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The Mystery of Passionism
We recently discussed how our view of God affects our ability to accurately convey God's mind through the prophetic office. If our view of God is compromised by partiality to one facet of His nature, we will prophesy a skewed caricature of the Lord—one more aligned to our predisposition of who God is than to who He really is.
In our study, we traced the prophetic controversy over God's judgment and mercy to the real problem of owning these divine attributes within our inner man. We even discerned that spiritual pride (including false humility) is traced to this carnal ownership, not to the attributes themselves or the sure declaring of them.
But the judgment/mercy drama is only a touch point for a deeper friction in God's people over two much broader divine natures. The first nature is God's supreme Commitment to His own Holiness (ie, His "Transcendence"). The second is that of His unfathomable Passion for His creation—specifically, for Man. The Lord's judgment and mercy are only limited expressions of these two greater natures. Our deepest conflict is not over God's judgment and mercy, but over His Allegiance to His holiness and His Desire for humanity.
Owning either of these partial divine natures produces equally distorted anti-qualities. Ownership of God's Commitment to His holiness produces what we might call Disciplism, better known as Pharisaism—a devotion to principles of divine will and holiness apart from the Lord's personality. The fruit of Pharisaism includes legalism and judgmentalism.
But owning God's Desire for mankind produces something equally dangerous, yet less perceived and far more pervasive throughout today's front-line church. It is—Passionism.
Pharisaism and Passionism stand opposite one another. Pharisaism with its fruits has been the more easily recognized evil. The blatant spiritual pride, legalism and judgmentalism that attend Pharisaism is well documented and well prosecuted throughout today's evangelical prophetic church. These anti-qualities formed the platform on which Christ was originally put to death.
But Passionism—its false humility, its idolization of man in the name of God's love, and its relationship to lawlessness—is not as recognized for its true nature. The purpose of this article is to clearly illumine and deliver us from this less perceived partial caricature of God.
Passionism: A Working Definition
Passionism is not hard to define. Extracting and isolating God's Desire for man out from the governing context of His supreme Commitment to His own transcendence, Passionism is the presenting of God's passion for man as His driving governmental force, the seat of His Being and Will, and the sum of the Divine Nature.
Setting up God's desire for man as the reference point of His will, Passionism indirectly raises man to the center of God's universal purpose—simply because man truly is at the center of divine passion. This effects a hidden back door to the worship of man. Worshipping a passion-centered God leads to worshipping the object at the center of that passion—which is man.
To borrow an oft-used light-hearted illustration from marriage, it is sometimes joked: "man may be the head, but woman is the neck that turns the head!" No joking matter however, this portrayal captures the essential effect of Passionism concerning the Lord's relationship to man. As voiced in an extreme example I heard preached recently: God is so emotionally in love with mankind that—in so many words—He can hardly "control Himself" (if you catch the drift). He is simply consumed by His desire for us.
Passionism and Lawlessness
As Pharisaism yields legalism, so Passionism yields lawlessness. The heart of lawlessness is that man becomes his own law—a law to himself. He has no authority above him to decree his bounds. He only decrees them to himself. So His own will becomes his law.
We usually think of lawlessness as man openly declaring that there is no God—that he himself alone is god. And this is true. But lawlessness also manifests through a refined deception where man says he "worships" and "obeys" God, yet the "God" he worships is ultimately a worshipper of man and defers to man's will.
In this more subtle form of lawlessness, God functions more as a "trustee" over man's own interests, interests which man ultimately controls without appearing to do so. God is said to be "in authority," but the essence of His authority is only to reaffirm man's will. God is called King, but in effect, He is only a figurehead—much like the remnants of Europe's monarchies.
Passionism establishes this more hidden form of lawlessness. It doesn't deny God's authority over man, but it does strip it of practical meaning and effect. It ultimately leaves man as his own lawgiver. This is because under Passionism, man's welfare is God's default reference point for His own Being, Purposes and Decrees. So consumed-driven-intoxicated-infatuated with man is God said to be, that Man really becomes the hidden mover in God's heart behind what may otherwise be called the "Will of God."
Picture a doting father appeasing spoiled children who have His heart "tied around their pinkies." The children always pay lip service to this father's "final authority," but they know that they are the ultimate pullers of His heartstrings, and thus the hidden final law to themselves. This is the lawlessness of Passionism.
That we haven't grasped what Passionism is or its relation to lawlessness is unsurprising and alarming at the same time. It is unsurprising because this is the end time, and—whereas legalism prevailed at the first coming of Christ—the Scriptures teach that lawlessness (read, Passionism) will prevail at His second coming. It prevails because we don't recognize it. We don't recognize it because we have been deceived by Passionism's false view of God's passion as His Totality—a view that has been carefully forming for centuries. Yet once exposed, this development alarms those who truly seek to be under God's authority.
