One of the most profound challenges for Christians as we live in an ever-more-hostile world is how to properly defend the faith against the incessant attacks against it. And these attacks have taken their toll. We have seen far too many casualties over the years as people leave the church because they had doubts or questions that were never answered.
It is precisely this issue that is behind Andy Stanley’s recent sermon, “The Bible Told Me So” (preached Aug 28, 2016). Stanley, son of well-known Atlanta pastor, Charles Stanley, is the senior pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.
Stanley’s concern in this sermon is for those who have experienced what he calls “deconversions”—people who went to church as a child but have drifted away from the faith as they have reached adulthood. They drifted away because they went to a church that refused to answer their difficult questions and insisted that they were “just supposed to have faith.”
There is little doubt that Stanley has put his finger on a critical issue for the church today, and he should be commended for it. We need to find a compelling way to address the questions and doubts people have about their faith without ducking the hard questions.
But while Stanley has correctly diagnosed the disease, serious questions remain about whether he has offered an adequate cure. Indeed, in many ways, his suggested cure becomes problematic enough that one begins to wonder whether it just might be more troubling than the disease itself.
So what is the cure that Stanley has offered? In brief, Christians need to stop basing their faith on the Bible.
The cause of these deconversions, Stanley argues, is that Christians, from an early age, are taught the children’s lyric, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Why is this phrase a problem? Stanley answers: “because the implication is the Bible is the reason we believe.”
Why would it be a problem if the Bible is the reason we believe? Stanley tells us: “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.”
In other words, the cure (or at least part of it) for these deconversions is to take the Bible out of the equation. If we do that, then we don’t have to worry about defending it or upholding it. Problem solved.
Or is it?
While one sympathizes with Stanley’s desire to remove obstacles to belief in Jesus, his solution does not solve the problem. In fact, it creates even bigger ones. It becomes (as we shall see below) the equivalent of sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.
Just a Method to Reach Unbelievers?
Now, before we go further, it should be noted that Stanley’s desire to remove the Bible as the basis for our belief in Jesus is driven by his concern to reach unbelievers (or ex-believers). Since unbelievers don’t accept the authority of the Bible, he thinks he will be more effective if the Bible is taken out of the mix.
Similar sorts of methods have been advocated in the past. Most notably, John Wenham’s Christ and the Bible attempts to prove the inspiration of Scripture by first accepting the NT Gospels as generally reliable historical documents, then moving to the resurrection, then finally to Jesus’ view of Scripture, which would (presumably) lead one then to believe in inspiration.
But even if Stanley is trying to follow a method like Wenham’s, I would argue he has done so in a manner that goes well beyond the language used by Wenham and others like him. As will become clear below, he makes a number of statements that are provocative enough that when they are not properly nuanced or clarified they can leave both believer and unbeliever deeply confused about the Bible.
The fact that these statements have left people confused (and even worried) is evident from the extensive on-line discussions about the sermon that have already taken place. I have also seen this personally as numerous people have approached me with concerns about the sermon, asking if I might write something that might clarify the issues. And that is the purpose of this post. I have a genuine appreciation of (and respect for) Andy Stanley, but I wanted to provide some answers to the questions people are asking.
Can the Bible Be the Reason We Believe in Jesus?
So, we turn now to Stanley’s primary claim, namely that the Bible should not be the “reason we believe.” In order to evaluate this claim, it might be helpful to distinguish between two different questions: (a) Is it possible to believe in Jesus on a basis other than the Bible? and (b) Is it preferable to believe in Jesus on a basis other than the Bible?
As for the first of these, it is true that a person can believe in Jesus without believing in the Bible. Indeed, they don’t even have to know a Bible exists to believe in Jesus. Think of the person in the jungles of the Amazon who hears a missionary preach and converts. He may live for many years not aware of a Bible or even able to read one.
And even for those who have read their Bible, they don’t have to believe all of it to be saved (though, obviously, they have to believe in certain parts to be saved). A person can reject inspiration and still be a Christian—though it is a very serious doctrinal error.
But, just because it is possible to believe in Jesus apart from believing the Bible doesn’t mean that is the preferable approach. One does not follow from the other. And it certainly doesn’t mean it is dangerous or problematic to believe in Jesus on the basis of the Bible.
It is worth noting that neither Jesus nor the apostles give us the impression that believing on the basis of the Bible is some sort of problem. On the contrary, Jesus plainly states, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). In other words, belief in the writings of Moses (part of the OT) would actually lead a person to believe in Jesus!
In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man begs to rise from the dead to warn his brothers about judgment. But, Abraham states the Scripture are utterly sufficient as a basis for their salvation without needing a miraculous appearance: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29).
The apostles regularly convinced others to believe in Jesus on the grounds that he fulfilled the words of that Old Testament (Acts 3:18-19; 17:2; 18:28). Sure, the eyewitness experience of the resurrection was paramount (1 Cor 15:7-8), but the apostles even interpreted that experience in light of the Old Testament (1 Cor 15:4).
Simply put, Jesus and the apostles did not warn us against relying on the OT Scriptures as a basis for our belief.
Now I suppose that one could respond by saying that all of these passages speak to believers and Stanley is speaking to only unbelievers. But, the problem with this response is that Stanley’s advice clearly applies to believers as well. Are we to think his warning about setting up a “house of cards” religion suddenly becomes invalid upon conversion? Is it not believers who are in danger of doubting their faith if they hear a modern scholar critique the story of Jericho?
And it is here that we come to the nub of the matter. Stanley is not merely putting the Bible on the shelf temporarily for the sake of persuading the unbeliever through another means—that is the methodology that Wenham and others follow (which itself is debatable).
Instead, Stanley seems to be setting up a principled objection to making the Bible the reason we believe—an objection that would apply to both believer and unbeliever.
If the Bible Is Not Our Foundation, Then What Is?
So if we don’t look to Scripture as the reason for believing in Jesus, then to what do we look? Stanley answers:
Jesus loves you. This you know, for John who watched Him die and had breakfast with Him on the beach tells you so. Jesus loves you, this I know, for Luke who thoroughly investigated the events wrote them down meticulously and interviewed eye witnesses, made sure it was so. Jesus loves you, this I know, because a Pharisee who hated Christians, who was going to arrest Christians, who was going to singlehandedly stop the Jesus movement, became Jesus follower and risked his life traveling all around the Gentile Mediterranean Rim to make sure that you know.
In other words, we don’t need an inspired Bible to know Jesus loves us we just need the testimony of these men. The problem with this line of reasoning, of course, is that the words and stories of these men come from the Bible! All of the facts that Stanley appeals to—that John watched Jesus die, that Luke investigated these things, that Paul was a converted Pharisee—come from the Scriptures.
Perhaps Stanley would acknowledge this fact but simply insist that he is appealing to these documents not as inspired Scripture but just as reliable historical sources (similar to the kind of apologetic argument made by Wenham).
If so, then his view, in effect, would be, “Jesus loves me this I know, because historically reliable documents tell me so.”
But, this approach runs into its own host of problems. For one, this move doesn’t avoid the problem of making one’s view subject to scholarly attacks. Scholars have not only attacked the story of Jericho, they have also attacked the stories of the Gospels—indeed they’ve attacked the latter with even more vigor than the former. And the center of such attacks has always been the accounts of the resurrection (which the vast majority of scholars reject).
So, what if someone used Stanley’s own argument against him, “Your dependence on the historical reliability of these documents as a basis for your belief in Jesus is just setting up a ‘house of cards’ religion; as soon as critics attack these documents your whole system comes crumbling down.”
In other words, shifting from inspiration to mere historical reliability doesn’t help.
Indeed, not only does not help, it actually hurts. Why would we think our confidence improves when shifting away from inspiration towards mere historical reliability? After all the latter would include mistakes and errors—no historian is perfect.
And then this raises the issue of how we distinguish the true parts from the false parts. We would have to “edit” the Bible according some standard—which one would that be?
Was There a “Bible” in Early Christianity?
In order to bolster his view that you don’t need the Bible to believe in Jesus, Stanley argues that the earliest Christians didn’t have one anyway. There was no Bible until Constantine in the fourth century.
Stanley states, “Christianity made its greatest strides during the 282 years before the Bible even existed.” In other words, between 30 and 312 AD (when Constantine became emperor), Christians did not really have a Bible they could use and quote from.
Thus, Stanley adds the following, “Christianity was not born on the back of the Bible says, the Bible says, the Bible says.”
This entire reconstruction is deeply problematic on a number of levels. For one, Christians did build the Christian faith on the back of the “the Bible says, the Bible says.” They did this because they already had the Old Testament Scriptures from the very start. As observed above, the apostles in the early church repeatedly cited the Old Testament Scriptures as a basis for their beliefs.
As for the New Testament, these books were also functioning as Scripture very early. Even in his own day, Paul’s letters were read and copied as authoritative apostolic documents that the church was supposed to obey and follow (e.g., 1 Cor 14:37; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Thess 2:15). Even other New Testament letters viewed Pauls’ books as “Scripture” (2 Pet 3:15-16).
This pattern continued in the second century where we see a “core” collection of New Testament Scriptures—four Gospels, Paul’s thirteen letters, Acts, and a handful of other books—functioning as the Word of God in local congregations. They were being read, copied, and cited as Scripture alongside the Old Testament. These New Testament books were even used as the basis for preaching.
So, when Stanley says there was no “Bible” during this time period, and that Christians were not using the Bible, that is simply not the case. On the contrary, the early church was very textually centered and scripturally oriented (for more, see my The Question of Canon).
Perhaps Stanley could respond by saying that there was no “Bible” in the sense that all the Old and New Testament books were bound in a single volume you could pick up and hold. He is technically correct that we do not have a single volume like that until the fourth century.
But, it is unclear why that matters. Just because all these books were not bound in a single volume did not mean they were not known and used as Scripture. After all, in Jesus’ day the Old Testament books were not bound together in a single volume. And yet it was clear that there was an Old Testament canon during that time which both Jesus and the apostles regularly used.
Stanley’s attempt to push the existence of the Bible back into the fourth century also leads to other problematic historical statements. For example, he states, “The men and women who copied these important documents, they did not make copies because they thought they were inspired.”
But, again, this is not the case. We don’t always know, of course, what was in the mind of a scribe when they copied a book. But what we do know points in the opposite direction of Stanley’s claim. For instance, Christian scribes used special abbreviations for the divine names called the nomina sacra (“sacred names”) which echoes what OT scribes did for the name Yahweh. Most scholars are convinced that this indicates they viewed these writings as sacred Scripture (Question of Canon, 101-102).
Does It Matter Whether the Bible Is True?
To further emphasize his point that a person doesn’t need to believe the Bible to follow Jesus, Stanley says, “The issue has never been is the Bible true. The issue has always been who is Jesus.”
On the surface, this sounds compelling—who needs to worry about a dusty ol’ book anyway? Let’s just focus on the person of Jesus.
The problem with this statement, however, is that Stanley never clarifies what he means when he says “the issue has never been is the Bible true.” Do you need to believe it’s true to be saved? No. We already discussed that above.
But, if the Bible is not true then Christianity is a farce. Why? Because Jesus himself declared that he believed the Bible (the OT in his day) was true. And if Jesus is the God of Israel then the Bible is filled with Jesus’ own words. Thus, if the Bible isn’t true then in fact Jesus isn’t true.
To put it differently, a person doesn’t have to believe in the truth of the Bible to be saved, but the Bible has to be true for them to be saved.
And this is where I think Stanley’s sermon has profoundly confused people. He is so eager to remove all the obstacles for the unbeliever that he never clarifies the difference between these two important truths.
And so what happens when the newly converted believer—who was discouraged from believing in the Bible as the basis for his belief—learns that the Bible’s truth is necessary for the truth of Christianity? He was told the Bible isn’t essential, but now it appears that the Bible is essential after all.
Does this new convert just live with the tension? Does he deconvert? Does he change his view and embrace the Bible as inspired? And if he does that, doesn’t he fall back into the trap of creating a “house of cards” religion that could be overturned by later scholarly arguments? We never receive answers to these questions.
Bible vs. Gospel?
In the end, it is understandable why Stanley’s sermon has generated a wide variety of responses from people. He is to be commended for having a heart for the lost and for seeking to bring them to Christ. And I deeply sympathize with his desire to remove the obstacles—as many as possible—that keep people from embracing Jesus. And I am sure he personally would affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture (I am not questioning that).
However, the sermon itself was deeply confusing and left many questions unanswered about the proper role of God’s Word in our lives. Unfortunately, much of the confusion in the sermon was driven by Stanley’s commitment to a particular methodology about how to reach non-Christians. For whatever set of reasons, Stanley has become convinced that the Bible gets in the way.
I disagree. On the contrary, the strategy of downplaying the Bible for the sake of the Gospel is a false dichotomy. The two cannot and should not ever be pitted against each other.
What God has joined together let man not separate.
I am 67 years old…raised a Catholic and believe in God & Jesus. My 14 year old Granddaughter is also raised as a Catholic, was schooled in a Catholic school from kindergarten through 7th grade. She informed me in January that she doesn’t believe in God or the Catholic church. 4 or 5 years ago she became interested in Greek Mythology through a series of books. She’s an avid reader…these books have caused her to believe that the Greek gods are the true gods, not Jesus Christ. How can I help her find her way back to Christianity?
You can’t, except if she is an avid reader give her more books to read. Be careful that what you choose are good ones, by which I mean they aren’t meant to preach to the choir, and present a more nuanced view.
FTR, I’m a former Catholic and current atheist. My faith started to disappear when I was 14 and read the Bible straight through. I then read many things, to include various mythologies. Several Fulton Sheen books were handed to me, and furthered my atheism through profound disagreement with the author. One good book is Paul Johnson’s (he is a Catholic historian) History of Christianity, a relatively balanced book until he hits the 19th Century. Also good is Doubt, a History, by Jennifer Hecht.
