Are We Pharisees?
It seems like every time you take a dogmatic position on a biblical issue there are critics ready to pounce upon you with the accusation of "Pharisee". This has been occurring here lately on thinkerup.com. I'm not worried about it. I believe these people hurling these accusations are not clear on the errors of the pharisees and why Jesus came down so hard on them.
Below is an excerpt from John MacArthur's book, Reckless Faith. Hopefully this could help clarify some of the confusion for those who are quick to attach the label of pharisee to anyone who takes an authoritative doctrinal position on an issue based on scripture. Isn't that what we are supposed to do as christians?
"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
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 de-emphasized, 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.
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."
--John MacArthur, Reckless faith: When the church loses its will to discern