Saturday, August 11, 2018

Stanley interview

Jonathan Merritt recently interviewed Andy Stanley:

Stanley's an intellectual lightweight, but he's influential, which is why it's important to evaluate his statements.

1. Introducing the program, Merritt acted like the Enlightenment brought reason and logic into the discussion, as if Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Boethius, Maimonides, and medieval scholastics never existed. He also acted as though the historical criticism of Scripture was a 19C invention, which ignores pagan critics (e.g. Porphyry) and Muslim critics (e.g. Ibn-Hazm). Maybe he really is that uninformed. 

2. Is Stanley unaware of the fact that Merritt is a homosexual activist? Is Stanley unaware of the fact that Merritt is using Stanley's concessions, evasions, and obfuscations as a wedge tactic to mainstream homosexuality in the church and the general culture? 

There's nothing wrong with pastors talking to homosexuals, or homosexual journalists and activists, but you need to be cognizant of their agenda and not allow them to control the dialogue. Apparently, Stanley is such a babe-in-the-woods that it never occurs to him that he's a tool for Merritt's social agenda. 

3. Stanley says there was no "the Bible" before the 4C. That's straight out of Dan Brown's playbook.  

4. He chronically alternates between the Mosaic covenant and the OT in general, as if those are equivalent. 

5. He says 

If I didn't believe in the virgin birth, do you think I'd tell anyone? That's a career-ending move.

So by his own admission, he has no credibility when he assures us that he really does believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.  

6. He says 

The only reason any of us take any of the stories in the OT seriously is because Jesus did. If there had been no NT, no Jesus, you and I wouldn't believe [Adam and Eve and the flood]. We'd put that in the category of ancient myth. 

i) It's true that for Christians, our belief in the NT contributes to our belief in the OT. But Stanley disregards the fact that Christianity must be validated by the OT. 

ii) There are independent reports of the flood in Mesopotamian traditions. Likewise, there's archeological corroboration for many things in the OT. Why does Stanley ignore that evidence? 

7. He says:

Then they have to wrestle to the ground when Jesus referenced many of these things, was he referencing these things as something that happened in history, or was he referencing them like [the apocryphal story" of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree. Why we watch fictitious movies. We cry even though it never happened, but we walk away inspired. 

Then a person has to decide, what did he mean? And I'm comfortable letting the conversation go from there. They should have the same view of the OT that Jesus did. But then the challenge is to discover how did Jesus view his own scriptures. I'd never press anyone that if you can't accept all of as historically true then you can't really be a Christian. I think that's a little bit absurd. 

So he just leaves those two options hanging out there. Are they historical reports or apocryphal tales? Flip a coin. 

It doesn't occur to him that he has a pastoral responsibility to explain and defend how Jesus viewed the OT. Not just leave it open-ended, but take a stand and give supporting arguments. 

Perhaps that's because, in reality, he's skeptical, but he doesn't want to put his cards on the table, face up, so he constantly plays coy. 

8. He says

The base of faith Is not about a text. Christianity did not begin because somewhat read something but because someone saw something. The text is secondary to the event. Unlike other religious systems we have an event-based faith. 

He makes a big deal about relative chronology, but as far as that goes, when did Christianity begin? He acts as though Christianity began with the Resurrection. But is that the starting-point? Or did it begin with the Incarnation? What about the public ministry of Jesus? The ministry of Jesus consisted of words and deeds. Not just events. And not events first, then words later. Rather, the ministry of Christ constantly alternates between things he says and things he does. On the one hand he performs miracles and exorcisms. On the other hand, he makes speeches, has conversations.

He predicts his own resurrection. So his words precede the event. 

From the get-go, the Christian faith was as much about what observers heard as what they saw (Acts 4:20). Equally word-centered and event-centered. 

9. He says

Over time it's become a text-based faith. Whole theological systems built around either one of those camps. 

That's because we lack direct access to the events. We weren't there. Our only point of entry is mediated by historical records. So we can't turn the clock back and put ourselves in the position of eyewitnesses to the public ministry of Christ. 

10. He says

Who is Jesus is answered for us by what Matthew said, Mark said, Luke said, John said, what Peter said, what James said, what Paul said. Seven 1C witnesses. 

True, but that's text-based. And if you're going to appeal to the NT witness, you have to defend the historicity of the sources. 


  1. Notice how much emphasis the Bible places on prophecy fulfillment, including fulfillment in the Old Testament era and how that fulfillment offers evidence for the Old Testament. Contrast that Biblical theme with how much Stanley neglects the argument from prophecy.

    His comments about his youth and how he raised his own children are problematic as well. Starting at 5:53, he refers to how unsophisticated his religious views were as he grew up, and he refers to how he raised his children similarly. He says "that's fine" (6:01). He may only have the earliest years of childhood in mind. Elsewhere, he acknowledges that how we approach a fifteen-year-old ought to be different than how we approach a five-year-old. But I don't recall anything he said that would suggest that he went into significant depth about these religious issues prior to his adulthood, when he was in college. If he was surrounded by that sort of shallowness until his college years, then that's a major indictment of his relatives, friends, teachers, and other people who influenced him the most during those years of his life. A lot of what he says about his youth and his raising of his own children, around 5:53 and elsewhere, doesn't sit well with what he's saying about the need for intellectual maturity, how important apologetic issues are, and so on.

    And if he and the other staff members of his church had been giving their congregation the sort of leadership they should have been giving them on these matters, why would there be such a need for Stanley to explain his views and address such basic issues at this point? Stanley has been a church leader for decades, including decades of leadership in the church he's now pastoring. Shouldn't a broad range of apologetic issues (and theological issues, moral controversies, etc.) have already been addressed in a lot of depth on a lot of occasions by Stanley and his colleagues?

    1. Jason, he has baggage. We all do to one degree or another. Unfortunately, his infiltrates his ministry. I believe he has daddy issues.

  2. I've seen several of Stanley's talks. He appears to revel in his hip role of undermining the significance and authority of Scripture. He makes the 'minimal facts' crowd look thoroughly conservative.

    Stanley plays the tease. He floats these little ideas as though they're his own, as though he is beginning to scratch some hitherto unmarked surface. But this hip new heavyweight is still shy. He sits across the dancefloor from Lady Apostasy, flashing the odd smile then quickly looking away.

  3. So, according to Andy's view, ancient Judaism was always irrational. Got it.