Encourage her to read the Book of Mormon and the Quran. Mao’s Red Book. Darwin (to help refute fundamentalist Protestantism).
After all my reading I am still an atheist, but sympathetic only to Catholics and Buddhists, with soft spots for Hindus and Janes. This might be the closest she comes to reviving her Catholicism.
Just out of curiosity Mike – would it make a difference in your beliefs if you discovered Jesus was actually a historical person who did rise from the dead?
Paul, good luck with that. Considering the depth and breadth of my study since my teen years (30 years ago), I’d say I’ve likely seen the evidence available for that claim and rejected it as either too full of superstitution and short on substantiation, or mistaken on the death claim, a huckster preacher.
One of the most common questions atheists get is what would convince us back to faith. The best answer I have is that any god comparable to the God of the bible (as opposed to less powerful deities like Zues) would know exactly what would convince me yet chooses not to do so. There is an example in the gospels claiming Jesus was willing to provide convincing evidence for doubters. This question from believers is actually an argument against that god being real, going back to the problem of evil and the fatal contradiction of a loving god who also knows everything and insists on human free will yet still supports eternal punishment for finite transgressions. This assumes that god also requires faith from humans to not send them to eternal punishment. If that god created me with my intellect and voracious reading habit and then chooses to condemn me for how he created me… That’s not a god worth worshipping even if I could believe it exists. See the Euthryphro dilemma.
Hopefully that answered your question.
Even the Bible argues against superstition & how does an atheist decide what is good & what is evil, what is loving & what is unloving.
What is your guiding authority, you, nature, soft spots, reading, not reading, history or lack of history etc…
Dean, the most succinct reply is a rhetorical question: is the Bible or your faith in it or your god the only things holding you back from being a horrible, evil person? If so, I’ve got news for you…
Your post is akin to the “when did you stop beating your wife?” thing. It assumes a priori a truth that hasn’t been demonstrated. There were moral people and civilizations before the bible, there are moral people and civilizations now that do not believe in the bible. I and others make the case that good/bad judgements are inherent in the human animal that we are, part of the social aspect of our nature. Good people would have tended to be more accepted buy the people around them, providing survival benefits to them and their children. Asocial people would tend to be ostracized. This then becomes a trait acted on by natural selection. Humans tend to be good because that is who we are. We also want to be better because that is who we are. There is no need to inject supernatural explanations into it.
Mike, you are a well read man and most likely much more intelligent than myself. God has given you all you need to believe. Look around at creation, the intricacies of the world we live in, etc. It was all obviously created and not happenstance. I think your pride in self and knowledge is blinding you from the truth. We cannot know everything. The problem of evil is found in the bible but the reason for God allowing evil to continually occur is a mystery of God. He is omniscient and we cannot fully see/know his plans. The only reason you are alive now is by the grace of God. Without Gods common grace, this entire planet wouldn’t exist, anarchy to the highest degree would reign. God does NOT want you to be eternally punished (see John 3:16-17). Please read John 3:17 as well, many people stop at 3:16. God does NOT want to condemn you which is why he sent Jesus into the world. Your faith in Jesus as your savior will free you from condemnation from your finite transgressions.
steve hays says
Mikehorn is derailing Kruger’s post as a pretext to attack Christianity in general. Mikehorn is recycling village atheist arguments against Christianity. Kruger’s post is not the proper forum to get into a full scale defense of the Bible. Kruger’s post is by Christians, to Christians, and for Christians. In addition, Mikehorn’s objections are insincere inasmuch as his objections are totally one-sided. He parrots stock objections to the Bible, for which there are stock responses. He’s not raising any objections that haven’t been refuted by Christian philosophers and scholars. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel for people who have no genuine interest in learning or considering the other side of the argument.
Hey Mike. Thank you for your response. I was not looking to “convince” you of the historical reliability of the resurrection. I was simply asking hypothetically that if you were to obtain evidence that Jesus was a historical person who predicted that he would be killed and then he would be raised back to life, would that make a difference in your current beliefs? Just curious.
Thanks for clarifying.
Your proposition is by no means demonstrated. At some level most historians agree that the Jesus of the gospels was at least in part real, in that he was one of the preachers of the era. But the rest has only one source, the bible, and is as well demonstrated as the wanderings of Ulysses. Still possibly meaningful, even profound, but hardly likely.
About him predicting trouble, arrest, and execution for preaching Jewish world dominance (even if meant metaphorically or spiritually) in a rebellious part of the Roman Empire? That’s hardly a difficult prediction. Coming back to life would actually need to be demonstrated, with hard evidence to accompany a pretty wild claim.
On this stuff you run into the much more recent adage from science and science fiction: any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic. According to very recent definitions of death, modern hospitals resurrect millions of people yearly. But it’s not magic and it’s not divine. It has a rational, worldly explanation. But do that in front of middle eastern fisherman from 2000 years ago, and it would be a miracle.
No, it would take a great deal to convince me.
Mikehorn, as to God giving you evidence to bring you out of your doubt, perhaps He has already given you enough. Jesus said about one man who wanted God to do a miracle to convince his brothers of the reality of God and life after death, ‘Your brothers have Moses and the prophets and if that isn’t enough for them, then even if someone came back from the dead they would not believe.’ …. ..My guess is you are probably in the same state as those brothers.
Jesus also showed Thomas when asked. Any God similar to the one Christians believe in would know what every person would require. I studied and not only found nothing but the more I studied the less I believed. Some of the “evidence” simply falls apart when looked at closely.
There are several problems with using biblical quotes to make your point to an apostate or atheist.
1) We don’t believe your bible is any more real than Homer or Shakespeare. Interesting, sometimes beautiful, perhaps with things of value, but not convincing.
2) When it serves as a substitute for a rational argument, it comes across as “The Bible Says…!” In your best southern snake oil drawl. Use your own argument or don’t bother. Don’t just quote someone else and leave it at that. I stopped listening.
3). The Bible is internally contradictory and can be used to support any position. Are you aware that the Old Testament gives circumstances where abortion is mandatory and tells you how it should be done? See Numbers 5, through about verse 30. And Jesus said he wants every bit of the law to be upheld. Matthew 5:17-18.
Dave Scott says
“would know exactly what would convince me yet chooses not to do so”
So God does but you don’t?
Ultimately, God is his own self-referencer and although he can be proven he is not like an object that can be proven. He reveals himself to whom he chooses – and to those who genuinely seek but faith is a prerequisite.
Knowledge can block as well as enlighten … depends on the orientation of the soul.
Eddie Gilchrist says
Nice. You say you validate or invalidate claims regarding God by rigorous analysis, in which you have engaged extensively, and found the arguments lacking. You do this though by invoking logical constructs that are products of an irrational, arbitrary and random neural knob which may or may not have any congruence with reality. You rely on both the data set of your perceptions being “true” perceptions of reality and your ability to frame those perceptions into something which comports with what is truly there… solely on the basis of a set of ganglia that arose by utter random chance…. and you are confident enough in this set of perceptions AND that you are unprejudiced enough in slicing them up that the possibility that you stack the deck against there being a God is not even on your radar screen.
Nice work if you can get it.
So, according to you I need to start with a Special Pleading fallacy then enter the dizzying world of Curcular Reasoning?
Mikehorn You don’t believe because you are incapable of doing so. Your research did not bring you to disbelief. The disbelief is from your mind being set on the flesh and due to that you are incapable of saving faith (Romans 8:7). You have not faith because that gift has not been give you by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:8)
Ray, so correct me if I’m wrong, but are you saying that part of the trinity withheld faith from me and, since faith is necessary for salvation, that means that this divine withholding will condemn me for eternity?
I don’t believe because I’m not convinced. Do you believe in Zues and Thor? Vishnu? If not, why? If you understand why you do not believe in the other 6000 gods humanity has dreamed up, that is your window on understanding why I don’t believe in the bible’s pantheon.
Mike, I have read many of the posts in response to your claim of being an atheist. In reality there is no such thing as an atheist. Those who claim that moniker have rejected the message God has given through His Son Jesus Christ. And while many have tried to convince you that you are wrong, the Word of God is much more powerful. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians:
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. 1 Corinthians 1:18-29
You also question why God has not given you faith. God has manifested Himself to you through creation, the written Word and through the historical fact of His Son, Jesus Christ. As long as you reject those God will reject you. However, if you accept God’s free gift of salvation offered through His Son, Jesus Christ you will be saved.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
You claim to have read the Bible in the past. I would like to suggest that you read the Books of John and Romans. I prefer the King James Version because of its eloquence and its succinct presentation of the Gospel message in those books.
Ed, do you believe in Adnoartina? Nanna? Niltsi? If you do not, then you are atheistic towards these gods. If you understand how you can lack belief in these, you understand those who find Christianity simply not believable. The thought that atheists don’t exist is an old one, but wrong. It comes from your deep conviction of your faith, but also a lack of imagination for what ifs, specifically what if you are wrong? Any atheist who once had faith had to confront that and get through it.
So you know, quoting the bible to an atheist isn’t convincing. My first reaction is: so what? Should I quote Tolkien or frank Herbert back to you? How about the Bene Geserit chant against fear? Fear is the mind killer. I shall face my fear, and let it pass through me… Great books, Dune and its sequels. Full of wisdom and insight. And beautiful. For stunning beauty, try and Ray Bradbury.
About God not giving me faith, read that again. I was making a point by taking another’s comment and turning it on its head. When some talk about the Christian God and its attributes, the idea of giving individuals some gifts and not others comes up. I don’t claim any God chose not to give me faith. I’m saying the idea of the all powerful Christian God makes no sense, and used that example of a contradiction to demonstrate the absurdity.
I’ve read the bible straight through twice. Once around 1985, the next around 2004. Snippets at other times. Admittedly I’ve read and retread the Foundation series more – they are much more interesting. I’d stay away from KJV. The language is not so much beautiful as archaic. I think Chaucer in the original has much more art than the KJV. Any Shakespeare. But the KJV is so full of translation errors that I’d not recommend that to anyone who hasn’t read three or four other translations prior.
steve hays says
Once again, Mikehorn is rehashing stock village atheist tropes. This is stuff that Christians have already refuted time and again. For every pat objection Mikehorn parrots, there’s are preexisting answers.
Steve, how so?
I am glad you are aware that non-believers actually have answers to the stock Christian critiques. Atheists don’t exist is a weird one, both insulting and silly at the same time. Do you have something to demonstrate that atheists don’t exist? Besides a bible verse – I want really argument not quotation marks around someone else’s words.
Dismissing me as the old straw man of “village atheist” doesn’t actually get you anywhere. It refutes nothing, merely attacks the source rather than engage with reason. Got anything better?
steve hays says
I didn’t say unbelievers have answers. I said they have “pat objections” and “atheist tropes.”
I didn’t say atheists don’t exist. You’re confusing me with another commenter.
I’m not trying to get anywhere with you. That was never my objective.
You’re a stereotypical apostate turned atheist. This is your new mission in life. Having lost whatever faith you had, you become a recruiter. You mouse over to Christian blogs to threadjack the topic of the post so that you can pick fights with Christians.
I’m under no obligation to refute what’s been refuted umpteen times before. I’m under no obligation to reinvent the wheel for one apostate. You don’t have that claim on me or anyone else. Get over yourself!
If you were really sincere, you’d acquaint yourself with the best Christian philosophers, apologists, Bible scholars, &c. You’d already know the answers to the stale objections you dutifully regurgitate.
As a test of your sincerity, what Christian philosophers, apologists, and Bible scholars have you read? How well do you know the other side of the argument?
You replied to a comment about atheists not existing with something about tired tropes and all that. You inserted yourself into that comment thread. Do you believe atheists actually exist, or in the standard Christian canard about us being deluded or angry or something else.
Atheists run up against the same arguments all the time. The “atheists don’t exist” thing is common in my own family, who think I will return to Catholicism at some point. You do make an interesting distinction that from a Catholic perspective I am an apostate, having been baptized and confirmed (under my chosen patron of Augustine) and so remain a Catholic under those rules, even if an apostate. I speak and write and believe heresy, which is historically not a healthy choice.
I initially replied to someone who’s relation fell away from faith in a very common way, so I suggested further reading. For your question I’ll repeat what I found illuminating, either authors or books (or fragments):
The Bible (various translations, including New American and KJV but others too)
The Quran (last read in 2009 during my last deployment)
Some of the Bhagavid Gita (stunningly beautiful – give it a chance)
The Book of Mormon (for a known modern fraud)
Mao’s “red book” (interesting, from a civilization that has been decidedly atheist for several thousand years, and especially historically as the last 100 years of Chinese history will likely affect the next 100)
Karl Marx (I’m a capitalist, but I like to know my opponents’ thoughts)
Charles Darwin, Voyage of Beagle, Origin of Species, Descent of Man (destroys biblical literalism with science – note Catholicism starting with Pope Pius XII and every Pope since accepts a deep-time universe and a mankind evolved from earlier primates, called Theistic Evolution which accepts the science as discovered, so Christian religion is not inherently destroyed)
Augustine and Thomas Moore (most Christian arguments are derivative from these two, so go to the source)
CS Lewis (and Tolkein, his Catholic pen pal)
Fulton Sheen (garbage, but illuminating)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Code of Canon Law
Various Vatican documents like Vatican II and Humane Vitae, more
History of Christianity, by Paul Johnson (a Catholic and an excellent read)
Doubt: a History, by Jennifer Hecht (excellent)
Ray Comfort (garbage, but good for a laugh – divinely designed bananas and all)
A wiki called wiki.ironchariots.org (from Judges 1:19)
Talk Origins, another website
Various atheists like the common ones you’d expect: Hitchens, Gould, Dawkins, etc
Carl Sagan, especially Demon Haunted World and Unweaving the Rainbow
Asimov fiction, a future either without religion or religion created and used as a tool
Asimov essay “the Relativity of Wrong” (excellent)
Asimov’s Guide to the Bible
Arthur C Clarke
A strong education in science, though my degrees are in music and mechanical engineering and cyber security
If I think of more I’ll send them, but that was off the top of my head.
