The other day, I went to a fast food restaurant for some lunch after making an appointment for some snow tires to be installed on the car. When I came out after eating my lunch, this was the sight that greeted me. The car on the right is my car in the handicap space, for which I have a permit (I have serious issues with my back and legs that resulted from a June 1996 fire-fighting injury.)
As one might expect, I was a bit frustrated that an individual would crowd my car by parking in a non-spot, but not really put out enough to complain to anyone. After all, there was no damage to my car, and the other motorist would be the one ticketed if bylaw enforcement showed up. Then I started to read what passes for theological articles from The Gospel Coalition these days. I admit I did not note the author, nor could I read the full article because of the bent it had, setting up what amounts to a false dichotomy between theological disagreement of any kind and Phariseeism. Basically, what their article was going to suggest was that if you were trying to hold to good strong doctrine, you were being a legalistic Pharisee because you refused to join another in Christian love and wanted to be disagreeable.
I had read far enough into the article when I read that premise. I pushed the delete button on my email in disgust. This is how demagoguery is performed for the purposes of stirring up a mob to support a point of view, I told myself. I was right, and I want to share it with you so that you too will be able to practice discernment, which is a (most often neglected) gift of the Holy Spirit.
First, you need to subtly redefine the topic or character you wish to replace. Then you must define the thing with which you desire to replace said item. Having done this, you must set up a false dichotomy between the two, not allowing for middle ground or third options. Then write your article or give your speech. Voila! You have demagoguery in action. If this is done properly, you even have the option of using a strawman to further distract and incite the masses in your favour.
Now for my brief comment that is really the point of my article. Doctrinal orthodoxy is not and cannot be equated with Phariseeism. Pharisees were taken to task by the Lord Jesus Christ for getting bogged down in the minutae of traditions that were not even from the Law of Moses in many cases. Their legalism was the mere observance of empty tradition. I am well aware that doctrine, even correct doctrine is not enough, but that one must adhere to those doctrines in faith for our love of our Saviour. That is not nor can it ever be considered legalism or Phariseeism – and if you think it is, you have you wagon in front of your horse, my friend.
Our Lord is surely worthy of accurately handling His Word of Truth. Stop it with the demogoguery.