Beliefs and Practices of Legalism

To effectively govern and control the people, the government should rely on an extensive bureaucracy; But this bureaucracy, in turn, should be adequately staffed and closely monitored. In this regard, legalists have made a lasting contribution to China`s thought and administrative practices. Their strong distrust of plotting ministers and selfish officials was conducive to the proliferation of impersonal means of recruitment, promotion, degradation and performance control. These funds have become indispensable to the Chinese bureaucratic apparatus for millennia to come (Creel 1974). As a Christian, have you ever been accused of legalism? This word is often wrongly conveyed in the Christian subculture. For example, some people might call John a legalist because they consider him narrow-minded. But the term legalism does not refer to narrow-mindedness. In reality, legalism manifests itself in many subtle ways. In imperial times, the position of legalism was somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, his ideas remained very influential, especially in the field of administrative practice, but also in terms of the policy of enrichment and empowerment of the State, as well as in certain legal practices. On some occasions, some of the leading imperial reformers – from Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (181-234) to Su Chuo 蘇綽 (498-546), from Wang Anshi 王安石 (1021-1086) to Zhang Juzheng 張居正 (1525-1582) – were able to openly confess their guilt for the legalistic means of reviving the government apparatus and restoring the economic and military capabilities of the state. On the other hand, most political reformers and activists have remained secret legalists at best.

For the vast majority of writers, Shang Yang, Han Fei and others were negative examples; As a result, most of the texts associated with the legalist school stopped circulating, and very few deserved comment. Open support for Shang Yang, for example, would be virtually impossible for a respected writer. This second type of legalism can be exemplified by the Pharisees who confronted Jesus on the Sabbath for healing (Matthew 12:9-14). They were only concerned with the letter of the law and the avoidance of anything that might seem like work to them. These teachers missed the spirit of the law, which was directed against ordinary work, which is not necessary to sustain life, and not against efforts to heal the sick. Basically, legalism consists in abstracting God`s law from its original context. Some people seem to be concerned about following the rules and regulations in the Christian life, and they understand Christianity as a set of do`s and don`ts, cold and deadly moral principles. It is a form of legalism that deals only with the maintenance of God`s law as an end in itself. Like the term Trinity, the word legalism is not used in the Bible, but rather describes principles that are clearly described in the Bible. At the heart of the debate between legalism and grace is the understanding of how we can be saved and how we can be certain of our heavenly hope.

Legalism is formed “where only the observance of God`s law is treated as an end in itself.” Sproul points out that legalism separates obedience from God`s love and salvation. “The legalist focuses solely on obeying simple rules and destroying the broader context of God`s love and salvation in which He gave His law in the first place.” How do you keep the letter of the law, but hurt the mind? Suppose a man likes to drive his car at the minimum required speed, regardless of the conditions in which he drives. If he is on a highway and the specified minimum speed is forty miles per hour, he is driving forty miles per hour and no less. It does so even during torrential rains, when driving at that minimum required speed endangers other people because they had the good sense to slow down and drive twenty miles per hour so as not to slip off the road or seaplane. The man, who insists on a speed of forty miles per hour even in these conditions, drives his car to delight. Although he appears to the outside observer as someone who is conscientious in his civil obedience, his obedience is only outward, and he does not care what the law really is. This second type of legalism obeys outward appearances, while the heart is far removed from any desire to honor God, the intention of His law or His Christ. Many people think that the essence of Christianity is to follow the right rules, even rules that are extrabiblical. For example, the Bible doesn`t say we can`t play cards or have a glass of wine with dinner. We cannot make these questions the external test of authentic Christianity. It would be a mortal violation of the gospel because it would replace the true fruits of the Spirit with human tradition. We are getting dangerously close to blasphemy by distorting Christien in this way.

Where God has given freedom, we should never enslave people with man-made rules. We must ensure that we combat this form of legalism. He continues, “Therefore, we must strive to live our lives according to these commandments. Such behavior is not legalism. Legalism is a servile observation of the law in the belief that it gains merit. During the Qin Dynasty, all books that did not support legalistic philosophy were burned, and writers, philosophers, and teachers of other philosophies were executed. The excesses of Qin Dynasty legalism made the regime very unpopular with the people of the time. After the overthrow of the Qin, legalism was abandoned in favor of Confucianism, which greatly influenced the development of Chinese culture. To further illustrate what legalism can look like, R.C.

Sproul describes three forms of legalism. Closely related to the first, Sproul says that legalism “obeys outward appearances, while the heart is far from any desire to honor God, the purpose of His law, or His Christ.” Legalism separates obedience from our relationship with God. “Legalism exists when people try to ensure justice in God`s eyes through good works. Legalists believe they deserve or can gain God`s approval by meeting the requirements of the law,” said Thomas R. Schreiner. A legalist believes that their good works and obedience to God influence their salvation. Legalism focuses more on God`s laws than on the relationship with God. He maintains the external laws without a truly subjugated heart. And legalism adds human rules to divine laws and treats them as divine. To understand the second type of legalism, we must remember that the New Testament distinguishes between the letter of the law (its external form) and the spirit of the law. The second form of legalism separates the letter of the law from the spirit of the law.

He obeys the letter, but hurts the mind. There is only one subtle difference between this form of legalism and the one mentioned earlier. For more than 200 years, the Chinese people have experienced war as their daily reality, and a legalistic approach to trying to control people`s worst impulses – controlling people by threatening to severely punish injustice – seemed the best way to deal with chaos.

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