Tag Archives: Andy Stanley

Should the Old Testament Be Unhitched from Christian Faith? … (Acts 15 and Andy Stanley)

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. He is stirring controversy again, but he is also getting Christians (like me) to think about stuff that we are not always prepared to deal with.

A lot of skeptics find the Old Testament to be a problem. A lot of Christians, if they are honest, do too.

But at the first great church council, in Jerusalem, in Acts 15, you get the impression that the earliest Christians were willing to get rid of the legal requirements of the Old Testament, in order to reach more people, with the Gospel. Staunch Jewish members of the early church resisted this, wanting Gentile converts to become circumcised, as a condition for salvation. But those like the Apostle Paul convinced the church leadership to conclude otherwise:

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well (Acts 15:28-29 ESV)

In other words, if the Gentiles Christians were willing to adhere to these four basic requirements, they could remain in the church, without (at least the men) falling under the knife. At first, this sounds straight forward, until you read elsewhere later in the New Testament, where the exact requirement for abstaining from food sacrificed to idols, appears to be set aside as a “disputable matter,” as explained by Paul in Romans 14 and 15, where Christians can follow their consciences, as long as they do not cause other believers to stumble.

The main point seems to be that Christians should put an emphasis on unity, and that the requirements laid down in Jerusalem were more about keeping peace, than they were about adhering to moral principle.

One of America’s most influential pastors, Andy Stanley, of one of the largest churches in Atlanta, Georgia, North Point Community Church, has gone a step further, in a 2018 sermon that has caused a firestorm of controversy. Stanley lands his message by saying, “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.

Andy Stanley has received quite a bit of pushback (Dr. Michael Brown at Charisma magazine, Wesley Hill at First Things). In understanding the Old Testament to be a problem, for many people today, is pastor Stanley throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

If you look at Acts 15, I find that many modern Christians have a problem with even the basic requirements adopted at the Jerusalem council. With respect to the requirement to abstain from “sexual immorality,” a lot of evangelicals are quick to lament how same-sex marriage, and other traditional, sexual immorality issues are being compromised, in certain quarters of the church.

But with equal force, we see the early church condemning, at least here in Acts 15, the eating of food sacrificed to idols, consuming blood, and eating the meat of animals that still have blood in them (what has [not] been strangled). And yet, how many Christians do you see today worrying about eating any food, in connection with idolatry?

Even more unsettling, and more relevant to modern Christians, what about eating red meat? Do you like your steak rare or medium rare? Are you violating the requirement laid down by the first great council of the church?

What are we to make of the binding force of the Acts 15 decree, for today’s Christians? How are we to relate to the Old Testament, rejecting what is an obstacle to faith in Jesus, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Continue reading


Andy Stanley, and Critics Who Shoot First, and Ask Questions Later

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Promoter of Biblical truth... or compromiser?

Atlanta Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley is in trouble again with a number of his fellow evangelical leader friends… or have his “friends” succumbed to a “Shoot First, Ask Questions Later” approach to evaluating his preaching?

Do you “fact check” what you read on social media, or any other source of news and information, particularly when it involves a controversial matter of grave concern?

I had just come back from a Christmas trip to visit family, when I ran across a Patheos blog article with the alarming title, “Andy Stanley: Please Relent or Step Down from Pastoral Ministry.” Mmmm…. Yet another scandal among God’s people? A megachurch pastor gone astray? What embarrassment for the Christian faith is it this time?

In this article, the author compares Andy Stanley, a megachurch pastor in Atlanta, and son of popular Bible-teacher Charles Stanley, with the mid-20th century liberal minister, Henry Emerson Fosdick, and a modern-day prosperity doctrine guru, Joel Osteen. Wow! If you know anything about evangelical theology, these are serious charges to lay against any evangelical pastor.

Andy Stanley’s preaching faux pas, per the Patheos blogger, was taken from an early December 2016 sermon delivered by Andy Stanley, regarding Christmas and the difficulty that many people in our secularized culture today have believing in the Virgin Birth of Jesus. Our scientific world has tested the credibility of such miracles, and so, many wonder if the Virgin Birth is not some type of man-made fiction. In responding to the doubts of many, Stanley was partially quoted in a Washington Post article as saying, “If somebody can predict their own death and resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world.”

