. So, I don't like to rush into naming names when it comes to things like this.

    But, yes, I think there is a time to name names if TRUE HARM is being done to people, like by a cult leader.

  29. Step says:

    I've been mulling this post over for a bit, went to church today, picked up our January newsletter and read this John Calvin quote from it…

    "This is how we can distinguish true religion from superstition: when the Word of God directs us, there is true religion; but when each man follows his own opinion, or when men join together to follow an opinion they hold in common, the result is always concocted superstition."

    I could be way off base, but this quote spoke to me about your post here. There is only one way to know God's will and that's receiving God's Word through faith alone. Emulating people whom you perceive (through blogs or in person) have it all figured out won't work because this needs to be a personal, individual journey.

    Anyway, looking forward to your follow up post to see if I'm on the right path.

  30. Elizabeth says:

    Well said Stacey! I have been called a legalist on more than one occassion simply because I believe in God controlling my family size. Because some do this in a legalistic manner, that must mean that we do to…or that we only do it because our fringe friends do. I can't convince anyone it seems that this is a personal conviction of ours directly from God.
    It is so easy for us to idolize others, and believe that they have it altogether. It is a fine balance between wanting to emulate someone elses character (which is why we read missionary stories, and read about historical figures with Godly character, to our children), and idolizing a person, putting them higher than God himself. I don't think it's wrong to try to emulate what we see as Godly character, but only if we are living out our own genuine convictions from the Holy Spirit, and are not putting the people we want to emulate on a pedastal where we perceive them to be perfect. People will always let us down with their sin…God never will.
    Wonderful thoughts that need to remembered by us women in particular Stacey! Thanks for the reminder!

  31. Elizabeth says:

    Don't we applaud those who share testimonies about coming to faith in Christ? Why not give ear to those who testify to deliverance from the bondage of legalism, too?

    Indeed, "reporting legalism" may be a form of repentance; a way to warn others against what we ourselves have experienced.

    Maybe we don't like *how* they say it. But an angry tone usually hides legitimate hurt. I actually find it refreshing to read the raw, honest stories of folks who have been hurt by legalistic churches.

    It helps me identify the ways I've been hurt and it compels me to seek healing.

    I think your dismissal of these supposedly "hypocrisy empowered" blogs is hypocritical itself; especially considering that your 'Passionate Housewives' book reports and seeks to correct the lies of feminism.

    Why not just repent of the lies of feminism instead of reporting on them?

  32. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Jennifer:
    Mrs. Webfoot, I am not speaking of spooks, nor did I say anyone was dumb (none of you LOOK dumb, either!). >>>>

    I don't know, Jennifer. Have you seen my photo? I accept your clarifications. Thanks.

    Take care, okay?

    Civilla:
    But, yes, I think there is a time to name names if TRUE HARM is being done to people, like by a cult leader.>>>>

    I can kind of see what you mean, and agree somewhat, but not fully.

    It depends. If the name is named and then sound reasons and good Biblical arguments for rejecting their teachings are given, then that might be good. It's a double edged sword, though. It can cut both ways.

    Some who are strong on apologetics or exposing cults may not be willing to have their own teachings, presuppositions, and ministries put under the same microscope that they put others under. That's the danger, it seems to me.

    Sometimes it is a risk that needs to be taken when we're talking about Jehovah's Witnesses or Liberation Theology. It's a hard call to make.

  33. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Welcome to my blog. First, let me remind you that this post wasn't an admonition for anyone to keep silent about their own testimony. Quite the opposite. If you're going to discuss legalism, discuss your own experience, and share how God delivered you; but, don't make speculations about others.

    If I see a certain teaching that is in error (or legalistic), then I should point out that error! But, I must not make sweeping statements about groups or people, and judge their motives. We should always assume the best motives in others. Make sense?

  34. Blossom says:

    Hello Stacey. I'm a fairly new reader of you blog and am eagerly waiting for my copy of "Desperate Housewives" to arrive in the mail :o)

    I read an excellent definition of legalism today and remembered it while reading you post. It's from James MacDonald of Harvest Baptist Church "Legalism is when we judge another's spirituality based on manmade rules."

    My mother and I were discussing a similar issue to what you address in your post, over tea yesterday. It seems that someone has a bad experience with a friend/teacher/member of a certain Christian group and then proceed to paint the entire group with the same brush. Plus now they have the wonderful internet to spread their story in an effort to "help" others.

