Can you love Jesus and reject His Word?

by ,

Published: 27 September 2018 (GMT+10)
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, August 2018

Andy Stanley, pastor of Atlanta’s North Point Community Church which averages 36,000 people per week across 6 campuses, recently presented a 3-part series of messages.1 In the series, he teaches that the Old Testament and the New Testament contradict each other, and that Christians should not ask “What does the Bible say?” but “What does the New Testament say?” or “What does Jesus say?”, and that we should not look to the Old Testament or the Ten Commandments for Christian norms.

iStockphotobook-heart-2

An instinctive reaction might be to simply label Stanley as a dangerous false teacher. But to be able to respond graciously and effectively, it’s helpful to try to understand his motivation, and show that a stance that honors the entirety of God’s Word answers his concerns more effectively than his proposal, which actually has been shown to empty the churches faster, rather than stem the tide of youth exiting the church.2

What should be the foundation for our faith?

Stanley says the Bible should not be the foundation for our faith, because then if the Bible is shown not to be 100% true, our faith is in danger.3 However, if we remove 2/3 of the Scriptures, what is left of the faith to pass on to the next generation? The historical claims, like the global Flood and what Stanley refers to as “the creation myth” are the foundation not just for the Old Testament, but for the theology of the Gospel for the New Testament authors as well.

His teachings betray a serious lack of trust in God’s Word, and he seems to show more respect to the New Atheists, who he quotes as men of integrity and intelligence, than he does to the Old Testament. Compare this to the Apostle Paul, who said that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul was speaking about the Old Testament here.

And every time Jesus referred to the Scriptures, that settled the issue. If something had been communicated wrongly, He had ample opportunity to say, “Hey wait a minute, fellas, you’re taking this whole Word of God thing too seriously!” Luke 24:27 says that after the resurrection, Jesus took time to have a Bible study with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus said, “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Paul’s method of evangelism was to reason with the Jews from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2). Paul also says that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Romans 15:4). That means that the Old Testament was written ultimately for Christians! Paul instructed Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture—the Old Testament, even though Timothy was ministering to a church of mostly Gentiles (1 Timothy 4:13).

Every New Testament doctrine rests on the Old Testament’s historical precedents.4 This is the self-evident position of Jesus and the Apostles and the early church. As Christians, we must not sell our birthright of the entire canon of Scripture just to try to gain respectability with unbelievers.

Are people leaving the church because of the Old Testament?

At the very beginning of the first sermon in the series, Andy Stanley says,

“If you gave up on Christianity because of something in the Bible, or something about the Bible, something that was actually in the Bible or something you heard or read about the Bible, you may have given up on Christianity unnecessarily.”

At least we can be charitable as to his intentions of keeping people in the faith, but what sort of faith will it be? This method was tried once before by Bill Hybels’s Willow Creek Church, which became known as the ‘seeker sensitive’ movement. After conducting a multi-year study of results, an article noted:

“If you simply want a crowd, the ‘seeker sensitive’ model produces results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states: ‘We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their Bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.’”5

But Stanley’s response to this perceived rejection is to say that the Old Testament is not meant to be the foundation of the Christian’s faith, despite the NT authors basing their theological teachings on the Old Testament. The correct response is not to jettison the Old Testament, but to stand more firmly on the whole of Scripture and show people their error. And thankfully there is a huge wealth of resources to draw on, from Scripture itself to the Church Fathers to the Reformers to great modern apologists and commentators. The very reason CMI exists is to bring this sort of information to churches.

Stanley has no excuse—it appears he has just not bothered to find out if there is this sort of information to support the Bible’s history. Instead, he tacitly accepts a secular, that is, non-Christian, worldview being applied to the Bible. This is upside-down thinking.6

He says that we are sending kids out with a Sunday School version of the faith that isn’t going to hold up when they are confronted by a skeptical world. Ironically, we couldn’t agree more. But rather than discarding the Old Testament, we embrace it and stand on it as the solid foundation Jesus and the New Testament authors believed it to be. As our FALLOUT student survey showed,2 it was the unchallenged acceptance of evolution that was the major reason for youth discarding the Christian faith.

And again, our FALLOUT DVD showed that when college students are taught in church that the Bible’s account of creation is true and historical, and are given evidence to defend it, they were more likely to maintain their faith after they left home.

This should be an encouragement as to the whole truth of Scripture, that will help build a fully-formed worldview that can withstand the secular attacks they are likely to encounter in college. Sadly, instead of equipping his church to combat these anti-Christian assumptions, Stanley seems to have accepted them.

The creation myth?

When a major, influential leader teaches in such a way, we have no option but to highlight his errors. For example, Stanley had a throwaway line where he mentioned “the Genesis creation myth” as something that might be a stumbling block to people. Calling it a ‘myth’ reveals a lot about Stanley’s view of creation and of the Old Testament in general. He seems to think it’s untrue and actually an impediment to people coming to faith if we insist on it.

