Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Why Legalism Doesn't Work

Reading Christ Plays In Ten-thousand Places, by Eugene Peterson, I came across this clear-sighted passage:

But the fundamental inadequacy of codes of conduct for giving direction in how to live the spiritual life is that they put us in charge (or, which is just as bad, put someone else in charge of us); God is moved off the field of action to the judge's stand where he grades our performance. The moment that we take charge, "knowing good and evil," we are in trouble and almost immediately start getting other people in trouble too. (p.43)

Peterson puts it as only he can. Legalism (or the belief that good behavior earns points with God) moves us from relationship to rule-following. God is not a set of rules. Furthermore, Peterson actually connects it to the same idea that enticed Adam & Eve to turn away from God -- the desire to "take charge" of ourselves and the universe.

Now, don't go thinking I'm a libertine. I believe in a moral law. It's just that my goal in life isn't to try and keep from messing up, any more than the goal of basketball is to avoid committing a foul.


Post a Comment

<< Home