    My husband and I had an awful experience with an abusive pastor several years ago. It took some time and distance to realise that just because this ONE man had done/said terrible things this did not mean that the entire denomination/church/theology was wrong or bad. In fact, quite the opposite. One bad apple does not spoil the whole bunch!

  35. Blossom says:

    Whoops! I meant the "Passionate Housewives Desperate for God" book. Embarrassing mistake!

  36. Blossom says:

    Hello Stacey. I'm a fairly new reader of you blog and am eagerly waiting for my copy of "Desperate Housewives" to arrive in the mail :o)

    I read an excellent definition of legalism today and remembered it while reading you post. It's from James MacDonald of Harvest Baptist Church "Legalism is when we judge another's spirituality based on manmade rules."

    My mother and I were discussing a similar issue to what you address in your post, over tea yesterday. It seems that someone has a bad experience with a friend/teacher/member of a certain Christian group and then proceed to paint the entire group with the same brush. Plus now they have the wonderful internet to spread their story in an effort to "help" others.

    My husband and I had an awful experience with an abusive pastor several years ago. It took some time and distance to realise that just because this ONE man had done/said terrible things this did not mean that the entire denomination/church/theology was wrong or bad. In fact, quite the opposite. One bad apple does not spoil the whole bunch!

  37. Jennifer says:

    "I don't know, Jennifer. Have you seen my photo?"

    Now that's just mean, it was a nice photo :) Thanks, you take care too.

    Blossom, I think you'll love Passionate Housewives :) Don't worry about your typing mistake, I think it's sometimes hard not to make with the notorious TV show we've all heard of, which tangles the image of wives as well as the different titles about them. Still, seeing your typo and Webfoot's comment (above) together had me biting my collar to keep from laughing :P No offense! Nice light end to a long day.

  38. a humble servant says:

    Good discussion.
    I think a definition though is in order to make sure that when one person says 'legalism' the other person, at least here, understands that meaning.
    I think the word itself is most often used wrongly.
    First of all, this word is not in the Bible, though Paul refers to the concept.
    But his definition is very different than what anyone here seems to be referring to. Thus the word/concept itself (legalism) has been hijacked.
    So, to start over, legalism is trusting in one's works (obedience to God's laws) for salvation.
    Paul warns the churches whom he is writing to in the New Testament to beware of adding to the gospel (free gift!) with laws, such as circumcision, dietary laws, ten commandments, etc.
    Those who are called Judaizers were going after Paul as he went throughout the Gentile world telling newly converted Gentile believers that now they also had to adhere to all these Jewish laws to be truly saved.
    I am guessing we all would (Calvinists, Presbyterians, Baptists, etc) say that we agree in that regard.
    Salvation is free. It is all God. Hurrah!
    So,then, where does all this 'legalism' stuff come in for our purposes today.
    Apparently there are many 'gray' areas that God through Paul addresses in Romans 14 where he says that we need to each seek Him and do what our consciences tell us to do….in the instances that Paul points out, it refers to those who had a conviction that they should not eat foods that had been sacrificed to idols while others were 'freed up' to do so.
    Paul actually says plainly that it is OK to eat the meat. But he goes on to say that if you are with brethren who are convicted about such, don't eat. Don' t try to coerce them into seeing the 'light' that they are free to eat it.
    Instead, he says to bear with them in love. He actually says that those who are more 'freed up' are actually, in this case, seen as 'the stronger' one who needs to 'bear with ' the weaker ones in these 'gray' matters.
    Now I know some here might say that family size and modest dress are 'clearly taught' and others will say they are 'gray areas'.
    I still think the principal is valid here. Each must do what he/she is convinced is 'right' in their own minds and bear with those who do not agree.
    Period.
    If you really do think that someone is in sin in a particular area, you are to go to that person with the word and confront them in love. (Gal 6, Matt 18, etc)
    Paul ends Romans 14 with a good motto for all of us…"Anything not done in faith is sin."
    That is an attitude of the heart.
    Each of our hearts.
    Individually before God.
    That's it!
    I thank God alot that Romans 14 is there….to instruct us how to handle these issues amongst ourselves in brotherly love, preferring others over ourselves.
    This is the law of love.
    The greatest command and the one that sums up all others.
    God made it so simple!
    And His commands are not burdensome.
    Love Him! Love others! Amen.
    For the Kingdom,
    For the Restoration of all things.
    Amen

    Sincerely,
    Mrs. RBC

  39. Elizabeth says:

    Stacey: thanks for the clarification. I'm relieved to see that you're not attempting to silence voices of dissent–that was the initial impression I got from your post.

