Friday, May 11, 2018

Christianity unhitched

I watched the whole sermon by Andy Stanley:

He means well, but well-meaning people can do kinds of damage that wicked people can't. 

Andy Stanley was raised and trained in Dispensationalism. Internecine fights over Dispensationalism (classical, progressive) are his default frame of reference. It's a very provincial outlook. Compare that to writers like Gordon Wenham and Christopher Wright on OT ethics and piety. 

One problem is equivocation, where he oscillates between the OT and the law of Moses, as if they're interchangeable. But there's a difference between the Mosaic law, OT history, the Psalter, Prophets, and Wisdom literature. The Mosaic law isn't the whole package.  

Christians disagree on how the old covenant is fulfilled in the new covenant. Their disagreement is the basis for some divergent theological traditions or denominations. Lutherans and Anabaptists see more discontinuity, Confessional Presbyterians see more continuity. You have variations within the same tradition. The LBCF sees more continuity while Don Carson and Stephen Wellum see more discontinuity, yet that's an intramural Baptist debate. 

So that's a perennial debate. But that's a separate issue from the OT in general. There's a difference between unhitching the Christian faith from the Mosaic law and unhitching the Christian faith from "the Jewish scriptures". Stanley does a bait-n-switch. Even if we grant his Dispensational view of the Mosaic law, that doesn't mean we can unhitch the new covenant from the OT generally. 

He makes the ridiculous claim that Pauline sexual immorality is independent of the OT, even though Rom 1 is based on Gen 1-2 while 1 Cor 6:9/1 Tim 1:10 reaffirm Lev 18:20. 

Andy says Christianity is about an event (the Resurrection), but that's grossly simplistic. The NT interprets the person and work of Christ through the lens of the OT. 

And it's not the Resurrection alone that vindicates Jesus. He must also be the fulfillment of OT messianism. 

And even at the level of events, the Resurrection is not the only crucial event in the mission of Christ. What about the Incarnation, miracles of Jesus, and the return of Christ? 

Andy appeals to the image of God, but of course that's an OT category! 

Andy says that in the OT, God was playing by the rules of the kingdoms of this world. Really? The OT is aggressively countercultural in relation to ancient Near Eastern social mores. 

The application is about people who've lost faith because they can't embrace OT historicity, OT miracles, the Genesis creation account, or value system/worldview depicted in the OT. 

But the NT can't be true unless the OT is true. Jesus, the apostles, NT evangelists, and/or NT authors constantly appeal to OT validation. If the OT is mistaken, they were mistaken in their assessment of the OT. 

I think Andy is personally spooked by historical, scientific, and moral objections to the OT, so he wants to unhitch that from his own faith. But they're logically and theologically inseparable. Take it or leave it. 

Yes, some folks will lose their faith while others will be turned off. That's tragic, but truth is divisive. Individual apostasy is a necessary winnowing effect to preserve the church from institutional apostasy. 


  1. Is my impression correct that he was preaching something so sweeping and so vague that he couldn't even be bothered to specify which portions of the OT he thinks we need to "unhitch" from and what, specifically, he means by "unhitch"?

    If he just means we don't have to keep kosher and follow the ceremonial law, duh, that was figured out long ago. I'm sure that's not what he means.

    If he just means we shouldn't try to defend the slaughter of the Canaanites, he should *say* that and narrow his focus instead of making these sweeping statements.

    If he means we should ditch the prohibitions on homosexual acts, he's going to have to deal with the NT as well. And he should say what he means and own it, and take the flak like a man.

    Is he teaching a Protestant version of the Catholic "development of doctrine," so that poor old Paul only still affirmed the prohibition on homosexual acts because he hadn't yet ditched *enough* of the Old Testament?

    Is he just talking about young earth creationism? Old-earth creationism? Become a die-hard theistic evolutionist? Abandoning a belief in a world-wide flood? If so, how would these specific views require such sweeping statements about unhitching from the OT?

    Does he want to advocate full-scale Marcionism, according to which the God of the OT is a completely different being from the God of the NT? If so, that was considered a heresy for a reason.

    Or finally, is he just such a flake that he's unwilling and/or unable to say what he means but said all of these things because they sounded cool and sexy and radical and because he gets a lot of attention this way? In that case, probably we should ignore him, and he shouldn't be given a platform anymore, either, because he's too silly to deserve it.

    1. I think he likes studied vagueness for plausible deniability.

    2. I absolutely cannot stand people who do that. And frankly, someone who does that has an automatic earmark of a false teacher, in my book.

    3. His practice is an outworking of his convictions. He’s passionate about not pointing to the Bible as saying x, but rather would have us point to the authors’ saying x. That’s no mere strategy. It’s an outright denial of Scripture. The overwhelming testimony of Scripture is it’s to be believed and obeyed on its self-attestation. It’s God’s word, Scripture, not the mere writings of men. We are to treat it as such. Not this man though. He’s more clever than than Jesus and the human agents themselves!

      In his eloquence, he obfuscates. His theology, deplorable. His disdain for the historic Christian church, apparent. Andy Stanley sows dissension, which is grave sin in the sight of God, especially when on the wrong side of truth.

      His frequent bitter references to his Christian upbringing (sometimes subtle, other times not so subtle) reminds me of one looking to throw off the childhood shackles, yet without having come to mature discernment between what was bad and what was maybe not so bad, if not actually good. Very unfortunate, but here we are.

  2. This piece raises some good objections to AS’ ministry approach.

  3. Andy Stanley is one third of the triumverate (the other two being Rick Warren and Bill Hybels) of the "Emergent Church" movement-- the seeker-sensitive, market-driven, Christianity-is-too-limiting, "interspirituality" approach of “doing church." As a leading mega-church Emergent pastor his role is also to be a "bridger"; i.e. a major change agent seeking to bridge the gap between the [heretical] "emergent church" and evangelical Christianity. That's one of the main reasons for the "studied vagueness" and obfuscation in his books and sermons. Stanley, who superficially comes across as a winsome, easy-going fellow, knows exactly what he's doing. He knows he has to proceed step by step, not revealing too much all at once of the final destination he wants the evangelical church to arrive at. For if he moved too far too fast the orthodox, Bible-believing Christians would become justifiably alarmed.

    1. I’d prefer to think he’s more infra than supra. One with no telos. Just a rebel without a cause rather than a calculating one. But if he’s as you say, that’s more insidious. Sad either way.

      Kevin DeYoung called him out but not by name.

  4. Andy Stanley's errors concerning biblical authority aren't merely limited to his view of the Old Testament. He wants to unhitch Christianity from the full teaching of the New Testament as well. In his 2012 book "Deep and Wide", Stanley attempts a scriptural justification for his church model. The book was reviewed by Pastor Gary E. Gilley of Southern View Chapel; here are two pertinent quotes from his article:

    >> "[Stanley's] only venture into biblical exegesis is a feeble, terribly flawed and out of context examination of the counsel at Jerusalem in Acts 15 (pp. 85-91). Stanley comes up with a strained interpretation of the text because he uses what some call rhetorical hermeneutics in which Scripture should be interpreted based upon the characters actions, not their words (pp. 86, 90-92, 298-299). Using this interpretative method, Stanley believes, “Everything [Paul] taught should be defined within the context of what takes place in Acts 15.” And since the conclusion drawn by the council was minimalistic: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell” (p. 91), the church today should require very little as well (p. 92). Wrapping (or, better, ignoring) everything else in the New Testament pertaining to the church around this concept, Stanley offers this strained understanding as the biblical foundation for the local church."<<

    Because Stanley's entire focus is on making "church" a seeker-friendly evangelistic center, he has abandoned the biblical concept of the ekklesia as the people of *God*:

    >> "Stanley will do virtually anything to attract non-Christians and retain them. This includes putting new Christians and even unbelievers into positions of ministry and leadership (pp. 79, 94-95, 127-130). A person can even join North Point online, without talking to anyone (p. 81). And North Point has virtually no classroom instruction as teaching of Scripture is consistently belittled throughout the book (see pp. 111-116, 190). Relationships, especially through small groups, are dominant. These groups, sometimes led by new Christians and even unbelievers, are obviously not centered on Scripture or even Christ, as biblically understood, but on relationships."<<

    Link to the full review:

    This is the program that Andy Stanley wants the Evangelical Church to get on board with. The books and methodologies of men like Warren, Hybels and Stanley totally dominate large swathes of evangelicalism today, and their church growth techniques are now American dogma.

  5. Another link to that full review:

    You will not be surprised at the reception of the book on Amazon:

  6. When a local congregation allows anyone to join by simply declaring themselves to be a member after "logging in", is like a celebrity who "friends" anyone who asks through the device of social media. Just as the celebrity may actually have friends on the list they personally know, they may have thousands whom they have never met. Any church with "unmet" "members" isn't a Biblical congregation of believers, it is a "digital social construct" pretending reality.

    1. It’s not a church in any sense of the word. Baptism isn’t required. A credible profession of faith isn’t required. All that’s required is to “engage” through “serving strategically, connecting in a group, inviting others, and giving strategically.”

      “Here at North Point Community Church, we want you to know that the moment you walk through the doors, you belong here and can consider this place your church home, no title needed. Since we don’t have traditional membership, you won’t be able to “join” the church as a “member” – but we hope you become fully engaged in the life of the church. You can engage with us through serving strategically, connecting in a group, inviting others, and giving systematically. Those who are fully engaged with us are considered our members....”