Christian Schools

Legalism and the Christian School Movement, Part 2

Note: Reading Part 1 of this series is recommended before reading Part 2.


In the introductory article to this series, I suggested that Christ’s confrontations with the Pharisees are a valid source for determining whether or not we are practicing legalism. I was not writing at all from the “all Fundies are Pharisees” perspective so frequently employed against Fundamentalists. I assume that the prominent place the Pharisees have, and that our Lord’s rebukes of them have, in the Gospels suggests that our Lord is broadly concerned with such legalism. I believe these texts serve as a warning to all of us because legalism is entrenched deep in the fallen human heart and easily expresses itself in the lives of the redeemed unless we are very careful.


In the first article, I admitted there are many fine Christian schools which do not operate in a legalistic fashion. But I believe that the majority of Christian schools operate with three fallacious legalistic premises prominent in their thinking.

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Legalism and the Christian School Movement, Part 1


Last May, discussion here at SI about Heritage Christian School in Findlay, OH and the senior who chose a public high school prom over his own graduation ceremony revealed a rift on the issue of legalism. The majority were certainly comfortable with the rule against students attending a high school prom. But some thought such rules were legalistic. While I have had some deep misgivings about the rules culture in Fundamentalist schools over the years, a recent three-year study of Luke helped me to crystallize my views on this. During this study, I spent much time reflecting on our Lord’s confrontations with the Pharisees.

At this moment, most of you want to skip this post. “Oh, it’s the old ‘all Fundies are Pharisees’ argument,” is what you’re probably thinking. Nothing could be further from my intentions. It’s clear to me that our Lord did not cause an enormous volume of His teachings against the Pharisees to be preserved for the ages merely to warn us about a sect that would be extinct by AD 136. These teachings serve as a warning to all of us who are “religious” (in the nicest sense of the word). Legalism is entrenched deep in our hearts. It is a strong tendency in all humanity, at one level or another. It is basic to all false religions and creeps into adherents of true religion unless we are very careful.

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