Friday, October 07, 2016

Arab bazaar

Andy Stanley has responded to his critics:

There's a lot to sort out:

1. He talks about how the culture has changed. I think that's overstated. Andy and I are just year apart. In his lifetime and mine, I don't think American society was ever all that Christian.

Andy is the scion of a legendary SBC preacher. The "world" in which Andy was raised is pretty artificial. The people he grew up with lived and breathed inerrancy. But that's not a representative sample of American culture in the 60s-70s. I think he's extrapolating from his own experience. We all tend to use our personal experience as a frame of reference. But can we generalize from that? 

Consider the pop culture in the 60s-70s. Consider the TV fare, movies, and music. Precious little was Christian. Likewise, I'm a product of public education, K-12, during the 60s-70s. Precious little was recognizably Christian. 

When was "The Bible Says So" enough for the pop culture? I don't recall presidential speeches in the 60s-70s citing "the Bible says so" to justify domestic or foreign policy. I don't think presidential speeches in the 40s-50s did that either. Or the 20s-30s. What about network anchormen? What about public school teachers? What about college profs.? During Andy's formative years, I don't think Scripture ever held that status in the pop culture. 

I suspect the "change" that Any perceives has less to do with time and more with place. More about where he grew up and his father's social circle. 

2. When people go to church, they should expect the preacher to take the authority of Scripture for granted. That's a proper expectation. Especially in the context of church, the authority of Scripture ought to be a given. 

To take a comparison, when I was living in CA, I sometimes attended a WELS church. Although I'm a Calvinist, I expected the worship service to take Lutheran theology for granted. It would be unreasonable of me to suppose otherwise. Likewise, if, out of curiosity, I were to attend an Orthodox synagogue for a year, I'd expect the worship service to take Orthodox Judaism for granted. 

3. Andy seems to underestimate how expository preaching, week after week and year after year can, of itself, be a source of faith. How that can, of itself, be a converting experience. For instance, C. Everett Koop became an adult convert by sitting under the preaching of Donald Grey Barnhouse. 

4. Andy says people are judging him by one sermon, which is part of a multipart series. He suggests that he answers the questions he raised in later installments. But here's what he originally said:

If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, then as the Bible goes so goes our faith. This is why you sent your kids off to college and they came back with no faith. If the Bible is the foundation of our faith then it is all or nothing. Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards religion. It comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho did not. In archeology class they're told "we excavated the city of Jericho. By the way there is no evidence that a Hebrew people made some sort of trek from Egypt to Canaan. Do you know there are all sorts of contradictions in the OT? There's all these facts and figures that do not add up. By the way, the Bible seems to teach that the earth is only six thousand years old and everybody knows the earth is 4.5 billion years old and the universe is 14.5 million years old. If the entire Bible isn't true then the Bible isn't true and all of Christianity comes tumbling down.

Consequently, Christians have always felt they had to defend the Bible. If you read broadly however you discover that it is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible. 

Does he really answer all those objections in later installments? How could he when he told us that it's next to impossible to defend the entire Bible? 

5. And, again, look at that statement. This isn't just a question of raising questions in one sermon that will be answered in a later sermon. Rather, he's insistent that it's a mistake to put your faith in the Bible.

6. Then there's the tricky question of the target audience for his sermons. Is it the audience that comes to church? The visible, physical audience in the sanctuary? 

Or is it the invisible, hypothetical television audience? Is he preaching to the congregation, or is he preaching to the camera? Is he preaching over the heads of the congregation to "educated, dechurched millennials"? Is he primarily a pastor, or primarily an evangelist who uses the congregation as a stage prop?

7. Now, I'm far from opposed to apologetics. The bulk of my blogging is apologetical. I wholeheartedly agree with Andy on the importance of apologetics. Churches that neglect apologetics invite a high defection rate. Many of their parishioners are intellectually defenseless. 

8. That said, there's the question of the best medium. It's a bad idea for a preacher to get bogged down in a convoluted debates in the course of a sermon. The spoken word isn't suited to complex analysis. It's hard for listeners to remember or maintain their train of thought. The written word is a better medium for detailed explanations. For systematic comparison and contrast. 

Videos can be another good medium. Take the clever videos by David Wood.  

9. Likewise, it depends on the aptitude of the pastor. Some pastors don't have the aptitude to do apologetics. Indeed, I'm tempted to say that about Andy.

By the same token, parishioners shouldn't lean too much on pastors. Especially the more intellectual inclined parishioners have a responsibility to pull their own load. Overreliance on the pastor is unfair to the pastor. He can't be an expert on everything. 

10. In general, I think pastors should direct parishioners to good apologetic resources on the historicity and inerrancy of Scripture, as well as hot-button social issues. Make that available to interested parishioners. 

11. Andy says:

What is the faith of your children worth? Your grandchildren? Think about it. What is the faith of the next generation worth? I say everything. I say it’s worth any change necessary to ensure the version of faith the next generation leaves home with is the enduring version—the faith of our first-century fathers. The version that was harder than steel and tougher than nails. The version rooted in an event, not a book. So will you consider retooling in order to win some and save some?

i) So Andy hasn't changed his spots. "Faith rooted in an event, not a book." Same false dichotomy. 

ii) In addition, his position invites the oft-repeated saying, "What you win them with is what you win them to". Andy acts as though Christianity is an Arab bazaar, and it's ultimately the buyer, not the seller, who's in control. We bring the price down to the level that the consumer is prepared to pay. But Andy hasn't the prerogative to give people permission to disbelieve the Bible in exchange for their faith. A pastor is a custodian of God's message, not an editor of God's message. 

Andy's afraid that too much truth will drive some people away. Yes, truth has that winnowing effect. But his job is not to win people over by trading away some of the Bible for their faith. The Bible isn't a pile of bargaining chips to barter away. People are not entitled to leverage Christianity. It's a revealed faith. Take it or leave it. 

This isn't a question of apologetic methodology, where both sides arrive at the same destination, but use different routes to get there. Rather, Andy is describing a different destination, not just a different route. 

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