“Theology is simply that part of religion that requires brains.” G.K. Chesterton
I’m not much of a Chesterton fan, but he surely could whip out the incisive witticisms. Still, I’m even less of an Andy Stanley fan. Stanley, the (do I have to call him) “pastor” of North Point Church in Atlanta, just wrapped up another festival of Biblical disregard, joining Hillsong pastrix Christine Caine for the Cincinnati Catalyst event.
(Stanley is also scheduled to be a speaker at the upcoming SBC ERLC Conference, hoping perhaps, that sharing the dais with Russell Moore will be no less a discernment issue than sharing one with Caine. It’s hard these days to decide who is woefully associating with whom; the degrees of separation don’t count, I suppose, when everyone seems to be throwing discernment to the wind.)
The Christian Post featured a recap article of Stanley’s contribution to the Catalyst event: Andy Stanley At Catalyst Cincinnati: Don’t Put Theology Above Ministry; Let Cultural Issues Bump People Out.
CP’s headline immediately prompted my own synapses to pop in recollection of that Chesterton quote above. Andy doesn’t like theology, you see. It does require thinking, but, if you are truly regenerate, you have the Holy Spirit guiding your ever growing understanding of Scripture the more and more you stay focused in it. You don’t have to be a spiritual Einstein to understand theology, but apparently you have to be an Andy Stanley to disregard its unparalleled, and divinely guided, value for the believer, and for the church.
“Once you go astray in your doctrine, you will very soon go astray in your behavior. You can’t divorce doctrine from behavior.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones
That Stanley is a “pastor” who eschews theology isn’t really a surprise. He also happens to be a “pastor” who eschews preaching and teaching the Bible, too. Expositional preaching just ain’t his thing. (And, if your pastor does it, Stanley says he’s cheating.) Of course, expositional preaching requires a certain grasp of theology, so, that, perhaps, explains why Stanley can’t do it.
Stanley, it seems, is the “right place, right time” sort of relativistic, conviction-free chap for a post-modern culture that forbids anything that posits itself as absolute. If Joel Osteen just doesn’t give you just the right Bible-twisting, Scripture-denying, “it’s all about you, pump you up, you’re a winner” weekly dose of toothy-grinned positive thinking on your trip to eternal destruction, try Andy on for size. He’ll likely be a good, Bible-free fit for ya’.
Vying perhaps for the dumbest theological quote of the year, Stanley said, “If Jesus was worried about guilt by association, he would’ve stayed in Heaven.” Lest his quote be incorrectly exegeted, let me hasten to add that it supported his premise that, above everything else, the church should avoid “rigid ministry systems” and ‘lines in the sand’ on cultural issues” because doing so tends to “bump people out rather than win them over.” (Emphasis added) Yeah, well, sure … Jesus was a go with the flow, be a friend to have a friend sort of guy who tried as hard as he could to “win them over”, right? WRONG … But maybe you need to know theology 101 to realize that.
(FYI, “win them over” is apparent Stanley-speak for “skip Scripture, sing Kum-bah-ya, and condone paganism, because that’s what Jesus would do.” In the Andy Stanley Bible, Jesus is not seen using the words “sin” or “woe,” as in “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” They’ve been edited out for ease of cultural compliance, it seems. And never, ever, EVER tell someone they are in “sin.” Not a popular move, if you wanna be relative … or popular.)
The CP article provides a glimpse, though, into the tough stands Stanley is willing to make on sensitive cultural issues.
“Stanley said that simply because many in society may not uphold biblical standards like abstaining from sex outside of marriage does not mean that the Church should stop talking about it.”
“Many in society may not uphold biblical standards?”
Gee, ya’ think, Andy? Kinda like how you stand firm on biblical truths by allowing homosexuals to become members of your church? Or advising Christians to bake a gay wedding cake despite their convictions? Or how parents are selfish if they don’t take their kids to a mega-box entertainment complex like yours each Sunday? (Oh, yeah, you did retract that.) But “talking about it,” to Stanley, doesn’t mean calling sin, sin. He’s just not that sort of pastor, you see. Sin is such a theological sort of word, anyway, so cut him some slack, I guess. Clearly not every “pastor” upholds biblical standards, either … so there.
Stanley wants churches to engage culture by being a good neighbors. But that he does it sans Gospel is the problem. It is apparently not necessary to share the wrath and love truths of the Gospel to the dying culture. Instead “churches should not only do good works, but be seen out and about doing them within the community, building a positive reputation.” (Yeah, Andy, where is that whole “be the church with the best worldly reputation” verse in Scripture? I can’t find it.)
<Insert incisive quote here >
“That very church which the world likes best is sure to be that which God abhors.” Charles Spurgeon
If Stanley would bristle at Lloyd-Jones’ quote (it included the word “divorce”, btw) he surely won’t like the one from Spurgeon, himself a theologian AND a biblical expositor. Stanley’s church seems to be lauded by the world and culture with which he’s engaged; the Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority just added his church to their map as a “place of interest.”
Indeed, Andy, you’ve made North Point into a bonafide “place of interest.”
It’s a “church” with no Biblical preaching, no theology, no Gospel, apparently no membership requirements – do you even have to claim to know God to join? – and absolutely no desire for separateness from the world.
And that’s hardly a feather in the cap of faithfulness if you happen to go by the Bible, at least. “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” ring a bell?
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15
Well, at least he got his church on a subway map.
Maybe he could even get Perry Noble to do a custom cover tune for North Point … “We’re On The Railway to Hell” … cuz without the Word, that last train stop is going to be off the map, with no return trip.
(Please pray for this man and for the souls in jeopardy under his care. May Christ through Scripture be preached and exalted.)
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim