Andy Stanley

May 14, 2018

Andy Stanley and Refashioning Christianity

Andy Stanley is back in the religion headlines. This time for suggesting Christians “unhitch” the Old Testament from their faith, as reported by the Christian Post‘s Michael Gryboski.

Stanley’s provocative comments came during an April sermon series titled “Aftermath,” which is mostly a plea to people who’ve rejected the faith to reconsider. The sermon videos are posted online along with the following summary:

If you were raised on a version of Christianity that relied on the Bible as the foundation of faith, a version that was eventually dismantled by academia or the realities of life, maybe it’s time for you to change your mind about Jesus. Maybe it’s time for you to consider the version of Christianity that relies on the event of the resurrection of Jesus as its foundation. If you gave up your faith because of something about or in the Bible, maybe you gave up unnecessarily.

During the third installment in the series, Stanley told his North Point Community Church congregants that “the Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity.” He is correct, of course. But for some reason, Stanley goes on to assert, “Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is did Jesus rise from the dead, and the eyewitnesses said he did.”

Here’s the broader context of Stanley’s “unhitch” comments:

It’s disturbing perhaps for people like me, like you who received our first Bible with no instructions. But I’ll tell you who it’s liberating for. It’s liberating for men and women who are drawn to the simple message that God loves you so much he sent his Son to pave the way to a relationship with you. It’s appealing and liberating for people who need and understand grace. Who need and understand forgiveness. And its liberating for people who find it virtually impossible to embrace the dynamic, the worldview, and the value system depicted in the story of ancient Israel.

And:

Peter, James, and Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish Scriptures. And my friends we must as well. Because we must not make it difficult for those Gentiles who are turning to God. They didn’t. We shouldn’t either.

Stanley makes some valid points. He wants to emphasize Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection as the crux of Christianity. He’s right. These events redeemed us back to God as the perfect, necessary sacrifice. I simply can’t understand why Stanley went on to belittle the Old Testament in the process.

It seems that in Stanley’s attempt to repackage and simplify Christianity for non-believers, he’s only created more confusion. Or as well-known Messianic Jewish apologist and professor Michael Brown aptly wrote, “In [Stanley’s] zeal to reach the lost, he has dangerously overstated his case.”

How many times did Jesus quote and affirm the Old Testament? In Matthew 5:17, Jesus bluntly said he came to fulfill the law of the prophets, not to abolish the law.

How does God relate to and speak to His people? Through His divinely-inspired Scriptures, both Old Testament and New Testament. How do we understand the prophesied significance of Jesus Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection? By reading the Old Testament. It makes it hard to understand and follow Jesus if you throw out the totality of Scripture or pick and choose between Scriptures. You cannot take Jesus out of God’s big-picture plan relayed to us in the Old and New Testaments and comprising of the Creation, the Fall, Resurrection, and ultimately Redemption.

The Old Testament message points towards the significance of the Messiah. If lost people are hostile to the Old Testament’s message, then that is a spiritual battle they are entangled. It’s not a license to downplay the role of the Old Testament.

If I asked him, I believe Stanley would agree and accept all this to be true. Stanley even states he believes the Scriptures are “divinely inspired.” As I’ve watched the full sermon series, it appears the motivation behind Stanley’s controversial message is an effort to confront the hostility from our post-Christian culture with an acceptable softened version of Christianity. However, we at the Institute on Religion & Democracy have seen what happens when Christian leaders refashion Christianity to appease broader culture. Local churches merely win society’s applause without adding many congregants.

I will say that Stanley is right in noting young Christians are often handed a Bible with no instruction. This prompts them to draw their own conclusions. Plus, secular society tries hard to convince younger Christians to denounce the Bible’s authority. As I’ve previously emphasized, an hour of Sunday school each week does not prepare young Christians to defend their faith against hostility to the Gospel. So perhaps it is not so much a problem with the nature of the Old Testament, but a lack of discipleship from our local churches and parents. On this, I think Stanley and I would agree.

Stanley is a popular megachurch pastor. A Baylor University study lists Stanley as one of the most effective pastors in the English-speaking world. He is often quoted as making provocative statements in an effort to freshen his ministry approach to reach the lost. It’s one thing to refashion our Christian teaching style. However, it’s a whole other thing to refashion Christian teaching.