    And while I agree that we ought not attribute malicious motive via speculation, I still think there's a difference between unfair generalizations and pointing out: "it walks like a duck, it talks like a duck, maybe it is a duck."

    I mean, I'm gonna assume the best. But if it goes "QUACK!" I'm also gonna check for webbed feet. :)

  40. Civilla says:

    Mrs. Webfoot, yes, I agree with you: it is a hard call to make.

  41. Civilla says:

    I bought Passionate Housewives Desperate for God and really liked it.

  42. Lacey says:

    I'm sorry, I've tried to read and understand everything that has been written in the post and in comments, but I don't understand, in the next post could you please be more specific, I don't understand the topic but want to.

    Thanks,
    Lacey

  43. Jennifer says:

    Exactly, Elizabeth. Some quacks are deafening :)

  44. Civilla says:

    Since you asked for our input, Stacy, and we're batting ideas around, I think Elizabeth made a good point. We do rejoice when somebody comes out of abusive legalism and gives their testimony. It is natural then that they should warn others of legalism.

    She made a good point about how if we are delivered from feminism, shouldn't we just repent of it, and not go on about how wrong it is?

    I just thought that was a good point. Of course we don't do that. We repent of the feminism and then go on and warn others, even sometimes naming names of famous feminists who have, in our opinion, had a negative effect on women and men.

  45. Alison says:

    A while back when I was writing an article I looked up what a legalist was and wrote the following conclusion and comment.
    * The legalist is one who creates laws and rules foreign to Scripture by which he hopes to bind the consciences of men. Alternatively, he is that individual who teaches that one's entrance to Heaven depends on a certain code of conduct. It is indeed possible to be legalistic in all areas of life and is something we must guard against. Although we do need to watch we are not proud or haughty, many are so concerned with what man thinks that they avoid honouring the Lord in His requirements for
    fear of appearing legalistic. We need to search God's Word to live as He would have us live and when convicted, not fear mans accusations of legalism or try to force others to do or not do, something that the Lord has revealed to us and not them – for we all grow spiritually at different rates, in different areas, at different times. *

    Even though I wrote that based on what I had read about it, I still struggle to comprehend it properly and get my head around the implications. I am hoping this will help towards working out a definition
    so we all understand each other on this topic.
    In His service,
    Mrs Bart

  46. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Civilla:
    We repent of the feminism and then go on and warn others, even sometimes naming names of famous feminists who have, in our opinion, had a negative effect on women and men.>>>>

    I think that you make some good observations. Thank you.

    For me, it is clear that even Christian feminists are moving in a certain direction and are on what some call a "slippery slope."

    However, I would be wrong to say that every egalitarian has embraced homosexual marriage, for example.

    I would be wrong, too, to say that every egalitarian is as extreme as their apologists are.

    Still, we can point out where others have ended up by following those teachings.

    Maybe it will keep some from embracing the most extreme aspects of Christian feminism. Maybe it will make some analyze their presuppositions at the very least.

    Maybe it will make all of us dig deeper in the Word and to draw closer to Christ.

    Maybe not, but maybe.

    So, I think that personal testimonies have their place, if we don't make our own experiences normative or authoritative. That is the danger. When we make our testimonies authoritative, then we are actually drawing attention to ourselves and away from God and His Word. We are also in danger of making false assumptions about others based on our own experiences.

    Good stuff all around.

  47. Civilla says:

    Yes, all good points, Mrs. Webfoot.

  48. Jennifer says:

    Make sure, too, that you don't confuse egalitarians with feminists; I've learned from research and experience that they're far from the same, contrary to popular belief. I no longer call myself a feminist at all, even though I agree with all the first-waves, because the word is so confused and jaded and really quite different from the devout people I know.

  49. Civilla says:

    Something in us humans makes us want to idolize people. We put them on pedestals and then when we find out they are only human, we are disappointed and angry. We need to guard against this. Most of the time, these "idols" do not encourage this idolatry, but sometimes they do.

    As far as the legalism goes, no, you shouldn't assume that people who do or not do thus-and-so are doing it out of a legalistic mindset. It may just be their conviction.

