The essence of Pharisaism 15

Yesterday’s post criticizing Perry Noble’s sexual legalism was predictably misinterpreted by a whole bunch of commentators as suggesting that we should not try to avoid temptation.

Perry invited us to consider him legalistic, so I obliged him because what he is suggesting is a classic example of the dangers of legalism. When you make a rule that says that you should never be alone with a woman, you immediately have a few problems:

It’s impossible to follow.

It’s not Biblical.

It’s useless.

Constant monitoring is not the answer to sin. The heart is the root of sin, and our hearts will always find ways to break the rules. You can lie to your accountability partner. You can’t be monitored 24-hours a day.

Thinking that these structures will prevent you from sin can actually be counterproductive because they prevent the daily disciplines of self denial and self control. Infants do require constant monitoring, but we expect that as people develop in maturity, that they can act civilly without having to have someone always hold their hands. If they don’t think they have the maturity required for sanctified living (shoot, just acting like a decent gentleman), perhaps these men shouldn’t be in ministry.

Perry Noble loves to label everyone who disagrees with him as a Pharisee who is not part of Christ’s kingdom. I am not going to counter-label him one here, but perhaps Noble should look at exactly what made the Pharisees the Pharisees.

The Pharisees earnestly sought to keep God’s law, but they did so by adding a whole set of man-made laws that were designed to protect people from breaking God’s law. For example, they might say that in order to obey the primary commandment against committing adultery, that one should never be alone with a woman. Yes, the second-tier law, if followed perfectly, would prevent breaking of the first, but it was never God’s law.

Paul’s point in Romans is that the law was designed, not to save us from sin, but to show us that we couldn’t not sin. Imposing and following Noble’s legalistic rules will never prevent someone from committing adultery. They may make it more inconvenient, but relying on his rules is foolish.

Practicing daily habits of self control and self denial in all areas of life in dependence on the Holy Spirit is much more likely to lead to sexual propriety.

15 thoughts on “The essence of Pharisaism

  1. Seth Jun 10, 2009 12:40 am


    I would like to add a note, never has Perry told anyone to follow what he has established to protect himself, he suggests it, but usually he mentions it to inform the church how he is helping to protect himself. Again, everyone out there has boundaries, whether or not they are in your mind or written. I do see how he can be called legalistic, but, did the Pharisees not also impose the laws they created upon the followers, which is something Perry is not doing. He does not go around saying that every single person should do this to protect themselves. Its like this, some people write their prayers down as they say them because they cannot focus for long periods of time (ADD), and some people can. So, which is the correct method? Which is better in God’s eyes? I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that the law was there to show us that we “couldn’t not sin”. So, even someone following a path of self denial and self control and following the Holy Spirit can still sin correct? So, if someone has rules set to protect himself, but does not impose/force them onto others, does that still make him a Pharisees?

  2. ADHD Librarian Jun 10, 2009 2:13 am

    Perry Noble is not the only Christian leader who has at some stage spruiked this strange puritanical idea that avoiding women is the solution to lust (or more specifically, having sex with someone and regretting it later).

    I am certainly in a position where I find it an odd state of affairs because as a male working in a female dominated industry I have somehow managed to avoid all these women who are hanging around just trying to have sex with their male co-workers. yet I have shared an office with a woman, had meals with a woman who was not my wife, I’ve driven in cars with women…

    perhaps I am just not enough of an Alpha Male and as such I don’t notice all these subtle signals that women put out announcing that they are all desperate to have sex with me. Or perhaps I am just not egotistical enough to imagine myself to be God’s gift (as it were).

  3. P.M. Jun 10, 2009 1:11 pm

    i read perry’s post you’re referring to. where did he say that his suggestion was to solely depend on boundaries and not the Holy Spirit for sexual purity? it sounds like you are making the case that legalism and rules will not save you from sin, and i don’t think anyone would disagree with you. i don’t think perry would disagree with you. i don’t even go to his church, and i didn’t not read into his blog what you read into it. in addition to being dependent on God and practicing self control, knowing that you can’t be monitored 24/7, i think it is important to make rules for yourself as well. when my best friend struggled with porn, i did not say “just trust God, turn your mind towards him when you have impure thoughts, depend on the Holy Spirit and everything will be fine.” while God is the only one that can CLEANSE us from sin, he alone cannot STOP us from sinning because we have free will. by his grace, he may intercede for us, clutch our hearts, and provoke our concience just before sinning, but we do not always listen. and this is why i told my friend to put filters on his computer, block certain tv channels, not to get on the computer when no one else is in your house, have an accountability partner, etc. perry was simply sharing some similar safeguards that he has set in place for his own life and i think that is a smart and safe thing to do. nowhere in his post did i read that rules alone will save you or keep you from sinning. would you encourage a recovering alcoholic who says they have self control and are solely dependent on Jesus to hang out in bars? no. it’s just stupid.