Indeed, the mystery of iniquity is the Mystery of Passionism.
The Gospel According to Passionism
The mystery of the true gospel is this: God desires that all men should be saved. Yet God—whose power alone it is to convert the heart—has not ordained to save all men. For us, this is not explainable. Yet difficult as it is to embrace, this divine mystery demonstrates the essential reality about the dual nature of God—that even God lives by the subjection of His own Passion to His transcendent Will.
The mysterious outworking between divine Passion and Will is seen in the life of our Savior. The Bible shows that in coming to save man, Jesus' ultimate devotion was not to man—not to those He came to save—not to those whom He so deeply desired. His ultimate devotion was to the Will of His Father, to which He subjected His own passion for man.
Said another way, in dying for humanity, Jesus had to first die to humanity, ie, to His own divine desire for man—to His desire for man's reciprocal desire for Him. Though bearing God's full passion for humanity, Jesus died on His Father's terms, not on the terms of His desire. Thus is revealed in Jesus the consummate submission of divine passion to divine will.
In the true gospel, human salvation is not its own end—not God's ultimate purpose—but a means to a greater end in God Himself. That end is, as Paul says, to the praise of the glory of His grace. It is to showing that Christ is all in all and Lord of the Universe.
In contrast to all the above, the passionist gospel teaches that Jesus died for man solely in response to His desire for man. It sees the Father's Will and passion for man as one, defined only by His desire. It is unable to believe that His universal desire to save man could somehow be subject to a higher qualifying determination and purpose in Himself.
The passionist gospel teaches that human salvation is its own end—the be all and end all of divine purpose. In a word, "the chief end of God is to save man." It is not subject to a higher qualifying purpose in God's transcendent will.
The true Kingdom gospel presents the Lord's authority as the ultimate issue in salvation. It proclaims that Jesus Christ is Lord and King of all the earth now; and that, one day, every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge this. The question of salvation is whether our bowing to Him through personal surrender will come before death, or after death when it is too late.
The passionist gospel however takes the message of salvation out from the gospel of the Kingdom of which it is a part. It diminishes or eliminates the element of repentant surrender to divine authority. In this gospel, man becomes de facto king due to the perceived centrality of His own salvation to God's heart. By default, the saved one, not the Savior, receives the final attention, and thus glory.
Past conversion, the kingdom gospel continues reconciling us to God through a course of surrender that includes overcoming offenses in Him. But the gospel of Passionism presents God's ongoing willingness to adapt His will to our frailty—to the erasing and removing of all offense in God. In truth, it believes in reconciling God to us.
- The Meanings of Love, Grace and Mercy
From the example of Jesus, we learn the true meaning of God's love, grace and mercy.
As we saw, the Love of Christ was not just in His desire for us, but in His committed submission of desire to His Father's Will. Authority and growth in discipline are intrinsic to divine love. God's Grace begins with His sovereign overcoming of our rebellion and His delivering us from deserved everlasting wrath—from whence He ministers to our weaknesses. And God's Mercy is His forgiveness of our sins upon confession and turning of heart, and from there to His overlooking of all our myriad ignorant faults.
In the true gospel, all these words—while clear expressions of His passion and compassion for us—are foundationally referenced to His intent for our conformity to the standard of His divine transcendence through discipline.
But in the gospel of Passionism, love, mercy and grace are defined entirely and indistinguishably as variations of divine desire, compassion and pity that are finally referenced to human plight and need—apart from any sense of authority or discipline associated with growth toward God's transcendence.
The passionist gospel defines God's love preponderantly or exclusively by His desire for us. And it defines our love for God that way as well—emphasizing our thirst for the Lord's enjoyable presence.
Passionist "grace" and "mercy" are interchangeable extensions of this "love." They merely describe God's predisposition to alleviate suffering, to fulfil human need, to "pick up" after our flaws, to ameliorate the consequences of human "mistakes," and to otherwise absolve all human transgression under all conditions—without confronting the barriers of self-deception and self-will that hinder true love.
In all cases, the issues of authority and God's expectation for our change toward His perfection—if expressed at all—are muted obligatory afterthoughts. Passionism overplays the term "unconditional" to blunt any and all such expectation. Thus we continually hear unqualified references to unconditional love, unconditional grace, unconditional mercy, etc.—all to the coddling of men in states of sin or immaturity.
