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      Who Are You Calling a Pharisee and Why?

      Friday, September 28, 2007



      (Originally posted 12/1/05) - JC Ryle warned that if you dare to say of one doctrine that 'it is true' and of another 'it is false', you can expect to be called narrow-minded and uncharitable. And as Paul Crouch from TBN demonstrates, you can often expect to be called a 'Pharisee' as well: "I'm tired of Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites blocking God's bridges when the harvest is perishing out there and God's calling the body to come together. Let Him sort out all this doctrinal doo-doo, I don't care about it!". But before you call someone a Pharisee, consider this advice.



      Here's an excerpt from John MacArthur, as he explains
      a common misuse of the term 'Pharisee'. From his book:
      Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses its Will to Discern


      Sometimes the Pharisees are accused of having been overly concerned with orthodoxy. But that was not at all where they went astray. Their error was that they became so wrapped up in their own traditions that they downplayed the truth of Scripture and distorted sound doctrine. Far from being theologically orthodox, they had simply invented their own traditions and used a man-made system to nullify the truth of divinely inspired Scripture
      (Matt. 15:3-6).

      It is fashionable today to characterize anyone who is concerned with biblical doctrine as Pharisaical. The biblical condemnation of the Pharisees' legalism has been misread as a denunciation of doctrinal precision. And love of the truth has often been judged inherently legalistic.

      But love for truth is not the same as legalism. The fact that it has been portrayed that way has sabotaged the very thing the church so desperately needs today. Too many Christians are content to gaze nonchalantly at the surface of scriptural truth without plunging any deeper. They often justify their shallow indifference as a refusal to be legalistic. Conversely, they dismiss as pharisaical narrow-mindedness, any attempt to declare the truth authoritatively.

      Doctrine divides; therefore any concern for doctrinal matters is commonly seen as unchristian. People concerned with discernment and sound doctrine are often accused of fostering a pharisaical, divisive attitude. But that is exactly backwards! True unity is rooted in truth.

      Jesus prayed: "Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth... For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one" (John 17:17-21). The unity for which He prayed is preceded by and grows out of sanctification in the truth. Fellowship that ignores or glosses over the crucial doctrines of the faith is not Christian unity; it is ungodly compromise.

      As doctrine has been deemphasized, the church has moved from preaching the Word to other activities: drama, music, entertainment - things designed to evoke an emotional response rather than enlighten the mind. The charismatic movement has supplanted doctrine with experience. Psychology has elevated "felt" needs over real needs and behavioral theory over revealed truth. All this has accelerated the move away from doctrine and focused the pulpit message on everything but the objective truth of Scripture. Preachers have become comedians, storytellers, therapists, showmen, and entertainers rather than powerful envoys of divine truth. . . .

      [One] reason for the low level of discernment in the church today is the reluctance to take a definitive stand on any issue. Those with any convictions at all are supposed to hold those beliefs with as much slack as possible. Dogmatism is not permitted. To pronounce anything true and call its antithesis error is to challenge society's only remaining dogma. Refuse to equivocate on any point of principle or doctrine, and you will be labeled too narrow. Zeal for the truth has become politically incorrect.





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