A. Stanley affirms inerrancy

Stanley has issued a straightforward affirmation of biblical inerrancy.

Stanley has issued a straightforward affirmation of biblical inerrancy. In an article for Outreach Magazine, Stanley explains that the difference between himself and many conservative evangelicals isn’t doctrinal but methodological.

Glad to hear that. Far better, in this instance, for us to disagree on our methods. Case closed.

UNIDENTIFIED CYNIC: Why did Stanley need a co-author for “his” explanation???

Engaging the anti-critics

Some of us are convinced that AS’s prescription for deconversion will end up doing more harm than good. Should we still keep quiet?

Last week I tweeted a link to Michael Kruger’s response to a recent message by Andy Stanley (AS) in which Stanley asserted that a mature Christian faith can’t be sustained by “the Bible says so” mindset.

Since my massive following on the interweb isn’t a monolithic group of like-minded cynics, critics, and ministerial Luddites, I wasn’t surprised to see contrary opinions toward Kruger’s piece. What was unexpected (but not surprising) was the dismissive stance toward the criticism in general (i.e. the act not the substance).

My purpose here isn’t to rehash any of the details from Stanley’s talk or Kruger’s critique but to offer a different perspective for the anti-critics who seem to fit somewhere within the following cross-section:

  1. The Groupies — Pastor X¹ can do no wrong. In the face of criticism, he is a priori impeccable.
  2. The Ends-Justifies-The-Message — Maybe he shouldn’t say xyz but he’s bringing people to Jesus. God is blessing his ministry so who are you to criticize?
  3. The Matthew 18 Peaceniks — Pointing out the error is just as wrong (if not more so) than the error itself because you haven’t personally spoken to Pastor X.²

Regardless of where the anti-critic finds his motivation I hope these thoughts might lend a new perspective on these friendly skirmishes:

(1) If it’s a conversation then we should converse. AS and North Point don’t “preach” they have “conversations.” All fine and good. But words mean things and a conversation is, by definition, an exchange of ideas. So let’s talk.

(2) Don’t assume the worst in the critic. Yes, there are AS-detractors for whom AS can neither say nor do anything good. Kruger’s critique, however, was a far cry from the irrational rant one would expect from a devoted detractor. His was measured and irenic. Some of us are convinced that AS’s prescription for deconversion will end up doing more harm than good. Should we still keep quiet?

(3) If AS can passionately assert we can certainly tolerate a dispassionate critique. As is true of most effective communicators, AS is passionate in his efforts to win the deconverted. Conviction expressed with passion is infectious. But when a contrary view can’t even be countenanced it’s worth asking what we find more attractive–light or heat.

As a man who is nothing if not hip and relevant, I’m all about continuing the dialogue. Feel free to talk back.

¹Groupies aren’t limited to AS. Every high profile pastor of every theological stripe has his groupies.

²See D. A. Carson’s editorial for helpful clarification and correction on the application of Matthew 18.

A passion is worth a thousand words

If our passionate convictions would be laughed out of the room by persecuted Christians, we might consider new convictions. At the very least we should dial back on the passion & authority when we share them.

At some point in a Feb 28 message entitled “Saved by the Church” Andy Stanley said:

When I hear adults say, “Well I don’t like a big church, I like about 200, I want to be able to know everybody,” I say, “You are so stinking selfish. You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids [or] anybody else’s kids” … If you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big old church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church. Instead… you drag your kids to a church they hate, and then they grow up and hate the local church. They go to college, and you pray that there will be a church in the college town that they connect with. Guess what? All those churches are big.

When the video clip started making the rounds on internets and Google machines AS issued an apology:

Some dispassionate thoughts on the firestorm from North Point:

1. Lackluster apology – Maybe AS will say more¹ the next time he takes the stage but tweeting an apology seems like the least one can do—literally. It’s not that we need to legislate apologies but somehow a tweet just doesn’t seem up to the task in a situation like this. It’s also impossible to know what he’s apologizing for–what was it that he also found offensive?

2. Nothing new under the sun – AS has expressed similar sentiments before. Take, for example, the following passage from Deep & Wide. I’ll leave it to the reader to identify the common themes between the two quotes but we should ask: At what point do these comments begin to reflect a man’s philosophy or theology?

If you try [to teach as if people are seeking truth and not happiness], you will end up with a little congregation of truth seekers who consider themselves superior to all the other Christians in the community. But at the end of the day, you won’t make an iota of difference in this world. And your kids—more than likely your kids—are going to confuse your church with the church, and once they are out of your house, they probably won’t visit the church house. Then one day they will show up in a church like mine and want to get baptized again because they won’t be sure the first one took. And I’ll be happy to pastor your kids. (115)

3. Homiletical chickens come home to roost – It seems like only yesterday that AS characterized expository preaching “cheating” and “easy” before concluding that effective preaching is “one point that is somehow connected to a passage and it is connected to a life.” [emphasis added] Every preacher will put his foot in his mouth at some point no matter what his preaching style (verse-by-verse, thematic, topical, etc.). But when your sermon isn’t tethered to a specific text, the risk of foot-in-mouth increases because you tend to make your point rather than the Scripture’s point.

4. Proof texting – related to #3, the offending comments aren’t even “somehow connected” to a passage.

5. Failing the PC test™ — I’m all for “contextualization” and “enculturated” preaching but if you’re going to be passionate about something you might as well be passionate about what is universally true. It really is sobering to think that much of our “insight” doesn’t reflect truth for all so much as what’s true for us. In that respect, I’ve found it helpful to ask how well our claims would hold up in the context of a persecuted church. If our passionate convictions would be laughed out of the room by persecuted Christians, we might consider new convictions. At the very least we should dial back on the passion & authority when we share them.

6. Passion sticks – Perhaps most disconcerting is that, by his own admission², AS is passionate about building big churches with separate youth groups. We don’t need to infer that he doesn’t really love Jesus or that he’s not a Christian. But passion doesn’t come by spontaneous generation. Passion is cultivated. And in that respect the passion behind Stanley’s remarks is just as telling as the speech itself.

At the end of the day, episodes like this bring me back to D. A. Carson’s word of caution:

If the gospel—even when you are orthodox—becomes something which you primarily assume, but what you are excited about is what you are doing in some sort of social reconstruction, you will be teaching the people that you influence that the gospel really isn’t all that important. You won’t be saying that—you won’t even mean that—but that’s what you will be teaching. And then you are only half a generation away from losing the gospel.

¹Stanley has more to say on the controversy here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2016/march-web-only/megachurch-pastor-andy-stanley-explains-controversial-remar.html

²The video of Stanley’s remarks, which has since been removed, records him interjecting “Can you tell I’m passionate about this?”

Not to beat a dead horse…

I was done with the kerfuffle over Andy Stanley’s handling of Scripture with the skeptic. Honest I was. But then I saw that Denny Burk, who offered a critique of Stanley’s comments here, had penned a follow-up post due, in part, to comments Stanley contributed to the original post.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that Stanley offered further comments so I thought to add them here. Have we achieved clarity yet?

FireShot Screen Capture #016 FireShot Screen Capture #017 FireShot Screen Capture #018 FireShot Screen Capture #019

The Curiously Disappearing Video

The video of Andy Stanley commenting on his approach to Adam & Eve through the Scriptures is “no longer available due to a copyright claim by The Rocket Company.” For what it’s worth the Rocket Company has Andy Stanley in their lineup for a free online preaching event in June (along with Charles Stanley & Crawford Loritts).

The video started making the rounds when it was posted at Here I Blog. North Point has provided a response (of sorts) to a reader which has also been posted at Here I Blog. I would encourage you to read it for yourself and make your own assessment. Here are my thoughts.

First, the statement is more of a non-statement. The only material point made in regard to the video is this: In the part of the interview in question, Andy discusses the importance of “approach” when speaking to unbelievers. He was not commenting on the infallibility of Scripture. Got it. But Stanley’s comments impinge on the doctrine of infallibility which is why so many people took notice and presumably why North Point felt the need to issue a statement. In that light is it too much to ask that a pastor who inadvertently “steps in it” would offer a clear and concise statement to clear the air? We’re no closer to knowing Stanley’s position on infalibility after the statement than we were before.

Second, in place of a definitive statement Stanley’s assistant directs inquiring minds to (presumably) find answers in his latest book and/or message series. Since the assistant points to the book for “more information” and innocuously describes the sermon series as “helpful” I doubt the media will offer any dazzling clarity but I hope I’m proven wrong.

Third, this “response” is virtually identical to that offered by Stanley when a sermon illustration created concern over his stance on homosexuality. That response offered neither clarity, substance, or comfort.


Inadvertently renovating a house of cards with new cards

NOTE: The video which is the subject of this post is no longer available.

  We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.
     We deny that such confession is necessary for salvation. However, we further deny that inerrancy can be rejected without grave consequences, both to the individual and to the Church.                                                                                         The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, art. XIX [emphasis added]

(ht: Here I Blog)

Yesterday (or the day before?) I was having a back-and-forth with a good friend on a Carl Trueman article which takes Stanley to task for “erroneous thinking” on the relationship between culture & Christian ministry. Today someone passed along the link to the video you see above. Some brief remarks on the video:

1. Affirming the inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture is not necessary for salvation. Denying that the Bible is without error won’t keep you out of the kingdom but it will affect your seating in the kingdom. {relax, that last bit is a joke}

2. Adherence to young earth creationism is not necessary for salvation [nor is it necessary to uphold the inerrancy of Scripture]. I fully expect to see theistic evolutionists in glory although I suspect it’ll be hard to spot them so far back in the crowd. {again, a joke}

3. I think Stanley is right on his basic premise: our faith is about dealing with Jesus Christ not the infallibility of Scripture. However, his explanation of the premise seems to create more problems than it resolves. My friend, who is far more familiar with Stanley than I am, says that this is consistent with Stanley’s apologetic approach to skeptics: start w/ Jesus’ death/burial/resurrection & allow faith in Christ to clear any other hurdles in Scripture. All fine and good. The game plan is good as far as that goes but the details of the execution strike me as odd:

(a) Believe in Adam & Eve not because it says so in the Bible but because Jesus talks about A & E in the gospels. This is self-contradicting unless you see a distinction between the gospels and the rest of the Bible. Are the gospel books (of the Bible) more reliable than the other 62 books (of the Bible)? [Even if Stanley just meant to contrast the gospels to Genesis the question still stands–why are the gospels any more trustworthy than Genesis?]

(b) Believe in Adam & Eve not because Genesis states their existence but because Jesus believed they existed. But didn’t Jesus believed the Genesis account–and he did (Mat 19:4-5)–shouldn’t I believe it, too?

(c) If Jesus can predict his own death & resurrection and pull it off, he can be trusted when he speaks about A & E. But how do I know Jesus predicted his death/resurrection? Isn’t it because it’s recorded in the Bible? How do I trust Jesus without trusting the Bible?

Whether or not Stanley has successfully cut the Gordian knot on this one you can decide for yourself. Like Jesus, I think Stanley isn’t keen on entertaining pointless arguments that obscure the heart issue. I get that. I’m uncomfortable with the explanations more than the approach. I just want to be careful to cut through the fog without fraying the tie between Christ & the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Jn 5:39; 1Cor 15:3-4).

No, our faith doesn’t stand on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. But we can be too clever for our own good. Even when we try to set Jesus above his Word.

The chicken, the blogger, & the pastor

If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.      –Elizabeth Rundle Charles, The Chronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family

In my mind the American church (AC) battles the spirit of the age most visibly on both a cultural and a theological front. The cultural front comes in the challenge over so-called gay marriage while the theological front is found in the debate surrounding theistic evolution which will inevitably be brought to bear on the doctrines of biblical inspiration & inerrancy.  Concerning the former, recent events should dispel the AC of the notion that we can remain neutral.

Most recently, Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy granted an interview with the Biblical Recorder in which he stated, “We are very much supportive of the family – the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.” Proving that “innocuous” has no place in today’s dictionary for the tolerant, advocates for so-called gay marriage became apoplectic. For merely voicing support for biblical marriage Cathy was accused of hate speech & intolerance.

Following calls to boycott Chic-fil-A, Christian blogger Jonathan Merritt (no relation to yours truly) penned a piece for The Atlantic in which he opined that our culture is diminished when we join our commerce to our politics. His espoused philosophy: judge a business by its products/practices not by its politics. As payback for failing to condemn Cathy & Chic-fil-A Merritt was outed by a gay blogger who claimed he could provide evidence of Merritt’s homosexuality. In an interview with Ed Stetzer, Merritt provided an overview of his personal story which included his commitment to “the Bible’s unambiguous standards for sexuality.”

Now compare the respective positions & confessions of a fast food president and a blogger with the silence of an influential pastor. In a sermon entitled “When Gracie Met Truthy” Andy Stanley recounts his refusal to allow two men in a homosexual relationship from serving as a host team in a North Point affiliated church not because they were in a homosexual relationship but because one man’s divorce (from his wife) hadn’t yet been finalized. Stanley clearly articulated the sin of adultery but was noticeably silent on the sin of homosexuality. When asked to clarify his conviction concerning homosexuality Stanley declined and referred people to the sermon series instead because “I figure that’s better than a sound bite or an interview.”

No, in this case a pastor must speak to the issues confronting the church today. Dan Cathy & Jonathan Merritt have proved their mettle in the latest skirmish. I hope Pastor Stanley hasn’t decided to flinch.

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