When I came across the teaching of Andy Stanley for the first time my first impressions were that he was engaging and spoke a lot of truth.
I enjoyed his style and am sure he’s likely well meaning. I’m also sure he’s positively changed the lives of many people and, as a brother in Christ, what right do I have to judge him.
However, I can judge his preaching and compare it to scripture and I can at least try to make people realise the massive dangers of his teaching.
While I totally get his heart to remove stumbling blocks from potential new believers and to keep Christians focused on Jesus, whether inadvertently or not, Andy Stanley is, in many cases, attacking the faith of others and the infallibility of scripture and, therefore, God.
Here are some statements Andy has made in his preaching and in interviews that, I think should make us question whether we promote his teaching in our churches, especially to new believers.
Statement 1: The Old Testament is a ‘house of cards’
Direct quotation from http://northpoint.org/messages/who-needs-god/the-bible-told-me-so
“If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, it’s all or nothing. Christianity becomes a fragile ‘house of cards’ religion. Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards that comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho didn’t.”
“It’s a house of cards. So, as soon as you pull out one piece of the Bible and say this is a myth, well then immediately it’s like, well, what else in there is a myth. The foundation of our faith is not the scripture, the foundation of our faith is not the infallibility of the Bible, the foundation of our faith is something that happened in history and the issue is – who is Jesus?”
“Christianity does not exist because of the Bible, anymore than you exist because of your birth certificate.”
My immediate response: This is part of Andy’s argument that it is only the resurrection of Jesus that is important and, while this is in part true, the Bible IS the primary proof of Jesus’s resurrection.
Yes, all of the Bible points to Jesus (the Old Testament included), but this is why our 100% trust in the whole of the Bible as the true Word of God is so important to a solid faith.
Belief in Jesus, without the context of the Old Testament, is surely a much more fragile faith than when backed up by the incredible prophesies of the Old Testament and the moral guidelines that he so often quoted. Without those, the potential to twist the scriptures and form Jesus into who you want him to be rather than who he is is gravely dangerous.
The God of the Bible is unchanging and the God of the Old Testament IS the God of the new. Trying to brush him under the carpet or discredit him is basically rejecting God. Harsh but true.
Statement 2: The creation story is a myth
“Many have lost faith because of something in the Bible, the Old Testament in particular. Once they could not accept the historicity of the Old Testament, once they couldn’t go along with all the miracles, once somebody poked a hole in the Genesis creation myth… their house of cards faith came tumbling down.”
My response: This is extremely troubling. While I agree personally that my faith does not rest upon whether God meant something symbolically or literally in the creation story and the whole of the Old Testament, telling people it is a myth is a direct attack on God.
Andy claims to be trying to help ‘liberate’ believers and those searching Christ but, to be honest, all his teaching does is attack my faith and those of countless others.
He is questioning, very obviously, the infallibility of scripture and, if you do that, you may as well give up.
The one thing that separates the Bible from other ancient texts IS its incredibly accurate prophesy of Jesus in the Old Testament and it’s surprising ability to have known things often well before science or historians.
Time after time, historians have needed to backtrack on what they had thought were Bible myths but that have actually been proven as fact, such as the existence of Babylon.
If we say the entire Old Testament may be littered with errors because we can’t accept man’s modern knowledge may be wrong rather than the Bible, we are effectively choosing man over God.
If your faith is so fragile that being goaded about Old Testament stories makes you never find God or turn away from God, you need to consider that your faith is a house of cards, NOT the Bible.
Even if Andy is right and we should discount the Old Testament because it is unbelievable and incompatible with modern science and history and scholars, what of the virgin birth and resurrection and the miracles of Jesus. What of Revelation?
If you believe the Bible might be full of lies and myths as Andy says, then surely listening to him turns your house of cards faith into a house of sand.
Statement 3: Unhitch the Old Testament
“Christianity does not need propping up by the Jewish scriptures… Peter, James and Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from the Jewish Scriptures and my friends, we must as well”
My response: Sadly, this is a lie. The apostles and Jesus himself quote Old Testament scripture constantly. It is a vital part of Jesus’s story.
Without the Old Testament, why did Jesus even need to die for us? Without the Old Testament how can we know the moral code God expects?
For instance, in another sermon, Andy claims that Paul’s teaching about what constitutes sexual immorality is vague and can’t be easily defined.
Well, he’s only right if you ignore the Old Testament!
Andy’s teaching is extremely dangerous. Why? Because it means we get to define what the moral code is. And Andy’s view in the sermon is that ‘it’s all about love’.
Really? In which case, quite consciously in my opinion, Andy’s next step is to get Christians to remove another barrier to his ‘irresistible’ yet sadly false gospel.
Andy, whether knowingly or not, is helping pave the way for an ‘anything goes’ DIY love religion unhitched from the true God of the Bible (Old and New testament, because God is non-changing).
