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The Divine Hermeneutic

Passivism
(A Departure from the Divine Hermeneutics)
Dennis L. Reed


To speak of a departure from the Divine hermeneutics is a somewhat sophisticated way of saying that someone has deliberately chosen to no longer be bound by the authority of God's Word.  It is simply a choice to not abide in the teaching of Christ (2 John 9-11) (John 8:31-32).

For the more than fifty years that I have sought to preach the gospel, we have always clearly understood the principles of Divine hermeneutics and how God absolutely expects us to understand, teach, and be obedient to His inspired Word, just as it has been revealed by the Holy Spirit. We have always recognized that understanding these Divine principles of interpretation has never really been the problem!  The true and real problem has been the unwillingness on the part of so very many, including our own brethren, to believe, accept, and make application of those principles!  We therefore have those among us who simply do not want to accept what God has spoken and who desire to substitute their own will in the place of God's Will. Without hesitation or reservation, I would therefore affirm that the problem can and will be defined and evidenced by what we want to hear, what we want to believe, and what we want to do!  It is an effort in futility for anyone to "beat around the bush" or to "whistle past the graveyard" in seeking justification for such willful rejection of God's righteousness. The time has arrived for us to encounter, in a head on battle, this blatant and willful disregard for God's commandments. As we encounter this digression, we must be certain that we have clothed ourselves with "the whole armor of God" (Ephesians 6:10-18).  It is a sad reality that we have far too many "soldiers" among us who are content to throw away the "sword of the Spirit" as they hide in the bushes or behind the trees, while denying that a battle is even taking place!  They are absolutely useless when it comes time to "fight the good fight of the faith" (1 Timothy 6:12) (2 Timothy 4:7), and their often encountered attitude of arrogance, insolence, and disdain for those fighting the battle is an absolute betrayal of the Master's cause.  We would be most wise to consider the words of Philippians 3:17-19, "Brethren, be ye imitators together of me, and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample. For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things."

Passivism is nothing less than a willingness on the part of brethren to let Satan have his way!  It is also an indication of an arrogant and selfish desire to "do as we please" rather than seeking to please God (Galatians 1:10) (1 Thessalonians 4:1) (2 Timothy 2:4)! The Macmillan School Dictionary defines the word passive as: "acted upon without responding or acting back, giving in without opposition or resistance, submissive".  Not only have we cultivated a generation among brethren who are willing to "give in without opposition", but you can also add the recognition that there has always been a prevalence of the "who cares" attitude among far too many, including our own brethren.

When brethren determine that they are going to tolerate false teaching and sinful conduct (being acted upon without responding or acting back), and that they will be satisfied to receive and fellowship the false teacher who does not bring the teaching of Christ (giving in without opposition or resistance), then their passivism simply opens the door for the "wolves" to have free course in the corruption and destruction of precious souls!  How amazing it is for brethren to have so little respect for the inspired Truth of God!  This passive attitude indicates that brethren have lost their resolve to heed the sober warnings of the scriptures.  The apostle Paul directed the following words to the elders at Ephesus, "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:29-30}.  When we offer no opposition or resistance to the wolves, then we have willfully or ignorantly surrendered our faith!  These, brethren who choose to depart from the divine hermeneutic through their decision to "do nothing" will surely become easy prey for the wolves who find themselves sitting on the front pew and in total control of both the thoughts and practices of the brethren who invited them in.  The scripture admonishes us to "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. for the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:2-4).  Passivism therefore becomes a decision "to hear what I want to hear", "to believe what I want to believe",  "to do what I want to do", and to no longer concern myself with being bound by God’s authority.

Among our brethren, this has clearly exhibited itself in the parroting being done by so many as they find coined phrases to justify their disregard for the truth on various issues.  When confronted with the truth on some matter, they become very adept at simply passing it off as being unimportant or irrelevant.  Such blatant apathy will allow every kind of error and false teaching imaginable to invade one's heart and life and ultimately spread like gangrene throughout the church, (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15-18).  It therefore becomes extremely urgent that we carefully examine some of these parroting efforts of passivism and expose them for the deceptive and dangerous consequences which are inherent in them.

One of the major parroting expressions which is becoming more popular every day, especially among the younger generation, is that "it just doesn’t matter what you think, believe, or teach on that particular issue"! Such an attitude is passivism gone to seed!  Don’t be naïve, brethren, the younger generation didn’t think this up on their own – they learned it from their parents and teachers who have either ignorantly or cowardly used it to justify what they want to believe and practice, and more especially to justify what they know is a departure from the Word of God. When they know that it is impossible to answer what the Word of God says, this device is simply used as a defense mechanism to justify their rejection of the Truth.  This kind of thinking is so terribly dangerous as it provides a foothold for false doctrine and error to take root and grow like a destructive leaven in the Lord's church.  Passivism and apathy are nothing less than an open invitation for Satan to take control of our thinking and conduct. When these brethren have "friends" who are teaching and practicing error on creation, marriage and divorce, immodesty, gambling, drinking alcohol, Romans 14 and fellowship, or any other spiritual issue, the easiest way to fellowship and "go along" with their friends and embrace their error is to quickly classify it as something which "just doesn’t matter"! No effort is made to respond, resist, or stand in opposition to either the person or the teaching!  Passivism says to "just think positive", "love and receive them without any question", and never give a second thought to the consequence of such actions. How many among us will be willing embrace hypocrisy and the fellowship of error by finding a way to receive the one who “bringeth not this teaching” (2 John 9-11)?  Brethren, we had better wake up and give some sober thought to the admonition of Ephesians 5:6-14, "Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them; For ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth), proving what is well-pleasing unto the Lord; and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them; for the things which are done by them in secret it is a shame even to speak of. But all things when they are reproved are made manifest by the light: for everything that is made manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall shine upon thee."

