Monday, June 15, 2009

Hasidim, Pharisees, and Fundamentalists?

During the history of the Jewish people, God has often led them to overthrow the tyrannical rule of some wicked king. Read through the book of Judges for many examples of this. The book of Daniel also speaks of this. Daniel prophesied about the Maccabean revolt against the wicked Antiochus Epiphenes before it happened. According to Daniel 11:32, "the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." This was accomplished when the godly Jews resisted Antiochus' insistence that they violate Scripture or die. Their obedience to God and resistance against Antiochus is the stuff of legend, but it is a good example to those who wish to follow God. However, even in their heroism there lies a warning.

In their protest of the pagan encroachments of Antiochus, the Hasidim maintained strict adherence to the law of God and devised safeguards for its protection. In their effort to preserve the sanctity of the law, they specified applications of obedience designed to address the particular pressures of the day. ... Tragically, it wasn't long before the traditions of their applications gained equal status and identification with the law itself. What they sought to protect became redefined and perverted in the process. They erected a fence around the law that eventually became the law itself in their thinking. So convinced were they of their religious correctness that they accused the perfectly righteous Son of God of breaking the law. It is true enough the Christ often violated the Pharisaical traditions and transgressed their fence, but the truth of the matter is that in order to keep perfectly the law of God, He had to break the laws of the Pharisees. In their legalistic pride and hypocrisy, it never crossed their minds that they could be wrong.

Herein lies the potential danger inherent in some segments of modern fundamentalism. Too often in the rush to scriptural relevancy and Christian practicality, applications of principles are made without due and necessary attention to what the Bible itself says. ... Such dogmatism about particular applications of Scripture can result that, just as was true with the Pharisees, practice assumes parity with Bible itself. Those who don't conform precisely and minutely to the outlined standards for conduct suffer the accusation of being compromisers or worse. I wonder sometimes if the Lord Himself would be accepted in some spheres of fundamentalism.

Please don't misunderstand what I am saying. I am speaking as a fundamentalist myself ... . Christianity is more than just creedal theory; it is a way of life flowing from both a personal relationship with Christ and the propositional truths of God's Word. But we must be willing to see the difference between the authority of the Bible and our preferences concerning practices, regardless of how convinced we are of our own rightness. ... The drift of the Hasidim to the Pharisees raises a red flag. Let us heed the warning lest our religion stand in opposition to Christ. The sad thing is that it can happen.

Michael P. V. Barrett, God's Unfailing Promise: The Message of Daniel, (Greenville: Ambassador Emerald International, 2003) , 103-5.

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