    Not talking about true cults here, and I apologize Stacy if I was the one who got this off-track; I frequently think in terms of true cults that really harm people.

  50. Sisterlisa says:

    Interesting thread. I came out of legalism. I write now of my journey out. We will never be 'completely' free from legalism. That is..until our Lord's return. Mankind struggles with judgment. Plain and simple.

    'A humble servant' hit the nail on the head. As did a few others for pointing out love. Love has got to be the key in approaching people in sin, with the goal of repentance. But we are not spiritual policemen either. That's Holy Spirit's job.

    When approaching someone, in love, for repentance, we need to be very careful. The entire key point of Matthew 18 is love.

    Judgmentalism is at the heart of legalism. Legalism is not just about man made doctrines. Did not Satan himself use God's word to deceive Eve? Weren't the Pharisees the religious leaders of their day? Teaching God's Word? Jesus rebuked them about their tithe, saying "yes you should give, but you missed the weightier matters."

    Legalism is not only about man made doctrines or adding works to salvation. Legalism is the measuring rod we measure each other up against and cast others away, or turn our noses up at, if they don't measure up.

    Love shows grace. Paul said to grow in grace. We bear with one another…. because of grace. We are to be merciful. It's when we argue about who is right and who is wrong and try to judge someone's motives that we lean into legalism.

    Show people the real deal long enough, they'll see the truth and know what isn't,all on their own. Let people make up their own minds, that's freedom.

    Instead of trying to focus on what isn't truth, focus on what is. Jesus is Truth. Jesus is Grace. Jesus is Mercy. Jesus is Forgiveness.

    As the Pharisees sought to point out sin and seek punishment towards a woman in adultery, Jesus said "Go and sin no more" while scattering the 'teachers' by asking "who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."

  51. Sarah Mae says:

    Hi Stacey, I followed up your post with a post on my blog outlining what a legalist is (from the CD Holiness, Legalism, and the Sufficiency of Scripture). This has been on my heart as well.

  52. The Domestic Angel says:

    TOTALLY understand what you're saying, as we have 'been there, done that'. Human, fleshly tendencies just need to be crucified thru the cross DAILY. Only answer I know of.

  53. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Civilla:
    As far as the legalism goes, no, you shouldn't assume that people who do or not do thus-and-so are doing it out of a legalistic mindset. It may just be their conviction.>>>

    I think that you are correct, Civilla.

    I think that part of love is realising that there are also cultural considerations in observing certain standards. In the case of our culture, where so many of what are called old fashioned rules have been removed, what cultural standard will take its place?

    That is the hard thing. Do we follow the new standards that our culture is putting forward, or do we stick to our principles and convictions?

    It's not as easy as it seems. Part of the new cultural norms have to do with what clothes are feminine and what clothes are masculine.

    If we call it legalism to insist that women dress in feminine ways and men dress in masculine ways, then what do we do with Biblical prohibitions against things like cross-dressing?

    It gets complicated when cultural norms deviate so far from real Scriptural principles.

    We missionaries deal with that sort of thing all the time – what does sinful behavior look like in any given culture, what things are morally neutral, and what things are an abomination to the Lord. We adapt to the culture, but not to its evil elements.

    It seems that we as Christians are often very confused about what to do and what to tell others to do in relation to our more and more degenerate culture.

    I'll give one humorous example. We have a young couple in our mission that is getting married tomorrow. He is wearing his kilt.

    I don't know if it was a joke, but my husband said that the groom wanted everyone to wear ethnic dress to the wedding. One of our missionary couples had worked with tribals in the PI, so someone quipped that he would have to wear his loin cloth.

    IOW, how far do we go in cultural adaptation?

  54. momma read says:

    this is a topic I have personaly been researching on myself. seems everytime I want to find the Biblical answer to something, everyone says "just follow your own personal relationship with God" which seems good and all but I want something more solid than that–like true Bible answers! if someone throws out the word legalism- the subject is avoided—not good. My understanding is that legalism is thinking that your actions save you. but this is being confused with just wanting to seek Gods desire for our lives. It seems that we should be able to find the answers we are looking for in our Bible–and if so, stating that the Bible clearly tells us the answer we are looking for is not being legalist.

