I saw this on a group I belong to in Facebook.
Andy Stanley, the, well, it’s hard to know exactly what he is at North Point Community Church, where he functions as a part-CEO, part-pastor. His sermon series’ in the past have been plagued with issues, much like the quote above, where he seems to want to knock away the barriers for people to become Christians, and instead is knocking free the underpinnings of the Christian faith. This has been going on for a while and it’s no different than much of his previous content.
That said, he seems to embrace the “what if” mentality when it comes to these subjects.
“What your students have discovered, and if you read broadly you’ve discovered, it is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible. But if your Christianity hangs by the thread of proving that everything in the Bible is true, you may be able to hang onto it, but your kids and your grandkids and the next generation will not. Because this puts the Bible at the center of the debate. This puts the spotlight right on the Bible. Everything rises and falls on whether not part, but all the Bible is true. And that’s unfortunate, and as we’re going to discover today, it is absolutely unnecessary.”
– Andy Stanley, “Who Needs God / The Bible Told Me So“
“So, if you stepped away from Christianity because of something in the Bible, if you stepped away from the Christian faith because of Old Testament miracles, if you stepped away from the Christian faith because you couldn’t reconcile 6,000 years with a 4.5 billion year old earth and something you learned in biology, I want to invite you to reconsider, because the issue has never been, ‘is the Bible true?’”
– Andy Stanley, “Who Needs God / The Bible Told Me So“
“I want all the people who grew up in church, and then left church because they couldn’t figure out how to reconcile what they learned in school or what they experienced in life with what they learned in church, and decided, you know what, it’s just irreconcilable. Science is irreconcilable with faith, pain is irreconcilable with faith, pain and suffering in the world is irreconcilable with faith, my life experiences are irreconcilable with faith, just what I’ve learned and experienced as an adult is irreconcilable with faith, and so there’s this tension, and I either pretend I believe something I’m not sure exists, or I can go with what’s obvious and with what’s undeniable. I want you to reconsider Christianity because I think some of you, I’m guessing a whole lot of you, but I don’t want to judge, a lot of you, though, you left Christianity for reasons that really have nothing to do with the Christian faith. You left unnecessarily, so I’m inviting all of you to reconsider Christianity, not the Christianity of your childhood, but a grown-up faith with a grown-up God with a little different perspective, because I want you to come back.”
– Andy Stanley, “Who Needs God / The God of Jesus“
I wrote an article a while ago about the power of “what if?” in witnessing. I’d link it but I had some database issues a while ago and after recovering much of my site and apparently it has gone away. Much sads.
Anyway, in witnessing, “what if” is the window into deeper conversation:
Atheist: “I don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God.”
Christian: “What if it’s not about what you believe?”
Atheist: “I don’t know how to reconcile miracles and supernatural actions – they don’t seem logical to me.”
Christian: “What if your concept of what God is capable of, and what he controls is smaller than what’s really possible?”
Atheist: “My cousin/sister/child died from cancer and I can’t believe in a God who would allow something like that to happen to innocent people.”
Christian: “What if your understanding is only from your own perspective. What if the way you understand innocence, or even the reason we have our lives on this planet, much less who owns that life, is different from what you have been taught?”
Just to be totally clear here – I 100% understand that he’s addressing the goats rather than the sheep, but to whom is he speaking? Who are the people in his direct audience? These are all likely people who really and truly believe that they ARE ALREADY Christians. As a result, I understand fears addressing this content to believers. To carry this further, “what if” someone who is in the audience is a young Christian and is forced to reconsider their beliefs? As a Calvinist I know that our belief isn’t even our own – we don’t own it, but God provides it to us. As a result there are things that I struggle with on a daily basis and work my way through so I can get a deeper and fuller understand of not only who this God is who saved me from himself because of my nature which claws its way against him in continual revulsion of his power and holiness and glory as rats escape a sinking and burning ship, but also a better understanding of his nature and character in that he knows my form and my weaknesses and yet continues to use me for his glory to help those in my care. So, as someone who is a skeptic at heart, who continually struggles with the “why” questions, this is something that’s good for me.
Looking back on my own conversion, I wasn’t entirely sure who Jesus was. I knew that he was the son of God and I knew who God was as my creator, and that my own sins were the reason I stood accused before him. I knew that Jesus took my place and that I was the one who deserved to die, not him. But was I a hard-core 6-day creationist? Nope. Could I clearly articulate the trinity? Nope. Did I have all of the creeds and confessions memorized and was I able to spout them off at a moment’s notice? Not at all. But this isn’t the context of his sermon series – it’s directed at people in the audience – those who largely consider themselves to be Christian. After my conversion I clearly understood that my own concept of who God was and my role in this equation was very foreign to me and that I had to abandon my previously held beliefs to find out not only who God really was, but to understand it on his terms and not my own.
What Andy Stanley is doing is undermining the core tenets of the Christian faith for what he sees as a “mere Christianity” mindset which is fine when witnessing to people to get them beyond their own concepts and to open the door for them to the reality that God exists, but when preached to the people of God, from the pulpit, it tells people that some belief – any belief – as long as it is loosely tied to the God of the Bible is sufficient for Christian faith and practice. This is wholly reprehensible. A Christian immediately upon conversion is not expected to have a full understanding of the triune nature of God, the whole working of God throughout history, and to totally embrace all of these ideas, but in time they do come to that understanding. To have a pastor from the pulpit preach to a community of people who already see themselves as Christians (some may be and some may not), and to teach them that they can abandon anything that seems hard to understand or follow and just to simply cling to the barest of details about Jesus – being told that this is all that’s necessary for a full and deep relationship with God – is one of the most wicked things I can imagine.
Look at it this way. When I first met my wife, I had an alright understanding of who she was. I knew that she liked dancing, that she loved 80’s music, and that she looked really great in skirts (BC days). In time I grew to have a much deeper understanding of who she was and, more importantly, why she was the way that she was. I learned and embraced her hopes and dreams. I empathized with her over her fears and failures. I made her own concerns my concerns because of my deep love for her. How? I studied her and I learned from her on her terms and not my own. This is the core of Christian development – to know the God who loves us, and to learn to love him on his terms, not our own.
Andy Stanley is teaching people that they don’t need to learn these things and that desiring to grow is not unnecessary, but troublesome. Were I to only know the barest of details about my wife, I’d have no friendship at all, let alone a marriage. Let us take this example from a pastor who is doing a terrible job at leading his flock and let it drive us to know more about our God who loved us by dying for us, and as a result, to learn more about ourselves as we stand before his throne of glory.
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
~ Ephesians 4:17–24 (ESV)