Another blatant symptom of passivism is the parroting of the expression, "we don’t want to hear anything which is controversial"!  There is probably no greater indication of ignorance or a willful rejection of the Word of God than for someone to think such a thing, let alone to express it openly.  And when it is done by brethren, it is appalling!  The scriptures are filled with controversy from the confrontation with the serpent in the garden of Eden to the ultimate triumph of the souls who had been beheaded for the testimony Jesus in the book of Revelation! The life of our Lord was constantly filled with controversy as he placed the Will of God against the will of man, (John 15:18-25)!  Surely the words of the prophet have become a reality in our generation, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I also will forget thy children” (Hosea 4:6)! These brethren no longer see any danger from Satan, (1 Peter 5:8) (2 Peter 2:1-3). They no longer see any need to openly and publicly condemn sin and unrighteousness, (Galatians 5:19-21) (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). It also seems obvious that they no longer see any need to fight against error and false teaching, (2 Timothy 4:1-4) (Jude 3-4) (Romans 16:17-18) (2 John 9-11).  Such passivism and departures from the Truth will rapidly take these brethren into total digression and apostasy!  They have given up "the good fight of faith" and the warnings of faithful brethren are being ridiculed and ignored by them.

Passivism is further demonstrated by another similar phrase which is being openly parroted by brethren, as they ask the question, "What difference does it make?"  Such apathy calls to attention the warnings recorded in Hebrews 5:12-14, "For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe.  But solid food is for fullgrown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil."  We seem to have those among us who either don't have the spiritual development and ability to discern between good and evil, or else they simply don't seem to feel that there is really any difference between them that we should be greatly concerned about.  And don’t be deceived brethren, the issues at hand are not over matters of liberty and judgment, but over the differences between what is revealed in the Word of God and the blatant error and false teaching which finds its origin in human wisdom.  If it makes no difference, why has God spoken to us in the first place?  If we swallow the deception that it makes no difference, will we now have brethren who are willing to keep their Bible closed and let the sermons they hear be nothing more than "pop psychology" and "feelgoodism"? If it makes no difference, shall we forget about any possibility of danger from a perverted gospel, (Galatians 1:6-10)? Shall we allow men to preach in our pulpits who hold and teach soul condemning error, (2 John 9-11) (Romans 16:17-18)?  Brethren, this digressive persuasion is nothing less than the attitude exposed in Isaiah 5:20-23, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink; that justify the wicked for a bribe, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him! Therefore as the tongue of fire devoureth the stubble, and as the dry grass sinketh down in the flame, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust; because they have rejected the law of Jehovah of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel."  This is the same attitude which has always been prevalent in the denominational expression, "one belief is just as good as another", and sadly to say, we now have this attitude being exhibited and parroted in the very midst of the Lord’s people!  We are having to contend with our own brethren "who call evil good, and good evil."

Passivism takes away the restrictions in life, and permits one to live just as he pleases!  It tells us that nothing is wrong and everything is right, and we can therefore be free from all guilt!  It permits freedom of thought and practice without any fear of consequence or condemnation!  Is it any wonder that it is popular with those who are so limited in spiritual strength, knowledge, and conviction? Passivism is the open door of opportunity for those who would desire to “accentuate the positive” and “eliminate the negative”!  Yes indeed, it is truly “without opposition or resistance” and it readily permits one to be “acted upon without responding or acting back”!  This passive philosophy is destroying the faith and usefulness of many among the Lord’s people. Such passivism is like having baby birds, with eyes closed, sitting in the nest with mouths wide open to receive and swallow whatever is provided.  Surely those with an agenda of deception are thrilled with this prospect!

We cannot leave this discussion without examining one other phrase which so clearly exemplifies the concept of passivism as it boldly affirms that, "ignorance is bliss"!  Brethren, this may well be the absolute source and foundation of the many serious problems which afflict the Lord's church in our generation!  The subtle arrogance of the passivism now affecting the Lord's church is that more and more brethren are being convinced that "ignorance is bliss."  If you are ignorant of what is involved in any issue, then you don't have to worry about feeling any guilt or “mental distress” on the part of your conscience!  If you will just refuse to receive any instruction which would call attention to sin or digression on your part, then you never have to make a decision about right or wrong!  All that is needed to accomplish such is to leave your Bible closed, have your name removed from receiving any teaching material being sent to you by other brethren, and just let it be known far and wide that you "don’t want to hear anything about it"!  Surely this will adequately serve to keep you free from all guilt or remorse of any kind and the philosophy of  "feelgoodism" can reign supreme in your thinking!  Passivism sets you free from any probability of feeling guilty about anything.