  55. Sisterlisa says:

    Cultural adaptation is interesting. In the Bible they wore robes. But there was something different between the robes the women wore and the ones the men wore. In some countries all the people wear gowns of some kind. Is it our job, as Americans, to go there as missionaries and teach them to conform to Americanized Christianity (wear a white shirt with a tie) in their clothing choices? Or just teach modesty within their own culture?

    Even with clothing, we can become controlling hypocritical legalists.

    I have a friend. I met her when we were both still in an abusive legalisitic fellowship. We have both since left and found healthy fellowships to be a part of. She asked me about pants the other day. Do I still wear only skirts?

    Is wearing a skirt the real issue in being holy? Or is it the modesty in the heart that comes from a growing relationship with Christ, that in time brings about a conscious decision to be modest because of Him? Or do we simply wear skirts because we're told we should or we're causing man to sin? And we should or the women at fellowship will scorn us and refuse to speak to us?

    There needs to be a balance. Paul didn't attempt to lead King Agrippa in the 'sinners' prayer'? Did he verbally beat him with the Law to 'prove' he is a sinner? No, he shared his personal testimony. King Agrippa said, "Thou almost persuadest me to become a Christian." The king saw something different in Paul and Paul planted seeds. Holy Spirit will continue to reach out to those who are lost. But we sometimes get ahead of him and try to do it on our own.

    My daughter asked me to describe to her what meekness really is. I see the examples of meekness unfolding before my very eyes. It's not easy to really, accurately describe meekness. Jesus was meek, but are we? Is meekness something we can just..be? Or does it take time for God to really reveal to us what He intends? That's growing in grace.

    Leaving a legalistic fellowship was necessary for us. Yet we were labeled as sinners, falling from God. My testimony of leaving, recovering, and discussing what it did to me, can be viewed as legalisitic in itself. Or some see it as informative and helpful to their own escape and recovery.

  56. Sisterlisa says:

    Stacey, you write of biblical womanhood. I haven't read your book…yet. But I have read your blog from time to time. The Bible says that teachers are subject to teachers. I believe this is why we leave our comment section open. For healthy biblical accountability. In humility we can reach better understandings of one another and our goal should always be to focus on Jesus. Our standards continue to morph from one day to the next. Wearing skirts doesn't make us holy, Jesus makes us holy. Wearing modest clothes brings us into an acceptable position in the eyes of mankind. Then there are some women who wear skirts only, but watch rater R films packed with nudity and profanity. So are they 'really' modest people?

    We can pick each other apart all day or lift each other up, closer to Christ our Lord. We get closer to Christ our Lord, by spending time with Him. Worshiping Him. Loving Him. Keeping our eyes on Him.

    If I write an article that hurts someone, I won't know unless they say something. If they tell me I hurt them, I say sorry. Not everyone will agree with your book or your blog. But we are all to show grace as we each seek to grow. We should be patient with one another. Meek.

    Even in my comment, there will no doubt be someone who can find error in what I have written here. But are we looking for error? Pollyanna said it wonderfully when she said her daddy taught her that if we look for sin in people we'll be sure to find it.

    Are we growing? Growing isn't applying standards to our lives. Adding fine furniture to a home doesn't make it livable. Keep adding and we'll end up living in a crowded home without room to walk. Guests won't be able to get in the door, much less want to know where we got the furniture. They'd view us as a hoarder.

    Again, the key is love. Only Jesus can help us balance on the tightrope of life.

  57. Happy Hermit (happilyhiddenhermit@gmail.com) says:

    Just to interject – I am not as well versed as most of you – but thanks to email subscription I have been able to listen quietly.

    Seems there are many different interpretations of legalism , and I am still learning , it just seems to be something that creates animosity in many facets. I dont understand that. Sister Lisa t , I am a history buff and kept wondering when someone would point out back in the day everyone wore a gown. Thank you.

    Thank you all for even talking aloud so i could listen.

  58. Stacy McDonald says:

    "She made a good point about how if we are delivered from feminism, shouldn't we just repent of it, and not go on about how wrong it is?"

    You've asked some good questions, and I'm still sorting through it all myself.

    I guess my thought would be that it depends on HOW we "go on about how wrong it is." We can share personal testimonies about how feminism negatively affected our walk with the Lord, our family, or our life in general. And we can certainly review books or quotes from actual feminists and compare what they teach to Scripture. I think those are all productive ways to "warn" others against a false or dangerous teaching.

