“Due Diligence” is a legal IRS term. You are allowed to take a questionable deduction on a tax return as long as you have done your “due diligence.” This means that you have researched your deduction enough to confirm a reasonable possibility that it is a legitimate deduction. If the IRS denies your deduction and you have done your due diligence, you will pay the additional tax plus interest and penalties. If they deny your deduction and determine that you have not given due diligence, you will likely be prosecuted.
I think this applies to Bible interpretation as well. Jesus had little tolerance for those who rejected his teachings because of tradition (Mark 7:5-13).
I have a lot of discussions with other Christians about Bible interpretation. I understand that people are people, and we all are subtly different. We are all biased in one direction or another. That does not excuse us from giving “due diligence” to the things that are important. Here are two examples:
An Example of Not Doing Due Diligence
When I was first realizing what the Bible teaches about water baptism, I wrote a four-page letter to the pastor of the Baptist Church I was attending. I asked if I could meet with him about it. When we got together, he tried to intimidate me with accusations, but they weren’t true. Then he simply told me I should go to another church. Finally, I asked him if he had any response to the letter.
He focused in on Acts 22:16. There Paul recounts that Ananias had told , “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” In this passage, he said, “‘Get up’ and ‘be baptized’ go together, and ‘wash away’ and ‘call on his name’ go together. The baptism is unrelated to the washing away of sins.”
This was an example of no diligence at all, much less an appropriate level of diligence. That pastor would have been satisfied with any answer at all, whether it really explained the verse or not. He spent no time at all deciding whether or not “baptism” and “washing away your sins” were actually related. He did not want them to be, so they weren’t. He did not want truth, he wanted the discussion (and me) to go away. (This is the kind of thing Jesus was talking about when he said, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.”)
Unfortunately, this is what most religious people do. No examination, no deep thought, just a steadfast devotion to the status quo. In other words, for most Christians, tradition is enough.
The problem with this is that evangelicals have many conflicting tradition. Jesus prayed for us to be one so that the world would know that God sent him, but we refuse to face and tear down the traditions that stop us from being one.
Not Doing Due Diligence, Second Example
This may infuriate some people, but I am pretty sure those whom the following would infuriate quit reading my blog long ago.
2 Peter 2:20-21 says: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.”
I am not sure how anyone can read that passage without rejecting eternal security. I have only heard two responses to it:
- The chapter is about false prophets, so only false prophets can have this happen to them.
- This is a difficult verse.
The first argument is senseless, and the second is false. There is nothing difficult about 2 Peter 2:20-21.
The real difficulty with this passage is that a lot of people do not like it or agree with it. If that’s the case, it is better to tear 2 Peter out of your Bible. It would be much easier to justify removing 2 Peter than to twist 2 Peter 2:20-21 into anything other than a clear statement that Christians can fall away so badly that they will be judged worse than they would have if they had not heard the Gospel.
2 Peter 2:20-21 is a perfect example of the need for due diligence. It creates a massive need for diligence. There are a lot of verses in John’s Gospel and letters that seem to contradict 2 Peter 2:20-21. In fact, the due diligence required is really too difficult for the average Christian. It is our teachers and leaders who should be making the effort to produce an overview of the faith that includes both John and 2 Peter.
Unfortunately, if Christianity were taxes, most pastors and teachers would be in jail for not doing due diligence. All of you suffer for it.
One thing I can tell you is that ignoring verses like 2 Peter 2:20-21 is stupid. Even a child could figure out that this passage warns you not become entangled in the world because you will be judged worse than unbelievers if you do. Ignoring such a clear warning is just stupid.
You can leave the balancing of John and 2 Peter to people who have the time and skills to give you a good explanation of how they correlate rather than contradict. You cannot, however, ignore the warning.
You also need to dismiss any teacher that tells you this passage is not true. Anyone who tells you that you can become entangled in the defilements of the world and be better off than you were before you heard the Gospel (i.e., go to heaven) is wrong. You can ignore their reconciliation of John and 2 Peter because they have reconciled the two in such a way that 2 Peter becomes untrue. A person capable of reconciling the two will show how both are true, not how one is wrong or false.
The Consequences of Not Doing Due Diligence
If you fail to do due diligence with your taxes, you may get away with it. The IRS is not omniscient or omnipresent, and they do not audit every tax return. God, on the other hand, will call us to task one day for every idle word we have spoken (Matt. 12:36). Your lack of due diligence will be found out.
Nonetheless, most of us fear the IRS more than we fear God. If we did, we might be more afraid of failing to do due diligence with the Scriptures. I’m relatively sure that God is not going to care whether we gave diligence to when the rapture will occur; on the other hand, I am certain that he will care whether we save our sinning brother from death of his soul (Jas. 5:19-20). We need to do due diligence about what we should be giving due diligence to!