An Open Letter to Andy Stanley: Why Basics Matter
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Dear Andy Stanely,
The sermons you have delivered to your church family over recent months have caused deep concern in the Christian community across America and around the world.
You seem to have moved off center on some of the most basic fundamentals of the Christian faith.
I listened carefully, with an open mind, to your interview with Dr. Michael Brown and read your response in other interviews. Instead of resolving the questions, they caused even greater concern.
You steadfastly declare your faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Your sermons and the theological position you espoused with Dr. Brown and other interviews weaken your affirmation.
Your Christmas message in December 2016, “Who Needs Christmas” is a prime example of the great concern that is being expressed by many in the Christian faith.
You stated in your introduction, “And you have heard me say some version of this a million times, but if somebody can predict their own death and resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world, because the whole resurrection thing is so amazing and, in fact, you should know this. Christianity does not hinge on the truth or even the stories about the birth of Jesus, it really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.”
Is that accurate? “Christianity does not hinge on the truth or even the stories about the birth of Jesus… it really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus?”
The very identity of the man who rose from the dead is at risk in that statement.
Multiple times in the interviews you stressed that you are all about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is your message and focal point.
It seems you are denying the efficacious power of the death, burial and resurrection rests upon the very identity of who was being crucified. The true identity of the man who was buried and rose out of the tomb on the third day makes all the difference.
The message and life-changing power of Christianity rests upon identity of that man.
It was not Mohammed, Buddha, Sun-Yung-Moon, or any other ordinary man who was crucified, buried and rose again.
The one nailed to the cross, buried in the tomb and who walked out of that tomb on the third day was none other than the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ.
That is extremely critical to the foundation and true faith of Christianity.
He must be conceived of the Holy Spirit and virgin born. Otherwise, He would not be God in the flesh. Anyone less than God in the flesh would be unable to make the atoning sacrifice for mankind’s sin.
Anyone not virgin-born would be unworthy and incapable of taking the sin and iniquity of the human race upon themselves and paying “the wages of sin.”
Anyone less than “the only begotten Son of God” would be unable to offer the blood sacrifice that could purge the conscience of human being for dead works to serve the Living God and adopt that person into the family of God making them an heir of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul affirmed that Jesus Christ was indeed the Son of God “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).
Yes, Andy, Christianity does hinge upon all the events of Christmas, including the virgin birth.
The resurrection provides the atonement and redemption, and has the power to give new life only because the one who rose from the dead was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born the virgin Mary.
You stated there were too many miracles surrounding Christmas for someone to believe. So you minimize the virgin birth in an attempt to make it more receptive to the rational mind.
You stated in your sermon that only Matthew and Luke mention the virgin birth; that John and Mark make no reference to it.
The Apostle John opens his Gospel declaring Jesus Christ to be the eternal God-Man. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Is that any less improbable or miraculous?
Indeed, does that opening statement not confirm Luke’s record of what the angel Gabriel said to Mary at the announcement of the virgin birth?
“That Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (1:35).
Pastor Andy, the basics matter.
They matter very much.
They are the very foundation of the Christian faith, including the resurrection.
In your sermon series, “Aftermath” you shared, “About ten years ago I saw something we should start resisting.” You said further, it did not have to do with how you were doing church but “It has everything to do with how we talk about the Bible; more specifically what we point to as the foundation of our faith, which for most Christians, unfortunately, is the Bible.”
Unfortunately, most Christians point to the Bible as the foundation for their faith?
It is this low view of the Holy Scripture and the ambiguity of your teaching that is of great concern. Oh, I heard how you steadfastly told Dr. Michael Brown and others you believe in the infallibility of Holy Scripture.
Listen to your own videos.
You just as steadfastly told your congregation and all who might have been listening on television how Sola Scriptura, the clarion call of the Reformation is no longer relevant.
You showed how the Bible was torn to shreds by the writings and lectures of four atheists, so we can no longer rely upon it as our faith foundation.
You profoundly declared you were no longer going to point to the Holy Bible as the reference for the Christian faith.
Later in the sermon series “Aftermath”, you shared from Acts 15 the Apostles unhinged the Christian faith from the Old Testament when they sent the letter to the Gentile churches through the Apostle Paul.
You supported that statement by referring to the Apostle Peter going to the home of the Gentile Cornelius and preaching the Gospel.
How does your conclusion match with the whole of the New Testament?
When the Apostle Paul was in Athens, preaching at the Areopagus he quoted from their authors but he quoted more often from the Old Testament Scriptures.
Preaching to the humanistic rational minds of the Greeks the Apostle pointed to the Scriptures, and the Old Testament Scriptures, at that.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth with great concern about two issues; proper use of the spiritual gifts and moral purity of the believer.
Chapter ten of his first epistle he wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
The Apostle is writing to Gentile believers in Corinth and he is pointing to the Old Testament Scriptures as the point of reference for their faith and for their conduct. Indeed, he wrote, “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.”
The Apostle is urging the Gentile believers to use the Old Testament Scriptures for their example. This is coming from the man who carried the letter from the Apostles in Jerusalem to the Gentile churches. It does not seem that he believes the New Testament believer is “unhinged from the Old Testament.”
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, said this about the Old Testament.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV).
You are walking a dangerously fine line, when you are teaching men and women to no longer give credence to the credibility and significance of the Old Testament.
The very words Jesus said it would easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for those words to pass away. The very Scriptures Jesus said those who are great in the Kingdom of God teach and urge men and women to obey.
The basics do matter. They matter very much.
Time and space will not permit me to address your statement that preachers who teach believers to claim promises from the Old Testament are wrong. Those promises were only for the Jewish people of the Old Testament.
How then do you explain the Apostle Paul writing to the Gentile believers in Galatians 3:13-14, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Jesus Christ made it possible for the Gentiles to receive the blessings of Abraham [my emphasis].
In your first message, “Aftermath”, you made a call to all Christians and pastors. “I would like Christians and pastors everywhere to do what we have done.”
The context of this call was specifically for pastors to adopt your view of not using the Holy Bible for the foundation of faith and to unhinge from the Old Testament.
You have an extremely influential voice. Thousands of pastors attend you leadership seminars and follow your model of ministry. You are giving them a low view of Scripture and a preaching style with ambiguous teaching of the true Christian faith.
Yet, basics really do matter.
You may gather great crowds and huge audiences to your programs. You will not make great disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ with this low view of the Holy Scriptures and a compromised Gospel.