I forgot a few, some obvious.
Francis Collins (who I at least respect on his science)
The rodeo clowns of creationism like Ken Ham and the Discovery Institute
steve hays says
To judge by your list, you’re completely unfamiliar with evangelical scholarship. You can often buy used copies. Sometimes used copies of paperbacks. You can also get books from your public library. If you live in a largish city, you can request books from different branches. You can also get lending copies via inter-library loan.
Let’s begin with a few categories:
A standard compendium of largely modern case studies is:
Craig Keener, Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (2 volumes).
Less detailed is:
Rex Gardner’s Healing Miracles: A Doctor Investigates.
Keener also has a number of YouTube presentations on miracles.
For a philosophical defense, Robert Larmer’s The Legitimacy of Miracle & Dialogues on Miracle; Joseph Houston’s Reported Miracles: A Critique of Hume; John Earman’s Hume’s Abject Failure; Gary Habermas/Douglas Geivett’s In Defense of Miracles; David Johnson, Hume, Holism, and Miracles (Cornell University Press, 2002).
I’d add that Larmer’s two books include some firsthand case studies.
In addition, there’s some online material of his:
II. Historicity and inerrancy of Scripture:
Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (IVP; 2nd ed., 2007)
D. A. Carson, ed. The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).
Steven Cowan and Terry Wilder, In Defense of the Bible: A Comprehensive Apologetic for the Authority of Scripture (B&H 2013)
James Hoffmeier & Dennis MaGary, eds., Do Historical Matters Matter to Faith? (Crossway 2012)
Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003)
John Oswalt, The Bible Among the Myths (Zondervan 2009)
Vern Poythress, Inerrancy and the Gospels (Crossway 2012)
This is available online.
I. Provan, V. P. Long & T. Longman, eds. A Biblical History of Israel (WJK, 2nd ed., 2015).
III. Historical Jesus:
Paul Barnett, Finding the Historical Jesus
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2nd ed., 2017).
Craig Keener, the Historical Jesus of the Gospels
IV. Comparative Religion:
Winfried Corduan, Neighboring Faiths: A Christian Introduction to World Religions.
Evangelical apologetics are derivative of Augustine, Moore, and Aquinas. Some of the original Luther and Calvin and Henry VIII (yes, before he got fat and a little crazy, possibly from pain, he was a smart guy) was original thought. Reading the more modern ones is an exercise in the absurd and the mundane and the pedestrian.
I have studied the standard arguments like cosmological and ontological, etc, as arguments with examples from different writers. This is a more efficient way of study.
No, none of the standard evangelical or Protestant writers are at all convincing. Catholics sometimes do better, but not always. For example, CS Lewis is drivel for the ignorant, in my opinion. In the Lewis/Tolkien correspondence, the Catholic Tolkien wipes the floor with the arguments of Lewis. I don’t agree with Tolkien on religion either, but his is a much better mind than Lewis. I like tolkein’s books better, as well.
steve hays says
So Mikehorn is a secular fideist. He prejudges the scholarly sources I mention. He’s a devotee of fact-free atheism.
Keep in mind that I’m not commenting for his benefit. He’s put himself beyond the reach of reason. My comments are for the benefit of rational readers.
steve hays says
You mention the Euthyphro dilemma. According to Richard Joyce, who’s a prominent secular ethicist, that’s a false dilemma:
I’d add that the Euthyphro dilemma presumes some version of divine command theory. But it doesn’t work on a natural law theory.
On the problem of evil, Prof. Greg Welty has a fine forthcoming book on that topic: Why Is There Evil in the World (And So Much of It)? [Christian Focus Publications]
“Do you believe in Zues [sic] and Thor? Vishnu? If not, why? If you understand why you do not believe in the other 6000 gods humanity has dreamed up, that is your window on understanding why I don’t believe in the bible’s pantheon.”
So you’re parroting Stephen Roberts’s quotable, but intellectually shallow quip. Let’s consider a few problems with that facile comparison:
1. At best, pagan gods are humanoid beings with superhuman powers. And some pagan gods are theriomorphic gods, or hybrid gods (i.e. half human/half beast) or deified natural forces.
However, standard theistic proofs aren’t even applicable to gods like that. If some version of the ontological argument is sound, it only applies to a necessary being. But pagan gods aren’t necessary beings.
If some version of the cosmological argument is sound, it only applies to an ex nihilo Creator of the universe (or multiverse). But pagan gods aren’t creators in that absolute sense.
Likewise, the cosmological argument from contingency presumes that God is not contingent. Yet the pagan gods are contingent. Even if the argument is sound, it doesn’t apply to pagan gods.
If some version of the teleological argument is sound, it requires a God with vast knowledge and magisterial control over the variables. But pagan gods lack those attributes.
Likewise, you have theistic arguments based on God as the necessary support for abstract objects (e.g. numbers, possible worlds). But pagan gods can’t fill that role–even in principle.
Pagan gods aren’t ultimate beings, but derivative beings. Finite beings.
Not only is there no evidence for the existence of pagan gods, but there’s evidence that humanoid, physical beings can’t have the superhuman powers which pagan mythology ascribes to their gods. Rather, we’d expect them to be subject to the same natural limitations of any physical being.
2. In classical theism, God cannot be affected by the world. God subsists outside of space and time. In Calvinism, God knows the future because God planned the future.
Pagan gods are not analogous to classical theism or Reformed theism. They are fundamentally different kinds of beings. By the same token, the spirits of heathen animism aren’t analogous to Christian theism. So the reason to reject their existence can’t be the same as reasons to reject the deity of classical theism or Reformed theism.
3. Christians affirm the God of OT Judaism. Christians reject the God of Islamic theism because Muhummad was demonstrably a false prophet; because the veracity of Islam is dependant on the veracity of the Judeo-Christian tradition–and yet that standard of comparison invalidates Islam.
You need to study several hundred at least of the 6000 gods that aren’t Christian. Many of them are not natural forces or animals or anything like that. But then 1/3 of the Christian God is human. With bad breathe and natural urges and all. Read about some of the Hindu gods like Brahman and Shiva and a few dozen more. Most religions I’ve studied have a God similar in scope and concept to Yahweh. One question religion attempts to answer is “where did we come from?” which is a rabbit hole that usually leads to a creator god.
What exists outside of time and space? How do you even begin to frame a description?Demonstrate what that even means, and how it could work. Right now it’s words with zero meaning. I’m expecting either waffle or double talk or crickets, the usual responses. In some ways I’d have an easier time believing in a superhero human than something who’s realm of existence can’t even be demonstrated or described. Anything outside of space time is even less believable than things like Super Strings, which at least have a mathematical framework and the starts of internal logic and things that would have to be if it is true, yet Strings remain an undemonstrative hypothesis, losing ground to the Standard Model with each discover.
steve hays says
Your objection seems to be that the Euthyphro dilemma is still applicable to pagan gods. Fine. How is it a problem for Christians if the Euthyphro dilemma eliminates the pagan competition at one stroke.
In addition, your comment is unresponsive to the point about natural la theory. Try again.
You seem to be ignorant of realism regarding abstract objects, viz. numbers, possible worlds. You need to bone up on basic metaphysics.
steve hays says
BTW, here’s a sophisticated case for the Resurrection:
Once you read the a priori assumptions the author makes, you don’t need to read the rest. Though having more than a passing understanding of statistics I actually laughed out loud when I read his arguments leading up to his equation.
The biggest problem with your link is that the assumptions are by no means accepted, meaning that any argument based on those assumptions is at best contingent on the assumptions being demonstrated. No, I don’t assume Paul’s conversion is miraculous. I don’t assume the gospels, Acts, or epistles are either first hand accounts or accurate in their details. And for a miracle, which by definition is something caused by a supernatural agent, cannot be demonstrated through evidence. Evidence requires natural explanations. If a chain of events with a natural mechanism can be somehow tied to a supernatural agent… but then you have to demonstrate something outside of nature even exists, so the argument might as well be about angels and pin heads: arcane and useless.
After all that the argument still fails the smell test. Were there no literate people in the whole Roman Empire or Egypt or Persia or India or China, all advanced places at the time, who could corroborate? Something this big requires substantial outside evidence, historically possible through accounts from those with no axe to grind. It must come from outside the Bible, with heavy amounts, to even approach credible. Multiple lines of independent evidence converging on the same answer is my gold standard. For instance, historical evidence says that at best the biblical story of Moses and Joshua is not true as told. Egypt shows no Israelite slaves in its extensive records, and Israel was only a bit player throughout history. The conquest of Joshua has exactly zero extra biblical evidence, and the digs and dates and artifacts flatly contradict the Bible.
But even if for argument we assume the resurrection is true as stated, we are still left with the profound immorality of the scapegoat sacrifice, the extortion of a god creating the circumstances of punishment then demanding action to take away the punishment, the actions and morality of a mafia boss. Even if I accepted the resurrection and the circumstances that made it necessary, I’d still consider myself more moral than that God, that the religion espousing it had serious problems.
steve hays says
The authors don’t “assume” the Gospels are reliable. They give arguments for the general reliability of the Gospels.
“Evidence requires natural explanations.”
That begs the question.
You’ve staked out an unfalsifiable position in which even if Christianity is true, you will not allow yourself to be persuaded by evidence. That’s irrational and intellectually evasive. But it’s your funeral.
“Were there no literate people in the whole Roman Empire or Egypt or Persia or India or China, all advanced places at the time, who could corroborate?”
Since there were no Indians or Chinese in 1C Jerusalem at the time of the Resurrection, no, they couldn’t corroborate. Your objection is irrational.
“Something this big requires substantial outside evidence.”
Based on what?
“through accounts from those with no axe to grind.”
Your objection is implicitly circular. Any account corroborating the Resurrection will, by definition, be written by someone who believes in the Resurrect.
“Egypt shows no Israelite slaves in its extensive records”
We’d hardly expect royal art on the tomb of Pharaoh to advertise his humiliating defeat. For that matter, most Pharaonic tombs have never been escalated. Records written in papyri in the flood zone of the Nile Delta won’t survive for millennia.
“we are still left with the profound immorality of the scapegoat sacrifice…”
Which begs the question.
“I’d still consider myself more moral than that God.”
Many secular philosophers deny moral realism.
There are plenty of avenues to go on an intellectual basis, assuming she is open for information. Given the age, I’m not sure.
Atheism is a suppression of truth in unrighteousness. Ultimately the problem is not intellectual but spiritual.
So pray and keep praying. Listen to her and be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is within you.
Mike Teruel says
I have a somewhat similar issue with my granddaughter. Although she is not an atheist in the strict sense of the word, her mother encourages her to “see all sides,” something that has led her to more confusion than enlightenment. She was recently visiting us for a week and, since we are believers who encourage our family to follow the Christ, she asked me about why I believe. I explain the fact that the resurrection makes all the difference. If Jesus rose from the dead, a fact which, in spite of other opinions expressed on this thread, is a solid historical fact, then what He has to say must be heard. I gave her a book to read that discusses the major world views and why the Christian worldview is the only that makes sense. I haven’t heard what she thought of it, but I do believe strongly that these are issues that must be given time. Patience, prayer and persistence are key in helping your granddaughter understand that atheism and unbelief in general are nothing more than a suppression of the conscience that God gave each one of us. To believe in unbelief is futile and hopeless and leads ultimately to despear. Above all, it is the Spirit of God that works on the heart to being about conversion. All the best to you.
Hello Pat, Glad you asked this but because of the format, I have to keep my input all too short. I am a conservative Protestant, Reformed to be exact, and this is a blog by Reformed a Reformed professor so my reply is coming from a Protestant theological position.
So far as her view of the Catholic church goes, I would say that change is a helpful one. When I was a kid I asked my father “What are we?” He responded, “Catholic.” “Oh, ok,” was my reply. While I believed God existed (my conscience and childish observations of creation told me that) and I believed the Bible was from him (and I reasoned, therefore has to be true), and Jesus rose from the dead (though I had no idea what the crucifixion was about), I could have cared less about the Catholic church. Despite my beliefs that I had no doubt about, I loved sin. When I became a Christian, my exposure to Catholicism played no role in my coming to saving faith in Christ.
Scripture speaks of two kinds of faith: true and false. True faith is a gift of God he gives through the hearing of the gospel – that Christ died in the place of guilty sinners, suffering the wrath of God his Father and that I am forgiven of all my sins by grace alone, apart from any works of obedience whatsoever on my part. This faith perseveres throughout the Christians’ lifetime.
The faith I had before I was a Christian and that you granddaughter had is a false faith. James 2:14-26 says this faith does not produce fruits of new life in Christ and can die. It also indicates that this is the kind of belief the devil has – he knows God is Lord and he is afraid. This faith is false because it does not produce repentance from sin. This false faith mentally accepts certain biblical truths (that’s what I did as a kid), but it does not spring from the heart as true faith given by God does (see Romans 10:9-13). False faith can co-exist with or be replaced by philosophies or Greek mythology.
So how is true faith (and repentance from sin!) brought about? Romans 10:17 says “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” In other words, God opens peoples’ eyes and hearts through his word which is centered on and points to Christ. God works through his written word (I am excluding the Apocrypha as Jesus clearly left those book out when he spoke of the Scriptures). I encourage you and her to read Scripture, beginning with the Gospel of John and then Mark and Galatians.
I too am an evangelical Protestant. But my heart aches for you, as I long that my own children might become born again followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps she would be willing to read with you these excellent books by Tim Keller: Reason for God, and the just released, Making Sense of God. They may be a little heady for a 14 year old, but few write as beautifully and profoundly as Keller. Perhaps God may use it to warm her soul.
