Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding the Exclusivity & Other Dangers of an Overzealous Faith Review

Posted: November 13, 2012 in Book Reviews
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Accidental Pharisees
By Larry Osborne
Zondervan Publishers
A Review By Matthew Boutilier

Spiritual arrogance is not a back-of-the-line sin, it’s a front-of-the-line sin. So much so that sometimes I think of it as an occupational hazard of zealous faith, serious discipleship, and biblical scholarship.”

Zealous? Passionate? Intentional? How do you measure up? Better yet, how does the guy sitting in the pew next to you measure up?

Ever look in the mirror? Sure you have. Perhaps thousands of times. Like what you see? Really? Honestly? Larry Osborne in his toe-stepping, punch in the face treatise of the life of an accidental Pharisee will have you doing a double-take in the mirror tomorrow morning (perhaps right now). I guarantee you will notice a few more wrinkles and warts. Evaluation. To be perfectly honest and frank, we are never truly honest and frank, are we? We like what we see because we generally love ourselves. Yet, that really isn’t wrong, per se. I believe that to even be Scriptural. We read in Ephesians 5:29 where Paul says that a person does not hate his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it. We need a biblical definition of the word “love.” In other words, we need to “love” our bodies in the sense that we recognize our body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and we should desire to be a good steward of the resources that God has blessed us with and honor our bodies and never neglect them. Yet, at the same time, we are not to set up ourselves as idols; love in that sense. What Osborne is driving home is not this sort of self-love. No, what he is driving home is this “brood of vipers” (Jesus’ wording, not mine–see Matthew 23:33). What is so interesting is that Jesus during His earthly ministry was the most critical and harsh with the religious leaders of the day because they were supposed to know better. They were supposedly experts in the Torah. And, yes, the Torah is filled with God’s grace, love, and mercy (see Exodus 14, 15; Joshua 2).

Osborne asks us if we have a list. You know, the list that gives us a detailed evaluation of those who are less-than-spiritual than we are? That list is usually comprised with those who do not share the same areas of giftedness that we do. So, we make sport of them for not being as “spiritual” as we are, because if they were, surely they would recognize the need to be doing more than they are in our area of giftedness!

There were some areas where I thought, “Ok, where is Osborne going with this? How is going to steer the cart back on the topic at hand?” Yet, once the wheels were rolling, I began to catch up with his thought-processes. It certainly wasn’t him, it was me. Osborne has that knack. He has that keen ability to draw you into the story and to develop that rapport with you so that you don’t dismiss his discipline, rather, you welcome it. You get the feeling that he isn’t chiding you as a person who has it all together, but as a fellow struggler who is attempting to pull you out of the ditch. For that I am thankful. No use reading about not being a Pharisee by another Pharisee!

There were many areas that I found myself nodding in agreement, and, to quite frank, laughing uncontrollably! I was convicted by many areas where I found myself looking down my Pharisaical nose at those who did not somehow “measure up” to my standards of spiritual maturity. It gave me a healthy reminder that I need to be much more gracious, compassionate, and patient with my brothers and sisters. Indeed, I need to be the beneficiary of that sort of gentleness myself more often than I realize.

One point of contention that I would have with Osborne is that there are points where plays the grace card a little too loosely for my comfort. He mentions that God is a God of grace and love (which I certainly whole-heartedly agree with). For example, in developing an illustration of his point regarding how God is a God of grace and what Jesus requires to be a disciple of His Osborne remarks with the following illustration. He says that Jesus knowingly chose Peter with the complete understanding that he would later deny him. He went out of His way to reach out to doubting Thomas. And, he continues by stating that Jesus promises a lighter, not a heavier load for His disciples to carry. True, very true. But, we also need to read the rest of the story. I agree Jesus does in fact provide us with a lighter load. The Pharisees of the day (and our day as well) pride themselves on the fact that they load their adherents with heavier burdens. For whatever reason, it makes a person more spiritual if they appear to be bearing those burdens (and the heavier, the better) on their own and people witness it. But, my point is, yes, Peter denied Christ. In fact, he did so three times. Just as Jesus told him earlier. Ironically, Peter denied that as well! Thomas. The most famous skeptic in biblical history. Jesus restored him as well. But, when we look back at the story of Peter, in particular, we notice that this isn’t it. Jesus isn’t finished with Peter yet. Jesus didn’t just leave Peter where he was. Following the life-transforming, Spirit-empowering experience that occurred at Pentecost, Peter was literally a changed man (Acts 2). In fact he was martyred for his faith.

Overall, I believe Osborne gives a well-balanced, very helpful instruction in this much-needed area of spiritual arrogance. I believe that this was an ideal environment and platter in which to have it served as well. Osborne comes across as a down-to-earth fellow hiker who has come across a dark, jagged path you are approaching. He offers some good alternate routes as well as sound, biblical counsel to keep you from running down the wrong trail. It sure has sharpened my eyes. Hope it sharpens yours too…

Take a minute or two to check out the interview with Larry Osborne here:

Or, to check out the official trailer for the book here:

I would like to extend my gratitude to Cross-Focused Media for the free copy of the book for me to offer this unbiased, balanced review as well as Zondervan Publishing.

  1. Matt,

    Thanks for being a part of the Accidental Pharisees blog tour. It’s been exciting how each reviewer has been impacted by the book. No two reviews have been exactly alike. Looks like there’s a little Pharisee in each of us and Larry has the cure. 😉

    Looking forward to working with you on future book review blog tours.

    Shaun Tabatt
    Cross Focused Reviews

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