What do you think? Is Andy Stanley only refashioning his teaching style or does he cross the line of refashioning Christian teaching? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 


27 Responses to Andy Stanley and Refashioning Christianity

  1. Dan W says:

    2 Timothy 3:16? Saint Paul was not talking about the New Testament. The scriptures Timothy knew from childhood were what we know as the Old Testament. Sorry Pastor Andy. You’re clearly wrong on this one 🙁

    • Roger says:

      What is your definition of inerrancy? Paul in his letter to the Galaitions 5: 1 – 2, Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage (law). Behold, I Paul say unto you that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. Grace salvation is 1Cor. 15: 1 – 4, with nothing added to it to be saved. God has done all the work for salvation, all you have to do is believe / have faith. Salvation is a gift of God, just accept it.

      • Dan W says:

        I was only making the point ALL scripture is useful to believers, not that new believers should be immersed in The Law, major and minor prophets etc. Don’t discourage them from delving into the Old Testament when they are ready. Paul mentions several times we need these scriptures for spiritual growth and wisdom – example Hebrews 5:12-14 and 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

        • Roger says:

          Thanks for your reply Dan. I’m not advocating that the OT be done away with. One must learn arithmetic before they can learn algebra. I was just trying to show that Grace is much better than Law. Paul wrote to believing Gentiles so they wouldn’t go to the Judaisers that said they had to follow the law.

  2. gary says:

    This demonstrates the failure to understand that largest factor in God’s plan for the world is “the praise of the glory of His grace”. The worship of His grace requires that we take-in the whole story and not just that part which we find “useful”. BTW, he has been unhitch from the Revelation and Romans too. They can be quite disconcerting to folk who do not want to be bothered with the fullness of the glory of God’s grace.

  3. Patrick98 says:

    I think a good place for new Christians to start, or people curious about Christianity, is with the Gospel of Luke. We need the entire Bible so I think Andy is mistaken here. I do agree that giving someone a Bible without instructions may overwhelm them. Start with Christ, and spend a lifetime enjoying the riches of all of God’s word.

  4. R. N. says:

    This seems to be a recurring issue with Stanley. I’ve been troubled by his casual use (and misuse) of words for a while. It may seem to serve his point in the moment, but creates trouble later when his loose use of words or ideas creates sweeping generalizations. I recall a sermon where he said that theology was what people used to get around what God really wants them to do. He may not have meant it, but he implied that that was the purpose of theology and the only reason people engage in it. Even if anecdotally true in a few instances, it was a casual generalization and could only cause confusion later. Words matter, and in my opinion, Stanley needs to be more tempered in his use of them.

  5. Roger says:

    There is a difference between Law & Grace. The OT is concerning Law to the Jews. The Letters of Paul are the letters from Romans thru Philemon about Grace to Gentiles. In Romans 15: 4, Paul addresses what Rev. Stanley is talking about: Rom; 15 ; 4 = “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Paul’s Gospel of Grace is that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and arose again. (1Cor. 15: 1 – 4) In Gal. 1: 8 Paul gives this warning: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Rom. 2: 16 ” In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” The OT is for our learning and Paul’s letters are addressed to us today.

  6. Jim says:

    It is easier to fashion Christanty than live by Biblical teachings. Don’t like or understand it throw it out and give an excuse to do it. Look what the UNC has done with The Book of Discipline and the Bible. Easier to change it than live by it. Discipleship comes with a cost, as far as the world’s concerned.

  7. Robert MacElderry says:

    I gave up on Andy Stanley after listening to “When Truthy met Gracie.”

  8. Richard Bell says:

    Chelsen was right about all the orthodoxy that Andy Stanley would fully agree with. Stanley was addressing those who are repulsed by apparently absurd OT purity law (like that relating to lepers and menstruating women and homosexual acts) or repulsed by absurd OT ceremonial law (like priests’ qualification by intact genitals and death penalty for touching the Ark of the Covenant) or repulsed by God’s killing on Passover night the firstborn of any family in ancient Egypt whose dwelling was not marked by blood of a lamb or by God’s commanding ethnic cleansing of the Promised Land through slaughter of its inhabitants. There are more and more people in our times who find these things repulsive. Stanley urged them to set aside the OT and instead begin by getting to know Jesus, as did the first disciples. Like the first disciples of Jesus and the disciples of those first disciples, those whom Stanley addressed will take meat after milk, eventually, and, when they do, they will understand the OT right and no longer be repulsed.