What does that mean?

The Patheos blogger I was reading, along with a wide variety of other Internet bloggers and Christian media outlets, since early December, took this to mean that Stanley believes that the Virgin Birth is not an essential matter of Christian faith. Others interpret this by saying that Stanley was “questioning the significance of the virgin birth.” Even the venerable president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler, took exception to Stanley’s statement as quoted by the Washington Post, on a recent “The Briefing” podcast (though it should be noted to Dr. Mohler’s credit that he did not name Stanley directly):

If Jesus was not born of the virgin then the Bible cannot be trusted when it comes to telling us the story of Jesus, and that mistrust cannot be limited to how he came to us in terms of the incarnation. The fact is that biblical Christianity and ultimately the Gospel of Christ cannot survive the denial of the virgin birth. Because without the virgin birth, you end up with a very different Jesus than the fully human, fully divine savior revealed in scripture.

Now, I agree with folks like Al Mohler that the Virgin Birth is an essential doctrine to Christian faith. It is one of the historic, fundamental beliefs of Christianity, not to mention the entire foundation for the Christmas story. But is it accurate to say or imply that pastor Andy Stanley is now denying the essential doctrine of the Virgin Birth?

Upon reading and hearing these things, I harkened back to another controversy that pastor Andy Stanley had earlier in 2016, a story covered here at Veracity (part #1 and part #2).  In that controversy, Stanley was accused of denying Biblical inerrancy. Yet strangely enough, Stanley made his own defense by appealing to one of Stanley’s teachers and mentors, Norman Geisler, who was glad to offer support for Stanley. Norman Geisler was one of the primary architects behind the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, articulated in the 1970s. So, it really is strange to imagine that Andy Stanley, an enthusiastic student of Geisler’s, would find himself accused of denying Biblical inerrancy, then defended by Norman Geisler, and then still be accused by some of his fellow evangelical leaders as being “dangerous.”

Strange. Very strange indeed.

It reminds me of something Yogi Berra might have said: It is like “deja vu all over again.” Continue reading


Andy Stanley Responds to His Critics

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Promoter of Biblical truth... or compromiser?

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Promoter of Biblical truth… or compromiser?

A few weeks ago, I highlighted a controversy involving Atlanta megachurch pastor Andy Stanley, over a sermon entitled “The Bible Told Me So.” The topic generated a lot of discussion among Veracity readers, in particular after a blog post by Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler, who severely criticizes Stanley’s method.

Pastor Stanley has responded to his critics, seeking to explain the method in his madness, with an essay entitled, “Why ‘The Bible Says So’ Is Not Enough Anymore.” I encourage you to read it, but here is the gist:

Andy Stanley ultimately lands, in making his appeal for his approach to preaching, on Acts 17. There, the Apostle Paul preaches to the citizens of Athens, but Paul does not bring up the Bible.

Stanley’s point? We live in a culture that no longer acknowledges the Bible as being authoritative. To reach a new generation, he has chosen a different method to try to reach the disaffected in our culture. Do not assume everyone you engage accepts the Bible as being without error, because in general, most people are suspicious of the Bible. But in doing what he is doing, Stanley himself still believes the Bible to be God’s Word.

Acts 17 is a very interesting passage to ultimately make a case on. Some celebrate this passage as an example “par excellence” of Paul contextualizing the message of the Gospel to an audience at his best, which is surely Stanley’s view. Others contend that Paul’s preaching in Acts 17 in Athens was a failed strategy, that resulted in very little substantial fruit, a mistaken strategy that Paul soon abandoned.

What do you think?

UPDATE 10/3/2016: Blogger Scot McKnight, of Jesus Creed, pens his response, affirming Andy Stanley contra Al Mohler.


Andy Stanley and the Bible Told Me So

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Promoter of Biblical truth... or compromiser?

Atlanta Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Promoter of Biblical truth… or compromiser?

I do not follow popular, megachurch pastors that much. But when a fellow Veracity reader tipped me off regarding a recent controversy with Atlanta-based Andy Stanley, I was puzzled.

Andy Stanley, the pastor of NorthPoint Community Church, and son of another popular Atlanta preacher, Charles Stanley, has been preaching a sermon series on “Who Needs God.” The basic concern Andy Stanley has is that there is a startling trend of people who grow up in conservative, evangelical, Bible-believing churches, who later end up “deconverting” to some form of agnosticism by the time they become adults.

