“In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready belief, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scriptures.” Cyril of Jerusalem (Died 386 AD)
Andy Stanley continued his denigration of Holy Scripture in his series, Who Needs God, by establishing himself as some sort of Gnostic leader of a Gnostic church. His Sunday, September 4, installment opened with a response to criticism he’s heard about his previous message, criticism coming from “people who are not part of our church community who watch from the outside.”
HIs opening words found Stanley greeting a number of people, though. There are those at Buckhead Church, where he was … umm … preaching, those on the various campuses of Northpoint Community Church, those watching online “from the lake or beach” during the Labor Day weekend, those watching via the internet, and those viewing from their “strategic partners all over the country” and the world.
Ironically, the critics, he said, are not part of “our church community” like the welcomed masses of the diverse outlets he greeted upon taking the stage. He commented that “It’s always amusing to read the comments of people who are not a part of our gathering.” (Well, gee, Andy, if you wouldn’t put your nonsense on the internet, maybe you could keep it all to yourself and avoid the critics. We’d like that too.)
“Some people have come to the conclusion that I don’t believe the Bible.” Andy Stanley
Yes. That is correct. Some people have come to that conclusion. However, none have come to that conclusion by arbitrary means. It is a conclusion arrived at solely on the basis of what he proclaimed. The crowd chortled when he said this, but curiously Andy did not make a definitive statement to contradict the conclusion of the critics.
“It is next to impossible to defend the entire Bible.” Andy Stanley
That was from Stanley’s “sermon” last week. Not too many ways to improperly exegete that. Putting it back within the full context of his message doesn’t help either. In fact, while addressing the critics this Sunday, Stanley didn’t walk back that “conclusion” either. In fact, he ultimately reinforces it.
But before getting to that, Stanley responds to his critics by lauding the intelligence of his audience at Northpoint who “gets” what he’s doing.
“I realize part of the reason that I’m easily misunderstood by people who don’t understand what we do because they don’t do what we do and they’re not part of this fabulous community that you’ve helped us create, whether you’re a Jesus follower or not … have chosen to be part of one of our churches.”
Uhh … yeah … okay …
Point one … members of Andy’s church are simply smarter than those watching “from the outside” who “don’t do what we do.”
Point two … Andy, then, is doing something outsiders cannot understand (especially if they’re Bible-believing outsiders!) . It’s a “special” understanding only he and Northpointers have, not something those who “don’t do what we do” can grasp.
In the annals of church history, such a thing has been called Gnosticism. In more modern times, some might call groups claiming special knowledge cultic, kind of like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons. Whatever it might be called, one thing it is not is Christian. In Andy’s case, we know it’s not Christian, not merely by his denial of Scripture’s authority, integrity, and sufficiency, but by the following point number three.
Point three … Andy’s “church” isn’t a church. Most of us already know this, but at least he clarified it here. Not that he’d dare define church in any sort of Scriptural way (after all, he denigrates God’s Word), such as the fellowship of genuine, regenerate believers in Christ “devoted to the apostles’ teaching,” (Acts 2:42) Andy does implicitly define what his “church” is. It’s a “fabulous community” created by folks who “have chosen to be a part … whether you’re a Jesus follower or not.”
So, while critical outsiders looking in at the goings on of Andy Stanley and his dangerous, anti-orthodox, emergent theology may not be smart enough to understand the secret smart stuff he’s doing there, those who comprise his “church,” and evidently do “get it,” don’t even need to be believers.
I’m glad Stanley clarified that. But, a gathering of unbelievers isn’t a church, it’s a club. Regardless of how “fabulous” the community is, unless it is intentionally comprised of “Jesus followers,” (there are always tares among the wheat, of course, sometimes, even in the pulpit) it’s something other than a church, and that something is other than Christian.
The world today is exemplary of the very sort of thing Stanley is doing. In our post-modern culture, growing ever more depraved, moving farther and farther away from absolute truth, and towards tolerant personal relativism, words are being redefined. Marriage is perhaps the most glaring example of the world’s attempt to redefine what only God can, and does, define.
But what the world is doing, suppressing truth in unrighteousness, (Romans 1:18) Andy Stanley is doing with terms like “Christianity,” “faith,” and “church.” In this message alone he shifts from calling it the “Old Testament” to referring to it as the “Jewish Scriptures,” a technique he uses to minimize their importance to the Christian faith. He’s redefined Christianity as a thought system one can selectively choose, “Jesus believer or not,” and “church” as a gathering of those intentionally choosing membership, but not predicated by authentic regeneration.
You don’t need to “repent and believe” to be “a part” of Andy’s church. There’s no need to be born again, or even profess to be. As with last week’s message, Stanley reaffirms that you don’t even need the Bible.