It’s also opening the door to the kind of warped non-Biblical mysticism of the NAR, Bethel and related churches, where the Bible is as welcome as it is in a Catholic church, this time replaced by experience rather than tradition.
That sounds dramatic, but it’s sadly true.
Statement 4: Thou Shalt Not Obey the 10 Commandments
Quote from Andy Stanley’s ‘Irresistible’ book page 136:
“The 10 Commandments have no authority over you. None. To be clear: Thou Shalt Not Obey the 10 Commandments.”
My response: Andy’s explanation for this statement is that we are in a new covenant under Jesus, which is true. However, his use of wording is reckless at best.
He says his target audience is people he doesn’t want to turn off from the faith, so basically new believers.
To actually tell them NOT to obey the 10 commandments, all of which are pretty simple and obvious as a moral guideline to what God expects to be written on our hearts is horrendous.
Yes, Jesus is a better covenant than Moses, but the Holy Spirit writes God’s basic moral code on our hearts.
If someone thus tells you explicitly NOT to obey the 10 commandments as a cheap shock-jock tactic, that is an insult to God. I would say – thou shalt not listen to that preacher. Period.
Again, Andy is of course opening the door for future heresies and going one step further than the Catholic Church who removed idolatry from the commandments so they could keen their idols.
Instead, Andy’s just sweeping them all away but removing idolatry does have the added bonus of opening a path back to Rome.
Statement 5: Ignore Old Testament advice
Quote from Irresistible page 166:
“The Old Testament is great for inspiration but not application. Don’t do anything the Old Testament tells you to do because someone in the Old Testament tells you to do it or because they did it themselves.”
My response: Mmmm. Really? Well Andy elsewhere says the Old Testament writers tell us about Jesus, so do we not follow their lead or advice? Do we not follow the advice of the Psalms? Are there no good moral teachings in the Old Testament?
These, sadly, are badly chosen statements made for effect at best. This is a terrible blanket statement for young Christians or anyone come to that.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of the problems I have found in Andy Stanley’s teaching. He is, in my opinion far too happy to play fast and loose with scripture and the result is false doctrine and, often, false statements.
He also likes to throw in the statement ‘this is big’ or ‘this is important’ in the style of a used car salesman just before giving a subjective or questionable ‘fact’ he wants to lodge in the mind of the listener, usually straight to camera.
It’s a cheap and effective trick, but it’s manipulative.
I am not suggesting that Andy has not done good work or said good things. Indeed, if you listen to him defend his sermons or statements, he will say be believes the Bible totally and has been misunderstood.
Sorry, not good enough. So he believes in the Bible 100% but, if so, he should be saying that AS he makes his statements, not in hidden interviews when he gets a bit of flak.
So he believes, but what about all those he mistakenly made doubt the Bible? Do they get that luxury if they don’t read your belated explanations? No, they are mislead.
Why not put a warning of footnote on the thousands of DVDs or clips to explain that your quotes should not be misunderstood? But no.
This, I’m afraid, is unacceptable but typical of a Christian world where agendas are played out and book sales or marketing via controversy are more important than truth.
The series The Bible for Adults is less troublesome than some, but even so it includes a multitude of false statements and comments aimed at making you doubt your faith. For instance:
1. He suggests debating the Big Bang Theory
2. He says God wanted the Israelites to go astray in the wilderness and gave them over to worship other Gods so it would be better when they repented. Newsflash: they didn’t! They were not let into the promised land.
3. He says the Jews weren’t persecuted by the Roman Empire (must have forgotten the sacking of Jerusalem and that they were only saved persecution by paying taxes to the Emperor.
4. He quotes atheist Richard Dawkins (really??)
Can we trust a guy who twists history and gives a voice to people who hate our faith?
In short, Andy Stanley seems to delight in making us question our faith and the infallibility of scripture, though he claims his faith is 100%.
He seems to rank science higher than God’s word.
The name of the series The Bible for Adults says it all. As does his series mockingly called ‘the Bible tells me so’.
“Perhaps you were taught, as I was taught, that ‘Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so’. That is where our trouble began.”
He later states:
“It is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible.”
God doesn’t need you, me or anyone to successfully defend his Word against mockers. We just have to defend him and side with him NOT try to cosy up to Richard Dawkins!
God has NEVER existed within the scope of human logic or understanding. He is the creator of the world, he can move mountains. Don’t box him into human science and our limited understanding.
Andy is basically saying: only a child would believe this stuff. Grow up, kick the myths into touch and turn to a logical faith in Jesus, not the Bible.
Considering Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, died and rose again and flew up to heaven I have to question whether embracing a scientific, logical, worldly view of the Bible and Jesus is compatible.
So, in my view, Andy’s teaching is (as Andy would put it himself), ‘a house of cards’ creating a weak, vague faith in Jesus that will collapse with a blow of the wind.
No, a strong faith in Jesus is only strengthened by the prophets. Once you read Daniel and Revelation with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, your faith becomes rock solid.