  4. Pastor Brian Jun 10, 2009 2:00 pm

    The bible says to avoid sin and so we should do what the Bible says and the Bible alone.

    If Perry Noble seriously can not be left alone with another woman for fear or concern that something may happen then he has bigger problems than defending Lamb.

    Just because a male pastor counsels with a female church member does NOT mean that there is lust or anything improper going on.

    My pastor, my spiritual father, has been a pastor for over 30 years and has NEVER had any issues with counseling nor being alone with any woman or girl. It simply has not been an issue and it simply does not need to be.

    Lust leads to sin and sin leads to death. Lust, Sin, Death = LSD it’s how the devil makes a dope out of people.

  5. P.M. Jun 10, 2009 2:39 pm


    yes, the bible does say to avoid sin. but, HOW do you do that practically? one way i AVOID the sin of letting my body go and not taking care of the one God gave me is by exercising every day. one way my friend AVOIDS the sin of lust is by putting safeguards in place to make it impossible to look at porn on his computer. perry has talked publicly about his long struggle with porn, and maybe he needs to have hard and fast boundaries to deal with sexual temptation, where it is not as big of a problem for other people.

    every person is week in some areas. if you can be alone in a room with a woman who is not your wife, then good for you. but how dare you imply that other people who need extra boundaries are not as strong or jesus filled as you. the bible talks about gouging out your eyes if they cause you to sin. while i don’t think God commands us to really gouge our own eyes out, i do think the metaphor is for us to destroy and cut out any avenue of sin or immorality. God calls us to take ACTION in proactively turn our back on sin. people who have safeguards in place are taking action to do that. anyone who thinks they don’t need any safeguards, boundaries, or rules in any area of their life is self righteous and doomed to fail because of arrogance. you come across as one of these people. if you are not perfect, please set the record straight. if you are not perfect, you have no right to judge how others avoid sin when you choose to avoid sin in other areas in the ways you want.

  6. ADHD Librarian Jun 10, 2009 10:28 pm

    P.M. how can anyone possibly justify never being in a lift with a woman? That is just crazy talk. In fact it is makes Tom Cruse seem sane by comparison talk.

  7. Pastor Brian Jun 11, 2009 1:24 am

    P.M. you quote the scripture that someone should gouge their eye out if it causes them to sin. Well Gary Lamb’s male anatomy caused him to sin, shall he then cut it off?

    The issue is still integrity and still living and acting and behaving the way God wants me to. A true blood bought, born again, Holy Spirit filled Christ follower would not willing choose to have an emotional and physical affair with another woman.

    Pastors must be ready, willing and able to counsel anyone and everyone who comes in their path, including women.

    Men who can not control their sexual appetite have no business in ministry, period!

    You can justify and defend Lamb and Noble all you want to but the bottom line in their own pride, ego and arrogance remains that they are WRONG.

    And the bible gives me every right to judge by the righteous standard which is the word of God.

    I’ve said before, but you only read what you want to, that I am not perfect, that none of us are. We all fail, we all sin, we all make mistakes, but there is a HUGE difference in a mistake and choosing to have sex with a woman or man that you are not married to.

  8. P.M. Jun 11, 2009 1:45 am

    who are you to say what is “crazy talk?” if someone choose to avoid temptation in order to stay away from sin, why is that a matter up for discussion and scrutiny by you or anyone else? ANYONE who knows their own weaknesses, faults, and downfalls and does whatever possible to stay pure and blameless is a wise person. what you see as overboard may be what God commends as above and beyond the call of duty. you have no right to judge the types of safeguards people put up to aid in avoiding sin. you asked me how could someone justify not being in an elevator with a woman. why should it have to be justified to you? i am not speaking for perry because i do not know him personally or his reasons for doing things; it doesn’t matter his reasons anyway. but say a man is a visual person, and would have to consciously fight the urge to let his eyes linger on a woman not his wife if left in space alone with them. maybe that man could ride the elevator with a woman and look at the ceiling or his shoes, and maybe that’s what you would rather do. but why not avoid temptation altogether by just choosing to not ride on elevators alone with women? is it seriously that hard to see any good in people’s boundaries? to each his own. practice boundaries that keep you in check according to your own weaknesses and don’t spend so much time worrying about everyone else.

  9. ADHD Librarian Jun 12, 2009 2:13 am

    Well PM, I say it is crazy because it is crazy. And obviously so, this isn’t even a line ball call, it is big and obvious!
    The guy seems to be living his life acting like 51% of the world’s population are just waiting to get him alone so they can seduce him.