In extreme Passionism, love, mercy and grace become binding on God because of "Who He Is," and therefore are seen as entitlements. Not only are we released from all expectation, but God's compassion becomes subject to our self-serving expectation. We believe he owes His grace and mercy to us!
-Passionism and True Spiritual Desire in Worship
The very concept of spiritual desire in worship is also skewed by Passionism.
In true worship, spiritual desire for the Lord originates in the desire to know His truth of conviction in the inward parts. It is possible to truly desire the Lord only through first desiring His truth about ourselves—to the exposing of all that hinders our path toward perfection in Him. This desire is the fear of the Lord.
But in Passionism, spiritual desire is confined to the search for the emotionally satisfying experience of God's presence. It diminishes or excludes the desire of obedient, surrendered self-sacrifice that transcends our feelings for God.
Passionist worship moves beyond restoring emotion in worship to establishing emotion-based relationship with the Lord. Emotional fulfillment becomes the sum of hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The search for the beauty of His holiness becomes the search only for His beauty, opening the heart to embracing the truthless beauty of Lucifer, the Angel of Light.
Three Children of Passionism
Three "isms" have sprouted from Passionism throughout church history.
- the title speaks for itself and is the immediate fruit of Passionism. Based on the selective devotion to God's desire-nature for man, Christian Humanism is the centralized awareness and devotion to mankind in the name of God's love. It is really the worship of man. Christian Humanism establishes our perception and response to man—his needs, his wants, and our esteem of his nobility—as our final reference point for knowing and doing the will of God and expressing His love.
In Christian Humanism the love of God is measured by how man perceives he ought to be loved according to his own terms and expectations. Love is not toward any standard of the Lord's perfection, only to the standard of what men perceive to be in their own best interest for their sake. ("God, if You really love me, You would… [or] You wouldn't ask me to…")
- is the corporate version of Christian Humanism. Catholicism centers our devotional awareness on the church (body of Christ, "bride" of Christ) in the name of God's love for the church. It is the worship of the church. Catholicism establishes our passion for the church as our final reference point in doing God's will, setting up the "will of the church" as a mediatory veil between the individual and the Lord.
We are most familiar with the ancient Roman version of Catholicism that extends back some 16 centuries. Due to its age, Roman Catholicism has the most developed teaching and practice at establishing its centrality in the heart of the believer—interposing an elaborate clerical hierarchy, "beatification of saints," and even prayers to the dead—all based in the belief of God's superior passion for the church. It also has the most developed demonstration of Christian Humanism in its global interface with human societies. (Historians will recognize that ancient Christian Humanism developed from within Roman Catholicism during the Renaissance.)
But Roman Catholicism is only one version of Catholicism. Over the last 300 years, "Evangelical Catholicism" has arisen on the heels of God's passion restoration in the Evangelical movements, leading the way to Charismatic and Prophetic Catholicism today. While not developed to the point of interposing statues and the spirits of dead "saints" between the Lord and believers, Evangelical Spirit-Filled Catholicism yet effectively elevates God's desire for the church to the point of interposing it between the Lord and His people. Our devotion to the church becomes the litmus test for our love for God.
As the Catholicism of Evangelical Spirit-filled Passionism continues developing, it becomes increasingly easier for those under its spell to consider surrendering the objective biblical truths that have separated them from Roman Catholicism, and to begin overtures toward reconciliation based solely on their common devotion to the supremacy of "God's passion for us all and our passion for Him."
- is the extension of God's desire for man to the denial of any final separation between God and any of mankind. Seeing all humanity as the object of God's desire, and seeing God's passion as the sole standard of His love, universalism insists that God, to be true to His nature, must eventually effect a complete reconciliation between Himself and the entire human race—and even with satan and his angels.
Universalism conceives of no standard of divine transcendent holiness that could overrule His divine passion to where even a single soul could be finally left eternally unreconciled, lost, damned, separated from God. Passionist teaching has always shown varying shades of universalistic tendency. But Universalism proper as described here is the final, logical, consistent conclusion of Passionism. [For our most complete discussion on universalism, please see An Abstract of Bible Cosmology: Providing an Exhaustive Refutation of the Spirit-Doctrine of Christian Universalism].
Tracing the Rise of Passionism in the Modern Church
The tare of Passionism grows alongside all moves of God where God's desire for man and/or our capacity to enjoy God experientially is the focus of restoration. Passionism works to isolate the reality of divine passion from the qualifying realities of God's transcendent eternal nature—sovereignty, authority, holiness, judgment, discipline—and then to steadily supplant and replace those qualities with His humanly oriented sensitivities in defining the entirety of relationship with God.