    But God has taught me through my own failures that we can't paint groups with a broad brush. This doesn't help anyone – it only succeeds in alienating and offending unnecessarily.

    While I may see feminist thought coming from members of a particular group, I am unwilling to label the whole group as "feminists." (Unless they label themselves that way.)I may critique certain teachings that come from that group; but, to be fair, I don't think I can call them feminists unless they embrace the term themselves.

    And even then, I need to be extremely careful to critique the teaching and not attack the person.

    Does that make sense?

  59. Stacy McDonald says:

    "She made a good point about how if we are delivered from feminism, shouldn't we just repent of it, and not go on about how wrong it is?"

    You've asked some good questions, and I'm still sorting through it all myself.

    I guess my thought would be that it depends on HOW we "go on about how wrong it is." We can share personal testimonies about how feminism negatively affected our walk with the Lord, our family, or our life in general. And we can certainly review books or quotes from actual feminists and compare what they teach to Scripture. I think those are all productive ways to "warn" others against a false or dangerous teaching.

    But God has taught me through my own failures that we can't paint groups with a broad brush. This doesn't help anyone – it only succeeds in alienating and offending unnecessarily.

    While I may see feminist thought coming from members of a particular group, I am unwilling to label the whole group as "feminists." (Unless they label themselves that way.)I may critique certain teachings that come from that group; but, to be fair, I don't think I can call them feminists unless they embrace the term themselves.

    And even then, I need to be extremely careful to critique the teaching and not attack the person.

    Does that make sense?

  60. Jennifer says:

    "God has taught me through my own failures that we can't paint groups with a broad brush. This doesn't help anyone – it only succeeds in alienating and offending unnecessarily.

    While I may see feminist thought coming from members of a particular group, I am unwilling to label the whole group as "feminists."

    But Stacy, don't you refer to egalitarians as whitewashed feminists?

  61. Stacy McDonald says:

    Jennifer, here is the quote from my book (co-authored with Jennie Chancey) you're referring to. In it, I try to differentiate between secular feminists and evangelical feminists:

    "It is possible to be a Christian feminist, but ironically there is no such thing as “Christian Feminism.” The Christian feminist is either herself deceived, or she is attempting to deceive us (2 Peter 2:1-3).

    This chapter is not meant to be a formal critique of feminism. Instead, my desire is to proclaim the beauty of God’s created order lived through our complementary roles as wives to our husbands, and demonstrate how we can glorify God by fully embracing the dignity of this calling God has given us.
    Furthermore, I seek to pull the curtain back a bit to expose the deceptive nature of feminism—even in its milder, cleaner, and perhaps more seductive form. Disguised as a sympathetic champion fighting female oppression, the enemy has led many women (even Christian women) astray, by whitewashing a pervasive evil—feminism…

    The Secular Feminist: “Not the Fun Kind”

    Not many topics evoke more emotion in women than feminism, and, since many of us define the word differently, let’s begin by describing two extremes of its public manifestation.
    There are “secular feminists” who do not accept the Bible as authoritative. This includes (with exceptions) feminists who are lesbians, radicals, or misandrists . It also tends to include those who are pro-abortion.

    As a matter of record, there are self-proclaimed feminists who profess Christ and still ascribe to the activities mentioned above; nevertheless, I believe they are the exception. With a little help from Archie Bunker, the stereotypical bra-burning radical is who most of us picture in our minds when we hear the word feminist—meaning secular feminist.

    The Evangelical Feminist: The Whitewashed Kind

    On the other hand, the milder “evangelical feminist” claims to hold Scripture in high regard, but does not believe the Bible teaches role distinctions between men and women. Some even admit to believing the authority of the Scriptures is limited. Many, consistent with their egalitarian beliefs, advocate the ordination of women in the church.
    Others, no doubt weakened in their resolve by the truth of Scripture, do not believe women should be ordained in the church. Yet somehow, they still insist on reinterpreting the passages that teach differing roles for men and women in the family. In turn, they reject the wife’s biblical mandate to submit to her husband as her head.

    Consequently, the biblical directives given to women to be wives, mothers, and keepers of the home are minimized or set aside as quaint, but unnecessary options. Although being a wife and mother is still viewed as a legitimate life choice—it certainly shouldn’t be viewed as enough. We’re told women should want more.

  62. Jennifer says:

    I've read the book and like it. So, you do consider egalitarians to be whitewashed feminists?

