Andy Stanley

May 16, 2018

Andy Stanley Responds to “Unhitch” Criticisms

It did not take long for megachurch pastor Andy Stanley to respond to the barrage of criticisms surrounding his suggestion to “unhitch” the Old Testament from Christians’ faith. In a May 15 interview with Relevant Magazine, the North Point Ministries pastor explained why he thinks his critics misunderstood the point of his controversial message.

As previously noted, 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 three-part sermon videos are posted online. 

In response to his critics, Stanley shared “there are some folks who did not understand the point I was making” and wished more critics had reached out to him for clarification.

Most interesting, Stanley believes his critics failed to listen to the entire three-part sermon series. Stanley said:

The folks in our churches understood the point I was making. Anyone who listened to all three parts of the series probably understood the point I was making. Anyone who heard my Christmas or Easter message understood the point I was making. So I guess the point I’m making is that anyone who really wanted to know what I meant by what I said could figure that out pretty easily. But it might require listening to more than one message!

Well, I did listen to all three sermons before posting my comments (which you can read here). In fact, I spent much of my first Mother’s Day watching Stanley’s sermons while my husband took our daughter swimming. Not exactly the ideal Mother’s Day, but I did so because I was careful not to miss the big picture Stanley was painting.

Actually, in my opinion, the first sermon installment was a bit more troubling than the third by downplaying the Bible’s role in confronting a post-Christian society. No surprise here because Stanley has made similar comments in the past. In October 2016, the Institute on Religion & Democracy reported Stanley repeatedly encouraged pastors to stop using the phrase “the Bible says so” and other similar iterations.

Stanley maintained this is not a denial of God’s divinely-inspired Scriptures, but a shift in methodology and not theology.

“As part of my shift, I stopped leveraging the authority of Scripture and began leveraging the authority and stories of the people behind the Scripture,” Stanley explained. “To be clear, I don’t believe ‘the Bible says,’ ‘Scripture teaches,’ and ‘the Word of God commands’ are incorrect approaches. But they are ineffective approaches for post-Christian people.”

While I can’t speak for other critics, I can stand by my initial critiques of Stanley’s message. Stanley makes valid points as he strives to reach the younger generation. His methodology is undoubtedly captivating. But I fear Stanley flirts with the line of refashioning theology to engage his audiences. An unnecessary approach for Stanley’s already thriving ministry.

13 Responses to Andy Stanley Responds to “Unhitch” Criticisms

  1. Eric LeFevre says:

    I find it ironic that Andy Stanley wants to reach the younger audience by ignoring, marginalizing, or rejecting the Old Testament.

    Here we have Dr. Jordan Peterson, who has given extensive lectures on the Old Testament and its value to society, is reaching a generation of young men starving for that message….

    • Steve says:

      This is typical Andy Stanley. I believe he is rebelling against his father Charles who he sees as perhaps stodgy and not in touch with modern audiences. However he is sacrificing theology to reach audiences. The Word of God stands forever. We can use contemporary references like Paul did at Mars Hill rather than post-modernizing truth itself and disconnecting ‘Jesus’ from scripture. This is a bizarre approach that liberal theologians have been doing forever at the detriment of their numbers and followers. Yes the resurrection is central, but…doesn’t the antichrist survive from a mortal wound? Without the scripture, Satan can counterfit the supernatural and perform new signs and wonders, and if people don’t have their Bibles, they’ll be tricked if a miracle and not scripture is all their faith is based on.

  2. Roger says:

    What is your definition of inerrancy? Where does Paul stand ?
    Romans 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.” KJV See Gospel of Grace, 1Cor. 15: 1 – 4. This is “the” gospel, the is a singular word.

  3. Rev. Dcn. David Harper says:

    Marcion is alive and well. So sad. The Old Testament was Jesus’ gift to the Apostles. One cannot read the Gospels without seeing that. In turn, the Apostles give the New Testament to the Church. The Bible is one book, one story.

  4. Peter Passchier says:

    His drive is more Jesus centered (as opposed to almost worshipping and deifying the Bible) and focused on reaching the unreached. He is on the right path and cannot turn away.

  5. Mark Kindle says:

    As a former member of Northpoint, let me fill you in on the context for that sermon. Check out his infamous “Gracie and Truthie” sermon of a year ago. It deals with the participation of homsexuals on the Northpoint staff (a problem). Knowing this background, the following is my remarks to a friend and also former member of Northpoint of what the “Aftermath” sermon means.

    Andy Stanley made two key statements in that “Aftermath” sermon:

    1. The Ten Commandments and the OT law should not be our go-to source for morality.
    2. In the Book of Acts, the gospel was made more INCLUSIVE.

    Where do you think he is leading Northpoint? If you deny that the OT law is the norm for defining morals, you open the door for “new” relationships. If you spout “inclusiveness” aren’t you opening the door wider for other types of relationships?

    There are “theologians” now (like Matthew Vines) that are saying Christians can be homosexual if they have a committed homosexual relationship. Andy Stanley has invited speakers such as Jen Hatmaker to Northpoint – she has come out in favour of gay couples.

