Andy Stanley Embraces Textbook Antinomianism
Antinomianism (Greek: ἀντί, “against” + νόμος, “law”), is any view which rejects legalism and is against moral laws. An antinomian is one who takes the principle of salvation by grace through faith to the point that they assert the believer is not bound to follow the Moral Law contained in the Decalogue or Ten Commandments.
Yeah. So…that’s pretty much what Andy Stanley is. He’s very apparently antinomian, or against God’s laws (his Moral Law). The megachurch pastor has again been on the receiving end of a social media firestorm as a consequence of his notoriously bad theology. His church has 33 thousand (mostly lost) members, who are attracted in their flesh to the regular denunciations of God’s Word that they hear from the son of the competent Biblical expositor, Charles Stanley.
For a brief reminder of the various theological controversies surrounding Stanley, he recently made waves for encouraging Christians to essentially throw out the Old Testament, arguing that believers should “unhitch” themselves from portions of Old Testament Scripture. This is essentially a spin-off of the heresy of Marcionism. Just a few weeks previous to that controversy, which was in May of this year, Stanley went on the warpath against doctrine in general, claiming that “unity is more important than theology.” Before canceling church on Christmas Sunday, Stanley argued that Jesus’ birth doesn’t really matter, thus casting doubt upon his supernatural birth and the events surrounding the nativity. In October of 2016, Stanley tacitly denounced Biblical inerrancy, at least in the eyes of many. Going back to 2015, Stanley trashed expository preaching, calling it “easy” and “cheating.”
Back in the realm of doctrinal Downgrade, Stanley claimed in a piece in Relevant Magazine – a publication typically prone to grave theological error – that the Moral Law is not for believers. Writing like a third-grader in single-sentence format, like a splattering of irreverent ideas that have coalesced in a failed attempt to form a coherent thought, Stanley writes…
You’ve heard the story before: A group of Christians puts up a monument of the Ten Commandments in a public space or on government property.
Someone says it violates the separation of church and state.
The Christians say taking it down would violate their freedom of speech.
There’s some back and forth in court and both sides say some not-so-great things about the other.
Rinse and repeat.
But how many times have you seen Christians trying to post the text of the sermon on the mount in a public place? Or the all-encompassing commandment Jesus gave us?
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” —John 13:34
The one commandment!
The command of John 13:34 is not “all-encompassing” nor is it known as “The one commandment!” as Stanley enthusiastically labels it. No one calls it that, except Andy Stanley. That’s not a thing. The commandment to love one another summarizes the Second Table of the Moral Law (the last six Commandments) generally speaking and is applied here by Christ to believers for one another specifically speaking. Jesus summarizes the Moral Law in TWO Commandments, loving God (the First Table) and loving neighbor (the Second Table) in Matthew 22:36-40.
What is actually “new” about the “new commandment?” Well, it was not new in its substance. Loving others is the foundation of the last 6 of the Ten Commandments. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” was first given in Leviticus 19:18. There was nothing new whatsoever about the command to love our neighbors.
So then, what did Jesus mean? What was new?
Their motivation for fulfilling the Law’s command was new. Jesus emphasized, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jesus being our Exemplar in following the Command was new. Virtually all commentary helps would support this interpretation, which Stanley might have consulted if he did not consider expository preaching to be “cheating.”
Ellicott’s Commentary says, “There is no reference in the context to the Ten Commandments, and we are not therefore to seek the meaning of the ‘new commandment’ in any more or less full contrast with them.” The Cambridge Bible for Colleges and Schools says, “The commandment to love was not new, for ‘thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Leviticus 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law. But the motive is new; to love our neighbour because Christ has loved us.”
Bengel’s Gnomen says, “The commandment is called new, not so much in respect to the Old Testament, as in respect to the school of Christ; on account of the new measure [standard] He established. A love which goes so far as that even life is to be laid down for those who ought to be, or who are, the objects of that love.”
Barnes’ Notes says, “It is called new, not because there was no command before which required people to love their fellow-man, for one great precept of the law was that they should love their neighbor as themselves Leviticus 19:18; but it was new because it had never before been made that by which any class or body of people had been known and distinguished.” Jamieson-Faussiet-Brown Commentary says, “This was the new feature of it. Christ’s love to His people in giving His life a ransom for them was altogether new, and consequently as a Model and Standard for theirs to one another. It is not, however, something transcending the great moral law, which is ‘the old commandment.'”
You simply can’t find a commentary that interprets John 13:34 the way Stanley does, because to interpret it the way Stanley does would make you an antinomian, and any theologian worth his salt knows that’s heretical.
Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But if we’re going to create a monument to stand as a testament to our faith, shouldn’t it at least be a monument of something that actually applies to us?
Hear me out.
The Ten Commandments are from the old covenant
Here is the irony. While Stanley suggests Christians should be more about the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Mount is little more than Jesus’ exposition and explanation of the Moral Law and Ten Commandments. The entire Sermon on the Mount explicitly exhorts us to obey the Ten Commandments!
The Ten Commandments played a significant role in God’s creation of the nation of Israel. It gave them moral guidelines and helped separate this new nation from their neighbors. This was part of the formal agreement (or covenant) God created with his people, but Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled the end of that covenant and all the rules and regulations associated with it.
So says Stanley.
But first, the nation-state of Israel was founded on the Civil Code of God’s Law, not the Moral Code. The Moral aspect of God’s law pertained not only to Israel in that time and place, but to all people for all time. It is the judgment stick by which we are all measured, universally. In fact, something is said to be categorized Biblically as “moral” because it is “universal”; in other words, it is applicable to all people in all places for all time. The Moral Law is tied directly to the attributes of God, which do not change.
Furthermore, Stanley’s explanation is not how Covenants work. Previous Covenants were not so much abrogated but added to. For example, the installation of the Davidic Covenant did not replace the Sinaitic, nor did the Sinaitic Covenant replace the Abrahamic, nor did the Abrahamic replace the Noahic (there’s still a rainbow, the last time I checked). The New Covenant (Jeremiah 31) under Christ installed the Covenant of Grace into time and space (although it was foreshadowed throughout the older Covenants), but it did not uproot the Moral Law.
To argue that we are not under obligation to follow the Ten Commandments – not in order to justify us but in obedient faith – is to be a textbook antinomian. Mark it down; when someone spends the greater part of their life talking about how unnecessary theology is, it’s because they are extraordinarily bad at doing it.
[Editor’s Note: I’m going to address this article on today’s Polemics Report from the P&P Facebook Page live, at 4PM MST – JD]