We are so inundated with evasive and soft preaching in churches today that brethren are being convinced that they can do just about whatever they like without any guilt or remorse of conscience whatsoever!  Many of our brethren have long ago quit studying and teaching the Word of God in their personal lives and they have almost become totally dependent upon what they hear in the services of the church for their spiritual edification!  And when what you are hearing in the church is simply the serving up of "what makes you feel good" and what will entertain you and make you laugh for a few minutes while you are in attendance, then it is not at all difficult for us to see why so very little spiritual maturation is taking place and why the "ignorance is bliss" philosophy has fertile soil in which to take root! One brother recently said that he had attended a service in one of the larger churches in the Tampa area and that the "sermon" lasted twelve minutes!   When we stop looking into the mirror of the perfect law of liberty so that we may see ourselves as God sees us (James 1:21-25), and when we cease to be reminded that our lives must come face to face with the commandments of the Lord (Matthew 7:21-27), then passivism will surely become more the norm than the exception.

With the parroting of expressions such as "it doesn’t really matter", "what difference does it make", "we don’t want to hear anything controversial", and the obvious adoption of the philosophy that "ignorance is bliss", one is able to see that passivism is very much alive and well among a great many brethren.  There appears to be a tremendous fear on the part of some brethren about anyone who would provide them with information or any knowledge which might call upon them to make a decision about what is truth and what is error.  They seem to greatly fear that such knowledge might bring on guilt about what they are believing or practicing!  So, as is obvious to all, the best way to avoid guilt is to be void of knowledge! The best way therefore to avoid having to make a decision whether something is scriptural or unscriptural is to simply stay ignorant of that issue!  It is becoming more obvious every day that the "ignorance is bliss" philosophy is nothing more than a concentrated effort to avoid guilt!  It is a concentrated effort to avoid having to take a stand on unscriptural and sinful doctrines or practices which God fearing and Truth respecting brethren are continually warning us about!

Passivism permits us to avoid making any distinction between a false teacher and a sound teacher. This apathy and complacency allows us to avoid  taking a position on fellowship which would make a distinction between darkness and light, between truth and error, or between sinful and righteous conduct. Passivism justifies us in being perfectly satisfied with staying in the "middle of the road", thus not really standing for anything and not really standing against anything!  Trying not to take or express a position means that you don't really desire to have a position, you don't have any real convictions, you don't really have any serious conscience development, and there always remains the possibility that you already know the Truth and have willfully determined to reject it.  Being passive, you can therefore refuse to stand for anything.  And with that decision, you choose to make yourself so vulnerable that you will ultimately fall for just about everything!  This passivism says that you never have to open your Bible to give an answer to anyone (1 Peter 3:15).  Brethren, do we truly realize the seriousness of this indifference and apathy toward making a distinction between truth and error, and this absolute unconcern about whether things are right or wrong? Are we really awake to the danger we face with this lack of respect and lack of concern for the authority of the scriptures?  Do we recognize that there are brethren among us with conversation and beliefs which have become so sectarian and denominational that they don't even act or sound like Christians! They are among us, but passivism has so invaded their lives that they don't have a clue as to what the Word of God demands of us! These are brethren who tolerate false doctrines, who fellowship iniquity, who openly and vindictively ridicule those who would oppose their error, and who are being more and more successful in persuading and influencing the multitudes of our brethren to follow them down the destructive path of sin and digression!

We have more and more brethren who just refuse to listen to any brother who might bring "guilt bearing" information. Passivism has caused them to refuse to open their eyes so that they can see!  Passivism literally destroys the desire to examine any kind of spiritual issue.  Passivism provides an open door for them to be deceived and beguiled with smooth and fair speech!  Passivism convinces them that no matter what you believe, teach or practice, that you can still remain in full fellowship with God and with your brethren!  Passivism allows them to desire and seek the kind of preaching which entertains them and tells them how really great and faithful they are!   So we are therefore forced  to the regrettable conclusion that we really are living in a generation where it seems that many of our brethren prefer to hear "smooth things" and "deceits" (Isaiah 30:9-10).

It is almost as one historian described as taking place in the rise and fall of nations: "From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage."  Sadly to say, we have far too many of brethren who are in the complacency and apathy stages. They are becoming more and more dependent upon their "teachers" and "leaders", many of whom are most adept at deception, and they are well on the road to the bondage of embracing false teaching and sinful practices.  Passivism can and will lead those being deceived into the judgment of God unprepared to give account for their souls!

As I soberly pen the above thoughts, I am pleading with and exhorting my brethren to open their eyes and hearts to the Truth.  Sin is black, hell is hot, and an eternity in torment is awaiting all those who fail to walk by faith!  Our hope is heaven, and we must awaken to the fact that we cannot spend eternity there if we fail to keep His commandments!  It is my hope and prayer that this awareness will ever be before our eyes.  Passivism is about the surest way that I know of leading to self-destruction!

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