Paul’s argument in 2 Cor is that to reject him as Christ’s apostle is to reject Christ. The only way we can reject Paul (or any apostle for that matter) is to reject their apostolic letter(s). So if we reject or downplay the apostolic word, we reject Christ. Our view of Scripture is a direct reflection of our view of God. The only revelation of Christ is in Scripture so the gospel cannot be separated from the word. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Stanley does not understand (believe!) that salvation is a work of God and that Scripture is the chief means of grace.
In my opinion, Andy’s biggest mistake was lack of clarity. As you stated, he believes inspiration of Scripture but he has not articulated clearly how these truths (inspired Bible & historical event) come together and should not be separated. I do affirm his position that the resurrection is the foundation of our faith (while denouncing the false bifurcation some want to create between an inspired text & the resurrection event).
As you state above, a proper view of Scripture is NOT a prerequisite to salvation but a proper belief in the resurrection IS necessary. That truth alone affirms at some level what Andy is suggesting (although he does not do it clearly).
I would also say it is unfair to critique Andy’s position based solely on the one sermon. He has made it clear the one “sermon” fits into the context of the entire series … and I would also add it fits into the paradigm of Andy’s teaching as a whole. This position is not a new one for him but it has seemed to have gained more publicity this go round.
As you suggest, I do not believe Andy is a “liberal” or “heretic” regardless of how quickly we love to assign those labels. Perhaps his biggest failure in this incident is being less than clear … or as clear as some desire – which is probably not his goal or concern (being clear for “insiders” who love to critique).
Walter Schroedter says
While it is necessary to believe in the resurrection, this is not the only article of our faith.
…that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…1. Cor. 15:3,4
How would we know the meaning of Jesus’ death (for our sins) if it had not been preached, and then recorded? How would we know what a risen Christ means, if it is not explained to us? We need the Scriptures. They record the meaning.
The Scriptures record the salvific events … no one is suggesting otherwise. The Scriptures are inspired and authoritative … no one is suggesting otherwise. But belief in inspiration is not essential for salvation … the same cannot be said of the resurrection.
The resurrection is the least important, least impressive, and also the least convincing part of the story.
A God “dies” for three days, has a bad time, then goes back to the eternal immortality he had before being a human? I know people that have spent years of torment. Jesus’ experience isn’t impressive. And 3 days to an immortal being that knows he’s not dead and will come back? That’s a bad holiday. It’s just not impressive.
If a guy claims he is going to be killed and then be raised back to life in 3 days and then DOES IT is unimpressive and not convincing, then I think you have a bigger motive here. Again – if this event happened in history, his claims need to be considered … unless you have a host of other people who actually did this that I do not know about.
I will ask again … HYPOTHETICALLY … if Jesus literally died and came back to life, would that impact your beliefs?
I wasn’t clear in my earlier reply, which is evident from your response. I have two avenues of thought about a guy “dying” for three days:
1) my first is that he was never dead. Coma, some state of low body function that iron-age peasants would mistake for death is more likely. Modern doctors see this all the time. Inducing this state through beatings and physical trauma is likely.
2) if this was a god-human who for the sake of argument actually “dies”, then this presents other problems. Was the trinity just a duality for three days? Can a god cease to exist then come back? Does that make any death not really a death because the God never stopped existing so we just have semantic absurdity? Why only three days when I’ve personally seen humans suffer for years? Prisoners in Vietnam that were tortured for years? Combat veterans on their sixth combat deployment? Mentally ill? Three days from that God seems petty and insignificant, again not impressive.
Mike there wasnt an opportunity for me to post in your response further above. You didnt really answer my question as to how an atheist decides. You seem to assume that I am thinking lost souls cant mirror goodness or evil.
And as an atheist you do believe in miracles as the science testifies it can only go so far, wether its origins or Darwins riddled natural selection (mutation-not new information capable of the modern myth of microbes to monkeys etc.)
Years in torment is not the issue, you miss it totally for all your reading. A price as been paid that all the wealth of nature could not provide.An innocent man that fits the bill of the requirements of the law in every respect. God comes down & your not impressed, you want a world without God & without His knowledge & wisdom or justice & because of that position you reject the very things that you desire in their purest & holy form.
You are impressed by an alleged pond of scum that allegedly created life without any convincing demonstratable evidence but cannot appreciate God creating history. Its more about what is in your heart that is guiding your head as you follow a tail as you also follow yoor own a proiri position it would seem to me.
In many respects your mirror much of Scripture & deny conversion & transformation regarding many atheists who have seen the light (spiritually speaking).Also those once convinced by evolutionary dogma but have realised that nature doesnt do all that it is claimed it does as it delves into selective data, manipulated data (haekel) & dating methods.Your own faith decieves no matter how may books you read over how many years.
Your response addressed a few topics, but I’ll try to get to them.
About the Jesus sacrifice, this boils down to a textbook example of the scapegoat method of solving problems, where you put out one person to receive the punishment of all. One place I read said this started with shepherds staking out one animal for predators to sate themselves on to preserve the rest of the flock. In the Christian example, the guilty go unpunished and the innocent is punished for crimes they never committed. This is profoundly immoral. The Judeo Christian theology is full of the wrong people being punished, with the biggest example the large story arc of original sin and Jesus. Children are not guilty of the wrongs committed by parents. Or grandparents. An innocent should not bear the burden of anyone else. This is not moral. It is not just.
About miracles, I’m a little unclear on your question – it looks like you wrote it in haste and lost a bit of content. If I don’t answer what you asked, please clarify. I define a miracle as an event with a supernatural cause. Since I don’t accept any existing supernatural claims, then it follows that I don’t recognize any miracles at all. There are events that I can’t explain and that I know humans do not have an explanation for. However, to then use that as a basis for inserting supernatural explanations is fallacious, a giant Argument from Ignorance. The rational response is to say “I don’t know,” and follow that with further research. Every important discovery humans have made started with admitting ignorance followed by investigation and experiment, data leading to conclusions. If a miracle claim is not an argument from ignorance, it’s usually an example of a priori reasoning, where the a priori claim (a god exists) is either not demonstrated or is outright false. Zues and Thor are not valid explanations for lightning, for example, though lightning is pretty cool and hard to explain – scientists are even today trying to figure it out. Though it’s ironic when a church gets hit by lightning, usually the explanation is a faulty or missing lightning rod and not divine wrath.
About the origin of life on earth, I fully admit no answer. Until somewhat recently pond scum was a valid hypothesis, but in the last decade or two that seems less likely, with underwater volcanic vents or even comet-seeding as the current odds-favorite. But science has no Theory explaining Abiogenesis. However, like lightning, it is not valid to say “God did it!” For one, that’s not a demonstrable position using objective evidence. By definition, a supernatural cause is not evidence-bound in any scientific sense. For another, it’s not useful. How is that explanation helpful at all? It illuminates nothing. Catholicism, where I was baptized and confirmed, teaches that natural causes were responsible for life and evolution on timescales of billions of years and were guided by a god. That is at least a useful starting point. We can ask about dates and methods and mechanisms without being hampered by biblical literalism. Believers can still hold their faith while also accepting evidence rationally and objectively.
Hope that answers.
Roger Patterson says
May I suggest that Stanley is casting doubt on the authority of Scripture. I have listened to all six sermons carefully (multiple times), and he repeatedly denies the authority of Scripture in historical and scientific areas. He tells the skeptic (including the believers in his audience) that they don’t need to believe the Bible is inerrant (he notes the OT contradictions) and that it isn’t authoritative in describing what happened at Jericho.
As a former atheist, to me it is an absurd pick-and-choose scenario he is setting up. He tells us to believe in the big bang because science says it is true, but believe in Jesus’ resurrection even though science says it is false. It is duplicitous, and any thinking skeptic should see right through his methods (I did).
Stanley’s antibiblical ecclesiology seems to drive his preaching style. His duplicitous statements have made his message incomprehensible–as Dr. Kreuger has pointed out so well.
So upon what exactly should I tell the skeptic he should believe that the God-man died and rose bodily from the grave?
I am going to stick with appealing to the Bible and proclaiming the gospel.
You are mistaking Andy’s style of apologetic arguments as “what he believes” … when he states that it is okay to have doubts regarding the historical occurrences recorded in Scripture, he is not saying that is what he believes. He is simply building the case that it is not required to believe in literal reading of Gen 1-2 (etc) in order to follow Jesus. I would agree with him. That does NOT mean my view of inspiration is less valid than yours. It simply means as Paul stated that the foundation of our faith begins with the gospel itself … which yes is in “accordance with the Scriptures” (no one is suggesting otherwise).
Remember the key to this whole discussion is context and audience. Andy is addressing people who do NOT start with the assumption the Bible is any thing other than a holy book (like other religious books) and so beginning the conversation with “because the Bible says so” is futile and pointless. But if Jesus was who He claimed to be and was raised back to life to validate those claims, He must be taken seriously (as well as his claims regarding Scripture).
I don’t think Andy Stanley’s heart is to be commended at all. His heart is shown by what comes out of his lips, and that is devoid of truth and seeks only to build self up. It’s deceitful above all else and desperately wicked, and instead of commending it we should pray for God to replace his heart of stone with a heart of flesh.
Wow, that’s a pretty bold statement. I’m not a fan of Andy Stanley’s methods or even his theology sometimes, but to say his intentions are to only build himself up and claiming he has a heart of stone is overstepping what you actually know. Disagreeing is one thing, but to essentially call him a lost soul is not helpful.
Ron Pierson says
Matt — GRH’s comments are correct and are not an overstatement. Perhaps you are not that familiar with Stanley’s other sermons, commentaries and books which are decidedly non-biblical. I would like for Dr. Kruger to elaborate on why he has genuine appreciation and has respect for Stanley. In my opinion, Stanley is a false teacher.
Non-biblical is such a strong assumption. Please do not mandate your preferred style of preaching (expository, topical, etc) as the only right one and everyone else is a “false teacher” … this type of overstatement based primarily on preferences is the exact opposite of Paul’s attitude in Phil 1 regarding those who employed means different than his own. Like it or not, expository preaching is a human-created method and a preference (one that Jesus did not even practice). It is the method I prefer and practice but a method nonetheless. Do not assume any other style is “non-biblical” and reason to label someone a “false teacher.” If you want to show some specific instances where Andy has preached any message other than salvation alone by grace alone then we can discuss these type labels.
“If you want to show some specific instances where Andy has preached any message other than salvation alone by grace alone then we can discuss these type labels.”
Sure: in the interest of space, I’ll direct you to Chris Rosebrough’s copious critiques of many Andy Stanley sermons. There’s simply too many examples to list here.
I stand by each character I typed in my earlier comment.
grh – I’ve heard several of the Pirate’s critiques of Andy’s sermons. I agree with some of them and disagree with others. Obviously they have differences of opinion on theological and methodological matters. But again – point me to a specific instance where Andy has denounced salvation by grace alone through faith alone.
It is unwise to call a person who embraces the fundamentals of the faith and inspiration of Scripture an unbeliever. IMHO it is a dismissal of the extent God’s sovereignty.
Keith Throop says
For what it’s worth, I noticed a serious problem with Andy Stanley’s view of Scripture over a year ago when I was asked to assess his preaching, which led to a rather lengthy blog article in which I critiqued three of his sermons here: http://reformedbaptist.blogspot.com/2015/06/is-andy-stanley-ashamed-of-bible.html
I am convinced that Andy has departed from an orthodox view of Scripture, which is the major reason he mishandles Scripture so much. He shouldn’t be teaching anyone.
He has repeatedly said he believes in the inspiration and authority of Scripture … not sure how that is a departure from an orthodox view.
Keith Throop says
The problem is that he says that he “believes in the inspiration and authority of Scripture” out of one side of his mouth while he consistently speaks out of the other side of his mouth about Scripture, and teaches from Scripture, as though he doesn’t believe this. If he truly believes this as he says he does, however, we would not see such inconsistency. As I observed in my article linked above, Andy’s teaching is more consistent with — indeed, it even presupposes — a denial of a high view of Scripture rather than an affirmation of it. As I see it, Andy’s view is very similar to the older Neo–Orthodox men, who would sign doctrinal statements affirming the authority of Scripture while meaning something altogether different regarding the issue than what the orthodox believers who wrote the statements believed. Sadly, however, many orthodox believers didn’t catch on to the problem until a great deal of damage had already been done. I fear the same may be the case with Andy and many of the other post-modern preachers like him.
I guess one could ask, “Will the real Andy Stanley please stand up?” But we really don’t have to ask it, do we? Because the real Andy Stanley does stand up every Sunday, and his true thinking about Scripture comes out in the things he then says about Scripture and in the way he consistently mishandles Scripture.
Lots of opinion here based on a preferred preaching method. The vast differences in Andy Stanley and Neo-Orthodoxy are too broad to address.
Talk about sticking your head in the sand…
It’s not only his view of Scripture, but his conception of salvation. As it is conveyed here, his message is motived by a response to the issue of people turning away from Christ. He went to Dallas seminary where he embraced Zane Hodges heretical view of faith and grace. Like Hodges, Andy apparently thinks faith is simply a mental decision made by exercising your freewill. The paradox of Hodges so-called “free grace” is that it actually bases everything on the will/work of man to make Christ your Savior. Faith can die because it is of human origin. But according to Hodges, even if a person becomes an atheist, they are still a Christian! This is not meant as an insult, but a person has to be biblically ignorant and hard hearted to accept Hodges’ teaching. It is this kind of view that drives his response to unbelief.
If Andy is involved with Bill Hybels as he is, that alone tells you he is neither sound nor fit for the ministry.
Keith Throop says
Thanks for the input, I didn’t know that he held to Zane Hodges’ false doctrine as well.