The Passionist domination of today's Christian mind did not arise suddenly in our day. It has developed ever so imperceptibly—decade by decade, generation by generation, over a very predictable pattern—for a very long time.
Passionism first appears in early church history. But as touches our modern Spirit-filled streams, it is traced to the rising evangelical/missionary movements of the late 1600's and 1700's—all of which featured the restoring of our perception and experience of God's desire for man. These movements-including the Pietists, the Moravians, later the Wesleyans and then others of various persuasions—founded what we today call Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism.
The restoring of God's passion for men and our capacity to experience Him was a desperately needed thirst-quencher of salvation in what had remained the dry, barren foundation of Reformation and Puritan Bible teaching. Severely tunnel-focused on the Lord's transcendency, the Reformation-Puritan heritage was rife with legalism, judgmentalism, fatalism and dogmatism. The Lord's passion restoration challenged the abuses associated with this ownership of divine holiness.
But it was here that the tare of Passionism also immediately sprang up, gaining ground everywhere God's Spirit moved. Where God's passion was meant to complete the foundation laid in God's transcendence, Passionism has worked for 300 years to destroy that foundation.
Since the revivals began, Passionism has developed over a pattern where, in each generation, a conflict arises between established divine-will centered truth and a passion-centered spiritual reality. Out of the heat of conflict, the divine-will centered truth becomes displaced as the governing reality by the passionist position. From there, it becomes increasingly discarded until it is finally entirely replaced by the passionist position—leading to an increased state of doctrinal and experiential lawlessness in the church, and thence in society.
- The Changing of the Gospel
The groundbreaking casualty of Passionism was the removing from our understanding of God's sovereign gracious choosing in human redemption. This set up a portrait of a passion-driven God helplessly pleading with human will, beholden to men's choosing of Him. It set our focus in evangelism on man, not the Lord, as the final author (arbiter, director) of salvation.
Following suit, faith gradually transformed from a surrender of repentant human will to a matter of human "decision" and "acceptance" of the Lord. Over more time, the concept of "decision" itself was reduced from one of deep soul-searching to the equivalent of selecting a lunch menu item—all against the picture of the helplessly pleading Savior. "John 3:16" became the flagship banner of this lopsided portrayal—cementing the passionist concepts of divine love and human faith on the words of a single verse.
Under the emotion-driven portrait of God, the Church's concept of sin and human moral accountability changed next. With faith reduced to a decision, repentance became redefined as "admission of mistakes." The element of human culpability and guilt began yielding to the concept of helpless victimization. Sin became predominantly—in some cases entirely—described as a "disease." Out of this, the church embraced the passionist redefinitions of grace, mercy and forgiveness.
As we came to believe that God's desire overrules any expectation of change in us, it was next believed we should lay no expectation of change among ourselves. We should unconditionally forgive all offenses without regard to issues of inward truth, holding no action accountable to any standard. In more recent times, this concept of unconditional forgiveness has yielded to teachings of unconditional reconciliation and unity between all believers, between the church and the world (including other religions), and between the world and itself.
Finally, unqualified divine forgiveness and reconciliation have moved to unseat the truth of eternal consequence for sin altogether. Such teaching, first planted early in the Evangelical era, has in our generation made an astounding comeback. The elements of fear and threat under everlasting wrath of the early evangelical gospel have gradually abated and are now openly challenged and discarded.
And so, what first began 300 years ago as God's helpless universal appeal to the human will has in our day progressed to the teaching that all men are "already saved but just don't know it," and finally to the teaching that all men will ultimately be saved after all anyway. This is the theology of lawlessness. It is the doctrine of Passionism.
- Passionism and the Holy Spirit
It only follows that Passionism has also affected our sense of relationship with the Lord through the Holy Spirit. The growing release of the Spirit from early Revivalism to today's Charismatic and Prophetic movements has been key to restoring God's passion nature to the church. As such, we would have to expect the ministry of the Spirit to be plagued by passionist tares.
Where legalism and judgmentalism quench the movement of the Holy Spirit, Passionism poisons the movement of the Spirit, converting it into a false movement. Under Pharisaism, the Holy Spirit cannot move. But under Passionism, the Holy Spirit can move freely, but His movement is corrupted to promote Passionism by those who do not love God according to His authoritative truth in the inward parts—transforming the Holy Spirit's ministry into the prophesied Great Delusion sent by God.
The Spirit's ministry has undergone the same subtle changes in re-centering from divine transcendence to divine passion that the gospel has endured. In its infancy, the end time outpouring of the Spirit was tied to the qualifying work of Spirit circumcision that sought for purified truth in the inward parts of believers.But through Passionism, the inner sin-piercing elements of engaging the Holy Spirit have been gradually stripped away over 150 years. Consider:
- "Revival" moved from a divine quickening of conviction over sin to today's "love gala" of spiritual manifestations with no other end than to leave the church feeling giddy about itself.
- "Spirit baptism" shifted from a fiery deliverance from sin's power in the inward man to today's light anointing for uttering a few unintelligible syllables.
- The "gifts of the Spirit," first perceived as sacred trusts, became imparted as "toys" to be stewarded at little or no cost, all to the ultimate blessing of the church—all because, of course, the Lord loves us centrally and unconditionally.
In recent years, a fresh emphasis on loving the Lord through passion-centered encounter has developed and gained great ground. Yet again, it diminishes the hard convicting issues of inward truth over which the Lord conforms us to His holiness and which form the meat of relationship with Him. Replacing "dessert" for the "main course," experiential "Passion for Jesus" is taught as its own stand-alone basis for growing in the Lord, breeding a false sense of intimacy with the Lord. In fact, the Lord's beauty (ie, His desirability) is even believed sufficient to replace all fear of judgment in motivating conversion to Christ.
At the heart of all the changes pertaining to the Gospel and the Holy Spirit's ministry over these three centuries has been one statement and belief—namely, the supremacy of God's unconditional love (ie, desire) for mankind.
Such is the meaning and effect of Passionism.
Passionism and the Future
There has been no greater blessing to the Lord's people these last few centuries than His restoring our understanding and experience of His passion for us. What can compare with sharing God's sense of urgent desire for lost men, with the brilliant inner peace and fullness that comes with experiencing His Presence in the inner man, and with the multitude of spiritual giftings that are ours in Christ?
Such a fitting completion is His passion to our salvation—a salvation which otherwise must begin in fear and trembling over eternal wrath, in the awe of His blazing majesty, in the conviction of truth in the inward parts, in our commitment to walking out His purging toward holiness, and in the knowledge of His absolute grace—beginning with His first choosing of us.
Yet in the same way that owning His transcendence exposes us to the cancers of legalism and judgmentalism, so ownership of His passion proves equally blinding, leaving us as carriers of humanism, catholicism and universalism. Passionism is the platform for lawlessness. And it is the spirit by which all the earth, save God's elect, will one day soon receive the divine passion-centered "clone" of the Lord—even this man of lawlessness—as their anti-Lord and anti-Savior.
We must not be deceived. God is not through revealing His desire for His people and the world. There is still more He will impart, more for us to receive, more for us to experience—and we must receive the fullness of His passionate elements—so vital to completing our race in Him.
Yet as long as there is more divine passion to restore, we also must count on it—Passionism will continue to increase. Passionism is here to stay—until the Lord appears in defining glory to expose it at final harvest and send it to the burning. The tide of Passionism in the evangelical Spirit-filled church will not be turned until then. The Lord has already decreed that the mystery of iniquity will come to its fullness.
Those who are truly the Lord's will continue receiving of the Lord's passion upon the foundation of their supreme allegiance to His transcendence. They will not succumb to Passionism's seducing lies. But neither will they cut themselves off from the Lord's restorations for fear of yielding to Passionism. They will not yield to the evils of Pharisaism that attend those who love the truth.
At the end, these chosen will be born to revealed glory, separated from the false passionist world, and commissioned to share in the Lord's execution of vengeance upon it—thereafter to shine in His Kingdom as the stars.
What then are the closing exhortations for us? There are two:
- In our desire to receive all that the Lord wants to pour out as evidence of His desire for us, we must be sure our desire to receive of God's delights is governed by our anchor in the fear of the Lord and our supreme commitment to His transcendence—not to our own welfare.
- We must not be thwarted from embracing the expressions of God's desire toward us because of the Passionism so pandemic today. Prophets dedicated to the foundational proposition of the Lord's transcendence and who are rightly frustrated with Passionism especially need to embrace this.
In sharing this study with you, I have written in hope of sharpening discernment and shoring up for others the same anchor our transcendent Lord Jesus has established in my own life over the last generation. I have written for the sake of the elect—for those who have not sold out their foundation in the fear of God, but who in their commitment to truth are repeatedly battered and befuddled in the face of passionist teaching and manifestation with its seeming unanswerability (who, after all, can argue against "the unconditional love of God"?).
May you be strengthened as you ponder these things, and endeavor to have the complete nature of Christ—divine passion grounded in holy truth—outworked in your inner being.
With all faithfulness,
New Meadow Neck, RI
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Page created September 27, 2003