  63. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Most cultures have no problems with knowing what is men's clothing and what is women's clothing. Most cultures have no problems with knowing what is and what is not modest dress and demeanour.

    It is our culture that has lost its bearings by putting male and female into the blender, so to speak, in an attempt to either eliminate or downplay the differences between the sexes.

    Through things like Television and the Internet, I am afraid that the worst elements of American culture are being exported into all nations. It is not missionaries who are doing that.

    It is not legalistic for men to dress like men and women to dress like women. It is not legalistic for women to be modest.

    It is legalistic to sit in judgment of those who reject the new cultural norms in favor of a more "old fashioned" standard.

    It is legalistic to make a rule and then judge the spirituality of others based on a law that is not in the Bible. Calling others legalistic based on their dress is itself legalistic and hypocritical.

    Some of those who say that they have left legalism have really just exchanged one form for another and are still judging the spirituality of others based on what they wear.

    That's what I have observed. IMO, we need to cut one another some slack, but we also need to uphold the principles of love, modesty and femininity.

    Love includes modesty and femininity for women.

    My mother is in AA. In AA they talk a lot about the "dry drunk." That is someone who has quit drinking, but all the bad attitudes are still there. Some have "left legalism", but are still legalistic. How can that be?

  64. Stacy McDonald says:

    Jennifer, if this thread was about feminism then we could just discuss feminism and allow the egalitarians to decided whether or not they consider themselves feminists – whitewashed or not.

  65. Stacy McDonald says:

    "Calling others legalistic based on their dress is itself legalistic and hypocritical…Some of those who say that they have left legalism have really just exchanged one form for another and are still judging the spirituality of others based on what they wear."

    Excellent, excellent, excellent observations! May I quote you?

  66. Stacy McDonald says:

    Also, Jennifer, I've never labeled anyone a whitewashed feminist. I have only referred to "whitewashed feminism." See today's post.

  67. Jennifer says:

    I know you've never called anyone a whitewashed feminist. It just seemed to me that your book strongly indicated whitewashed feminists were egalitarians.

  68. Jennifer says:

    "It is legalistic to sit in judgment of those who reject the new cultural norms in favor of a more "old fashioned" standard"

    I suppose it's also legalistic then for those who prefer the more old-fashioned dress to judge women who wear shorts/pants.

  69. Stacy McDonald says:

    Jennifer, to assume a woman in pants or shorts is not a Christian because of the way she is dressed is most certainly the same sinful judgment we're talking about.

    However, shorts and pants aren't the problem. Flaunting one's body is the problem – immodesty is the problem. It's not always a matter of sinful, self-righteous judgment to call immodesty a sin (though it certainly can be).

    If you see a girl in tight shorts, swinging her hips past a bunch of men it doesn't take a judgmental pharisee to call her actions immodest.

    Sometimes it's the "how" and not the "if" that matters most.

    http://yoursacredcalling.blogspot.com/2007/06/can-pants-be-considered-modest.html

  70. Jennifer says:

    I know the importance of modesty, but I've also seen girls judged by those who prefer older tastes because they don't wear dresses.

  71. Stacy McDonald says:

    Yes, that happens, Jennifer; and it's talked about a LOT. What isn't talked about a lot is, like Donna shared, that sometimes those who dress in a more conservative manner are legalistically judged by those who are more liberal in their dress. The modest dresser is accused of legalism solely because of how she is dressed. No questions asked. This is equally wrong.

  72. Jennifer says:

    I know it's equally wrong.

  73. Sisterlisa says:

    I'm getting lost trying to go back through all these to find one question about clothing in biblical times, (I have been away all day) but I don't want to post a link on Stacey's blog if it's not one she would choose. So my suggestion is just do a search for Clothing in Biblical Times.

    I came through a time when I used to get 'offended' at certain teaching. Either because I didn't want to submit to it, or because I didn't get their point of view.

    I think the 'offense' we get sometimes when we read someone else's point of view is due to immaturity on our part. To be able to hear out someone's view or belief without getting offended, comes with a mature walk with the Lord.

    People in different denominations and non-denominations are so divided. Divided by doctrines, lifestyles, choices, and even in explaining what legalism is and isn't. When we can walk in Christ, show grace towards one another, and be kind no matter what they choose, then perhaps the world will see a different form of Christianity.