“Christianity does not exist because of the Bible. It is the other way around. The reason there is the Bible is because of Christianity. And this is one of the concepts that so many people outside our network of churches have a hard time understanding.” Andy Stanley
Pointing to the audience before him, Stanley says, “I think that you get it.” Why do people in Andy Stanley’s church understand his denial of Scripture as a valid presuppositional apologetic intended to bring back to church membership people who left church because they were obviously not Christian to begin with?
“Because you’re above average intelligence if you attend one our churches, okay? You get this.” Andy Stanley
His straight-faced delivery of this line, gathering some chuckles from the crowd, yet reflects Stanley’s response to the critics who have challenged his denial of Scripture. He and his Northpoint crowd know something others don’t. “But at some point,” he says, “we need to grow up and see this the way it actually is. And the great news is that Christianity does not hang by the thread of the Bible.”
Really? It’s a shame God didn’t know these things when He raised up men through the millennia to protect His inspired Word, when He ensured its transmission through the ages, and its translation into countless languages for the propagation of His Gospel. It’s a shame God didn’t catch on to the special knowledge Stanley has so that He might have prevented the needless martyrdom of men who realized the Truth of God in His Word was more valuable than their own lives.
“Christianity does not rise and fall on the integrity or the verifiability of the entire Bible.” Andy Stanley
In Stanley’s case, since you don’t need to be a Christian to actually be a part of the church, it makes sense that the integrity of God’s Holy Word isn’t foundational. If you’re not going to preach the Gospel from the Word, through which Christ builds His church, then that Word is useless because that isn’t a church. That’s how Andy is redefining “Christianity.”
Stanley extols a God powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead, but somehow that same God is not capable enough to deliver to His followers an inerrant, infallible Scripture? That may be the god of Stanley’s post-modern, gnostic “Christianity,” but it is certainly not the sovereign One of two millennia of authentic Christian orthodoxy.
When he gets to the crux of his message for the day, The God of Jesus, Stanley makes three quick points. While those points are correct, they offer an incomplete view, but one that supports the post-modern redefinition of faith he’s apparently pursuing.
God is Spirit. Apart from the propositional truths God has laid down in an inspired, infallible Word, how do you think a “smart” post-modern mind will take this attribute of God? As the God of a mystical, contemplative, esoteric faith to be apprehended by feelings? (after all you can’t trust the Bible) Does Northpoint offer Christian yoga? That would be fitting.
God is Father. Unlike the mysticism of Eastern religions where God is viewed as a force or a cosmic “oneness,” Stanley points out, again correctly, that God is personal. But apart from His self-revealing Word, wherein He dictates rules for all people, God as a Spirit Father imbues faith not as founded on absolute truth, but on relativistic, personal preference – after all, it’s unnecessary for the Old Testament, those non-Christian “Jewish Scriptures” to be verifiable. And as for the New Testament, Stanley merely refers to it as “first-century documents written by early followers of Jesus.”
“I’m sure we still owe Jewish people an apology. The Christians took the Jewish Scriptures and combined them with the first century documents written by the followers of Jesus, bound them together, and eventually called it the Bible.” Andy Stanley
God is love. This emphasis perfectly fits the “it’s all about you” false gospel Stanley propels. Without the need, or call, for repentance and belief, without a clear understanding that His hatred of sin and His wrath upon it are equal divine attributes, God becomes your magic genie, a choice you get to make to enable your life to be fuller, richer, and more purposeful. The problem, of course, is that Scripture doesn’t teach this God, but, with a diminished view of Scripture, Stanley does.
Indeed, when a “pastor” like Andy Stanley in a “church” like Northpoint can place himself over Scripture, in place of Scripture, and in denial of Scripture, “Christianity” can become anything he’d like it to become.
But one thing is sure … the “Christianity” Andy Stanley touts is not the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3) It something foreign, something false, something eternally perilous.
Though the church, from the first century forward, has always honored God’s Word as inspired, infallible, and the supreme standard by which the Christian life of faith is to be guided, Stanley denigrates it as unnecessary. Those prone to tolerate his errors ought to be reminded of the truth about rat poison. It’s 97% protein, to be sure. But it’s the 3% that is lethal. Truth mixed with error begets error.
The words of Cyril of Jerusalem ought still guide us today. (And since they’re not in Scripture, maybe Stanley will even pay them some heed.) Winning words and clever arguments can lead astray. The Holy Scriptures, though, always give proof to truth. And Andy Stanley is intentionally teaching a diminished, distorted view of truth as he emphasizes the expendability of God’s Word.
But if you’re a Northpoint outsider who happens to “abide in my Word,” (John 8:31) you already know the “faith” proclaimed there is a deadly mixture of truth and error. Pray for those souls who don’t.
Stanley’s entire September 4 “message” can be seen HERE.
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[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]
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