Andy Stanley, Sophistry, and Scripture


False Dichotomy

In his recent sermon talk on Scripture, in which he rejects ‘the Bible told me so’ Christianity Stanley is presenting a false dichotomy. He pits the Bible as a unified and truthful whole against its parts. He pits the truthfulness of the Bible against the truthful eyewitness testimony found in Scripture.

This false dichotomy which seeks to reject inerrancy in general and the Old Testament in particular is contrary to the eyewitness writings found in the New Testament. Towards the end of his message, he argues that Peter would not cite the Bible as the grounds of belief but rather his first hand experience. Peter disagrees:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

(2 Peter 1:16-21 ESV)

The Greek word translated ‘more fully confirmed’ is βεβαιότερον which means more certain. In essence what Peter is saying is that he was an eyewitness to the life and ministry of Jesus, that he had been an eyewitness of His glory, and in addition to that he and his readers had the Old Testament the prophetic word containing the promise of Christ which is more certain. Nowhere in the New Testament do we see any notion that we can truth the eyewitnesses of Jesus on one hand, and reject the Bible they hand, the Old Testament. Time and time again Jesus referenced the Old Testament arguing for its historicity and prophetic nature in regards to promising His coming and ministry.

Forgetting the first thing

The resurrection  of Jesus is vitally important, but apart from the prediction of it in the Old Testament and the explanation of its significance in the New Testament it would be an event without any real meaning to us. We know what was accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus because the Bible, both testaments, tells us so. Paul is highlighting the vital importance of the resurrection gives primacy to the Old Testament scriptures in 1 Corinthians 15 when he says:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

(1 Corinthians 15:3-6 ESV)

Before moving on to address the eyewitness testimony surrounding the resurrection of Christ Paul anchors the event of the resurrection to the predictions and promises of the Old Testament. Peter in preaching at Pentecost anchors the events that were occurring and had occurred to the promises made throughout the Old Testament. To divorce the event of the resurrection from the promises which it fulfilled helps no one.

Follow Paul’s example

In closing I want to look at how Paul seeks to evangelize as I believe it is a helpful corrective to Stanley’s desire to detract from the Bible or as He says ‘take the spotlight off the Bible.’

Paul in Acts 17 roots his ministry of pointing to Jesus in the Scriptures. He points people to Jesus by pointing them to the Bible.

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 17:1-3 ESV)

Paul writing to a predominately Gentile audience in Romans 15 says:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, (Romans 15:8 ESV)

We cannot divorce the ministry of Jesus from the historicity and truthfulness of the Old Testament. Christ’s ministry has fulfilled the promises made to Abraham, Moses, David, and other Old Testament figures. If those events are not true then the event which fulfilled them stands on shaky ground. But they did happen. Stanly says the Bible as a whole cannot be defended as true, for nearly 2000 years the Bible has been tried and stood the test. Stanley’s attitude has been adopted by others in Christian history and it has always led to unbelief and apostasy. Pastors preach the word, don’t listen to the skeptics even if they know how to draw a crowd.




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