However, the rest of Scripture praises God as the Creator. Creation in six days, and God’s rest on the seventh, is the model for the Sabbath in the Mosaic Law (Exodus 20). Jesus says, “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female” and referred to “righteous Abel” as the first martyr. He compared the global effect of His second coming to Noah’s Flood, as did Peter. Paul explained that the fact Adam was made first, then Eve, and Eve’s deception have implications for church order today. Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam. Paul insists that we get salvation from Christ in the same way that we get sin from Adam, and he even goes back to Adam to explain the resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15).

This means that creation isn’t an optional doctrine for Christians. We have an all or nothing type of faith, and the authors of Scripture were confident enough in God’s Word to maintain that even in a hostile culture.

iStockphotobible

Is today unique?

Andy Stanley made statements throughout the series to the effect that naïve belief in the Old Testament may have been okay for previous generations, but this generation is leaving the church because of the Old Testament, and we have to do something, or we will lose them. But Christianity has faced hostile audiences for 2,000 years. The Athenians didn’t like the doctrine of the resurrection—and that was the climax of Paul’s Areopagus sermon. That wasn’t accidental, and we know that because wherever Paul was preaching the Gospel, he was emphasizing the parts that were the stumbling blocks to the culture. This is known as ‘objection overcoming’. He insisted that where the Gospel challenged the culture, Christians had to choose the Gospel over the culture, and he showed the non-believers that the Gospel had a basis in history and truth. He also did this regarding the way masters treated their servants, in the way husbands treated their wives, in the way they viewed people of different social standing, and in the way they worshipped God.

Looking at how Paul used his biblical worldview to confront the culture and explain doctrine in his letters, it’s a glaring contrast to Stanley’s wholesale surrender of 2/3 of his Bible because of a few ‘garden-variety atheists’, with their tired, old arguments that have been answered time and again. If this is what he does with some ridicule, one wonders what he would do in a place in the world where Christians are persecuted or even martyred.

You cannot love Jesus without loving his Word—all of it.

Andy Stanley says we should ask what Jesus teaches, not what the Bible teaches. But how does he know what Jesus taught except from the Bible? And it’s clear that Jesus completely accepted the OT’s history, He loved God’s Word, and He teaches us to do so, as well. Why cannot people see this inconsistency?

References and notes

  1. The ‘Aftermath’ series of sermons, preached in April 2018, is available at northpoint.org. Return to text.
  2. See our survey of why youth leave the church, creation.com/fallout. Return to text.
  3. See creation.com/loving-the-bible-to-death. Return to text.
  4. The use of Genesis in the New Testament, creation.com/nt. Return to text.
  5. A Shocking ‘Confession’ from Willow Creek Community Church, townhall.com/columnists/bobburney/2007/10/30/a-shocking-%E2%80%9Cconfession%E2%80%9D-from-willow-creek-community-church-n1381140, 15 May 2018. Return to text.
  6. Thinking ‘upside-down’!, creation.com/thinking-upside-down. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

From Creation to Salvation
by Lita Cosner
From
US $12.00
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
From
US $17.00
How Did We Get Our Bible?
by Lita Cosner, Gary Bates
From
US $3.50

Readers’ comments

James K.
The thing is Christ actually emphasizes the events in genesis even more strongly than various characters in the Old Testament. You don’t hear David saying ‘all descended from Adam’ or ‘in six days God created the world’. The reason is obvious. Christ is God, and God is in the position to tell us how He created His world.
Bill P.
There are already to many people who claim to love Jesus Christ yet profane and hate His Word claiming it has nothing to do w/today's world or only use part of His Word to advance their cause and throw away the rest of it because it convicts them because of the lifestyle they live.
As far as the prophetic word which comes to around 25% of The Word of God they don't want to hear or study it. Sadly many ministers tell their flocks not to pay attention to prophecy or bother w/The O.T.
The Word of God is The word of God and being led by The Holy Spirit of God it opens our eye's and heart to The Ways of The Lord God and the destiny of ALL men and women throughout history.
Ian H.
Although this point is somewhat covered in the text the NT books were written from at least 51 - 110 AD, 1 Thessalonians , One of the earliest of the genuine Pauline epistles, 2 Peter the last. The point however is that the early Church had the Old Testament for quite a time until the Gospels and Letters were circulated. So, without the OT where would the doctrines of the early Church particularly those based on Genesis have come from? Another point, the Noble Bereans what did they study daily in the absence of the NT?
Albertus V.
So very sorry to hear that from a man which I once thought taught the clear accurate gospel. I guess another one moved from the list of good preachers to the prayer list... Thank you for sharing.
God bless this ministry CMI
Jon A.
When I encountered an evangelical, Bible-teaching church about 30 years ago, my pastor/spiritual mentor taught four lessons each week: adult Sunday School (1-hour message), Sunday morning worship (1-hour message), Sunday evening worship (1-hour message), Thursday night Bible study (90-minute message). Each was on a different book of the Bible, and each proceeded verse-by-verse.

I noticed that on average three of four messages were on the Old Testament. When queried about this, his response was that God through the Holy Spirit gave us three-quarters of Scripture as Old Testament and that his job was to teach in accordance to the proportion of revelation given. He made no other distinction between OT and NT and taught as if both were a single, seamless fabric which the Bible is.

In later years as I have begun teaching, I have received a lot of flak for teaching disproportionately on Old Testament texts. One of my brothers even accused me of being a “Judaizer.” My response to such criticism is somewhat less charitable than my mentor’s, “If God intended no purpose to the Old Testament, then He could have simply hit the delete button and expunged the first 39 books of the hard-drive of the Canon!”

Both Deuteronomy 12: 32 and Revelation 22: 18-19 warn us of the consequences of adding to or taking away from the Canon of Scripture.
Kristin R.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is tp judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, edure suffering, do the work of an evangelist,fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:1-5

Paul, Timothy, and all of our brothers and sisters who have gone before endured this phenomenon of “ithcing ears” and we are seeing it today in many teachers. Thank you, CMI, for your ministry, encouragement, and boldness to write critical, yet humble and courteous responses and articles to people and papers in our world today. God bless!
Col M.
Although I have moved to a bible believing church from an old earth creationist one I still attend Thursday morning men’s prayer at the old one. I brought up this article and was told you have misquoted him. They seem to “tolerate” my YEC stand but don’t like me “criticising men like this who must be doing well because of the size of their church!” Wide is the path that leads to destruction ...
Lita Cosner
Of course, we always do our best to ensure that we accurately represent the views of those we critique. Anyone can go to Northpoint's website to view the sermons for themselves and judge whether we have accurately represented Stanley's message.
Col M.
Thanks Lita, I just started watching his Aftermath sermon. He has given up on Genesis! His premise is, “if Genesis is wrong, is the whole Bible untrustworthy?” That premise is true. But conversely if Genesis is actual history, we ignore it at our peril. His whole attitude changed because of a book written by atheists. If I watched this sermon without my CMI influence I would be sucked right in. But right from the start he discredits the Old Testament. I feel sorry for this church.
Ken K.
The OT is the NT cosealed . The NT is the OT revealed.
Dan M.
(2Th 2:3)  Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
Yet another prophesy fulfilled by the falling away of some from the church of Christ! We are no doubt in the last days and people are falling away from the faith but let us not make it easy for them by preaching the gospel in truth and in love letting the Spirit of God convict.
I have no good idea how people can think Jesus departed from old testament? It can't be believed in light of Jesus's own words. It is obvious to me, Jesus being the only pre-existent begotten son of God, (if you believe it) would know the true history of the earth from the creation until now since He did it all.
You really can't have it both ways if you know the scriptures.
Albie D.
God says exactly what He means and means exactly what He says, and that Record proofed itself indestructible through all of time. Whether we like it or not, whether the pseudo science He warned Timothy against proclaim something else, we have the factual, historical, scientific Truth and the Power of the One who Created everything freely available to liberate. Only one person agreeing with God is an overwhelming majority, irrespective of congregation size. May we all realize the urgency to boldly proclaim the Truth of Christ.The wellness of nations, (including His and our beloved South Africa) desperately depends on ordinary people to unashamedly proclaim His truth out of His Love. Be bold and strong, God is with us.
David S.
And why not call a spade a spade? Again, I am at a loss as to why the believing church is so reticent to call a false teacher a false teacher. It’s one thing to be wrong in our interpretations of Scripture, but quite another to denigrate God’s word to the point that this man, and others like him, have. I know we want to think the best of all men and not quickly judge another’s motives, but there comes a point when enough is enough. If you don’t like what the Bible has to say, get out of the pulpit, please! The last thing that the anemic church in America needs is another so called preacher that’s embarrassed by God’s word, which happens to be the only thing that will bring us back to life!
Richard P.
So 'Christians should not ask “What does the Bible say?” but “What does the New Testament say?” '. Really, Mr Stanley? Then what exactly does the New Testament say? Time after time after time it asserts the authority of the OT scriptures. There are 27 NT books, and as far as I can tell every one of them (with the possible exception of the shorter letters Philemon, 2John, 3John) contains either allusions to the OT, or direct quotations from it. This must amount to many hundreds of references - perhaps someone has tried to count them? The majority of these expressly refer to OT teaching as authoritative, as definitively settling an argument, as the word of God which must be fulfilled. The NT declares that the OT is true! Therefore to promote the NT at the expense of the OT is a glaring logical inconsistency, which must actually be very difficult to sidestep in preaching on almost any NT passage. So how can these 36000 people not see it? How can Mr Stanley not see it himself? I'm in agreement with David S. (October 1st comment) on this!
Dale S.
Christian greetings!
You cannot reject God's Word (Holy Bible) and just love Jesus. It is a contradiction to do this. The Holy Bible is the written word from our Creator, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the Living Word (John 1:1-5,) who came in the flesh (John 1:14),(I Timothy 3:16). You must love God's Word from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. The Old Testament compliments the New Testament because without the Old Testament you cannot understand the New Testament. Without faith in God's Word you cannot please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Sincerely in Christ,
Dale Stuckwish

Comments are automatically closed 14 days after publication.