    I think Andy Stanley is opening the door to Northpoint for this…subtly preparing the congregation to be more “open” and “inclusive” for all types of relationships WITHOUT EXPLICITLY SAYING SO.

    If that ever happens, I wonder how the other ministers on his staff will react? In fact I’m wondering how comfortable some of them are with that sermon he preached? Surely one of them must be having second thoughts about Stanley’s direction???

    Notice how subtle his approach is – he cannot admit homosexual relations in the church while his famous father is alive (with whom he did have a rupture for a decade). So he hints at “inclusiveness.” What do you think “inclusiveness” and a denial of OT morality as a church basis WILL LEAD TO???

  6. Sherry Roma says:

    John MacArthur has said he is more constrained by His responsibility as a pastor of Christ to the people IN the pews than to the people NOT in the pews. His obligation to Christ and to His flock is to preach the truth of God’s word to those who depend on it for their spiritual nourishment. These seeker friendly churches and preachers have it backwards. Feed the flock the word of God and they will be ambassadors for Christ out in the world.

    • jay framer says:

      EXACTLY! The church is primarily to equip the saints for God’s good works, not to make disciples. We Biblically trained saints are to go out to all the world and make disciples.

  7. Andy Stanley uses this tactic every time. Either, “they didn’t listen to the whole series,” or, “the critics don’t understand.”

    “The folks in our churches understood the point I was making. Anyone who listened to all three parts of the series probably understood the point I was making. Anyone who heard my Christmas or Easter message understood the point I was making. So I guess the point I’m making is that anyone who really wanted to know what I meant by what I said could figure that out pretty easily. But it might require listening to more than one message!”

    Well, that’s one possibility. Another possibility is that his message is unclear. And with the straight-to-the-point jabs he likes to throw out, and keeps getting caught on, maybe he is being unclear intentionally…

    In either case, I don’t trust him.

  8. Steve holdren says:

    As a christian, I find it very ironic to say people just don’t undestand! I understand very well. There seems to be a massive shift against tradition, theological and biblical standards as well as accountability. The old testament Jews coming out of Egypt had to be taught at least one specific criteria, while free from Egyptian slavery, they were not free from accountability to God.

    I could go on for a very long time given the fact that I have been in the ministry for 37 years. I do want to share a comment made that I think sums up a lot of the changes that christian realists should hold on to. “The truth is never to be compromised for the sake of unity”. Stick with the inerrant scriptures themselves, they won’t go away.

  9. Kacie Davis says:

    I am very sad to see so many Christian leaders, leaving replies not founded in love and learning. I believe a pastor like Mr. Stanly is needed in reaction to so many of these pastors, driving away Christians who want a personal relationship with God and are not content to to listen to any message that is not “inclusive”. Being that Jesus was gracious enough to “include” all sinners to be saved, despite being gentiles. My heart is very heavy to think of the masses that follow them. I stick with Mr. Stanly and his family and would caution people from blindly following anyone and to always ask questions; and to remember that Love (not criticism) is the path of and cloak of a true follower of Jesus.

    • Sharon says:

      In regards to the comment that ” Jesus was gracious enough to “include” all sinners to be saved, despite being gentiles”. Why do you assume that anyone who disagrees with Andy Stanley does not want all sinners to be saved? I have not seen that stated here. Yes, we want all sinners to be saved, but we don’t lower the values and morals that God has put in place just to make others feel it’s okay to continue to live in sin. We love them as God does and when they come to understand and accept God’s saving grace and willing to let him have control of their lives, they will be transformed, as all who have wholeheartedly given our lives to Christ. Christ did eat, speak, show love to sinners, but he also said “go and sin no more”. I am a member of a church that stands firm in our faith, morals and value, AND we are a very loving church. but we don’t have to water down the scriptures so others feel accepted. God’s word is LIVING and it is through the preaching and teaching of His Word, God will speak to sinners and convict their hearts. Our calling is to preach and teach the Truth.

  10. Charles Odom says:

    I’m coming to this discussion late in its development. Last Sunday at church, our young pastor gave a powerful sermon in rebuttal of Andy Stanley’s “unhitch” sermon of last April. Our pastor preached specifically from Matthew 5:17; “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Though he did not identify Stanley as the originator of the “unhitch” theology, he did state it came from a well known and renowned preacher of the Gospel. For me as anolder Southern Baptist church goer, that narrowed the field of possible theologians. I came home and did a little digging, hoping that it was not Charles Stanley whose ministry I’ve followed for over 40 years. To my surprise and disappointment it wasn’t Charles but his son Andy that had introduced the “unhitch” suggestion, idea, theology, whatever one could call it to his flock. I have listened to this series and conclude that he said what he meant to say regardless the walk-back later and that troubles me. As a baby boomer, I’ve always been open to self expression, search for the unknown, civil rights, patriotism and all the rest that goes with my generation. But, I still hold sacred the teachings of bedrock principles learned from birth and the sanctity and strict interpretation of the Bible is probably the most constant. My prayer for Andy is to return to his devotion to God and His Holy Word, all of it.

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