Eric writes definitively about legalism and spiritual abuse.
Without further ado, Eric's post:
Legalism. It’s one of those nasty words that everybody points to as an example of religion gone wrong. Everybody knows that you shouldn’t be a legalist. Everybody knows that legalism is unbiblical. Everybody would be affronted if you called them a legalist.
Unfortunately, “everybody” by definition includes all the legalists. All the most legalistic people I’ve ever known assure me that they’re not legalists, and that legalism is wrong, and that they know they’re not saved by works, and that you must misunderstand them if you think they’re legalists.
So who are the legalists, then? The bogeymen? Anyone whose view of religion is more than 5% stricter than the person talking? Those are lousy definitions. We need something better. If legalism is so bad, and most of the people who practice it are not even aware of it, how can we avoid it? How can we diagnose ourselves to see whether we’re legalists? How can we be free if we are?