Posted in Apologetics, Christian Faith

The Christian faith doesn’t rise and fall on the accuracy of 66 ancient documents

A while back I saw this in a presuppositional apologetics Facebook group I am a member of.

I am not on Twitter so I did not see the since deleted tweet nor any of the comments or additional context/explanation Stanley may have provided there. One of the things I actually hate about Twitter (other than that it is generally a dumpster fire) is that tweets are often ripped from whatever context there may have been and used to build a case against the tweeter which is, I think, unfair.

That said, this tweet does look bad but, still, it does deserve fair treatment rather than the scorn it seems to be getting.

In full disclosure I make it a habit to give pastors, unless they have proved themselves to be blatantly heretical, the benefit of the doubt as well as what could be considered by some an undue amount of grace.

The work of a pastor is not only deadly serious, it’s hard. And that, combined with the fact that we all have different philosophies about how to run a church, different target audiences, different personalities, and different teaching and preaching styles, makes it that much harder. So knocking a pastor because he is not leading, preaching, and teaching in the exact same manner I would is, and I hate to overuse the term, unfair.

Anyway, I did an assignment a couple months ago where I had to compare and contrast a book written by Andy Stanley with a book written by another pastor. Here is an excerpt from that assignment I think is relevant, emphasis added.

It is an unconventional approach to want people to attend a church knowing full well that they may not buy the theology but Stanley and his team “are committed to creating churches for unchurched people and fighting the pull for their churches to become churches for church people.”[4] Stanley realized that there was a problem with how traditional churches do church and a new way ahead was needed so unconventional was his objective. But if truth suffers because of his objective, then the objective should be questioned. Stanley writes that “People are far more interested in what works than what’s true. I hate to burst your bubble, but virtually nobody in your church is on a truth quest, including your spouse. They are on happiness quests.”[5] Assuming this is true, is biblical truth being sacrificed in order to make the unchurched Stanley is trying to attract to his church happy? Stanley also writes that, “Attractional or seeker friendly churches who strive to be so accepting they extend too much grace truth becomes a casualty.”[6]

The consumerism, desire to make people happy with their church experience, and a disproportionate desire to attract the unchurched rather than feed the churched can have a negative impact on seeker friendly and attractional churches and Stanley obviously understands that. There is no data in Stanley’s book to suggest his church has suffered but that possibility certainly exists and he may need to adjust his church’s laser focus on the unchurched and their happiness quests and make much of the Gospel instead.

James A. Hatt

As I noted in the assignment. Stanley clearly understands that his attractional church model can cause truth to become a casualty yet he is pressing on and I think this is dangerous. Not heretical, per-se, but it is not a good path for someone who has a biblical mandate to stand on biblical truth to be on.

In an article in Outreach Magazine, Stanley explains his position.

For post-Christians, common sense, science, philosophy and reason are the go-tos for worldviews and decision-making. Post-Christian nones have a low tolerance for faith-based answers to fact-based questions. At the same time, like most of us, they aren’t exactly on a truth quest either. They’re on a happiness quest. Many walked away from faith because faith didn’t make them happy. That’s never a presenting reason. Nobody wants to appear that shallow. But scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find the quest for happiness plays a big role. When faith is viewed as an impediment to happiness, goodbye faith. The seemingly irrational, anti-science version of faith many were brought up on makes it that much easier to simply walk away. Given all of that, this next statistic should not come as any surprise. When asked about their views of Scripture, 72 percent of nones said that it is not the Word of God. This data is corroborated by data compiled in a massive study conducted by the Barna Group.

Outreach

Credit where credit is due, Stanley has his finger directly on the pulse of post-Christians. He gets them and he understands how they think. On them, I think Stanley and I are in complete agreement. Where we part ways is how to reach them.

A few months ago my pastor said that love without truth is meaningless and truth without love is mean and that is something all pastors need to be constantly aware of in our messaging, our teaching, our preaching, and our evangelism. I think Stanley means well but he is dancing on the edge of a razor and he is in real danger of falling off into a space that is all love, acceptance, and happiness and no truth.

Stanley understands the go-tos for post-Christian worldviews and has an admirable desire to reach the unchurched, dechurched, and nones. But this cannot be done by conceding any ground regarding biblical truths to them no matter how congenial we may think it makes us. Ultimately our goal is not to acknowledge that people are on a happiness quest and change the trajectory of our churches and tailor what our churches offer our communities to make people happier. Instead, our singular focus needs to be acknowledging that the unchurched, dechurched, and nones are dead and that the Gospel is the only thing that can make them alive.

In the same Outreach article, Stanley also wrote this which, I think, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of people as the Bible describes them.

There is an important distinction between a non-Christian and a post-Christian. The reason our evangelistic endeavors result in more recycling than actual conversion is that our methods and approaches assume non-Christian rather than post-Christian.

Although I get what he is trying to say there is no distinction between non-Christians and post-Christians at all, they are equally dead. Post-Christians may appear to be hipper and cooler, and have better and more philosophical or scientific reasons to reject faith but, on a fundamental level, they are no different than the proud Greeks of Paul’s day and no less dead without a savior. In other words, Stanley is simply putting a modern veneer on an old problem.

Perhaps the most damming thing Stanley said to defend himself is this.

Appealing to post-Christian people on the basis of the authority of Scripture has essentially the same effect as a Muslim imam appealing to you on the basis of the authority of the Quran. You may or may not already know what it says. But it doesn’t matter. The Quran doesn’t carry any weight with you. You don’t view the Quran as authoritative.

Again, I get it, post-Christians don’t view the Bible as authoritative, unbelievers of all kinds never have and never will, it is nothing new. That should be Christianity 101. But the answer to this is not to diminish the truth of the Bible to appear more reasonable or in touch with a “modern and more discerning” generation of dead people but to stand on the Bible as literally the only truth that exists.

Jesus also said that the written Word of God is truth. It does not merely contain nuggets of truth; it is pure, unchangeable, and inviolable truth that (according to Jesus) “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Praying to His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples, He said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Moreover, the Word of God is eternal truth “which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

John MacArthur

The problem with post-Christians is not that they don’t accept the Bible as authoritative but that pastors concede to them that belief and willingly try to appeal to them in other ways when there are no other ways.

I want to make it clear that I am not trying to knock Andy Stanley. I think he loves God, loves people, and that he sincerely wants to be faithful to his calling as a pastor. I also admire his desire to reach the unchurched, I have the same desire, they need the Gospel desperately.

But he is grossly in error when he puts the inviolable Word of Truth under the authority of the opinion of people who are dead in sin. The Bible doesn’t carry any weight with unbelievers? So what. Stand on it anyway.

While meeting people where they are is a biblical concept there is no scriptural support for anything other than the fact that the Bible is the very Word of Truth from beginning to end.

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11 thoughts on “The Christian faith doesn’t rise and fall on the accuracy of 66 ancient documents

    1. Have you ever done a post about the supposed contradiction between obeying God and obeying civil authorities?

      A guy in the FB group with no theological education noted on his profile is using Scripture to justify Christian anarchy. He has been corrected multiple times and does not seem to be willing to concede he is wrong. Seems almost trolling but I hate to make that judgement because there is a chance he is sincere but hardheaded.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have written my comment on those posts; he’s interacted with one saying he willl think about it but he continues to write and comment with others; that comment he didn’t respond to was what I made into a post here: https://veritasdomain.wordpress.com/2022/03/05/question-is-romans-13-about-church-leadership/
        In the guy’s latest post on 1 Peter, he didn’t even respond to me at all my comment; its below your comment and I wrote it about 24 hours ago. My long comment will become a post sometime this week, since I didn’t want to waste all that research for him to just ignore it

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I went back and saw your comment. Last time I saw someone behaving in such a manner they came out as an atheist. Not saying that’s what this guy will do but something about him is off.

          In all my studying I have never read anyone who has the same views, ever. No commentaries, theologians, pastor friends, professors…no one. I am nearly as smart about theology as a lot of people but I do understand if I think something and I am the only person with the same thought, I am probably wrong.

          I love that people study the Bible but they should never go it alone like he seems to be doing.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I feel the same like you, if I came up with something and everyone opposed it, I think a big red flag would start waving in my head. I can’t think of an example with doctrines but I can think of examples where I have people push back with my idea of philosophy of ministry, where if everyone don’t think it’s a good idea to apply a certain way of how to do church, well it makes me stop and seriously reconsider it. But this guy seems to keep going is concerning as you noted

            Liked by 1 person

            1. With doing church people have a lot of latitude, with doctrine not so much.

              Not sure why this guy is bothering me so much, there are a ton of nutty ideas out there. Oh well, I think I am going to give it a rest.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. Sorry I’m not on FB or I’d maybe check it the conversation. It’s an odd claim to put scripture against faith in Jesus, as we would know Jesus apart from scripture. And what is Jesus if not the one from scripture. I don’t know Stanley but I know the type. Anything outside of scripture that is assigned some form of spiritual authority ends up being counter to scripture. Good stuff. Keep up the good work.

    Like

    1. I actually didn’t take part in the conversation but did notice people were not too kind to Stanley.

      I am not very familiar with his teaching either but I did read one of his books and I have heard him preach a few times. Didn’t hear anything heretical but it’s pretty standard mega church, sealer friendly fare.

      He is Charles Stanley’s son so he has been under some pretty solid teaching. But, in an effort to be popular with the unchurched, he has been treading on some pretty dangerous ground.

      Long story short, I agree with you that it’s a very odd claim for sure.

      Thanks for the comment and the encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

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