I’m aware that the Religion News Service is known for having a left of center bias when reporting on Christian themes in the news. But I was still somewhat surprised and disappointed to see on their front page a glowing promotion of a man they dubbed the, “digital pastor of the resistance,” John Pavlovitz.
To those within Christendom, Pavlovitz has distinguished himself as a political activist, not a minister. Besides their caustic tone, his widely-shared commentaries are usually remarkable to Christian readers for one reason – their glaring lack of any Scriptural reference or foundation. This isn’t an unjustified personal attack on John, it’s merely an observational awareness I came to after a disappointing interaction with him just over a year ago.
After his post blasting the orthodox Christian view of sexual morality facetiously entitled “The Day I Chose My Heterosexuality” went viral online, I wrote a rebuttal in the Christian Post where I noted his lack of Biblical reasoning:
First, let me encourage all of us to pray for John, Tony (Campolo), Matthew (Vines), Rachel (Held Evans) and all of these believers. Scripture offers a terrifying warning to those of us who teach or preach the name of Christ – that we will be held to a higher account because of the eternal implications of our words (James 3:1). That is why we must work to ensure those words are seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6) and originate not from our own passions and desires but from the Word of God (1 Peter 4:11).
And that is what is most jarring about Pavlovitz's piece in particular. Not once does the Christian author quote Scripture as his guide, reference God's Word, or appeal to Christ's moral authority over this issue of sexuality (or any other). In over 800 words, there is little more than an appeal to an emotive, untethered relativity that tickles ears (2 Timothy 4:3) and appears aimed at earning thunderous applause from the councils of men (John 12:43). Observe for yourself and test my accusation against the authority of the Word alone (1 John 4:1).
I then turned to specific examples, like when Pavlovitz condemned Christians for “assuming that they can determine what is natural for someone else; what is their real, their truth, that they can decide for another person who they are.” I responded:
A Godly mind recognizes that what is "natural" for man is to sin (Galatians 5:17) and that we are commanded to war against that natural temptation, be it sexual or not (Romans 7: 21-25). A Godly mind teaches that man is not wise or responsible to live by his own "truth" (Proverbs 14:12), but to come into submission and obedience to the only Way and Truth (Jesus) that liberates the soul (John 14:6).
And when John wrote that what “grieves” him is seeing Christians, “dismissing someone else’s story; their sense of identity, their inclination to love, the orientation of their affections…as if they know more about those people than they know about themselves,” he dubbed it the “height of hubris.” I disagreed, again, on the basis of Scripture:
What grieves a Godly mind is to see fellow sinners attempting to find identity and fulfillment in their own "inclinations, orientations, affections, and revelations of their own hearts" (Proverbs 3:5). A Godly mind counsels such men that it is the height of human hubris to believe that we know ourselves better than God does (Romans 8:27).
I had offered a spiritual rebuke of Pavolitz having authored an 800-word essay on how Christians should be acting without citing a single Scripture in support. His response to me was telling:
“[Men] wrote the Bible too. One’s you’ve never met or know. Ones who believed women were property. Ones who recommended stoning. My beliefs aren’t so insecure that I need someone else to verify them for me.”
Then, to demonstrate just how secure he was in his beliefs, he blocked me on Twitter. Whatever. The part that really matters is that John Pavlovitz openly affirmed in his response not only a low view of Scripture, but also a dangerous sense of pride that doesn’t need and doesn’t seek verification from the counsel of God to know that it’s right.
- And that is what was so disappointing about the Religious News Service’s puff piece. RNS complimented Pavolvitz for “pitching a bigger Christian tent,” omitting that he merrily boots from that tent anyone who doesn’t share his politics.
- They echo his claim that he is an “expectation-defying Christian” that surprises people by the “level of compassion or decency” he offers, without addressing the odd juxtaposition between that assertion with his judgmental claim that “white evangelicals” have “lost [their] soul.” Decency? Really?
- They bragged on his high profile, but didn’t bother telling their readers anything about Pavlovitz’s repeated and admitted refusal to ground his opinions in Scripture.
That’s not good journalism. It’s advocacy. If the Religion News Service is on board with Pavlovitz’s strategy of trusting his own mind with all his heart and leaning on his own understanding, that’s certainly their prerogative. But they have a duty to their readers who prefer to trust in God’s Word as their foundation to tell them the whole truth about the teacher they tout.