Back in the late 80’s, C Stanley came out with a book called Eternal Security. It was said that it was actually written by Andy since it taught Zane Hodges’ views and Andy had gone to Dallas where Hodges was. I think his father actually contradicted such views in his own preaching. But there are indisputable disqualifying sins in both the father and son.
Can you provide evidence Andy Stanley believes mental assent alone is necessary for salvation (or Zane Hodges for that matter)? If you have ever watched baptisms at NP, you might have a different opinion.
BTW: I am very different than Andy in my theology and methodology. I am reformed. I practice expository preaching. Etc. I just practice what I believe about sovereignty – that God is bigger than my own preferred methods and practices (and even my theology). I am slow to label people false teachers unless they have denounced some fundamental of the faith. But that’s my practice – I know many of my reformed circle have far less grace on certain 2nd/3rd tier issues.
Paul, You have separated word and Spirit, both here and in another reply, which is a critical facet of reformed theology. Maybe you are a Calvinistic baptist or maybe EPC, but as long as there are fundamental discrepancies between your practice and historic reformed theology, please do not employ the reformed title as can confuse people as to what reformed faith and practice is.
So now you know the facets of my theology and practice from a few reply posts? I am an adherent to historic reformed theology that embraces the role of both Word & Spirit … while also recognizing reformed theology for what it is – a human system of -ologies put in place to try and define an infinitely sovereign God … and it must be maintained in that regard or it minimizes the very sovereignty claims that define it.
From the bulk of your replies, it is obvious that you are the authority on these matters and have little room for sovereignty beyond your comfort zone.
Walter Schroedter says
Thank-you Dr. Kruger, for a wonderfully clear article. Where would our faith be without the Scriptures? My thinking is, hold in abeyance those things which appear to be in error. The Bible has been proven right far too many times for me to place my faith in the critics!!!!!
Many blessings to you!
PS I recently started reading “Canon Revisited” (Kindle edition). Looking forward to reading the rest of it.
B.J. Gehlhausen says
I’m interested to know what you think about Martin Luther removing 7 books from the Bible that was agreed upon in Constantinople? Tobit, Judith, 1st Maccabees, 2nd Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch didn’t make Luther’s sinful desecration of the Word of God.
steve hays says
You can’t sinfully desecrate what was never the Word of God in the first place. So your query begs the question.
There was no official universal dogmatic declaration of the biblical canon until the Reformation and counter-Reformation.Though it was largely agreed upon universally, there were always controversial books whose place were debated until this time.
I was grieved by Andy Stanley’s sermon, if you could call it that. He seems to confuse metaphysical faith with epistemological means. Metaphysically, we believe because we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. (Some believe that we come to faith because we made a decision from a free will motivated through some mysterious place outside of God’s created order. This is incoherent, but serves as a kind of non-reformed metaphysical foundation for faith.) Either way, we need to know the object of our faith through some epistemological means. This means is the canon of Scripture. So it seems like Stanley may be making a category error and in the process undercutting the doctrine of revelation for some kind of pseudo-evangelistic expedience.
In the OT we could assume that the law was the problem, but it wasnt, it was the people. They wanted life & revelation on their own terms and payed a heavy price for ignoring God.How many people are leaving the US or giving up their citizenship because of the confusion & struggles that exist in American society I wonder.
Just because the Bible doesnt give us every answer or clarify every issue doesnt mean it is the problem, it is sufficient for salvation along with God’s providence & plan.
Lots of people walked away from Jesus during his ministry or wanted him on their own terms. I can appreciate that there are many struggles coming to grips with what may or may not happen in churches but what of all the beautiful songs inspired by Scripture & point to the Christ or the Spirit or the Father.
2 Tim 3:16. Not only decares that Scripture is inspired but also that it is useful for equipping God’s undeserving people saved by grace.
So who do I trust, Stanley or inspired Scripture.
Nice to know people are turning to Dr Krugers blog for a defense of Scripture with his helpful & gifted teaching abilities.
David Booth says
Dear Dr. Kroger,
Thank you for your ministry.
You write: “And even for those who have read their Bible, they don’t have to believe all of it to be saved (though, obviously, they have to believe in certain parts to be saved). A person can reject inspiration and still be a Christian—though it is a very serious doctrinal error.”
I’m not sure if this is true even though it is assumed to be so by the overwhelming majority of North American evangelicals. It is, of course, true that a person doesn’t have to actively believe all the Bible given that one can only believe what one understands and none of us understands all of Scripture. If that is all you meant to say, then I fully agree with you. Where I can’t get on board is if you meant: “You can be saved while actively disbelieving parts of the Bible.” Perhaps that is possible, but given that the reason why we believe in the first place is that the LORD has granted us new hearts – it is difficult to see why these new hearts are actively disbelieving (rather than misunderstanding) what God has said. That also seems contrary to the Westminster Confession of Faith. The second paragraph of the chapter on “Saving Faith” (14) reads:
“By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”
It is helpful to note the Confession is not talking about what a person should believe – but what saving faith actually does. Yes, there is a center to saving faith – “accepting, receiving and resting upon Christ …” but the Confession does not thereby treat believing everything else revealed in God’s word as optional – even as a bad option.
I would appreciate if you shared your thinking about this portion of our Confession of Faith.
Thank you for your consideration.
I am a Biology teacher, teaching in a Christian school. I believe the Bible to be inspired by God but spoken to a specific culture and audience. The Bible was never meant to be a text book full of facts. It is a book with historical information as well as a book with stories that may be metaphorical which are just as valid and even more relevant often than fact. The Bible gives us insight into God’s love for us and the fact that we can have a relationship with Him. Did creation happen just as Genesis said it did? Was it created in 7, 24 hour days? Is the earth only 10000 years old? Was Satan a snake? Was the flood world wide? Did Jericho fall exactly as outlined. Maybe and maybe not. The point is I came to Christ because I recognized that I needed a Savior. I came to the realization that to get right with God the only choice was through the death and resurrection of Christ. I tell my students, don’t go to University thinking that everything in the Bible is fact because it doesn’t have to be fact to be inspired. The proof that the Bible is true is that you recognize your need for a Savior and that the God-man Jesus is the answer.
So the Bible is proved “true” when you personally come to feel you need salvation and that Jesus provides it. Sounds like you’re influenced by Barth. Christianity is rooted on the historicity of events in time and space; truth is not a subjective, individualistic matter.
David G Martin says
what was the title of Andy Stanley’s sermon and is the text of it available anywhere?
Ron Pierson says
The title of the sermon is “The Bible Told Me So” which is Part 3 of a 5 part sermon series “Who Needs God”. I don’t know if the text is available, but you can listen to it at http://northpointonline.tv/messages/who-needs-god/the-bible-told-me-so.
Roger Patterson says
David, It has been a six-part series, and I would suggest you listen to all of them to fully understand the issues involved. You will find that the Bible is not even mentioned in the first two.
Thank you for the article. I’ve been following this issue over the past few weeks and have found it very troubling. I have refrained from commenting on it publicly because I want to give Pastor Stanley the benefit of the doubt in that he has ostensibly good intentions. I wonder what you would say in response to a follow on sermon in which he states that even if the Old Testament disappeared completely , it wouldn’t have any impact on the Christian faith at all since the foundation of the Christian faith is the resurrection and not the Bible.
To be honest, I think his major problem is the Old Testament and the difficulties confirming every single historical detail of the the accounts in it. This statement floored me, due to the fact that the New Testament writers ground the resurrection in the Old Testament Scriptures. Wondering if you would care to comment.
J. Handelman says
Thank you, Dr. Kruger, for this clear and thoughtful analysis. I have been listening to Andy Stanley and getting a lot out of many of his sermons. He is very troubled by people who grow up in the church and lose their faith. I think he desperately wants that to turn back that sad trend. He says that no one should ever leave Christianity because their belief in something in the Old Testament is shaken and undone. In one sense he’s right – we ought to have enough humility to realize that the failure may be in our own understanding or lack of knowledge. However I am not at all sure that is what he is saying. As one who made that deconversion journey and came back again – I must say for me it was the eroding of belief in the facts of creation first that helped me down the path to unbelief. As my Bible got smaller so did God and so did any real understanding of Christ’s redemption. Simply put I forgot that we are made in Gods image and that the world is truly fallen. With that ignorance, salvation by Christ seemed a mere romantic or existential personal experience not something rooted in history. I lost the sense and reason for it! Perhaps Stanley is able to take for granted the wholeness of Christian thought and does not feel the need for it being grounded in objective truth because he simply assumes it like air and sky and water. I hope someone can see him face to face and help him see that even so much of the law that we don’t understand makes glorious sense if only we could truly see and that for those who do lose their faith, the answers given in Genesis through Revelation are crucial because they help us see who He is.
Brian Lantz says
I can speak from personal experience as I grew up in a church where the pastor taught nothing. It was Protestant in the nomination but I did value from the catechism if they had taken the catechism and put it in the Pulpit 2 or 3 times a week that church would have thrived. But if a Christian has never been taught anything you can’t say that he lost his faith becsuse he never had it to begin with. Nature abhors a vacuum . Christian’s that disavow Christianity are just filling a void that was never filled as they become young adults.
That is a great point Brian. People are rejecting a “Christianity” that is not even Christianity because their church is not faithful to the word in the first place. When I was a new Christian, I spent 5 long years at an a-theological church. God was so good to me – I grew greatly because I read Scripture but I was still hungry. I found that there was a world of difference between myself and my doctrineless church. I really believe that a large percentage of evangelical pastors would hate the apostle Paul if they met him and Paul would not recognize their church services as Christian worship.
Roger Patterson says
The Former Skeptic in me wrote this letter to Pastor Andy Stanley in response to his Who Needs God sermon series. I have listened to all six sermons carefully. I was encouraged to hear Dr. Kreuger share these concerns, though I limit my praise and respect for Pastor Stanley.
Dear Pastor Stanley,
I have listened to all six of your sermons about Who Needs God. I have done my best to listen carefully and interact honestly with your arguments. I have agreed with some things you have said and disagreed with others.
But to be real, you lost me in the last one.
Previously you told me I didn’t have to believe in all of the Bible, and that to do so would put me in the precarious position of my faith “hanging by the thread of the whole Bible” being true.
Today you told me I am a sinner, but you said so based on what the Bible says in the book of James. You tried to say it was the brother of Jesus who said it, but it is in the Bible.
Why should I trust that part of the Bible, but not the parts about the walls of Jericho falling down or how many horses Solomon had? Why should I believe Jesus rose from the dead, even though science rejects that idea, and yet accept that God used the big bang, an idea that contradicts Genesis 1. It seems double-minded.
What standard do I use? Scientific reasoning or the Bible’s explanation?
Should I listen to you as a religious leader in a religious space, or to the really smart evolutionary biologists who tell me my anger is a part of my natural response as a holdover from my hunter-gatherer days that provided a survival advantage? And my guilt—that is another evolved response to my new social situation that provided a survival advantage when my ancestors moved into cities.
I mean, you trust those guys to tell us about the big bang, but you don’t think they are right about why I get angry?
Jesus and James and Paul say so?
Oh, the same Bible you told me I don’t need to trust when science says something different? I thought I wasn’t supposed to have a the-Bible-told-me-so faith?
Well, Pastor Stanley, that kind of looks like you are picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to believe. That doesn’t sound authentic to me. It smells like hypocrisy, and I can see right through it. It seems to set you up as the one who can help me see what parts of the Bible are true and what parts aren’t. Isn’t that what the Pope does? You can’t have it both ways, and you can’t trick me into thinking I can, either—that is totally illogical.
I think I will just stick with my science and avoid your hypocrisy, thank you very much. I can live a good life without your Jesus. After all, the only way you know about Him is what you have written in … the Bible.
A Thinking Skeptic
Eddie Mishow says
To discuss the content of faith or the nature of the Bible as if one’s faith needs to include x, y, or z, is close to irrational. The Reformed view is very clear: God provides our faith. So, given this, you can bet that God’s gift of faith will have the necessary beliefs to be saved. We simply need to leave salvation in the hands of God and stop discussing the need for faith. God has sovereignly taken that upon Himself. Is there really a need to discuss further?
Eddie Gilchrist says
I think you are missing the entire point. Rather than detail out my issues, I will refer you to this post I made.
H.L. Jackson says
Thank you for a thoughtful analysis of the subject of the Stanley lesson. (I’ll not call it a sermon, because the Word of God was not being preached.)
For those of us who live in proximity to Stanley’s community centers, have attended his services and/or been in NP small groups and do not have the audience of respected theologians like you, it is important for you to understand that we desperately need you to continue to be a firm, loud and assertive in taking on the teachings that come out of his “ministries”. Our friends and neighbors who attend NP are so smitten by Stanley’s winsomeness and his ability to “break things down and make them real”, yet they cannot point to the gospel message in his talks. Even leaders of NP’s small groups often cannot accurately explain the gospel message. NP is a theological ghetto.
It’s difficult to watch you guys, our reformed brethren and leaders, tiptoe around Andy’s aura, placing caveats and qualifications on your critiques of his work, when he is consistently and systematically harming the kingdom with his messages, obfuscating the truth of Biblical Law and Gospel and trading faithfulness in teaching for relevance to the “un-churched”. There is little to admire or respect about Andy in light of the harm being done under his leadership. Thousands of NP people are walking around with a false sense of their own salvation because of Andy’s therapeutic deistic approach to behavioral modification in place of the transforming message of a risen Christ, revealed in Holy Scripture.
Andy has, and continues to, denigrate and undermine the authority and validity of scripture, the shepherding model of the pastor, small local churches, Biblical marriage as between male and female only, among other things. He is not an enigma anymore. He is a poorly trained theologian who preaches error through being intellectually lazy about his preparation. It doesn’t take much effort to fact-check yourself before making historical claims that can be proven to be factually incorrect, now does it? But if you have an agenda, facts are merely an inconvenience on your path to some well-intentioned greater good, aren’t they?
Furthermore, he is replicating himself as other religious professionals visit his offices to learn how to use his entertainment-driven model of “anti-church”. One need only search online to see some of the garbage that is fed to his audiences from the musicians on his stages.
How can you commend him for having a “heart for the lost” when he waters down the actual message they need to hear and brings them into a place where the Word is not preached faithfully, sacraments are not properly administered and discipline is not practiced at all? Is he not a mere modern Charles Finney with his own “new methods” designed to elicit “decisions for Christ” and better behavior?
Please be strong and courageous in demanding that your fellow teachers and minsters be faithful and true, regardless of their visible impact or sizes or their congregations. We are praying for a return to the one faith delivered to the saints and passed down through the generations to us and you are on the front lines.
God bless you and keep you, brother.
Those are some strong opinions H.L. I do not agree with Andy on a number of matters but I also believe in a God who is sovereign and big enough to include methods outside my preferences. Again – I have never heard Andy Stanley deny or teach anything other than salvation by grace alone through faith alone. He is not reformed but fortunately our human created theological systems are not God’s only means. I think there are some key 2nd/3rd tier theological & methodological differences that frustrate reformed guys with a bent toward the regulative principle but I also think we need to allow for that space and trust in the sovereignty of God we profess to believe (when we are comfortable with it).
H.L. Jackson says
Thank you for your thoughtful response, Paul.
Yes, I do have very strong opinions because I interact on a regular basis with those who are under Andy’s pastoral care and I hear the effects of his teaching in their understanding, or lack thereof, of the church, salvation, sanctification, worship practices, etc.
I don’t believe my concerns can be simply minimized as simply differences over the regulative principal or methods of ministry. I did not call him the “H” word, nor do I doubt his personal salvation. However, there is not only a lack of clarity of historical Christian theology and doctrine in his teachings, but also deliberate “redefining” or “re-imagining” of what it means to be a Christian, what it means to be a pastor and what true church and worship looks like that go against orthodox understandings that have been handed down to us with substantial Biblical support to them.
I appreciate your appeal to trust in God’s sovereignty and I need to be reminded of it continuously. Just like evangelism, though, God spreads his truth through the means of human messengers ,so I don’t think we should remain silent on doctrinal or theological error, assuming God will overcome it somehow for the elect among the group.
I understand your concerns and some of them are valid. Just out of curiosity, with what part of NPs doctrinal confession would you disagree … http://northpoint.org/about/ ?
H.L. – Everything you said in your original post (and beyond) I echo with as loud of a voice as I possibly can. The Gospel is not preached at North Point, and I believe he has led many to falsely believe they are saved when all they’ve done is improve bits of their life here and there from the self-help based sermons. Thank you for speaking out. I see far too much of praise of Andy, far too little praise of Jesus, and far too little knowledge from attendees of North Point. It scares me and it angers me. Thank you.
If the “gospel is not preached at NP” as you suggest, how do you explain the clear testimonies to salvation presented in their baptism videos? Have you been through NP’s Starting Point material where they discuss the gospel?
I find this sophistry baffling and sad. It’s like Christian existentialism – the only authority beyond my choice is .. uh..is as I choose. [?] You cannot separate Jesus and His Words. Missing the point? Good grief, this is a silly, twisted web you’re weaving yourselves.
Mark Hadley says
Michael, thank you so much for a very respectful, thoughtful, and fair post about this message by Andy Stanley. It is very evident that you are familiar with Andy and his ministry and his big heart for lost people. It is refreshing to see you acknowledge that and do so in a Christlike manner. I also appreciate your very thoughtful and Biblical responses and concerns to Andy’s approach. It is refreshing to see “truth in love” in action. I have been very grieved by watching Christians bash one another and make huge assumptions and conduct character assassination without even being familiar with Andy and his many years of effective ministry for Christ. I share your thoughts and concerns and once again, truly appreciate the manner in which you addressed them. God bless you brother!
Mark, you sound like you work for him! I just looked up his books on amazon and to tell you the truth, it’s just a bunch of fluff like his father’s. I’m confident that the NT authors would not recognize these books as upholding the Christian faith. There is no character assassination here and for me to say this is not unloving. We will know them by their fruits. From the heart the mouth speaks.
dantespencer, sometimes the mouth speaks before it engages the heart! Why attack Mark? Oh how these Christians love one another!
Attack? Not at all. What you said about mouth/heart is not the case here.
Dantespencer, It saddens me to read your accusation of Dr. Stanley being full of fluff. Actually, He is a man after God’s own heart, and has ministered to me for over thirty years, through his radio, TV and devotional ministries. Why would you want to tear him down is beyond me …
Hello Denise, I became a Christian 3 weeks before I began high school. I discovered a Christian radio station during my senior year that I would listen to from 8-10pm on most M, T, Th nights during 12th grade. The last of the four programs I listened to was C Stanley. While he was zealous, he never actually interpreted (explained, unfolded) Scripture. He would references a verse here and a verse there, but there was never anything solid and I always had a somewhat uneasy feeling afterwards. Now that I know a great deal more about how Scripture is to be handled, I’m sure he was taking verses out of context which is typical when people cite random verses with no consideration of the historical and literary context.
I encourage you to read faithful and wise authors like Sinclair Ferguson, D Martyn Lloyd-Jones, JC Ryle, DA Carson, Jerry Bridges, RC Sproul, Michael Horton, and JI Packer.
As I said, I went on amazon and looked at his books. They are in the same general category as Lucado (who is actually not even in an evangelical denomination) and J Ortberg (who is in a genuinely liberal and anti-evangelical denomination). Producing fluff is a serious matter. Based upon what they said about the ministry of the word and how they preached the word, he apostles would not be pleased with Stanley. But even beyond that, C Stanley was divorced years ago and that too disqualifies him from the ministry. He was approached privately by other well known men and exhorted to leave the ministry but he refused. What is sad is that the southern baptists permitted him to stay (not only because the large congregation wanted him to, but surely because he makes a lot of money with TV, books, and radio.
In a book he wrote in 2009 – a book that falls under the category of self-help – he told a story in the last chastory about when a man gave him a book entitled “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. He claimed that he was not interested in wealth but he read the book and loved it. He says he “applied the principles” of that book to his ministry and found that they worked. This tells us a lot about Stanley. Not only is the book’s philosophy entirely at odds with the Christian faith, but if you research the author, you will find that he was involved in the occult and said he received his knowledge he wrote in his books from “the ascended masters” which are supposedly dead people who have reached a supernatural spirituality (these include Confucius, Buddha, the occultist Aleister Crowley, Mary, apostle Paul, among many others). No, these people did not communicate with N Hill, but I am sure demons did. So Stanley did not have the discernment to recognize a demonic, self-centered philosophy.
Tim Barber says
I think the entire point of this series is a very well-meaning approach to the de-churched. Andy is clearly a voracious reader and I think given his time constraints he lays out some compelling arguments.
I think it was GK Chesterton that said: “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in, and chances are, I don’t believe them either. I think most people reject the claims of the Gospel not on merit, but on a fictitious caricature. Some straw man that is easily assailed and knocked down. Most people summarily dismiss faith in Jesus before the fully investigate it. I think he did a great job laying this out in the 2nd message.
As a millennial pastor, I appreciate Andy trying to reach a new generation that is tired of Noah’s Ark as a kids story and playground theology. It’s fair to say, at least in America, many people never make faith their own except to say “My mom was religious” or “my pastor said so”. Faith in Jesus is not antiquated or passé but alive and well because it is based on truth that is not just an uninformed leap of faith.
I find his discussion on the Bible as authority a bit over simplified but correct to say that by itself the Bible can seem like another book of myths akin to The Odyssey. BUT in the full historical context the reason to believe is not solely “The Bible tells me so.” He goes on to explain how it is logically reasonable to trust the Bible, but all of faith is not destroyed by a meme criticizing the Bible.
I was not well trained in what the Bible says in my local church. It took a college education to understand the Bible says a lot of things we find either uncomfortable or practical that pastors shy away from for a myriad of reasons. Inviting those who were never taught the whole truth of Scripture, Jesus and the Church is not watering down or compromising the Truth it’s reintroducing the de-Church to the Jesus they never knew.
Thank you Tim
So now you know the facets of my theology and practice from a few reply posts? I am an adherent to historic reformed theology while recognizing it for what it is – a human system of -ologies put in place to try and define an infinitely sovereign God … and it must be maintained in that regard or it minimizes the very sovereignty claims that define it.
Great article! I appreciate your clear logical explination. The only point I would argue is this point as quoted: “To put it differently, a person doesn’t have to believe in the truth of the Bible to be saved, but the Bible has to be true for them to be saved.”
My argument against this would be a that true believer does ultimatly come to the conclusion that the Bible is the inspired infallible word of God. If they are saved, then they are a beliver of the truth in the Bible. If they didn’t believe the Bible was true they are in essence rejecting the very truth that is saving them. That quote leads to a similar circular argument that Andy was making.
What is ironic about this whole conversation is that both Andy and his critics end with the same conclusion: the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
Yes indeed, Paul. Ironic and rather sad.
Paul. I’ve listened to the sermon in question as well as the follow on sermons more than once. I’ll be honest, I don’t care for Pastor Stanleys style of ministry or his preaching. I’ve found his comments about how parents who insist on going to small churches are “stinking selfish” and how small churches should “sell their property and give the money to large churches” (like his I presume) to be not only uncharitable but repulsive. I am well aware that he back-pedaled on the comments about parents, but he has repeatedly said negative things about non megachurches over the years in different venues that I am inclined to see him as being more than just a little full of himself and his ministry and of taking a very dim view of small churches that reject his megachurch model as being unbiblical. In fact, he chalks up a lot of people’s negative reactions to his remarks to “not understanding what we do here” or just being uninformed (ie we just don’t get it). In one interview, he came right out and said he doesn’t really care about what other Christians think of his methods because we are all going to be in heaven together anyways. Well, OK. Tha tmay be true but that seems to indicate that he is not open to criticism and correction. I say that for full disclosure, not because it is relevant to what I say below.
I do not doubt that he has a desire to reach lost people. However, I don’t think he is being unclear as you intimated above. I think he is very clear. In his second sermon in the series, he opened with a section of clarifying comments about the first one because it had generated such a negative response. In fact, he actually seemed mystified that so many people misunderstood him. He then went on to clarify and instead of saying something like “Actually, I believe the Bible is the inerrant infallible Word of God and that everything it says about history is true,” he doubled down.
At one point he actually suggested that if the entire Old Testament were to disappear it would have no effect on the Christian faith because the Christian faith is based on the resurrection, not the Bible (that is almost a direct quote). That is utterly absurd. The Old Testament was the bible of the apostolic church (despite the fact that Stanley insists the early church didn’t have a bible until all of the books were bound together) and when they said Christ rose again according to the Scriptures, they were referring to the Old Testament. The New Testament is completely grounded in the Old Testament and without an understanding of the Old Testament, you can never truly understand the New. The atonement, the cross, the resurrection, the promise of the Messiah, the theological grounding of the meaning of the cross, all of these and a myriad of other NT concepts come directly from the OT.
Pastor Stanley may be a lot of things, but one thing he definitely is a good communicator. I think he is pretty clear in his statements and I think his motivations for doing what he is doing are clear as well. It’s not that we don’t understand him. I find his knowledge of early church history, the formation of the canon and the Patristic writings to be incredibly superficial. He confuses categories constantly, selectively picks events in church history to try to prove his points and confuses the binding together of all the books of the Bible into a single volume as the creation of the Bible, which didn’t happen until the fourth century. This either reflects poor understanding on his part of an agenda. I have no idea which so I’ll leave it at that.
His goal is to remove obstacles to belief, I got it. And yes, technically belief in inspiration is not required for salvation, got it. But he is committing epistemological suicide in the process and feeding his flock(s) an incredibly distorted and inaccurate view of what the Bible is, how it was formed and the grounds of our faith. I could say more about his anthropology on this point, but I’ve said more than enough. Suffice it to say that I think most of the critiques offered here are completely valid and I disagree that we don’t understand him. I think we understand him perfectly.
Hey Joe. Obviously you have some valid concerns about Andy. Just make sure you are accurately portraying him. You try and make an extended case for how you do not “misunderstand” Andy and yet your first two examples do that very thing. Andy was NOT attacking smaller churches. He was addressing a mindset of adults who choose to continue to attend a church that does not engage their children simply because they are being selfish. HUGE difference from what you said. And Andy did not suggest dying churches sell and give their $ to big churches. He said he wishes they would give that property to church plants. Doing ministry in a city that is filled with big church buildings who have a handful of older saints who come each week and are doing little if anything to proclaim the gospel or pass on the gospel to a coming generation, I agree with Andy’s sentiment 100%. So in just these 2 examples alone, you have misrepresented or misunderstood him.
Paul. Sorry, but I read his retraction and when you put it in light of his other statements in other contexts on the same subject it comes off as phony. This one statement could be let go if it was a one time thing but it isn’t, and that was my point. There is a pattern revealed by listening to his sermons and interviews. He retracted that statement because lots of people (rightly) jumped all over him for it because it was revolting. And, I must add, even he admitted that it was way over the top and outrageous. Lots of parents choose the churches they do out of sincere doctrinal conviction and believe pragmatism is not the grounds for choosing a church (as crazy as that may be). It seems you are more interested in defending Stanley than Stanley is himself.
Your defense about his statement that smaller churches should sell their property and give it megachurches is quite telling. So a congregation of old people who simply attend church every week, listen to the faithful preaching of the word, fellowship with each other and live simple Christian lives is doing nothing for the kingdom then? I know of countless tiny churches across the Midwest made up primarily of decent God fearing old folks in dying towns who do not have the energy or resources to go out and make huge impacts on their community. They do it in small ways with their family and neighbors. Those tiny churches may not be doing big things, but they are preparing old saints for heaven. So according to you, they shouldn’t exist then? They should what, close their doors, stay at home and tune into Stanley on the Internet? And you find this disgusting attitude worthy of not only defense but commendation? On what grounds, sir? What possible biblical evidence could you even begin to assemble to support your opinion?
See, my objection to Stanley’s statements stems from the fact that I and many others here have a fundamentally different view of the church. I believe that the church is the Bride of Christ made up of believers and their children (my baptist friends will take exception to my including children, but that’s Ok). Sabbath worship is ordained by God for believers to gather together in Christs name to worship the living God. I completely reject the idea that Sabbath worship is primarily a time of evangelism. That is not New Testament ecclesiology nor has it ever been the historic practice of the church for 2000 years. It is a modern idea, born out of the church growth movement and has a pedigree of less than 100 years. This is fundamentally where the divide lies. I believe the church is made up of believers and their children, the covenant people of God. Do we preach the Gospel on Sunday morning? Of course. But we also preach the whole counsel of God. That is going to repel unbelievers in rebellion against God. Some will have their hearts opened by the Holy Spirit and believe, some will be offended and walk away. The Scriptures themselves tell us that this is what will happen. In fact it happened to Jesus all the time.
The mega church model, in contrast sees the church as primarily a vehicle of evangelism and Sunday morning is primarily a time for evangelism. I find this view to be without any biblical or historical support, which is why I reject it and choose to attend reformed churches that evidently should close their doors, sell their property, give it to Stanley (guess those missionaries and old folks will just have to suck it up…they can watch Stanley on their iPhones at least) and pipe into a virtual church service with the kids on the laptop.
I don’t claim to know everything about Stanley’s theology. The sermons I’ve listened to are incredibly shallow and laced with numerous historical errors. While he is, no doubt, a good communicator (and for crying out loud…does the man age?) I don’t find his message or methods remotely compelling.
Hey Joe. Thanks for the response. You obviously have a picture in your mind that cannot be re-painted so no real reason to converse any further. Just a couple of points of clarification:
– I agree the church … using the term in a strictly theological term and not in the sense of a local gathering of people – which is how it is being used in the context of this conversation … is made up of believers.
– I am not saying smaller churches (with whatever other taglines you want to include) should close their doors. I do believe that every church should be a good steward of the resources it has been given and if a church has reached a place that their building is not being used in a way that is most effective then maybe they should consider other ways to steward that resource.
– I will repeat that a lot of your rage against Andy stems from a misunderstanding of his words. When he clarified the “small church” comment, he did not change his point – he clarified further. He was not talking about parents protecting doctrinal integrity. He was talking about parents choosing to remain comfortable for selfish reasons. I am not a defender of Andy per se. I disagree with him on a lot. But I am a defender of God’s sovereignty which is bigger than my own preferences.
– If you do anything in your church to make unbelievers “comfortable” (nursery for their kids, A/C in your building, greeters at the door, signage for them to know where to go, on and on and on) you are doing at some degree what Andy is talking about.
We are on the same team here. I am reformed. I preach expositionally. Etc. I just think we are quick to assign labels and not truly listen and try to understand how and why people do it a little differently than me. Thankfully the body of Christ is beautifully diverse while unified on the gospel. Let’s keep it that way.
Clarke Morledge says
Very interesting observation, Paul. Based on the negative tone of some of his critics (though I find Dr. Kruger’s different approach to be more positive and helpful), this shows that either (a) Andy and/or his critics are not listening to one another, or (b) Andy and his critics are operating with very different understandings of inerrancy.
Jim Pemberton says
Just to add to Joe’s analysis, his discussion with Russell Moore is telling. In it he demonstrated his impact by reading the letter of a new church member who joined as a result of this series who nevertheless professes to be an unbeliever.
A. Unregenerate church membership is unbiblical.
B. He’s got unbelievers coming, but his approach isn’t converting them.
C. Either the Gospel is offensive to unbelievers or it isn’t. The Bible says it is (whether Andy Stanley believes it or not). I’ve been cussed at, spit on, and thrown out of public buildings for sharing the Gospel unapologetically in the most loving way possible. If unbelievers aren’t offended, you might not be sharing the Gospel.
Andy, like many others, is not using the term “belong” to define the church membership as you suggest. He clarified in the final message that belonging is the idea of attending, participating, and even serving. Hopefully each of us are creating environments where non-believers can come and feel a sense of “belonging” as they wrestle with the gospel and eventually believe. And yes at some point unbelievers reach a crossroads of belief where they either follow or walk away (John 6). As someone who is reformed, I rest on the Holy Spirit and proclamation of the gospel through this process while providing environments that do not create unnecessary obstacles. We preach Jesus, sing to Jesus, sing about Jesus, talk about Jesus … it is all about Jesus while at the same time doing it in a way that demonstrates Jesus in a tangible way. It is obvious in the ministry of Jesus that extravagant sinners tend to receive His most compassionate welcome. Why would our church gatherings be any different?
You seem to have some serious overlap between “belonging” and “church membership” if those are different concepts. That makes for a pretty fuzzy line all for the sake of making an unbeliever (who would be less likely to tell the difference) feel like church membership versus “belonging” had any real value, much less what the value actually entails. What is the Body of Christ if it has a significant portion of dead members serving and participating in it?
The also begs the question as to what level of service and participation does this non-membership belonging entail beyond mere attendance? Do you have unbelievers going out with the rest of the church to evangelize? Do you have unbelievers involved in church discipline? Do you have unbelievers leading worship? A “sense of belonging” in the context of the Body of Christ without doing what the Body of Christ is supposed to be doing is deceptive and deadly.
Should be welcoming? Sure. The church should welcome unbelievers. But the unbeliever shouldn’t have a sense in which he or she belongs. This is the line to balance with raising children in the church. Perhaps orthodox Presbyterians have a better answer than Reformed Baptists on that matter (I’m a Reformed Baptist), but it breaks down when you consider the difference between an unbelieving adult child of church members who has been considered part of the covenant versus an unchurched unbeliever who comes to the church. To be sure, our youngest was on the mission field with my wife and I before he was a believer. (Our older two were already believers when we started going.) His level of participation at that time was no more than just to play with the local kids. At the time, he simply belonged with his parents.
That, I suggest, is the difference. The sense of belonging, or of being welcomed, is not to a church, but with relation to certain members of a church. The members truly belong to the Church. That belonging is given to them by God by virtue of their salvation. As members of the Body of Christ their purpose is to develop relationships with people outside of the church for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission. These relationships provide the best sense of belonging an unbeliever can have and they fall far short of the blessing of fellowship among believers as members of the Body of Christ and coheirs with Christ in the Kingdom of God.
By the way, being in the Body of Christ doesn’t provide a great sense of comfort. I say this because it sounds like Andy Stanley wants unbelievers to have a sense of belonging because his churches have made them comfortable in some way. We are called to a mission and promised by God that we will suffer. If we want to give someone a sense of belonging, that’s the belonging that they should be taught to expect if they come to faith. We find our true sense of belonging in Christ, after the pattern of Christ, according to the Scriptures.
Jim – read Stetzer’s book on creating missional churches for a deeper understanding of the use of “belonging that leads to belief” concept. You are over-interpreting the word and its intentions. I would argue again that as followers of Jesus we should follow His example of displaying deep compassion to the most extravagant of sinners. We can argue ecclesiology and defining the “true” church and walk away in agreement that the true church are believers in Jesus Christ, etc. That is another discussion and missing Andy’s point.
At some level a lot of this conversation is a misapplication and interpretation of terms. And as I have said frequently, we both end with the same belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
Thankfully my reformed views do not prohibit me from realizing God is way bigger than any theological or methodological box in which I can place Him.
“we should follow His example of displaying deep compassion to the most extravagant of sinners.”
I agree. We should also follow his example in John 6 of thinning the crowd of the people only looking for a free lunch.
“And as I have said frequently, we both end with the same belief that the Bible is the inspired word of God.”
I know you have said this frequently, but I think the core issue is that Andy Stanley’s critics, including me, don’t think that we end with the same belief any more than we started with the same belief. Specifically, in my case, Andy Stanley presents Christ and special revelation as mutually exclusive in the case of necessity for saving faith. That is to say that either we offer people the Scriptures or we offer people Christ. What? He doesn’t think we need the Scriptures in order to offer people Christ? The way he characterized it makes it sound like the Scriptures are even unhelpful. The fact of the matter is that we wouldn’t know Jesus Christ at all were it not for the New Testament and we wouldn’t understand the New Testament without the rich foundation laid for the Messiah in the Old Testament. The way he talks about the OT makes me wonder if he has some Marcionic tendencies. So, no, I don’t think we end up in the same place.
“Thankfully my reformed views do not prohibit me from realizing God is way bigger than any theological or methodological box in which I can place Him.”
This argument sounds like so many given in favor of anti-intellectualism. While I agree that God is “bigger” than my intellect, I don’t think that God doesn’t want us to use our intellect to glean every little bit about him that he bothered to reveal to us in the Scriptures. As it is, I’m at a loss as to how this even relates to the topic.
I agree with your John 6 analogy. At some point the gospel forces the hearer to a crossroads of belief … and yet Jesus still fed them lunch and allowed many fake followers to follow Him for an extended period of time. His teaching eventually thinned the crowd. I think Andy would agree with your sentiment here.
I simply do not believe Andy wants to separate Word and Christ. I think making this argument misses his point and audience entirely but we are free to agree to disagree on this one. If you listen to Andy over an extended period of time, he pushes people to read and study the Bible constantly.
No anti-intellectualism here. I actually have 2 Masters and a PhD in NT so I am a fan of intellectual engagement. I just don’t want my education to ever stand in the way of my belief in a God bigger than my theological box or comfort zone. Many of the people God used and pursued throughout the Bible are do not fit in my tidy, human-created theology box.
Again – we are on the same team here. Different ideas and interpretations on a few matters but both desire for people to come to faith in Jesus and grow in that faith.
Keith Throop says
I do believe it is theoretically possible to become a Christian by just the Holy Spirit’s working through another believer ‘s testimony. But, that new baby Christian would need a Bible (inspired wird of God) in order to learn about Jesus and in order to grow. Having grown up in Christian church and gone to Sun School and Bible Study, I’ve read Bible cover to cover. But, a person who hadn’t accepted Jesus wouldn’t understand it in same way w/o having H.S. inside.
Millions of Jesus followers exist today who have no Bible. Are they restricted from growth?
Yes Paul. A person who is regenerate, truly believes that Jesus is the Son of God, died for their sins and rose from the dead but has no access to the Scriptures is going to be stunted in their growth. The scriptures are the primary means that God uses to grow and mature his people and they are, according to Jesus himself, “God speaking”. Quite frankly I’m surprised you would even ask that.
The Scriptures are a means of growth (even arguably the primary means of growth) but that does not mean God does not use other means to grow believers. Frankly I have had the opportunity to meet believers who had little Bible access for most of their lives whose faith and spiritual maturity dwarfs many believers who have unlimited biblical knowledge.
Scripture is given by God to the church (not the world!) and established by him as the foundation of our faith. Apart from the canonical word, there is no saving revelation of God. This is why reformed theology speaks of Scripture as the fountainhead of theology. Hence, “faith comes by hearing….” Prior to the Gutenberg press, the word was primarily heard in the preaching of those God gave to the church as servants of the word (Eph 4). That is how God ordained that his people would grow in their union with Christ. As the Second Helvetic Confession states, “The word of God preached is the word of God.” As the chief means of grace, the Spirit works through the word in the heart of the elect, whether preached or written. But there would be no preached word without the written word. Consequently, when there is “preaching” that is not engaged in interpreting the word or twists the word, it is not in fact “preaching” at all.
I do not necessarily disagree with anything you wrote here (although I would want to drill down on a few of the comments for further thoughts). Point?
Steve Mittelstaedt says
While the actual assessment and solution carries freight of it’s own, it is possible that Stanley’s instincts about the problem are on point.
We need to ask what “faith” it is that people are drifting from. Modern faith seems to me to be a highly propositional affair. As in, sign off on the correct doctrinal statement and you will be saved. It is a weak shadow of the ancient faith of trust in, and allegiance to the risen Jesus.
It’s clear that the Bible is our main source of details about the life and teachings about Jesus and God’s interactions with mankind since the dawn of time. That said, it’s neither necessary *nor sufficient* to save. If your faith consists of “the Bible says it so it’s true” and there is no relational component, then you may not really know God. You may have intellectually decided to trust in the facts laid out in the Bible; you may speak Greek and Hebrew; you may be well-versed in all the finer points of theology, but none of that is what it’s “all about”, so to speak.
Now, that may not have been the point Stanley was trying to make, but I think it’s a point worth making. The Bible is a means to an end. It’s the “end” that’s of utmost importance; not the means.
steve hays says
In the sermon that Dr. Kruger comments on, I think Andy gives mixed signals on the inerrancy of Scripture. Here’s my working hypothesis:
It’s not necessarily that Andy denies the inerrancy of Scripture; rather, he considers inerrancy to be expendable.
For him, what ultimately matters is the Resurrection, and he thinks you can prove the Resurrection by treating the Gospels as generally historically reliable. And if you can prove the Resurrection, that proves Christianity.
Assuming that’s his position, I suspect he’s basically indifferent to inerrancy because he doesn’t think he has an ultimate stake in the inerrancy of Scripture.
However, assuming that’s his position, he can’t avoid defending the Bible:
i) Unbelievers like Bart Erhman have compiled a long list of alleged contradictions and historical mistakes in the Gospels. Andy cannot establish even the general reliability of the Gospels without rebutting most of these objections. For if the Gospels really have all those contradictions and historical mistakes, then the Gospels are generally unreliable rather than generally reliable.
