Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Emergents: What Do They Have in Common?
Lawlessness comes in two main forms: Legalism and Antinomianism. These two heresies are dealt with extensively in the New Testament, so my point in writing this article is not to delve deeply into those two forms of legalism. No, what I want to talk about is moral-superiority-complex of heretics that is evident all throughout Scripture and among contemporary enemies of the Christian faith. Consider the enemies of Christ Himself, viz. the Pharisees & Co., and the putrid scent of sanctimoniousness that wafts out from the pages of the New Testament whenever they speak. “[John the Baptist] has a demon,” they say, “for he came neither eating nor drinking.” “Look at [Christ]! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners,” they’ll exclaim, for “the Son of Man came eating and drinking.” You can hear them popping up out of nowhere, criticizing those who trust in the finished work of Christ for salvation and not in their own works, and saying: “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” You can hear them rebuking the Lord of Glory, asking Him why His “disciples break the tradition of the elders;” and you can see them rolling their eyes as He replies:
“It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person…for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person…”
You know them well; everyone does – they make it their business to make sure everyone see how holy they are, especially in comparison to those who believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in the Scriptures alone to the glory of God alone.
The Pharisees & Co. may have some external differences with Emergents, but they have more in common than the superficial observer would notice. The Pharisees & Co., for instance, played fast and loose with the Scriptures in order to justify their sin, all the while claiming that they were doing so for the sake of serving God. In another passage, we see that they “tie heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” They are good at performing as though they were holy; they are skilled at using their moralism as an excuse for not believing what Christ Jesus says of Himself, and as justification for looking down their noses at the followers of Christ who trust His Word alone, resting upon Him for salvation, and looking forward to the Day when He returns to judge the living and the dead. The Pharisees & Co. and the Emergents have an external religion of works-righteousness; both sought to put on a show and talk a big moral talk in order to cover up their unbelief and their hatred of Christ. Essentially, they both pray aloud:
“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this [Reformed, Baptistic Calvinist]. I [recycle every] week; I give [all of my book proceeds to GreenPeace and the LGBT movement]…”
And when push comes to shove, they will rebuke those who worship Christ as God-Incarnate and Savior of the lost, and do so under false moral pretenses – just like Judas did. The woman who prepared Christ’s body for His burial understood who Christ is, so she responded appropriately: She gave her all to Christ. It was Judas who, out of his sinful desire to fill his own belly, thought that the woman’s possessions should not be spent on Christ and His Gospel but upon goods for the poor, showing that the value he placed on his own belly (via his false concern for the poor) was higher than the value he thought Christ had.
If the connection between the Pharisees & Co. and the Emergents isn’t clear yet, just go to an Emergent blog, read an Emergent book, or talk with one and it will all become clear as day. Critic after critic of Orthodox theology is leveling moral criticisms against various Christians and/or Christian denominations and using that as justification for twisting the Scriptures, denying their basic teachings under the guise of reading the Bible through new lenses/eyes, from a different perspective, for some grandiose moral pursuit. Don’t get me wrong, Christians are commanded to pursue holiness; and anyone who claims to be a Christian and yet has no desire to be sanctified by the Spirit of God through His application of spiritual truth to our souls, is probably not a Christian. Sanctification is not a problem. The pursuit of holiness is not a problem. The problem is heretics that are holier than you, who are too holy to contend for sound doctrine and proclaim the truth of Scripture.
 Matthew 11:18
 Matthew 11:19
 Matthew 12:2
 Matthew 15:1-2
 Matthew 15:10 & Matthew 15:18-20
 Cf. Matthew 15:1-9, where the Lord Jesus Christ rebukes the Pharisees for judging Scripture by their traditions in order to gain what was not theirs and look holy in the process.
 Matthew 23:4
 Paraphrase of Luke 18:11-12