Reflections on Andy Stanley and the Bible

Posted Oct 06, 2016 by Michael L. Brown

Dr. Brown shares his agreements and disagreements with Pastor Andy Stanley's recent statements on the Bible.

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ssnedwards@hotm... posted a comment · Oct 10, 2016
Dear Mr. Brown, I've had the opportunity to watch the first three of Andy Stanley's series "Who Needs God," I read you Reflections, and I had some thoughts in response. First, you ask "What exactly did he mean?" What I heard was Andy Stanley making a distinction between the use of the word Bible and referring to the actual written contents of what we refer to as the Bible. I did not hear or see any indication that Andy Stanley held a light view of the Bible's reliability or credibility; in fact, he inserted a lesson in that particular message regarding the basis for our trust in the reliability and credibility of what is written in the Bible. He also clearly and unambiguously stated his position--absolute belief in the inerrancy of the Scriptures--numerous times in his article. Second, Andy Stanley speaks of changing approaches with an unchanging mission. In listening to his messages I heard him carefully avoid trigger words while still conveying biblical truth. I saw him respect his listeners and anticipate their open-minded consideration of what he had to say. And I saw him take care to state or illustrate his belief in the integrity and trustworthiness of the documents that are at the foundation of our faith (1) when there might have been misunderstanding by those used to speaking of the Bible in only one way, and (2) in a way that avoided trigger words that could be misunderstood. Our pastor was present in a recent presentation on Millennials by Dr. Jolene Erlacher. They were discussing how one might accommodation change without abdicating truth, and Pastor Dean shared an insight I found really helpful. He said we have to be careful to distinguish practice from principle. For example: We are to not neglect meeting together as believers, we are to make financial provision as a body for those in need and for the spread of the gospel, we are to worship corporately. That's the principle. We meet for 75 minutes on Sunday with corporate worship, an offering, and teaching of the word. That is the practice. It is possible the principle could be accommodated by another form of practice. If we consider how many people work in retail, law enforcement, and the medical fields without Sunday off, then we might accommodate change by adding a Saturday service to increase their opportunity to be part of a worship service. Or the Bible study we have on Wednesday may be intentional in incorporating all these elements so that those unable to attend regular worship services, might still fulfill all the principles laid out for us in God's Word. In a similar way, I see Andy Stanley finding new ways to say foundational things. The truth is the same, the words are different. I think this aligns with Paul intent when he said "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." I don't think anyone would view Paul as having compromised truth, and I do not see Andy Stanley having done so either. Your focus on whether the resurrection is foundational enough to be our only starting point for effectively sharing the gospel was interesting, as I'd just recently attended a presentation by Dr. Frank Turek. His point was that if the resurrection was real, which he was able to logically support (without reference to the Bible), by implication every other tenet of the Christian faith is proven true and reasonable on that basis. What was necessary and communicated through the resurrection of Christ affirms and confirms all of biblical Christian teaching. When you speak of the many different Jesus's in New Testament times, and the need to be able to discern false Christs, gospels and teachers now and in the future, your wording suggests that Andy Stanley is discounting the necessity of biblical teaching. That assumes a position he does not hold (and has carefully clarified). I thought Andy Stanley's point about someone's faith being so bound up in the Bible being unassailably true, that any doubt could bring their faith down like a house of cards, was very interesting. My thought was this: We can have faith in what someone has told or taught us (the very basis for his series) without knowing how that truth is verified and affirmed specifically in Scripture. When something traumatic occurs what we accepted at someone's word is totally inadequate to anchor us through the storm, resulting in a spiritual crisis. We thought we believed the Bible, but we actually believed what someone had TOLD us ABOUT the Bible. We didn't know the contents of the Bible well enough for it to do what God meant it to do. Our faith can be in the IDEAS of the Bible rather than the WORDS of the Bible. In that case Andy Stanley distinguishing between what the word "Bible" conveys as opposed to the discussion and teaching of the WORDS written in the Bible can be very helpful. You spoke of the dangers of believers being moved by the moral relativism of today's society, judging Scriptures by their opinions and feelings rather than judging their opinions and feelings by the Scriptures. I am thankful that Andy Stanley recognized and responded to these very concerns eight years ago. I appreciate the tack and intelligence he uses in addressing challenges and objections, and the grace and truth with which he seeks to help believers who may themselves be blinded by their own misconceptions or preconceptions. And again, Andy Stanley by example and word has clearly stated his position on the authority of Scripture. Lastly, regarding your point about the first century disciples relying on the authority of the Jewish Scriptures. That may have been initially true, but Gentiles quickly began to respond to God's invitation for salvation; especially after the destruction of the Temple as they were scattered throughout the world. So from shortly after 70 AD to 320 AD, the church was mostly Gentiles--who did not have access to the Jewish Scriptures--and it grew in strength and number during hundreds of years of persecution. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this discussion. After listening to Pastor Stanley's messages, I found myself in considerable disagreement with your Reflections, and appreciate being invited to express those views. His glory above all, Susan
Royce posted a comment · Oct 08, 2016
Thank you, Dr. Brown. I have now read several articles (Mohler's, Russell Moore's), listened/watched a couple of programs (Turek's, James White's, Moore's, and others) and now yours. I find this one of the absolute most dangerous issues to come about in The Church since perhaps Rob Bell and Bart Ehrman. Stanley's epistemology is completely riddled with holes. "Weak" doesn't even begin to describe it. Dr. Brown, you are absolutely correct, when you say that "You still come back to the same problem, don't you?" Stanley's comments actually sound as though he believes Science has proven various stories in the Bible - like a literal 6-Day Creation - as false! And, on that note, I'd have to ask Stanley this question, "When you demean the Creation Story, Worldwide Flood Story, and the Exodus Story, does that not discredit the entire Bible?" If part of the Bible is not true then what’s to say any of it is? Certainly 2nd Tim. 3:16 can't be!! If one can discount the Creation Story then why not the Virgin Birth Story? Moreover, given the issues of today, does not Stanley’s inference that the Bible cannot be substantiated and supported open the door completely up to the apostates who claim that Homosexuality and the rest of the LGBTQABCXYZ community are perfectly legit because “we know so much more today” and “science has proven…”?? I'd also have to ask him, "What sense does it make to believe the stories given by Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John but deny that God Himself gave us those truths and not men?" How does it make it any easier for someone to come to Christ to tell them to rely on the word of men over the word of God??? And how about someone who says, "Ok, Matthew's accounts seem legit but the others don't seem to be right so I have to ignore them."? How is that not opening the door to a cafeteria style of theology and Bible reading that basically sets one up as their own god to pick and choose what they'll believe? That results in creating a Jesus in their own image rather than surrendering as a creation of Jesus in His image. If we do not rely on Scripture as the final authority and Word of God then that leaves us as the sole authority by which we govern our lives. Isn’t Sola Scriptura a basic doctrinal foundation block? Stanley says we must come up with new and creative ways to reach the lost. That's putting one's apologetics before their theology and they've got it backwards. His epistemology is completely upside down. Theology must come before apologetics. Not vice versa! One has to get it that understanding comes thru the Word of God FIRST! What did Jesus do to the two traveler's on the road to Emmaus? He went to the Scriptures!! "How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." C'mon! Please, if the resurrected Jesus did that, what does that tell you?!! Stanley doesn't seem to get the fact that a Believer relating to an Unbeliever is talking to a spiritually-dead person that can't receive the things of God unless the Spirit illuminates his mind to them. That the Unbeliever is a son of disobedience, a child of wrath, one who's in rebellion against God that finds the Gospel an offence and the Believer talking to him as the stench of death unto death. One simply can NOT separate The Word from The Word. Andy Stanley is not only in error here, he is acting foolishly and, more importantly, dangerously!! This is not the first time over the past 3-4yrs that I've seen him stray into waters that caused me great concern but he's crossed the line this time. He may not understand it, or even agree with my conclusion, but I submit he has just made a direct attack on the Bible and the very Word of God itself. This is no light matter and I can't help but wonder what Charles is doing and saying about this! How did Stanley ever get to be a pastor of a 40,000 person church and not have a basic understanding of how one gets saved?
CRY4USA posted a comment · Oct 07, 2016
I have felt frustrated by people not accepting the authority of the Bible when I quote it to them. It is a general problem, as noted. Here is my assessment. The first disciples had their words confirmed by "signs following," as the KJV puts it in Mark 16:20. In most cases today, at least in the USA, there are no "signs following." It is a non-supernatural presentation of the gospel, due to the unbelief and worldliness of the Church. The biggest problem is not the unbelievers who won't accept the Word, but the so-called believers that don't believe and obey the Word. It is the Laodicean Church Age and it is time to open the door to the knock on the door, be zealous, repent, and overcome.