Hence, Andy must cut that list down to size to show that even if the Gospels aren’t inerrant, the mistakes and discrepancies are few and trivial.
ii) In addition, Andy can’t put all his chips on the Resurrection and then duck factual objections to the Gospels, for unbelievers also allege that the Resurrection accounts are riddled with discrepancies. That makes Andy’s position very vulnerable.
The upshot is that Andy can’t take shortcuts. He must rebut objections to the accuracy of the Gospels, one-by-one, as if he were defending the inerrancy of Scripture–at least the Gospels.
iii) Of course, that doesn’t he must be able to explain every single objection. Ancient literature is bound to have some obscurities. But he has to respond to as many objections as he can to demonstrate that the Gospels are generally historically reliable.
Jeremy Bullard says
With all due respect to the author…
Yes, the early church DID have the Old Testament… but so did the Scribes and Pharisees who DID NOT think that they spoke of Jesus. There is ZERO difference between the scriptures that Saul of Tarsus zealously believed in to become a Pharisee of Pharisees, and the scriptures that Paul the Apostle used in his ministry. Zero. None. Zip.
If scripture is the foundation of our faith, then where there is no difference in scripture, there should be no difference in our receiving it. And yet, we have skeptics and anti-theists who know the Bible better than modern day saints do!
So what is the difference? Christ as Lord, and the Holy Spirit as Comforter. Paul knew scripture no better than Saul did, but he knew Jesus, and THAT made all the difference in the world.
You are making the same mistake Andy Stanley does: you are confusing metaphysics with epistemology. It’s a category error. You can’t throw out epistemology in favor of metaphysics. It’s not an “either/or”, it’s a “both/and”.
Keith Throop says
Making the point that we cannot truly understand how the scriptures speak of Christ without the work of the Spirit in our hearts does not mean that those same Scriptures are not the means by which the Spirit himself works. To be sure, simply knowing what Scripture says is not sufficient in itself to produce saving faith and to grow in a right relationship with Christ, but this does not mean that Scripture is not necessary as a means through which the Spirit works.
Another point to be considered in this conversation (outside of the irony that both Andy and his critics hold the same belief regarding inspiration/inerrancy) is the simple reality that there are followers of Jesus all over the known world who do not possess a copy of God’s Word and may not ever even see a copy in their lifetime. The gospel of Jesus is what they have and to what they cling. And obviously the amount or Scripture available in the first 1600 years of the Church was limited.
This fact alone reminds us that the spotlight for many MUST be on the gospel event itself and not the Bible – they have no access to the Bible.
Yes!!! Thank you Paul
Its the Bible that tells us of the Christ, its the Bible that tells us why He came, its the Bible that tells us of the Spirit & its the Bible that tells us to preach the gospel & teach everything that was taught by Jesus regarding knowlege & obedience. The OT church & the NT church has been given a great cloud of witnesses & testimony that we may know God & what He has done. They are for our encouragement, but as always seeds of discouragement & confusion pop up like plants in a field.
All Scripture is breathed by God, Jesus often spoke of the OT & the prophets kept reminding the people to turn to God instead of the world. If used correctly & skillfully it is the most brilliant of tools in shaping faith in God.
I can see no sense in a minister with the ‘gift’ of redaction saying, well we dont really need this bit or that bit like they were living out in a jungle somewhere. It is one harmoniuos word that speaks of Salvation for the sinner & the sin cursed earth that groans under the weight of sin. The Eden that was is just as much a part of the Christ that hung on the cross & rose again.
Scripture is not just for here & now but for all spiritual battles over the ages, dealing with Jews & Gentiles alike. Matt 28:16-20. It is the Bible that puts the spotlight on Jesus but also gives us the background, the stage & the apron among other things.
Dean, you are still missing the point that in the history of the church and even today there were/are believers with no or inadequate access to the Bible. Sure this is not the ideal situation but it WAS/IS the situation none-the-less.
Yet the situation has arisen in a mega church in the US where there is ample Scripture availabe & where people have heard the good news but have walked or are walking away. Something Scripture is also willing to address.
It is often in & through tribulation & trial that faith grows or shrinks back. Christianity is very much under persecution, ridicule & scorn.Thats why God tells us to
So, no I dont think I am missing the point. The fact is there is confusion & doubt & much of that comes down to false teaching, lies & deception. Scripture was not the problem when Rome or Babylon made its claims, nor should it be the case when empty & hollow philosphies infect the mind & hearts of believers today.
Jesus makes it clear…build on Him, stand in Him as the world mocks & intimidates the maker of heaven & earth and everything in it. Polytheism, Deism, Atheism, Naturalism etc all make there boasts, some are clever clever stories that have an air or element of believabilty but soon pale into falsehood in light of Christ the Son & first born from the dead.Heb 1.1-4.
Have you stopped to consider that the people may have a problem, maybe there spiritual knees are week & feeble under the weight of worldliness, maybe they have drifted away from God like the impressive churches in the book of Revelation.
To suggest that we need to get rid of the Bible so that our faith may grow is absurd. It is explicitly for our encouragement, but we actually have to learn how to use it & see through the hollowness of false & empty ideas that amount to building houses on shifting shadows & sands.
Lets take it a step further then, why not stop spreading the gospel, lets just pray for people, people have come to God under those circumstances also.Let Andy Stanley say, lets not tithe anymore, its just too hard for some of you, let God just provide for us, thats how a lot of Christians had to live in Bible times, in caves & stuff, thats how they grew in faith.
I appreciate what you are saying & there is a time & place for that where the gospel is preached & conversion takes place where Bibles are non existant or a page exists here or there. But upon conversion these people usually yearn for what some are advocating we throw away.
God gives the church servants of the word who are gifted and educated in the word so that they study and preach the word to the sheep who may not have Bibles or even be literate (Eph 4:7-16; 2 Tim 2:15). If no one else, the pastor has and knows the written word and preaches that word (1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 4:1-2). We were born again by the hearing of the preached word and we grow in faith through that same preached word (1 Pet 1:23 – 2:3; Rom 10:17). No church is ever ultimately bible-less (1 Tim 3:15; 2 Tim 1:13-14; Acts 2:42).
dantespencer, I think you are still missing something. On the one hand, in Acts the apostles preached their witness to the resurrection of Jesus — an event. They did not expound 1Cor 15.
On the other, you are missing the point that throughout history people (and “pastors”) have not had full access to the Bible in their own languages. So a number of your claims here (even though you refer to a number of verses) may not be actually supported.
Bruce, When Peter preached Christ’s resurrection in Acts 2, he interpreted Joel 2, Psalm 16, and Psalm 101. When he preached the gospel in Acts 3, his preaching included Dt 18 and Gen 22. When Stephen gave an account for his preaching in Acts 7, he recounted redemptive history which took him all through Scripture. When Peter preached Christ to the gentiles in Acts 10, he concluded by saying, “To him all the prophets bear witness…” (v.43). When Paul preached Christ in Acts 13, he recounted redemptive history and expounded Psalm 2, Isa 55, Psalm 16, and Hab 1.
The history of Acts begins with Christ’s ascension. 1 Cor was written not written until 55 AD.
//A person can reject inspiration and still be a Christian//
No, not really. I mean, they can be members of the church because of their baptism, if indeed they were baptized as a child before any profession of faith (or lack thereof), and by that means of becoming part of the covenant community, just as circumcised infants were part of the covenant community before making profession of faith. But it does not mean they are real Christians, that is, believers. They are not believers, hence the denial of the inspiration of Scripture. It’s a sure sign that they are not believers.
The very fact that Andy Stanley even takes some heathen’s critique of the walls of Jericho seriously points to a growing unbelief on his part. To be honest, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him either embrace liberalism, or to apostatize in the years to come. Taking seriously the goofy whinings of apostate “higher critics” and silly people like Bart Erhman is utterly laughable. But what does one expect from the type of church that is basically filled with people who’ve been “baby” or merely “adolescent” Christians their whole lives because of shallow teaching, and a lack of serious Bible study, with the exception of firming up the foundations of such nonsense as Dispensational Eschatology?
But Michael, you also made a serious flub when you said:
//To put it differently, a person doesn’t have to believe in the truth of the Bible to be saved, but the Bible has to be true for them to be saved.//
Um, yes, a person DOES have to believe in the TRUTH OF the Bible to be saved.
The TRUTH OF the Bible is the Gospel message itself and there is no salvation without the TRUTH OF the Bible.
Andy Stanley, in typical Arminian style, thinks that he can prevent a reprobate from apostatizing, and is willing to wield his mighty Semi-Pelagian muscles in order to accomplish such a task. He has no faith in the saving and keeping work of the Holy Spirit for the sake of God’s elect, for the simple reason that he disbelieves in the BIBLICAL FACT of God’s elect, and of the saving and keeping power of the Holy Spirit on behalf of those for whom Christ died.
Indeed, we are to use all legitimate, lawful, and ethical means to persuade people of the Truth, and by such to snatch people out of the pit, but this is also something that the Holy Spirit does THROUGH His people, by those legitimate, lawful, ethical means, which IS the use of the Scriptures, and trusting in God to do the converting, or reclaming of any and all sheep belonging to Christ, who’ve wandered away.
This is a good article. I am coming to believe Andy Stanley is a dangerous man. My prayer is that he would repent. I fear he will not. For the RCs and former RCs in the comments section just as it appears some are being deceived by Stanley the same is true for RC. Rome teaches a false and damndable gospel. Flee from her and run to the true Jesus.
EXCELLENT article on this matter. I agree with most of what is said here: http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/in_defence_of_andy_stanley
This “house of cards faith” idea sounds like it comes from Greg Boyd’s book “Benefit of the Doubt.” It’s scary to see Stanley taking up the arguments of an open theist.
Many points were missed and I see the main point you missed is the fact that Andy Stanley does not believe all that the Bible clearly teaches about the creation of the universe, the age of the universe, the archeological evidence for all the events in the Bible and the myriad evidences in historical writings outside of the Bible and finally all the writings of the anti-Nicene fathers who quoted the Scriptures so often that you could construct our current Bible with their quotes.
Andy Stanley is an obvious false teacher and it’s time people knew that clearly. He’s promoting a false gospel because he refuses to believe Jesus. How does Stanley know anything except what he has read in the Bible?
Anyone who misleads the flock like Stanley is as culpable as every heretical teacher I’ve ever read about in the anti-Nicene fathers. While it appears that he’s cut off the branch on which he sits that’s actually not true. He does not sit on the branch that believes that Scripture is inerrant and therefore does not believe Jesus who is the Word made flesh. To not believe in the inerrant word of God is to not believe in the Word made flesh. If we’re not willing to protect the flock and the unbelievers from his obviously heretical teachings than how will we ever prepare them for the false prophet who will do signs and wonders along with their false teachings.
How would Paul or Peter or Justin Martyr or Ignatius or Irenaeus or Tertullian answer Stanley; Much more harshly than most I’ve seen so far and they would be protecting their flocks from his weak arguments.
“On the contrary, Jesus plainly states, ‘For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me’ (John 5:46). In other words, belief in the writings of Moses (part of the OT) would actually lead a person to believe in Jesus!” “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). ~ These two examples are both used to show that having the scriptures does not lead to conversion. You become a christian when you encounter with the Holy Spirit. You encounter the Holy Spirit my believing in the Word made flesh not the written word but the living word.
Eddie Gilchrist says
My take on this is as follows:
I am at this point in time asking questions. My own background from a Reformed perspective is that many people in “my club” are eager to seize on unguarded statements and make really bad assumptions, thus violating the command not to bear false witness. It is also my experience that folks from a less articulate or less tight theological base of reasoning see this sin and wind up being cheerleaders for people who turn out to have precisely the errors the nit pickers stated. I don’t want to have either error. I don’t know Andy Stanley. I don’t listen to his sermons to have a broad understanding of where he is coming from. I just know that my corner of the theological universe has a bad habit of assaulting people like Tim Keller (because he is not a YEC) and (RIP) Jack Miller, because he was thought to be and accused of preaching “cheap grace.” It is enough of a pattern to justify a stereotype.
I do not know the prof at RTS Florida (I spent 2 years at RTS Jackson) who wrote this. I may simply be emotionally reacting to the excesses I saw when there and assuming they are the same. I say (to my shame) that I did not always …. no, lets be honest… I did not *EVER* (lol) respond correctly to this pattern I saw. I hope to do better now, but my own sin in reacting does not keep me from being aware that it is just not right to beat us someone on the basis of assumptions you draw from their teachings, unless you have concrete evidence of error.
I hope that miasma of goo doesn’t just swamp any clarity I tried to bring. Makes perfect sense to me, anyway
Excellent comments from a consistent apologist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxkYOCJ0pM0
Forgot to introduce the video: It is James White from Alpha Omega Ministries.
Taxee the Taxman says
I would be interested in Dr. Kruger’s thoughts on Andy Stanley’s detailed defence of his homelitical approach in http://www.outreachmagazine.com/features/19900-the-bible-says-so.html/5
I cant see how (polytheistic?) Ancient Greece with a statue to an unknown god & a bunch of upper class religious philosphicals relates to an indoctrinated secular culture saturated in Christianity & Atheism born out of modernity except for the Plato & Socrates connection.
The power of the resurrection cannot be seperated from the Scriptures & sooner or later according to the Apostle Paul you are going to need meat not milk. Further more the Lord’s Supper & baptism find their roots in the OT along with the promises that a King like no other would come.
Jesus said man shall not live by bread alone. Matt 4:4.Paul speaking by the Sprit proclaims all Scripture is God breathed. 2 Tim 3:16.
Dr Krugers point that the Bible is foundational to Christianity is the much more consistant with the Apostle Paul & Jesus from what I can read.Its good to see Andy leaning on Scripture for his defense, even if it is one small component of God’s much bigger picture for our beings to behold.