    Again, I don't think legalism is defined simply by mans doctrines, if that were so they wouldn't be able to find scripture to back their beliefs. I believe it's measuring each other up against the Law and looking down on them for not measuring up, that is what I feel is the problem.

    None of us measure up, that's why Jesus measured up for us.

  74. Sisterlisa says:

    Ok just for humor's sake… when my husband's grandmother wanted to know why I quit wearing pants…I didn't want to divide the family. So I just said "It hides the fat, Granny." ;O)

    Discussing biblical modesty would not have been conducive to my relationship with her so early on in my marriage. Seventeen years later, she respects me for my choices and the relationship is stronger. A good relationship will bring about more discussions about our Lord than debating over clothing.

  75. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Stacy:
    Excellent, excellent, excellent observations! May I quote you?>>>>

    Stacy, of course you can quote me. It would be an honor.

    Jennifer:
    I know the importance of modesty, but I've also seen girls judged by those who prefer older tastes because they don't wear dresses.>>>>

    Let's see. I think of several words that are related to the word "modesty": demeanour, appropriateness, humility, respect, and maybe you can think of others.

    I think of several words that are not related to modesty: flaunting, – that can be one's wealth or one's body – , pride, self-centeredness, narcissism, and so forth.

    If we can kind of get ahold of what modesty is, then we will have an easier time applying the concept to how we dress.

    I have a problem with women who dodge the issue of modesty by calling others legalistic whenever the subject comes up. There's something just not right about that.

    I'm not saying that you dodge the issue, since you see that it is also wrong to judge more traditional kinds of women by their dress. Not all are able to see how a Biblical principle applies across the board to all believers. Your ability to do that speaks well of you.

    I think that normal Christian women want some help and guidance in the area of modesty and dress. We also want help in overcoming our legalistic tendencies.

    I hope you understand what I mean. If I am wrong, then I ask your indulgence.

    Then there is the subject of femininity, which is related.

    God bless,
    Mrs. Webfoot

  76. Jennifer says:

    No, I think you're correct, Mrs. Webfoot. Thanks for listening.

  77. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    You're welcome, Jennifer.

    BTW, just to make it clear. I wear pants, but not exclusively. I wore a skirt when we went out shopping the other day, but I generally wear pants for that. I generally wear skirts to church, but with this cold weather, I have been wearing pants.

    I won't say that I would never wear shorts, or that it is always inappropriate to wear them, but trust me. No one wants to see me in shorts. I do have some baggie Docker's short pants that I wear sometimes, but I'm not sure what I'd be flaunting.

    I definitely wear a dress to weddings – or a skirt and top.
    I don't think that there is only one kind of godly dress, and I really don't know many who do think that way.

    I think that some clothes are appropriate to one occasion and not to others. I won't be paining the walls while wearing my wedding clothes or going to a wedding in my paining clothes, for example.

    It's nice to talk with ladies who are concerned about the subjects of modesty, femininity, and legalism and who want to seek God's glory and His will for their lives in those areas.

    That makes me happy. It's nice to talk with you, Jennifer.

    God bless us, every one,
    Mrs. Webfoot

  78. Mrs. Webfoot says:

    Sisterlisa:
    I'm getting lost trying to go back through all these to find one question about clothing in biblical times, (I have been away all day) but I don't want to post a link on Stacey's blog if it's not one she would choose. So my suggestion is just do a search for Clothing in Biblical Times.>>>>

    Hi, Sisterlisa,
    Just one more comment on this. I like your suggestion. Thank you.

    The study of clothing styles through the centuries is also enlightening, as is looking at pictures of the national dress of other cultures.

    I maintain that no matter what the time period, not matter what the culture, male and female are distinguished one from the other in at least two ways – clothing and hair styles. That would include what is considered modest and what is considered immodest in these different cultures.

    The universal principle that I notice is that all cultures make a distinction between male and female, and that all cultures have some standard of modesty.

    In fact, Elizabeth Elliot was the first one who pointed this out to me when I read it in Let Me Be a Woman – at least I think that's where I read it.

    I have observed that she was correct.

    God bless, and thank you for the suggestion,
    Mrs. Webfoot

  79. Jennifer says:

    Nice to talk with you, Mrs. Webfoot :)

  80. Mallory says:

    Thank you. This is a really effective article, and very convicting. Thank you.

  81. Joseph M says:

    Powerful words. I wish more people would stop and think about this. God bless!

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