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How should we love and pray for those with whom we disagree?

Published: 15 December 2018 (GMT+10)

Paul D. from Australia writes in response to Andy Stanley takes the easy way out:


I have been an avid reader of Creation publications and have taught creation science in several countries of the world. I find Creation.com’s approach to evidence and making conclusions to be powerfully convincing as it is totally reliant upon the Bible as the authoritative text. However, I also find that Creation.com’s counter-arguments towards those who hold a different view to be somewhat less than gracious and loving. Whereas I have read many convincing counter-arguments from creation.com, I have not found a call to pray for and show love to those who see things differently. I find myself wondering if these people sense grace or judgement when they read creation.com’s counter-arguments. I expect it is the latter. And I also expect that the judgmental tone coming from Creation.com causes people to hold tighter to their errant beliefs rather than reassess them. It is not by being more scientifically correct that the world will know we are His disciples, but by showing love.

Lita Cosner, CMI-US, responds:

Thank you for writing in with these comments, and giving us a chance to talk about this important issue. There are a couple of elements involved, and it is important to give due weight to each.

Telling the truth is loving

It is loving to correct someone who is wrong, because it’s part of telling the truth. So while in today’s society it can be seen as fundamentally unloving to contradict someone, telling the truth is by definition part of being loving.

It is not only loving to Stanley to tell the truth about his wrong teachings, but even more so to others who may be deceived by him. Stanley did not make his statements in private, but to over 30,000 people who watch his sermons weekly, and however many thousands of people who will buy his book.

Most importantly, it is showing proper love and respect for God and His Word to refute falsehood. My response to Stanley was filled with Scripture. Whenever we see a fellow Christian in error, we should lovingly respond by opening up the Scriptures, hoping to convince the fellow Christian of their error. This brings glory to Christ.

It should be noted that we did not disrespect him by, for instance, calling him names or being intentionally insulting. “Stanley is teaching dangerous falsehoods” is fundamentally different from “Stanley is stupid”—we did the former, and we would never condone the latter.

Should we confront privately?

Many people ask us whether we privately contacted Stanley before publishing our articles about him. We did not. We follow the same principle that we are happy to have other people use in regard to us—we respond on the same scale that the statement was made. So when people call or email us personally, we respond personally. When someone makes a public comment, that’s fair game for public response. Even the Apostle Paul, when he saw his fellow Apostle, Peter, making a mistake in public, corrected him publicly, so that anyone who was influenced by his error would also be corrected at the same time.

Praying for our opponents

You said you found no call to pray for or show love to those who see things differently. A while back we wrote How do we love our neighbor? about this issue. But if that’s not clear enough, hopefully this statement will suffice: We should pray for Andy Stanley to come to a conviction that the Bible is the totally inspired, true, and sufficient Word of God. Anyone reading this who does have a way to speak to Andy Stanley and who is concerned about the direction his ministry is going should certainly talk to him privately and encourage him to rethink his error.

Is CMI judgmental?

In one way, we are judgmental when it comes to our core issue of creation—and this is biblical! Jesus says that we are to “judge with right judgment”. We judge people by the standard of Scripture. My article showed how Scripture itself didn’t line up with Stanley’s teaching. To judge people by the standard of Scripture is not unloving; in fact, it’s the standard each one of us should use to judge ourselves.

Of course, we should always be prepared to be judged with the same standard we judge others. This is why we accept and publish negative as well as positive feedback and invite people to let us know if they think we are not being fully biblical.

How we should think about Stanley and other Christians who are wrong

CMI has never been slow to call out what we see as unbiblical, harmful views of Scripture. But we have always strived to do so in a way that is instructive, and which criticizes the falsehood without unduly maligning the person who is in error. A notable exception is when we see someone to be a dangerous, intentional false teacher, who is actually not Christian at all, but working to undermine and deceive Christians, like in the case of the folks at BioLogos. We even wrote an article about them called It’s not Christianity! If you compare our articles about BioLogos, it makes our comments about Stanley seem like a tea party—that’s because we see them as different types of opponents.

We should pray that God would open Stanley’s eyes to the error of his teaching, and would enable him to use his huge platform to instead spread the Gospel of Christ, and that he would do so from the Scriptures, which give us the only firm foundation from which to do so.