In the third message of the series, entitled “The Bible Told Me So,” Stanley talks about people who grow up believing Christianity is true because “the Bible told me so.” But when they go off to college, or watch a PBS Nova special, or simply surf the Internet, they are surprised to learn that there is little to no concrete, archaeological evidence that supports the idea that an army of some 600,000+ Israelites conquered the town of Jericho, near the start of the Canaanite conquest, as recorded in the Book of Joshua. As a result of hearing things like this, the fragile “Bible-told-me-so” faith of such a person collapses, kind of like a car tire that just got a flat, with the air hissing out.

As Stanley puts it, “If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, here is the problem, it is all or nothing. . . Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards that comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho didn’t.” As a result, Christians need to learn that we are to base our faith, first and foremost, on Jesus and the Resurrection, and stop relying on an “all or nothing” approach to the Bible.

There are problems with Stanley’s sermon, as Reformed Theological Seminary’s Michael Kruger tells us. I went and listened to Andy Stanley’s sermon, and I would agree that Stanley said a few things that could easily be misunderstood the wrong way. For example, Stanley makes the rather overstated claim that the early Christians, for the first few centuries of the church, had a belief in Christianity, without the Bible!

Well, that is not quite, right. It would be more accurate to say that the early church did indeed possess “the Bible.” But they did not possess that “Bible” in the same form as we have it today. The early church surely embraced the Old Testament, though it did take a few hundred years to sort out the details regarding the particularity of the New Testament canon. These critiques aside, professor Kruger still felt that pastor Stanley’s motives were good, even if the proposed solution advanced by Stanley was slightly off-kilter.

But what astounded me was reading the comments left on professor Kruger’s blog. Quite a number of readers did not believe that Kruger’s criticisms went far enough.  Various readers described Andy Stanley as “repeatedly [denying] the authority of Scripture”, “deceitful,” “decidedly non-biblical,” and “a false teacher.”

What further astounded me is that Stanley’s church, NorthPoint Community Church, clearly states that the church believes “the Bible is without error.”

Andy Stanley is far from perfect, but I think British pastor and blogger, Andrew Wilson, has written an excellent defense of Andy Stanley. In a nutshell, Wilson argues that, “I don’t trust in Jesus because I trust the Bible; I trust the Bible because I trust in Jesus.” I would be curious to know what some of our Veracity readers think of all of this.

My take pretty much follows from what something my late pastor emeritus, Dick Woodward, taught a number of years ago: The Bible is true, not simply because the Bible says it is true. Rather, the Bible is true, because it is true.

Something to think about.

For some answers as to how one might think about archaeology and Jericho, you might want to start here and here. For a 13-minute interview that Southern Baptist leader, Russell Moore, has with Andy Stanley, give this a listen:


Grace & Truth (& Distractions)

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
John 1:16-17 (NIV84)

Being a blogger is a lot like being a fisherman—lines in the water all over the place, always fishing for material to share.  I learn a lot.

One of the places I like to go fishing is in podcasts, listening to the likes of William Lane Craig, the scholars at Reasons To BelieveAndy Stanley, and Dick Woodward while commuting.  But this summer I agreed to read straight through the Old Testament, and that meant weeks of listening to the reading of all 39 books.  No podcasts—just reading through the Bible (an essential prerequisite for personal discipleship).

Finally, I reached the end of Malachi and the next day it was time for something new.  I really missed the podcasts, so I pulled out my iPhone and ran through some favorite podcast libraries, settling almost randomly on an Andy Stanley sermon entitled, “When Gracie Met Truthy.”  It’s a really powerful message on what it means to be a ‘Christian’, and I couldn’t wait to share it here on Veracity.

So here you go.  Click on the image below, then click on the video that appears and listen to some very fine homiletics.

When Gracie Met Truthy

Sometimes Less Is More

But…when I sat down to link everything up for this post, a simple Google search produced a lot more than I bargained for.  It turns out this is THE controversial sermon Andy Stanley preached on August 15th, 2012.  You know, the one where he made an illustration about a messy situation involving homosexuality and adultery.  The rocks started flying in the blogosphere, and even some big names weighed in on the attack. Continue reading


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