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Featured Is Moralism A Problem?

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Tree of Life, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain Supporter

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    What is moralism and is it a problem?

    I would understand the terms "moralism", "legalism", and "externalism" to be basically synonymous for our purposes here.

    Moralism is the focus on reforming behavior while ignoring unbelief in the heart. In Romans Paul talks about the obedience of faith and the righteousness of faith. He also says that whatever does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23). What Paul is talking about is that true righteousness that stems from a genuine love for God and a confidence in his favor toward us.

    Because of sin, all of us have a heart disposition of unbelief toward God and hatred toward God. This is the very essence of sin. The law is given to expose this slippery creature. But sinners have taken God's law and used it for moralism. This was both the Pharisees' problem and also the Jews that Paul is dealing with in Romans 2 who condemn others but do not condemn themselves. It's possible to ignore the inner desires and motivations of the heart and simply focus on conforming behavior to God's law. This is tithing mint, dill, and cumin but neglecting love and mercy. This creates self-righteous, arrogant, religious people and not merciful saints.

    People don't just need moral reform, they need new hearts. This means that deep down people love and desire something other than God above all else. They need a new love for God which reigns supreme. The only way to get such a new heart is by the gift of the Holy Spirit through hearing the word of the gospel. As we hear about the beauty of Christ, the Spirit opens our eyes and softens our hearts to trust Him and delight in Him. True obedience to the law can only come from such a faith and delight in Christ. Any obedience to the law which comes from a different heart is actually sin.

    This is why the message of "obey the law!" and "try harder!" can only ever discourage sinners or produce self-righteous Pharisees. We must go to the heart and expose the false loves and unbelief of the heart. We must remind ourselves and proclaim to others the beauty of Christ which is the only thing powerful enough to displace our false loves. Moralism is a huge problem that we've got to do all we can to avoid. Diagram attached.

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  2. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing."

    I can believe that you can do godly stuff even as a believer but if you do it out of something it is not love then it is worthless.
     
  3. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain Supporter

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    Believers can make an approach toward true righteousness because they have new hearts which love God. Their attempts are never perfect, but they are accepted as perfect through the intercession of Christ.

    Unbelievers, however, are still trapped in unbelief and idolatry. They cannot do anything truly righteous. All of their works - even their "works of the law" - are hypocrisy and lies. This doesn't mean that they cannot do relatively good things. But this is only relative to other sinners. They cannot do anything truly good in the sense that it fulfills God's law.
     
  4. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    How are "works of the law" related when they are based on the Judaic law?
     
  5. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain Supporter

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    The Judaic Law includes very universal moral principles like "You shall not murder". Unbelievers can follow this command, but they cannot take anger and hatred out of their hearts and some cannot restrain their tongues from cursing their neighbor. Jesus taught that these are all violations of the same command.
     
  6. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    I disagree, I believe it is based on certain requirements that make the person Jewish like circumcision.

    Nevertheless, I agree with the principle that doing good out of greed nor love misses the mark even when I don't agree with some assumptions on believers and non-believers.
     
  7. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain Supporter

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    You don't think that "You shall not murder" is found in the Law of Moses?
     
  8. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    That is not what "works of the Law" talks about.
     
  9. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain Supporter

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    You've taken the Sanders/Dunn Synthesis approach? That's a very 20th century view. I like the older view which takes "works of the Law" to refer to our best attempts to fulfill the law out of our own efforts without God's grace.
     
  10. Hazelelponi

    Hazelelponi Well-Known Member Supporter

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    ..
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  11. LaBèlla

    LaBèlla ❤️ Supporter

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    David, what is your view?
     
  12. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    The requirement of doing the works of the Jewish law in order to achieve salvation, that's why Romans mentions the topic of circumcision a lot.
     
  13. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain Supporter

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    Romans mentions circumcision a handful of times through chapter 4. But after chapter 4, circumcision is not mentioned again. No one believed that mere circumcision was what saved them, but rather an adherence to the whole law. This, of course, is a mistaken belief. Paul teaches that none can be justified by works of the law. This isn't because circumcision was never meant to justify, but it's because all are sinners and unable to be justified by the law.

    Romans 3:20 - For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

    David are you aware that you've bought into 20th century liberalism when you adhere to the Sanders/Dunn Synthesis?
     
  14. LaBèlla

    LaBèlla ❤️ Supporter

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    Mitzvot doesn’t relate to salvation in itself. But there is the notion that good deeds are important and they’re viewed as acts of kindness.

    The expression of the principle is where differences arise. Using myself as an example, my nature and disposition veer towards Orthodoxy. The emphasis on purpose is something you’d see in those circles.

    But my interactions with others and how I minister to them would fall in the middle. God is ever present but so is grace.
     
  15. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain Supporter

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    To clue you in on the nature of the debate, the question is what Paul means by "works of the law".

    Paul, for example, says:

    Romans 3:20 - For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

    Romans 3:28 - For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

    The traditional understanding is that Paul means that a person is not saved by their best efforts to obey God's moral law, but rather by God's grace through faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is contrasted with "works of the flesh" or "human efforts" to obey.

    In the 20th century, Bible scholars like Sanders and Dunn presented a "New Perspective" on Paul and taught that Paul only meant Jewish inclusion badges by "works of the law" such as circumcision and dietary restrictions. According to them, Paul is saying that a person is not saved by being culturally Jewish, but by faithfulness to Jesus. This faithfulness includes our efforts. So according to Sanders and Dunn, we are saved by our own efforts.
     
  16. LaBèlla

    LaBèlla ❤️ Supporter

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    Thank you for clarifying. :)

    Irrespective of their opinions, look to the Lord and His Spirit for guidance. Man’s deductions appear wise in eyes.
     
  17. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    That's why Abraham is brought into the idea of a man of faith, because he had faith before he was circumcised which was the topic that was dealt.

    And I don't follow any "liberalism" but the idea that the Old Covenant is not salvific according to the view of the Church.
     
  18. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    The argument presented during the time of the Apostles is that there were some Jewish Christians who said that gentiles had to convert to Judaism in order to become a Christian.
     
  19. LaBèlla

    LaBèlla ❤️ Supporter

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    I’m familiar with the Judaizers. That isn’t necessary. And I wouldn’t encourage embracing Jewishness today.
     
  20. David Neos

    David Neos Catechumen

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    True, unfortunately, that was happening.
     
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