The recent story about Carrie Underwood and Jen Hatmaker affirming homosexual behavior has my head spinning. Admittedly, my emotions range freely between confusion and sorrow when I observe the way so many professing believers treat those caught up in the sin of homosexuality. Puffing themselves up as agents of love and tolerance, these believers deny their "gay friends" the same full counsel of God they willingly and unhesitatingly give to others who struggle with different sins.
I don't know what causes that sort of favoritism and partial proclamation of truth. It is not love, it is not friendship to fail to declare the full direction of God. Doing so is a short-sighted and self-serving calculation that decides it is better to be loved for telling a lie than hated for telling the truth. In other words, the opposite path of Christ.
Tragic examples of this attitude abound, from Tony Campolo to Matthew Vines to Rachel Held Evans to the Marin Foundation. But it is perhaps best articulated in a now widely-circulated blog post by John Pavlovitz entitled, "The Day I Chose My Heterosexuality."
Given that it serves as a critique and dismissal of orthodox, traditional Christian views of marriage and sexuality, and given that others are replicating throughout American Christendom the arguments he uses, we have no choice but to acknowledge, consider, and test their merits.
First, let me encourage all of us to pray for John, Tony, Matthew, Rachel 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).
After a charming introduction about his childhood discovery that he actually liked the girl chasing him on the playground (Lori), Pavlovitz juxtaposes these natural attractions we feel against the faith we choose:
"Some people, my Christianity told me, choose to be gay; they reject the very natural reality of what God had hard-wired into them, and make a conscious decision to be a different way. What I experienced without thinking in that playground, they somehow decide. What was an awareness for me, was for them a premeditated choice.
"I knew right away how ridiculous an idea that was."
I would agree. That idea is ridiculous. But then again, most straw men are ridiculous. What Pavlovitz is doing is to blatantly bastardize the Christian view of sexual morality so that he can dispense with it. That dishonesty will only work on uneducated, imperceptive, and shallow thinkers. If that is what Pavlovitz thinks of his audience, so be it. But serious Christians should have no patience for such insipid mistreatment of so significant an issue.
No serious Christian thinker I know suggests that a person with heterosexual attractions just wakes up one day and "decides" to be attracted to the same sex. The orthodox Christian understanding of homosexuality is not predicated upon the notion that the impulse towards homosexual conduct feels anything but enticing or natural to the actor. Opposition to homosexual conduct is built upon the truth of Christian theology that teaches our natural impulses are not appropriate merely because they feel natural (1 Peter 1:14), but are appropriate only when they are made to conform to the will of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
I believe John Pavolvitz knows this, but is intentionally misleading and deceitfully skewing the true Christian teaching on the subject. We are left with the troubling question as to why a supposed minister of the Gospel would do so.
He goes on to write,
"Later when I became a pastor, I was committed to remembering how natural what I felt that afternoon for Lori felt, and to work toward a Church that respects that we each have a truest truth; that we should be allowed to live and love and worship from that most authentic place. If God made any of us to naturally feel what we feel without getting to choose it — God created all of us this way."
An important word of warning to believers: when those you are trusting for spiritual and theological wisdom begin writing paragraphs that could pass as transcripts from the latest season of ABC's "The Bachelor" ("truest truth," "live and love ... from that most authentic place"), it's probably time to find more serious and capable voices.
The author articulates an anti-biblical vision of the moral responsibility every human has to God for our conduct, sexual or otherwise. To propose that we are made to act according to our natural attractions and feelings is simply untenable, if you believe what the Bible teaches.
Monica Mares and Caleb Peterson have a natural urge and sexual attraction towards one another that they didn't choose. Did God intend for them to act on it? They are mother and son.
Todd Nickerson has a natural urge and sexual attraction that he certainly didn't ask for and definitely didn't choose. Did God intend for him to act on it? He is a self-proclaimed pedophile that has urges towards children.
Many of those who populate our prisons are those who have a natural urge and impulse towards aggression that they didn't choose. Did God intend for them to act on it? Or should we respect that feeling as their "truest truth?" Or is it appropriate to suggest that their urge, no matter how natural, must be morally tamed?
It is hard to understand how Pavlovitz could be oblivious to the gaping holes in his logic. And truthfully, I don't think he is, meaning that there is a disconcerting and uncomfortable reality that must be faced. Pavlovitz is not someone who has merely been irresponsible in his commitment to parsing and articulating the counsel of God. His teaching is so flagrantly anti-Biblical that it simply must be intentional. I believe this fact is self-evident in these two statements he makes:
"One of the greatest failings I see in my fellow Christians, is 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."
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).
"It grieves me when I see followers of Jesus dismissing someone else's story; their sense of identity, their inclination to love, the orientation of their affections, and the revelation of their own hearts — as if they know more about those people than they know about themselves. It's the height of hubris."
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).
What I'm offering here is a spiritual rebuke of ungodly teaching that deceives and betrays those God desires to redeem. Those who take a low view of Scripture will obviously find reason to dismiss it. But if John Pavlovitz and the other voices who echo him are among them, the lesson for Christians will be clear that theirs is the precise voice Jesus warned about on the Judean hillside two millennia ago (Matthew 7: 15-16): "Beware of false teachers."