Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Heresy of False Teacher John Pavlovitz (a response to "10 Things This Christian Doesn't Believe About the Bible")

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article about a then-lesser-known blogger named John Pavlovitz, warning Christians to stay away from his stuff because he's a wolf in sheep's clothing. A couple days ago, he wrote a blog that confirms just how true that continues to be.

His article is entitled 10 Things This Christian Doesn't Believe About the Bible. It's a mad irony that every one of his bullet-points begins, "I don't believe the Bible." I wish I could say he's removed the wool and leave it at that, but unfortunately too many people are still being devoured by his rhetoric.

I don't often write more than one article about a false teacher. None of my points from that first article have changed. But I've received a few messages about his blog and thought I would offer a response, defending the sheep and eager to teach sound doctrine (1 Peter 5:2). Here are Pavlovitz's ten points, followed by what the Bible says.


1) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible was dictated by God."
He says that the Bible was written by human beings who brought some of themselves, their emotions, and experiences into the writing. That's absolutely true. In fact, it's necessary study. That's part of understanding context: to know who the author was, who his audience was, what his purpose was for writing, when it was written, what was going on at the time, etc. Unfortunately, Pavlovitz is not trying to make a sound doctrinal point. He's trying to distance himself from those who teach the Bible is the very word of God, and persuade others not to listen to them.

The Bible Says: "All Scripture is breathed out by God, and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). Every single word of the Bible is exactly what God intended its writers to put down, guided by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:21, Zechariah 7:12, Acts 4:31). There are even times when God audibly told the writers what to write (Exodus 34:27, Revelation 3:14). To say none of the Bible was dictated is to say that Moses and John were liars. The Bible says that if you won't believe Moses and the Prophets, neither will you believe Christ (Luke 16:31).

2) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible explains the time and manner of earth's creation and population accurately."
Genesis 1 and 2 are a who story, not a how story, he says. However, he thinks the Bible isn't clear but science is. Genesis "should not be read as a literal explanation of the fashion or timetable of what Science clearly tells us were the far older and more gradual evolutions of life than a literal Biblical translation contends."

The Bible Says: "By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible" (Hebrews 11:3). I believe all things were created instantaneously by the word of God, not because I read Genesis 1 and 2 a certain way, but because I believe the whole Bible. Peter wrote a day was coming when people wouldn't believe that all things were formed by the word of God (2 Peter 3:5). What Pavlovitz doesn't care to understand is that science doesn't say anything. Scientists do. And the Bible tells us not to be taken captive by "empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of this world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

3) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible accurately represents women for the times in which we live."
I don't believe Pavlovitz has any idea how the Bible represents women. It's common for him to talk about the Bible but never reference it. These blanket generalizations are meant to appease secular readers and lead the saints astray -- if the latter were possible (Matthew 24:24).

The Bible Says: Men and Women are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and receive the same reward (Galatians 3:28), but God has uniquely designed them for different roles (1 Corinthians 11:3). For one such example, watch this :90 video. I also went into a deeper explanation of this in my teaching series on Titus, which you can view on YouTube here. Each of those 15 videos are about 5 minutes in length.

4) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible has much of consequence to say about gender identity and sexual orientation."
Perhaps you're aware there's an ongoing debate about whether or not certain passages in the Bible actually condemn homosexuality? Well, regardless of the outcome of those debates, Pavlovitz doesn't care what the Bible says about it. Whether homosexuality is a sin or not, whether or not the research even shows how a homosexual lifestyle would destroy a person, Pavlovitz would go right on telling someone to keep being gay. How is that loving?

The Bible Says: Homosexuality is a sin that God has promised he will judge, and to encourage a person in that sin is unloving (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). For a concise explanation, complete with the good news of the gospel, watch this :90 video.


5) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible provides a unified, consistent message regarding marriage, war, violence, or sex."
By this point, it's difficult to digress from an obvious pattern: "I don't believe what the Bible says about anything."

The Bible Says: Paul said to the Colossians that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments" (Colossians 2:3-4). Everything we need to know, our complete satisfaction, is in Christ Jesus. It is through him and his word that we are able to understand everything about the world, including how God designed marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33), that God has a purpose with war (Matthew 24:6) and even violence (Habakkuk 1:1-5), and that sex is a gift from God meant to be enjoyed between a husband and a wife (the entire book of Song of Solomon).

6) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible is without error."
"While the Bible can contain great truth," he says, "it cannot be as pure and pristine as it would need to be to be called perfect or without inconsistencies or inner conflicts." This is the same Satanic whisper the serpent hissed in Eve's ear: "Did God actually say...?" (Genesis 3:1)

The Bible Says: His word is perfect and true (Psalm 18:30). Heaven and earth will pass away, Jesus said, but his word would never pass away (Mark 13:31). The word of the Lord stands forever (1 Peter 1:25). God has exalted above all things his name and his word (Psalm 138:2).

7) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible is the only source through which we hear or experience God."
He takes a poke at Sola Scriptura, Latin for "by Scripture alone." It is one of five solas and a doctrine that teaches the Bible is the ultimate authority in all matters of belief and practice.

The Bible Says: The Bible is the very word of God. While all of creation clearly speaks of God's eternal power and divine nature (Romans 1:20), that's not how we get to know God. You can know I exist because you saw my face in a picture, but that doesn't mean you know me. How do we know God? By reading his word. And it is through his word that we can understand how God can communicate through every other experience. This :90 video explains.

8) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible should guide our government."
"It is irresponsible to try and superimpose the Bible on our civil system," he says, "as our government (like all governments) does not represent or serve people of a single faith tradition."

The Bible Says: The government is on His shoulders (Isaiah 9:6). There is no governing authority except that which is given by God (Romans 13:1). Jesus himself said to Pilate that the authority Pilate had been given came from God (John 19:11). We are to be subject to the governing authorities, but we are first citizens of the kingdom of God before we are citizens of this earth (Philippians 3:20). Therefore, all matters of public policy should be in submission to God also. I guarantee you John Pavlovitz will vote his beliefs when he steps in the voting booth. Yet he's trying to say you shouldn't, and neither should any politician lead according to their beliefs, if that belief is guided by God's word.

9) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible can be objectively interpreted or evaluated."
This would be laughable if it wasn't so sad. As Pavlovitz said in point number 2, science should be accepted as objective and incontrovertible truth. But the Bible shouldn't be.

The Bible Says: Lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). The Bible says whoever trusts in his own mind trusts in a fool (Proverbs 28:26). And the person who trusts in his own flesh is cursed (Jeremiah 17:5). For more, watch this :90 video.

10) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible is worthy of worship."
This is a back-handed statement as if to suggest that those who revere God's word as inerrant are actually bowing down and worshiping a book. The Bible is "not Divinity" he says, "and cannot and should not be made into an idol to be blindly worshiped, especially when that worship reinforces or justifies discrimination, bigotry, or injustice based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, birthplace, or income level." Uh... what?

The Bible Says: God's favor is upon the one who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at his word (Isaiah 66:2). The Bible does not advocate racial discrimination or that a person should be looked down upon for any reason. What it does say is that God loved the world enough not to leave us in our self-absorbed, self-glorifying sin, but sent his Son Jesus to die in our place as a sacrifice. All who believe in Jesus will receive eternal life. Those who do not are under the wrath of God (John 3:36). Let us love the world as God does, enough to take that message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone without prejudice or hesitation.

BONUS 11) What Pavlovitz Says: "I don't believe the Bible should be used to defend the Bible."
Pavlovitz came back and added an 11th thing he doesn't believe about the Bible, making an excuse for why he doesn't quote the Bible. He basically thinks it's rude to quote Bible verses. I would be willing to guess that Pavlovitz doesn't quote the Bible because he doesn't know it. In an e-mail I received from him (referenced below), he told me that I was acting unbiblically. When I asked him if he would tell me which passages he thought I was disobeying, he replied, but gave no references.

What the Bible Says: Jesus quoted Scripture quite a bit (other than the fact that everything he said was the word of God anyway). Look at Matthew 21:12-17. In the story of Jesus cleansing the temple, each response he gives is an Old Testament reference. One figure I read said that Jesus quoted the Old Testament 78 times from 27 different books. His apostles quoted the Old Testament 209 times. If Pavlovitz really wanted to be like Jesus, he'd know the word of God, he'd love it, and he'd use it.


In Conclusion
John Pavlovitz wrote to me back in September and said that my opinion "is no less valuable or correct that anyone's, regardless of how you feel about it." He didn't seem to understand that same measure of judgment applies to him as well. His blog is called Stuff that Needs to Be Said. But based on Pavlovitz's own standards, that stuff possesses no real value, regardless of how he feels about it.

This man calls himself a pastor, but he doesn't believe the Bible. That's heresy. Christian, I hope you can see how such voices shouldn't be trusted. Do not listen to false teachers scratching itching ears to suit worldly passions (2 Timothy 4:3). Listen to the word of God. Repent of your sin and obey the words of Christ. Those who obey him are the ones who are truly his, and no one will snatch them out of his hand.