    Think about it women make up more than half of the world’s population. I think that if you are unable to deal with that there is a hell of a lot wrong with you and avoiding lifts isn’t going to help.

    Perhaps he should get himself to a monastery, just to be on the safe side?

  10. P.M. Jun 12, 2009 11:20 am


    i think you are being a little obtuse.

    did you ever think that a married man choosing not to be alone with another woman (whether it be an elevator, restaurant, office behind closed doors, etc…)might possibly take that precaution for other reasons than to not rip off her clothes and pouncing on her? perhaps this is a smart move for any married man so that his eyes are not tempted to linger or his brain is not tempted to wonder about the curves underneath the clothes. guys are wired to look and wonder–even christians. there have been books and studies galore. christian men should be the ones taking themselves out of tempting situations and living above reproach so as not to be dishonorable to their wives or even give the APPEARANCE of being dishonorable. if you are so blessed not to have problems with wandering eyes then good for you. don’t bash boundaries set in place for purity for those that struggle with something.

    also, i never heard noble refer to women as temptresses waiting to lure men into death traps. i do not go to his church or agree with a lot of what he says and i am a woman. i did not read into his blog about boundaries that women are dangerous and just trying to get someone in the sack.

    as a woman, i appreciate all men, especially married men, who respect women and their relationships enough to keep themselves out of sticky situations, and put themselves in less tempting situations to keep wandering eyes, lust, and sexual impurity in check. many men think they can stay in tempting situations and not have a single impure thought but i think that’s taking on undue stress. you may say something is crazy but i admire any man who will not just meet the world’s expecations or live by others’ standards, but will go above and beyond the call of duty and risk being seen as a freak in order to respect God and women.

  11. Pastor Brian Jun 12, 2009 1:27 pm

    Sorry but a sticky situation is not being in an elevator or restaurant with a woman. That’s almost a phobia and really not normal at all.

  12. P.M. Jun 12, 2009 1:40 pm

    i think a situation can only be defined by the person in it. what’s tempting for you might not be tempting for others. you might be cool with going to dinner with other women, but i am not ok with my husband doin that. and if someone needs to not be in an elevator with a woman to show his wife respect than that doesn’t deserve to be riduculed. you do not know noble’s reasons for doing the things he does. maybe it is to dispell any doubt that he could be doing something sketchy so that rumors don’t get started. maybe his wife asked him to. you don’t have any basis for calling it a phobia. you seem to think that just because you don’t have particular boundaries than other people shouldn’t either. it is pretty self centered and arrogant to think that if you deem something as crazy or phobic than it must be. glad to know you are the one with the last word on these subjects. i can come to you for the correct answer to any life question i guess. sweet!

  13. P.M. Jun 12, 2009 1:43 pm


    i understand you have other things to do besides read the millions of comments on your blog, but when you get a chance i was wondering if you could let me know where you stand in the conversation i’ve been having with adhd and brian. just curious.

  14. James Duncan Jun 12, 2009 5:06 pm

    I’m not sure I have a complete handle on the three perspectives here, but this is a bit of a tricky issue, which was the point of the follow-up post in the first place. There is wisdom in setting up procedures to help resist temptation, especially in areas where you know you’re weak. My point is that Noble set them up as Rules That Must Be Followed, which he himself describes as legalism. That’s what I’m disagreeing with.

    Furtick and Lamb were the two pastors that PN poured himself into more than anyone, so I assume GL was encouraged to follow those rules himself. He may not have done so, but my argument is that they would never have stood up against his bad heart anyway. The same goes for Perry. He can set up an elaborate set of rules, but they can never stop him from sexual sin if his heart wants it (and I’m not saying here that it does).

    I think there’s something to adhd’s argument that if it is too challenging to be in an elevator alone that you should be doing something else with your life. On the other hand, there is a requirement that church leaders maintain good reputations (1 Timothy 3:7), so if this helps PN do that, perhaps that’s necessary. On this particular point, however, I doubt that rumors will get started simply by seeing him get out of an elevator. Someone’s been watching too much TV.

    1 Peter 5:8 says that to resist the devil we must be self-controlled and alert. As I’ve already argued, self-control should be practiced in all areas of life, not just this one. That, not rules, is a better defense because it trains the heart.

  15. P.M. Jun 14, 2009 1:31 am

    j dunc– i pretty much agree.

    brian– i missed the post earlier where you said that i was defending gl’s actions. i would just like to point out that i have never said anything that would even come close to being misconstrued in that way. the only thing i have been defending is ANY guy who puts boundaries in place to AID in protecting himself from sin–not that boundaries are a guaranteed provention against a wicked heart. you were making people who have boundaries sound stupid and weak, and taking every opportunity to point out your own “righteousness”. i never said that having an affair was ok or excused.

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