  9. Michael says:

    I am guessing the motivation behind Stanley’s flirtation with abibilical teaching (and the desire for the almost hippie-like God is (only) love message) has to do with:

    1) baggage with his dad’s steadfast, traditional Bible-only theology (and whatever family baggage amplified a wooden, rigid and lifeless holding to Scripture); and

    2) his natural frustration (as we all have) with the lack of revival in America.

    This is what impatient, frustrated (and powerful) leaders often succumb to: playing God (but thinking there just fire-powered prophets).

    • Peter Shaw says:

      I tend to find some truth in your assessment. Bending the facts of scripture to avoid the collision with the decadent culture is a delusional excercise. God killed those without the lambs blood because He is God. He was the Maker of those He chose to die. He holds no explanation to us His creation.

  10. Bill says:

    I would love to hear what Sandra Richter would have to say about this message. I’ve done the Epic of Eden study and now doing the Isaiah study. Helps me understand the clear connection between OT and NT.

  11. Ron says:

    The OT (Genesis) starts with the creation of the world and people. It then describes the fall and reestablishment of the population. After about 10 chapters it becomes the Torah, LAW, and history of the Jews and how God interacted with them. The books of the prophets are communications from God to the Jews at specific times with specific instructions for those specific times.

    The problem comes when we dip back into Mosaic law to establish NT situations, for instance, attempting to justify mandatory Tithing. In the NT it warns: if you place yourself under one law, you are responsible for all Mosaic laws. When the Judaizers insisted on circumcision to be saved, they were warned that to accept one of the Mosaic laws you are placed yourself under all.

    I don’t think Stanley is suggesting that we throw out the OT. If he is, then I believe he is in error. To his credit, he is, I believe, crediting the OT as a basic Jewish history and God’s directions for them and references for us. Also, in the OT there are prophecies for our edification as well.

  12. Penny says:

    Jesus’ own words from Matthew 5:
    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

  13. Theo says:

    Is it possible that the real problem is a lack of trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to change people’s hearts and produce repentance and the fruit thereof in their lives? The Rev. Mr. Stanley thinks that he can draw unbelievers in by toning down what he thinks most modern people would find objectionable in the scriptures. The demythologizers of the last century thought modern westerners found the miracles offensive and toned them down to offer something ostensibly more pallatable to their sensibilities.

    But of course this never works, because that’s not how the Holy Spirit works. If we give unbelievers anything less than the biblical story in all its particularity and in all its apparent strangeness, we are placing our own wisdom in place of the wisdom of God, which is foolishness to the world.

  14. Goran says:

    Stanley hit the target. He is right in every word. Jesus Himself unhitch OT by fulfilling all of it. Resurection is beginning of the new creation.

  15. Keith Heckelman says:

    So called Christian theologians like Andy Stanley grossly err in their Christian theology by swinging far on the opposite extreme of the spectrum of an “all love and grace” kind of Christianity with an exclusive focus on the life of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection. They ignore the essential biblical teachings and doctrines of original sin and repentance (first found in the OT which historically describe why God loves mankind and sent his Son, Jesus Christ, including why mankind needs grace and forgiveness) so as to “inspire” folks to “feel good” and perceive “inclusiveness” in taking part in their congregational bodies.

    This “softening” or “watering down” of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be achieved in part through the changing of certain seemingly rote Christiansese phraseology associated with Christian fundamentalism and replacing it with seemingly fresher and newer terms and phraseology that reflect the current post-Christian culture (e.g. Stanley’s discarding of the use of “the Bible says” and the like as well as the discarding of his use of the “leveraging of the authority of Scripture” while instead adopting his use of “leveraging the authority and stories of the people behind the Scripture”).

    This is an extreme reaction against and contempt for the guilt-laden and rigidly stifling rule-keeping kind of legalistic Christianity (which quite possibly could be coupled with hell, fire and brimstone preaching) perhaps representative of his father.

