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Yikes: Religion News Service Promotes This Guy?

Given the business they're in, RNS has a duty to tell their readers the whole truth about the teacher they tout.

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.

A thoughtful article, Peter. Either we believe in Scripture or we don't. The social gospel is no gospel at all. Every attempt to remake Jesus in our own image should be confronted and rebutted with love. He leads people away from the cross, away from our need for a Savior, away from knowing the awful price that was paid to ransom us. Narcissism is the hallmark of heretics who claim the name of Christian but only see their own image in the mirror, not that of their Creator, and invite others to join them in worship of self.

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"love one's neighbor as oneself" is really the only part we need.

@ Magared Whether you know it or not, you’re quoting Jesus, but out of context.
What he said was, “The first and greatest commandment is:
Love the Lord you’re God, with all you’re heart, with all you’re soul and with all you’re mind.
The second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Magared, unless you complete the first commandment, you won’t be able to complete the second.
Of course, you know that, right?

@etbass - "God's truth is the truth. It does not change based on what we believe or want it to be. Our desire should be to gain the knowledge of that truth, apply it to our lives and spread it to others." Thanks for clarity in this mixed up world of relativism. And if we don't FIRST apply God's truth to our own lives; how can we ever spread it to others without being hypocrites?

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Too many try to remake God in their own image instead of rasing ourselves up to HIS image!!! Remember also that Jesus taught be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect!!! He wants all of us to strive to be like HIM not have HIM be like us!!! To become like Jesus is to recognize sin and strive to say NO to sin while at the same time helping your neighbor to see the same! If you see your neighbor sin and don't do anything to stop them, do you really love your neighbor? And for those who say what is sin....anything that keeps us from becoming like Christ himself!

Thank you Peter - I love reading a column that helps me to put my thoughts in a more intelligent sounding order! These discussions are more common than they used to be and I appreciate the references as well.

What does it mean to love one's neighbor, or to love oneself? If your neighbor is a thief, should you keep your mouth shut because it's unloving to criticize his/her bad behavior or to call the police? If you love your neighbor and the Lord but are shooting up junk every day, is that ok?

I have friends and acquaintances who read this guy. I tried for a while, but I finally had yo quit, because of his pious, holier-than-thou, pontificating over the 2016 election results ad nauseum....and I did NOT vote for the current occupant of 1600.

I seemed to me he was the stereotypical hypocrit, who blasts everyone with whom he disagrees by casting steretypes and therefore, didplaying the EXACT same traits which he claims to despise.

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