Michael T. from the US also wrote in regarding the article:

I am a monthly supporter of CMI, ICR, and AIG, because I value aligning scientific arguments with the Biblical historical accounts. I wish we’d stick with the science: it’s a winner. I bristle at “defense-of-the-Bible” articles, and am heartbroken at the sport of trolling of Andy Stanley. Full disclosure: I’ve only read one article from Stanley but I have lived a profound disappointment with ‘Biblianity’ and the traditional church experience that puts me in his camp. Here’s the simplest argument I can offer: 1. At no place in any of the sixty-six documents in the Biblical canon does any author refer to the whole Bible itself. That would be self-referencing and logically indefensible. 2. The author cites a commonly called-upon list of uses of “Scripture” and “Scriptures” and asserts them as proof that the claim “The Bible Says” is itself Biblical. Those references cannot ensure the conclusion drawn, since each verse cited clearly refers to previously existing documents—none of which by themselves are the collective canon. 3. The references are accurate in their literary scope. Literary scope is the key and we ignore it at our peril, which is exactly Andy Stanley’s point. Stanley doesn’t argue against the accuracy of the canonical texts, only against their de-contextualization, or their universal re-contextualization. To sum: The error in the author’s argument is in the conflation of the literary term “The Scriptures” and the physical collection called “The Holy Bible”. No Biblical author means “The Bible” when referring to any previous “writing” (i.e. “scripture”). That capital ‘S’ divides the body of Christ. It has done damage that we are too quick to dismiss for the sake of a type of doctrinal purity.

Lita Cosner responds:

Often people tell us we should stick with the scientific evidence because it’s stronger. That misunderstands the entire focus of our ministry, which is biblical. You speak of your disappointment with “Biblianity”, but you did not really address my article, which showed that Scripture itself has a high view of Scripture. To respond to your points:

  1. While no author refers to “the sixty-six books of Scripture”, the New Testament refers to the Law and the Prophets, a way of referring to the entirety of the Old Testament—precisely what Stanley is saying we should ‘unhitch from’. My article showed the high view the New Testament has for the Old Testament. New Testament authors also recognize other New Testament writings. For instance, Paul quotes the Gospel of Luke as Scripture, and Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture.
  2. My list shows that the term and status of Scripture is used for the Psalms, Zechariah, Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, 1-2 Kings, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus. But that wasn’t a comprehensive list, I was just wanting to make the point. The Bible is one book, and that can be established simply by looking at how interconnected it is. I produced a graphic for our booklet, How Did We Get Our Bible?, that is a visual representation of a standard Bible cross-reference dataset. You can tell that all those books belong because of the number of cross-references, and if you tried to put something else in, like Maccabees or Tobit, you would see how few cross-references there would be, indicating it doesn’t belong.
  3. “The references are accurate in their literary scope” sounds like weasel words to allow someone to deny the plain meaning of Scripture anytime it’s convenient. Everyone agrees that Scripture should be interpreted according to its genre. When David longs to hide in the shelter of Yahweh’s wings, no one asks whether God has wings like a bat, a bird, or a dragonfly—we know that David is employing poetic language. But that’s not what your statement means. Statements like yours are too often used to say, “day doesn’t really mean day”, or to interpret Adam out of existence.

You’re perceptive to note that the Scriptures divide—that’s one of their many purposes. And the people doing damage are those who threaten the doctrinal purity of the Bride of Christ, not those who seek to defend it.

Helpful Resources

Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
US $17.00
Soft Cover
From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
US $14.00
Soft Cover
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover

Readers’ comments

Jordan C.
To further my point - I don't want to misrepresent Michael, but if I understand him correctly, he is basically saying that none of the authors of the Bible, point out each and every book of the Bible directly(Genesis - Rev.), as if to call each out by name and call it the Word of God. My point is that if he were to find somewhere in any book of the Bible that any author did do such a thing, then he would be satisfied, but that would just beg the question as to why that particular writer becomes inspired by default simply because they make a particular claim he's looking for. Inspiration has to be taken as premise one for his argument to work. In so, he’d have to agree with us! I take it on reasonable faith that Jesus Christ, being God, His message would not have erred, because God cannot err, He would not have allowed for this type of error. He can use a crooked stick(the authors) to draw a straight line(the Word) as Dr. Geisler phrases. The point I made about Paul, is that I think it is reasonable that Paul was extremely familiar all of the books that we now refer to as the OT, and with the Gospels, and I seriously doubt that he would be so loose with his words when he referenced "Scripture" as to not take into account all 39 holy Scriptures circulating in the synagogues and also the Gospel message. Being that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit, if there were reason to take issue with any one of the OT books, I think he would have mentioned it. Jesus didn’t take issue with the OT, and neither did any one of the inspired authors of the Bible. Our reasonable faith as Christians, that Jesus is who He says He is, should be the best inference to settle the argument that all 66 books were indeed inspired!
Martyn M.
I tend to agree with the people who say you should stick with the scientific evidence because it’s stronger. After all doesn't CMI have a focus on attacking the foundations of Humanist worldview, Evolution. I remember as a student at University in the early nineties desperately relying on CMI for answers to the constant bombardment of evolution, only to being frustrated, at times, to seeing articles in CMI's periodicals attacking things less important such as feminism. Let CMI focus where the battle rages strongest, at evolution, where they are best qualified and not get distracted.
Lita Cosner
The fact that there are people who think that sticking with science is more consistent with CMI's mission just makes the case that we need more articles about Bible, not fewer, because these articles have always been part of what we produce. In fact, we are not evidentialist, but presuppositionalist, and the Bible is the foundation of all our writing.
Jordan C.
Brother Michael’s argument, God bless him, even if it held water, does not effectively “rule any books out” either! Besides, we have more reason to include them. His point that the 66 books cannot be logically deduced from scripture to be scripture seems self-refuting when he says that the no single "author" refers to the total 66. The next question is which author of what book was inspired by default? Paul states that "all scripture is God breathed" - 2 Timothy 3:16 Paul, an academic and scholar of his day, who was respected enough by the Sanhedrin to command a personal army against Christians was obviously familiar with the 39 books of the OT, are we assume he failed to make a specific distinction or exception to any one of the circulating scrolls read and preserved by the synagogues in day? That’s not likely considering that the 39 were already well established as inspired in Paul’s time.
If Christ trusted Peter with His message, then Peter was correct when it is written that, "no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." - 2 Peter 1:21 Again, if Peter's message is by God, can God err when Peter affirms Paul’s letters as Scripture, and Paul refers to Luke as Lita stated, a simple reference from the NT to OT makes a pretty solid case that ALL 66 are God breathed! The CMI biblical-cross reference is very powerful!
Mark Z.
For your ministry,
We set an example for others to follow by the way we conduct ourselves. Towards false beliefs, do you stand with those who sought to stone the woman caught in adultery? Paul D, wants to see Jesus along with John 3:11 as do I.
Lita Cosner
Jesus didn't stone the woman, but He did tell her to go and sin no more. Was that too judgmental of Him? We don't want to stone Stanley, but we'd like to see him stop trivializing the Word of God.
Ken P.
Without a long discussion or argument I find that a short statement of fact to support the Biblical truths is best. Is it correct and a good logic to say " you cannot add DNA only subtract ie You cannot breed horns onto a horse or zebra but you can breed horns out of a cow - please elaborate if this is correct reasoning and should I use this ?
Robert Carter
This is not correct. DNA can certainly be added. Down Syndrome is an example of 'added' DNA in humans, but there are many plant species, especially among the cultivated ones, whose genomes have been doubled or even quadrupled. It is also not correct to say that no new features can be created through mutation. Sickle cell anemia is certainly not an original variant, and it is a debilitating disease, but it represents a new trait that appeared in humans after Creation and allows carriers to better survive malaria. One can also imagine that the duplication, deletion, and rearrangement of the DNA God created could lead to new features appearing. This is not evolution, because it does not involve the creation of any complex feature from scratch, but it should be part of any robust creation model.

You are close, though. No large-scale changes (e.g., the appearance of horns when no genes for horns existed prior) can be made by the simple process of mutation and selection. So a better phrase might be, "Yes, changes occur, but the types of changes we see are insufficient to explain common ancestry." See Can Mutations Create New Information for more details.
David S.
I find your “defense of the Bible” articles your most important work. First and foremost for ANY ministry is it’s adherence to God’s word and accurately interpreting and teaching that word. If a ministry isn’t involved in that, I would argue it isn’t really a uniquely Christian ministry. So when Christian leaders in any way belittle the Scriptures or try to make excuses for God’s truth simply because our post-modern world is uncomfortable with it, they do a great disservice to ALL Christian ministries. One thing we should all be united in is our reverence for God’s word, and our fanatical defense of the Scriptures before an unbelieving world. Only Jesus has the WORDS of life!
Margaret M.
May God continue to bless your work. I thank our Saviour that you stay true to His word no matter what criticism is thrust your way. We as Christians must use the bible as our main source of truth and guidance for without it we will be tossed to and fro like waves of the sea and deception and error will take root. Praise God that He has His people in the world who are standing for His truth and speaking against error in love and will continue to do so until that day when He returns with all His angels to take us home.
Terry I.
I see nothing wrong in your response to Andy Stanley. The response to me was firm and factual. Nothing wrong with that in this day and age of watering down everything until it has no meaning whatsoever. I came to Christianity later in life while rejecting it most of my adult life. Only after a patient brother challenged me to actually read what I was criticizing (the Bible) did I actually read it. Starting with Genesis and reading it diligently and sometimes painfully through as a book, what struck me was that it was not about ancient people which had no meaning for today but rather quite the opposite. I soon discovered that it was about our world today and perhaps more importantly- myself. The Bible is a living document to me. It has as much value from cover to cover today as it has ever had, if one takes the time to diligently study it. To cast it off as ancient history with no meaning for our modern world is to miss its point completely IMHO. We need it even more desperately, not less. I think Lisa has done a good job of conveying that important message
Daniel B.
Hi to all at the CMI team :) Thanks so much for addressing the Andy Stanley issue in regards to 'unhitching from the Old Testament.' It is something that must be addressed. Thanks Lita, for your responses here. Hope you are well!
David J.
I think Paul D from Australia is arguing (inadvertently it looks to me) a form of post-modernism in that since we can't know truth, make sure we are as dogmatic in outlining we are not attacking your views or person (as you/they are what you believe). Lita, I find your replys to correspondence received well thought-out and from a Christian perspective. Best wishes to you and all the CMI worldwide team & their families in 2019.For over 15 years, I have attended CMI lecture/workshops (latest Red Beer, ab , Canada conference). I recently circulated your (co-authored with Mr Bates) excellent booklet "how did we get our bible-- and is it the word of god) with an adult Sunday School friend. Great resource to counter liberal thought and heresy. David j
Dan M.
The bible author's including Jesus used metaphor's to give like, examples of what they were trying to say. When Jesus said, 'heaven is like" in his teaching, he didn't intend His statement to be taken as physical fact. it was an allegory teaching but everyone gets the point accept those who want a different meaning to suit themselves. He was teaching a truth about heaven or God the father that a child could understand and it wasn't open to interpretation. If Jesus was and is, truly God incarnate, (I believe so) and he taught from the old testament, in my mind that gives the old testament full authority and accuracy. If you think He was not God incarnate then you are up the river without a canoe, for tomorrow we die. A metaphor, but you know what I mean.
No one should have to apologize for telling the truth, including CMI. When you back away, ( a metaphor) from the scriptures and take a look at the whole package, (another metaphor) you can see that the old and new testament agree and is in fact the word of God the Father, of Jesus the Son and of the Holy Spirit.....
You don't have to agree with the bible. God gave you freedom to choose Him or the god's of your own choosing, (manufacture). As Joshua said, "choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve", Jos 24:15.
Thank you Father for your Word, your Son and your Spirit!
Meg S.
Andy Stanley’s “solution” to helping people who have been “rejecting Christianity because they are basing their faith on an inerrant book, and that’s unnecessary” is yet another appeal to easy believe-ism, of which we have had too many in the western Church. In the Introduction to his book, Stanley writes: “Why is the church so resistible? Jesus wasn’t. Once upon a time, his church wasn’t either.” If this had been written by just anyone, one would say, well, they’ve obviously never read the New Testament; they know nothing of history. What does Stanley do with, for instance, John 6:60-66 (specifically v. 66: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him”?). What does he do with the historical fact of the persecuted NT Church? The Lord Jesus with His original message was eminently resistible, to the point of betrayal and murder. Nothing has changed (just ask the persecuted Christians of today, who are bravely holding on to the most basic, original tenets of the faith, and being beheaded for that message). Rightly does Stanley begin his message with “Once upon a time…” because his is a fairy tale, with all the salvific force of “The Little Match Girl”. The best summation of the case is Ms. Cosner’s statement that “the Scriptures divide—that’s one of their many purposes.” If God were interested in illusory thinking, He wouldn’t have compared His Word to a sharp and double-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). May we all pray that His Word will penetrate to Stanley’s thoughts and attitudes, and draw Him to the truth, even if some truth is “a hard teaching” (John 6:60). Thank you, CMI, for continuing to defend the whole truth of Scripture.
James M.
Well said Lita. And thanks to everyone at CMI for your wonderful and truthful ministry. I thoroughly enjoy your articles and we have used them on occasion over the years to teach our children.
Mike S.
Hi Lita, Thank you for making clear one of the serious misunderstandings in our day. I'm referring to the way so many Christian's fail to see the necessity of admonition and correction as simple obedience to the Biblical instruction to love one another. As you always make clear, it is never simply a matter of opinion, but 'what does the Lord say' that settles a question. We also love the ministry of CMI for the unashamed appeal to Scripture rather than science as the highest authority, while showing how good science supports Scripture rather than contradicts it. Your writings strengthen us. Thank you.
Ira E.
As usual, Lita does a fantastic job of explaining proper use of Scripture. I think that we (people, us) find certain scriptures distasteful because it challenges us more than we want to face.
Gian Carlo B.
This article is another reason why I respect you guys as a ministry. I respect other Christian Apologists in their own specific field, but the last third point took it home for me. It's typical of both Old Earthers and TE's to wave statements such as "we need to interpret the text according to its social background". Well duh, that's a non-issue. The point is "what did the authors mean to say when they say X _according to the social backgrounds they lived in". Young Agers simply say "sometimes, a day is an Earth rotation day". But when you guys say that, you are suddenly fundamentalists wackos. Which is most disingenous. A fundamentalist (in its connatative term at least) is someone who reads a text without regards to its proper context and proper hermeneutics, which is anti-thetical to what CMI does with their Genesis defense. So TE's and their allies either need to put up with the arguments or shut up. There are sophisticated exegetical arguments for a 24-hour Earth day interpretation in Genesis 1-2 than their strawman "It says day so it obviously means a day, duuuuuuh".
As for the judgmental accusation: give me a break. By that argument, everyone is a judgmentalist, even Mother Theresa. What he is saying is you guys are critical, which is not really a problem. I'm 'judgmental' when I choose between a well made food over one that tastes bullocks, and yet no reasonable person calls me foul for "judging food". When people say you shouldn't be judgmental, in a proper context, what they really say is you shouldn't evaluate their moral demeanor after they did something wrong they know it's wrong (otherwise why would they complain?). But if it's something good, suddenly being judgmental is ok.
Charmaine C.
Excellent answer, Lita Cosner- in both regard satisfying.
Dean R.
Man shall not live by bread alone...Matt 4:4. Inscripturated,inspired & unified words of God that we may resist assualts from within or without.God gives us a book that covers all the subjects but somehow its not good enough? Faith in historical science (alledged, assumed facts with lots of unspoken problems and power plays) seems to change every 5 or 15 minutes but somehow it is reliable and foundational. Whether you are young or old the one eternal God alone is super reliable (like His Word) and faithful forever.
Graham P.
Excellent article. And those weasel words? very accurate :) I attended a 3 month home bible study recently at my church, which used Andy Stanley's DVD series, about the difficulties of living in today's world. I was continually disturbed at his lack of any reference at all to the scriptures. It is not surprising to me that Andy sees no need for them, when his teaching does not require them.
But what about John the Baptist or Jesus? How did they criticise people who taught non-scriptural concepts to others? 'Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees' and 'You brood of vipers, who warned you of the wrath to come?' or 'You listen to your father the devil' It's hard to see how anything could be more harsh. And yet it's our loving and gracious Lord who said it. It is loving to call people out on their sins, even in public. Therefore if we say that being 'judgemental' is always wrong, we are going to have to disagree with the Lord Himself
King T.
WOW! Thank you very much Lita for answering the charges against CMI in such a well thought out manner. It definitely helps me in responding to the usual litany of things people immediately respond with when I raise an opposing viewpoint.
The comment from Michael T. is of the usual verbose and thoroughly opaque kind when people want to condone un-biblical teachings and lifestyles. All too often words like "join the conversation", "emerging" and "literal interpretation / literary scope" tend to signal such deviation from plain biblical readings. I really struggled to understand what he was getting at and didn't bother to try and decode it so your plain and straightforward reply made it clear. Please keep up the good work. God Bless.

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