Monday, December 29, 2014

Christian, Stop Sharing John Pavlovitz's Articles

Before this month, I'd never heard of John Pavlovitz. Suddenly I started seeing his editorials popping up on Facebook and Twitter. They were being posted by Christians, but the substance of the articles appeared quite off. As a pastor committed to sound doctrine and also rebuking those who contradict it (Titus 1:9), I wanted to know who this guy was. So I looked him up.

It took me about 30-seconds of scrolling through his blog before coming to the conclusion that he is not to be considered any kind of biblical authority. He claims to be a pastor. His Facebook page says that he's a "rogue pastor," formerly of a Methodist church in North Carolina. But he is no friend of the church.

The following are three of his articles that have been published through external sources. I'd like to point out some of the problems with the stuff he writes so that you, Christian, can understand why his articles should not be shared.

5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible
The intended purpose of the article is Pavlovitz wants readers to "free themselves" (his words, not mine) of the burden of having to understand the Bible. Yet it is imperative that we do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, and who rightly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

For an article about the Bible, he makes no attempt to reference it. The closest he gets is a link to 2 Timothy 3:16, which he takes out of context to say that scripture being "God-breathed" means that it's just as inspirational as a person's own experiences. What that passage is really saying is that God's Word is so authoritative, we are to teach, rebuke, correct, and train ourselves and others by it, so that we're properly equipped for every good work.

But that doesn't matter to Pavlovitz. He holds the Bible in no high regard, waving his hand as he equates it to "most great works throughout history." His final point in the article is the worst, claiming that "God is bigger than the Bible."

He tells a story about the time he experienced the ocean, and how this is like experiencing God. "I wish more Christians would admit that the Bible, at its most perfect and inspired, is a collection of words about the ocean," he writes. "They are not the ocean itself. God is the ocean." Oh, brother.

Christian, it should go without saying that the Bible is not a collection of words about God. It is the very word of God. You cannot separate God and his Word. Psalm 138:2 says, "I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word."

Bam.

You remember John 1:1, right? In the beginning was the Word "and the Word was God." If Pavlovitz was any kind of minister of God's Word, he'd know that. He claims to be a teacher, but he doesn't understand either what he's saying or the things about which he makes his confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:7).


Dear Church, Here's Why People Are Really Leaving You
Now, I'd be able to agree with some of Pavlovitz's points if they stood on their own. For example, his first criticism for show-and-tell churches is, "Your Sunday productions have worn thin." Sure, I've chatted with many folks who have visited a church and came away feeling like it was more of a concert than genuine worship. I've experienced that myself.

But Pavlovitz's intention here is not to spiritually admonish fellow Christians. He'll rope the reader in with a few decent points, but the heart of his article is nothing but carnality. To go through the article point by point would be, well, pointless because it's all wrong at its base. In the previous article, Pavlovitz didn't understand the Bible. In this one, he doesn't understand the church.

The church is not just a bunch of people getting together and loving each other despite their sin or their differences. What is the church? If you said, "It is the body of Christ," congratulations, you get a gold star. So who gets to be in the body of Christ? According to scripture, those whom Christ has reconciled to God by his death (2 Corinthians 5:18); those who have been predestined for adoption into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5); those who are being shaped in the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). (For a deeper, scriptural explanation, watch this video.)

In other words, the body of Christ is made up of those who are followers of Christ -- only. Following Jesus doesn't mean you simply believe he exists or that he's the Son of God. Even the demons believe that (Mark 5:7). It means that because you've been saved by his finished work, you obey his commands (1 John 5:1-2). Those who do not obey him don't get to share in his life but remain under the wrath of God (John 3:36).

If there is someone attending church who is practicing unrepentant sin, the church should do what the Bible dictates needs to be done to offer correction (Galatians 6:1). If they remain unrepentant, the Bible is clear that anyone who calls themselves a brother or sister but persists in sin should be purged from the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). The unsaved friends we invite to church are also in unrepentant sin. They are not in the Spirit and incapable of worshiping God (Romans 8:9, Philippians 3:3).

During the week, members of the body can be out in the community being the hands and feet of Christ. While doing works of service, they should also be sharing the gospel. Those whose hearts are truly transformed in Christ when they hear the gospel should then begin attending church as a growing member of the body. Those who remain resistant to the gospel should not be in church because they are not part of it.

To bring this full-circle, people who leave the church do so because they were never part of it (1 John 2:19). The outright arrogance of Pavlovitz's article is that he presumes the spiritual man doesn't actually understand why people are leaving the church, and he's just the dude to enlighten us. On the contrary, the spiritual man knows exactly why a person leaves the church, and also knows Pavlovitz has no idea what he's talking about.

What the Continued Crucifying of Rob Bell Says About Modern Christianity
Another article courtesy of Relevant (which really isn't all that relevant). Like Pavlovitz's previous articles, the premise is flawed from the start. Pavlovitz writes the following: "It's often been said that we Christians eat our own. This unsettling expression is all-too true, and apparently Rob Bell is on the menu yet again."

Um, Rob Bell isn't "our own." He's a false teacher. He was a heretic long before he wrote Love Wins. Some folks just took a little longer to realize it than others. At one point, I too was ensnared by Nooma and other teachings of Bell. Thanks to the sound counsel of faithful men of God, I was able to repent of that heresy and follow in the truth. Others need to be warned of Bell's lies so they also won't be led astray.

But come on, Bell is not being eaten and he's certainly not being crucified. Good grief, how dramatic can you get? A few sound teachers are exposing Bell as a fraud, but the church is not doing the devouring. That would be Bell (2 Timothy 3:5-6, 1 Peter 5:8) who now has his own talk-show produced by none other than Oprah. Clearly he's doing fine.

"Okay, audience, chant with me now: Oooooo-praaaaaaahh"
In Conclusion
Pavlovitz's blog is called "Stuff That Needs to Be Said." No. None of it does. It's empty often morose droning that slanders the church. It makes no effort to elevate Christ and therefore provides no edification for the believer. Please, Christian; with a discerning heart, realize that Pavlovitz is blogging for his own benefit and no other. Stop sharing his articles.

Assessing Pavlovitz's teaching over a year later, a follow-up article can be found here.