    If Stanley isn’t careful, he could become horribly deceived by postmodern ideology that is increasingly seeping into Christendom largely in the name of “inclusiveness.” In which case Stanley would not be far behind those liberal and unorthodox “Christian” theologians who herald the mantra of “Love Wins;” a liberal mentality that is soft on sin if not declaring that what has historically been clearly seen as sin in Scripture by the Church is not really sin at all. And this all from their secular humanism, postmodernism, moral and legal relativism, diversity, and multiculturalism worldviews in their abandonment of absolute truth that is divinely revealed in Scripture.

    The challenge for conservative evangelicals lies in creatively formulating fresh and new terms and phrases that well engages our now postmodern culture while maintaining the integrity of the Christian essentials – “solid truth” over “relative inclusiveness.”
    .

  16. Keith says:

    So called Christian theologians like Andy Stanley grossly err in their Christian theology by swinging far on the opposite extreme of the spectrum of an “all love and grace” kind of Christianity with an exclusive focus on the life of Jesus Christ, his sacrificial atoning death and resurrection. They ignore the essential biblical teachings and doctrines of original sin and repentance (first found in the OT which historically describe why God loves mankind and sent his Son, Jesus Christ, including why mankind needs grace and forgiveness) so as to “inspire” folks to “feel good” and perceive “inclusiveness” in taking part in their congregational bodies.

    This “softening” or “watering down” of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be achieved in part through the changing of certain seemingly rote Christiansese phraseology associated with Christian fundamentalism and replacing it with seemingly fresher and newer terms and phraseology that reflect the current post-Christian culture (e.g. Stanley’s use of the modern English word, “unhitch, ” his discarding of his use of “the Bible says” and the like as well as his discarding of his use of the “leveraging of the authority of Scripture” while instead adopting his use of “leveraging the authority and stories of the people behind the Scripture”).

    This is an extreme reaction against and contempt for the guilt-laden and rigidly stifling rule-keeping kind of legalistic Christianity (which quite possibly could be coupled with hell, fire and brimstone preaching) perhaps representative of his father.

    Of course Jesus Christ’s virgin birth, crucifixion, and resurrection divinely revealed in the NT were the most important historical events of all time. Without them there undoubtedly would be no hope of redemption and salvation for mankind.

    But if Stanley isn’t careful, he could become horribly deceived by postmodern ideology that is increasingly seeping into Christendom largely in the name of “inclusiveness.” In which case Stanley would not be far behind those liberal and unorthodox “Christian” theologians who herald the mantra of “Love Wins;” a liberal mentality that is soft on sin if not declaring that what has historically been clearly seen as sin in Scripture by the Church is not really sin at all. And this all from their secular humanism, postmodernism, moral and legal relativism, diversity, and multiculturalism worldviews in their abandonment of absolute truth that is divinely revealed in Scripture.

    The challenge for conservative evangelicals lies in creatively formulating fresh and new terms and phrases (i.e. repackage and simplify Christian concepts) that well engages our now postmodern culture while maintaining the integrity of the Christian essentials – “solid truth” over “relative inclusiveness.”

  17. Jeff says:

    I agree with Stanley’s approach. If we don’t separate the ludicrous we will have little impact going forward. A legalistic approach leads to miss interpretation and disagreement—-just like the Pharisee s. Many of the old laws do not fit within the framework of Jesus’s teachings, which is why Paul tells us the old is not for the new. Jesus fulfilled the law of the prophets in his coming, resurrection, and continued presence. Jesus did ratify the 10 commandments, but that is all.

  18. Michael Kotowski says:

    Our Lord doesn’t need Andrew Stanely to edit his book. Ok.

    His teaching on this, and many other topics, is completely misguided, unsound and void of wisdom.

    Stanely’s comments are what political correctness looks like in the church.

    His teaching is wrong on many levels but most egregious among them is this is how seeds of anti-Semitism get sown within a congregation. The other elders in that church should have ushered Stanely off the stage.

  19. Jan B says:

    I am in total agreement with Andy Stanley. Jesus did fulfill (complete) the law with his sacrifice, in fact his last words confirm it. Jesus took all of the OT laws and narrowed them down to one, “love God and love people.” When we as believers really take this to heart and put it into action, then we will have an impact on our world. As James said, “we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *