Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Andy Stanley's Dishonest, Deceptive, and Dangerous Teaching

This past Sunday I stayed up late to watch North Point’s Sunday morning service online, and once again, I found Andy Stanley’s sermon to be so shockingly bad that I feel compelled to write about it.  I remain convinced that this particular sermon series is going to have long lasting effects on American evangelicalism.  Stanley is not just a local church pastor, or even just the leader of a network of churches.  He is an influencer of the influencers in American Evangelicalism.  I am certain that we are going to see the content of this sermon series being repeated by other pastors around the country in the months ahead.

Stanley’s contention is that the early church got off to a great start, but throughout the history of the church there has been a tendency to return to what he is calling the Temple Model, which is characterized by sacred places, sacred texts, sacred men, and sincere followers.  It is absolutely true that the visible church has been corrupted time and again through the history of the church.  The church has an enemy, and that enemy will attack the church from without, through persecution and pressure to conform to the world, and within, through false doctrine.  What’s fascinating is that as you look back over the history of the church, what you see is that the greater the persecution against the church, the purer the church tends to be.  The freer the church is, false doctrine and corruption abound.  

The church in America has been the most free church in the history of the world.  It’s not surprising that we’ve splintered into thousands of denominations, and have spun off countless theological cults.  The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the signs and wonders cults all originated in America.  There has been a backlash against this in recent years, but the problem is that people tend to correctly identify the problems and then offer unbiblical solutions.  The opposite error of an error is also an error.

With Stanley’s current sermon series, he has identified the wrong problems and is offering wrong solutions.  Some of those problems will be discussed below.

The Temple Model

The first problem is that Stanley has built his entire sermon series around combating something that he made up.  The Temple Model is not spoken of in Scripture.  In the history of the church, as far as I know, no one has ever identified the Temple Model as a threat or a corrupting influence on the church.  

It is particularly troubling that Stanley has repeatedly lumped the Jewish Temple system in with other pagan religions, as if there’s no difference.  I am certain that Stanley knows that God instituted the priestly system of Israel (sacred men), commanded Moses to build the Tabernacle and later allowed Solomon to build the Temple (sacred place), and instructed Moses to write down the Law and have it read to the people regularly (sacred text).  The people were commanded to obey all that God had instituted, which had they done so would have made them sincere followers.  The history of Israel is that for nearly 1000 years they disregarded almost everything God told them, and then after returning from exile the Pharisees developed over time and added to the Law, creating their own religious system in place of the instructions God had given them.  

So it is an egregious error for Stanley to present the Jewish religious system as something bad, or no different than Greek and Roman mythology and temples.  Hebrews tells us that the Tabernacle/Temple, priests, and sacrificial system were earthly copies and shadows of Heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5).  Jesus was the fulfillment of all those things.

What Jesus and the Apostles warned against was not a return to the Temple Model, but the leaven of the Pharisees.  Stanley said Sunday, “Paul said that a little bit of the Temple Model can ruin the whole thing.”  That’s false.  Entirely untrue.  Paul said nothing remotely like that. He did say a little leaven leavens the whole lump in Galatians 5:9, but the leaven he was referring to was not the Temple model, it was justification by keeping the Law as the Judaizers in Galatia were teaching. 

Where the Bible talks about sacred places, sacred texts, sacred men, and sincere followers, provided they are being obedient to what God has commanded, these things are always viewed in a very positive light.  

I don’t know why Stanley has chosen to present things this way.  I don’t know his heart motivations.  From where I’m sitting, it looks like he’s a man with an agenda, and that his agenda is not in line with God’s revealed will.

Church History

I’ve already written one post showing what the earliest non-Apostolic church fathers wrote to and about the early church.  Simply put, Stanley’s claims that the early church didn’t study the Bible are patently false.  He is not telling the truth, and he doesn’t even have to go outside the New Testament to know that the New Testament writings are important.  Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:15-16 that Paul’s writings are Scripture and believers should draw their doctrine from them. 

Writing around the year 150, long before Constantine and Nicea, Justin Martyr described what happened on Sunday gatherings of Christians: the public reading of Scripture, an exhortation by the pastor to the congregation to obey what they had heard read, taking communion together, and the collection of money which the pastor distributed to those who had need.  People gathered in a sacred place, read from a sacred text, listened to a sermon by a sacred man, and the sincere followers took communion together.  

Almost everything Stanley has said about the early church in this series is directly contradicted by the writings of the church fathers.  

NT Imperatives

My jaw literally dropped Sunday night when Stanley said that the New Testament imperatives were not rules for Christians to follow, but examples of how to love our neighbors.  In all my studies I have never come across one scholar or teacher who has taught this.  Not one.  I reached out to Dan Philips on Twitter Monday and asked if he had ever heard anyone teach that, and he said no.  I even did a Google search to see if I could find someone else who has taught this and found nothing.  As best as I can tell, this is something new in the 2000 year history of the church.  Stanley is on an island with this one, and that is not a good place for a pastor to be.

The Nature of Sin

What troubled me most Sunday was Stanley’s claim that Christian sin has nothing to do with God, but only concern for other people.  This borders on blasphemy.  In Stanley’s eyes, lying isn’t wrong because it’s sin against God, it’s wrong because it hurts another person.  He flat out said, “The reason you don’t (shouldn’t) lie has nothing to do with God.”  Sexual sin, he said, isn’t wrong because it’s sin against God, it’s wrong because it harms another person.  There is an element of truth in those statements; our sins do hurt other people.  But for a Christian pastor to suggest that our sin doesn’t offend God but only hurts other people is astounding.  When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband what did he say?  “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4a).  David basically forced himself on a married woman then had her husband murdered, and he said he sinned against God and God alone.  

Read what the author of Hebrews said about sin among professing Christians in Hebrews 10:23-31:

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We were made in the image of God.  Every sin is a cosmic act of treason.  It has everything to do with God.  Unbelievers will suffer the eternal, terrible wrath of God because of their sin against him.  For believers, Jesus suffered God’s wrath on the cross in our place.  For Stanley to then say that what Jesus suffered to atone for has nothing to do with God is absolutely untrue, and incredibly dangerous.  

I said last week that Stanley appears to be embracing theological liberalism, and this line of thinking is classic liberalism.   

Stanley's concluding point of the sermon Sunday was that the Jesus model is centered on the you beside you.  No.  The Jesus modeled is centered on Jesus.  He is the author and perfector of our faith.  He is the one who can save us from our sins.  Our keeping of the Law, and loving our neighbors is Law, cannot save us.  

It is looking more and more likely that Stanley is set to depart from orthodoxy and embrace an aberrant theology.  I continue to pray for his sake and the sake of the thousands he influences that this doesn’t happen.    

  

11 comments:

  1. I agree that Andy Stanley's teachings are dangerous. Just might be the dangerous that we have needed for a very long time. I found the series of messages mentioned above to be a real blessing. Thank you Mr. Stanley.

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    1. So, you're thanking a guy for a teaching after you say his teachings are dangerous ... riiiiiight.

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    2. So, you're thanking a guy for a teaching after you say his teachings are dangerous ... riiiiiight.

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  2. Read your bible. The Church does not belong to Andy, it belongs to Jesus. The bible is the word of God and must be obeyed. God never asked man to come up with a blue print to save the world.
    1 Corinthians 18-25
    18For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

    19For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

    20Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

    The Foolish to Shame the Wise
    25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.


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  3. Who appointed you Andy's judge? JESUS made it abundantly clear that we are not to JUDGE OTHERS. What or Who gave you permission to be a judge. If you are as great a Christian as you lay claim to then the Holy Spirit is going to convict you of judging. Then you are going to have to apologize to Andy and your reading audience. Please note I am only referring to your act of judging.

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    1. Judging isn't the same thing as applying careful studying and scripture to a sermon. Paul warns us all over the New Testament to watch out for false teaching and false teachers. This is discernment, not judgement.

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    2. I feel Andy is a fast talker, and a Wolf in the heard of sheep....

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  4. I have been in church for most of my adult life and most of my childhood. I am not new to Christianity. In fact, I have a degree in both Theology and Biblical Studies.

    I am a member of Andy Stanley's church and I sat through the Brand New Series. First off, I don't get apostasy. Not one time did I think he was going against God's word. I fully understood what he was saying and have instituted the question, "What does love require?: into my lexicon for more than a year.

    I don't know what a "seeker sensitive" church is but I know a good church when I see one. He has never preached anything other than God and Jesus. I guess anyone with an agenda can pull something wrong out of anything they hear. You seem to be listening with the intent to find something wrong.

    I suppose I could find something to criticize in almost every sermon I've ever heard in my life if I wanted to find something wrong. God Bless you but remove the beam from your own eye dude!

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  5. Oh Philip, I pray you find something more constructive to do with your life than to write stuff like this!

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    1. Because I can't work 50 hours a week, serve my local church, spend time with my family and find an hour two years ago to warn people that a prominent pastor is misrepresenting Scripture and church history?

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