Andy Stanley Separates God of Old Testament from God of New Testament

Andy Stanley Separates God of Old Testament from God of New Testament September 20, 2018

Andy Stanley recently penned this piece on the use of the Law for the New Testament believer. While he doesn’t explicitly signal this is what he is writing about, it undoubtedly is – but more importantly, he is undoubtedly wrong and makes several categorical errors. Now, this is certainly not the first time Andy Stanley has made comments about the Old Testament that are inherently problematic. I’ll actually go a step further and say I earnestly sense Andy’s knowledge of the Old Testament to be incredibly shallow and fundamentally rooted in Marcionism.

I previously had my doubts that he had strayed so far into this heretical belief that disavows the Old Testament – that perhaps he had misspoken to a degree and did not necessarily intend to portray these things in light of the logical conclusion thereof. However, I simply can’t extend that same measure of deference any longer. In this post, I am going to key in on some of the fundamental misunderstandings Andy Stanley has leveraged in his blog post, and then briefly demonstrate why these are rooted in Marcionism.

Andy begins his piece by reflecting upon the inconsistency of Christians who fight for monuments of the Ten Commandments as opposed to the Sermon on the Mount. While it is rather interesting that all Andy has to do is read the Sermon on the Mount in its entirety to see Christ Himself affirm the precise opposite of Andy’s current understanding of the Law, I digress. While disagreement is held in regard to the second and fourth commandment, the Decalogue that Andy keys in on as his example, find direct reinforcement from Christ Himself in the NT. But I digress again.

Andy focuses on “the one commandment” Christ gave:

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).

Well, the problem with this is that it simply is not the one command Christ gave. Take a quick look at this list which compiled 335 commands from Christ. It’s not even the sole command Christ gave that is all-encompassing, as Stanley states. One that might be applicable in this conversation is drawn from Matthew 22:37-40:

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depends the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Interestingly enough, Stanley bypasses these verses in his discussions, though I have a feeling he would explain them away and disregard that they are drawn from Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, which are legal texts in and of themselves given to Israel. Furthermore, it is plainly stated in the text itself, these are a summation of the Law and Prophets. It is rather interesting to find that though we have these statements in the midst of legal literature, God still saw fit to explicate precisely what this summation ought to look like in practice for the Israelites.

He furthermore denounces the reality that the Decalogue finds repetition in Christ’s commands in the gospels and instead appeals to the death and resurrection of Christ to effectively argue these acts replaced the Law. I am truly baffled at this point and have been for some time. I don’t quite know what to make of Stanley’s Christology simply by virtue of his desire to “unhitch” it from the OT, namely, because the death of Christ satisfied the Law and His resurrection demonstrated His authority over that same Law. Until he can reconcile his statements, I am left with assuming he either doesn’t understand those implications, or he is conscious of them and simply doesn’t care.

I believe the latter to be true on the basis of this statement:

“The justifications Christians have used since the fourth century to mistreat people find their roots in old covenant practices and values.”

This not only fundamentally misunderstands the nature of God, but essentially claims He has instituted a means of oppression and ill-begotten values in the Old Testament. In other words, the Old Testament is only the foundation of violence, oppression, and so forth, rather than revealing the character and standards of God. Let me be quite frank, Andy is about as close as one can get to saying the God of the Old Testament is different than the New Testament without explicitly stating, “The God of the Old Testament is different then the God of the New Testament.”

Back to the matter at hand though: Andy continues to build off of this “one new commandment” encompassing love. I’ve already demonstrated above how this is just bad exegesis, but it becomes painfully bad exegesis momentarily after Stanley speaks toward this commandment replacing the whole of the Law. The reason being? He summarily dismisses the whole of the New Testament’s witness with regard to its own commands.

He writes, “Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their bibles. Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

Wait…what? So New Testament Christians are only obligated to obey this one commandment in the NT? Let’s assume, for the sake of the argument, that Stanley means this commandment is a summation of all the other 1050 commands found in the NT. This is still incredibly problematic because it fundamentally makes a categorical error in the nature of the NT commands, as they find themselves rooted within many of the OT commands. However, this is also where a discussion on the nature and use of the Law would actually be beneficial.

But Stanley has effectively neutered any such discussion by claiming the Law has no place in our dialogue – so he can’t effectively make a distinction to say that we ought to understand a principle of general equity in the Spirit of the Law in some cases. He also can’t affirm that the Law reveals our sins and misconceptions of God, and thusly instructs us more clearly in righteousness and right belief. Nor can he claim the Law reveals the character and nature of the God of the Law, and it is profitable for teaching, exhortation, rebuke, and correction (indeed, as all Scripture is; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

It is obvious that some commandments found within the Law’s corpus pertain to a specific geographical location and people; it is in the style of a Suzerainty treaty, which lays out conditions and benefits to one party from God, so long as they maintained said stipulations. Yet again, Andy Stanley can’t make a distinction to demonstrate the nature of the Palestinian Covenant here deals exclusively with the land promises to Israel, but still principally serve us, and that love itself binds us in a greater sense than any one, exclusive law.

Thus, the “contractual obligation” of modern Christians to put a parapet upon their roof was fulfilled in Christ – yet we might still learn principally from such a law and require passengers in our cars to wear a seat-belt, or we are quick to shovel and de-ice our sidewalks, because we love them and are required to do what is in our power to keep them safe from harm. But, of course, as Andy Stanley affirms in his piece, we need to stop mixing the old with the new – because the blended model is responsible for all the ills of Constantine, the Crusades, the Reformation, and so forth.

As an aside, I’m glad to note Stanley is not only fond of unhitching from the Old Testament, but seemingly, to the historic faith as well. All snark aside, my point in that line is to demonstrate how foolish it is to make such grand-sweeping statements – regardless of the church’s warts.

Andy Stanley also asks, “Dear Christian Reader: Why? Why? Why would we even be tempted to reach back beyond the cross to borrow from a covenant that was temporary and inferior to the covenant establish for us at Calvary?”

I want you to pay particular attention to his choice of words here; notice Andy doesn’t explicitly refer to what he is speaking about here in particular. Any orthodox Christian would affirm, per the saying of Paul in Galatians 3, that any Christian seeking to be justified by the Law is bewitched and foolish. But Andy isn’t saying this. Andy isn’t referring to those who are seeking to align themselves with God by meritorious works of the Law. Andy Stanley is actually referring to those who adopt the teachings of the Old Testament as their own.

What’s more than this is that Stanley is not referring to those who have disagreements on the applicability and usage of the Law (speaking in terms of continuity and discontinuity). Again, he is directly inferring that those who have “engaged” with the Old Testament have inevitably participated in unchristian behavior. More clearly, it’s a statement that lumps in all stripes of Christians who, by virtue of their understanding of Scripture, who “mingle” the Old with the New.

Instead, he appeals broadly to Paul for the foundation of his understanding of the Law – even though Paul himself did not unhinge himself from the Law. Paul’s use of the Old Testament is absolutely astounding, though arguably, one must know their Old Testament well to catch this. However, this is precisely where Marcion comes in to play.

What is rather interesting is that Marcion rooted his theology explicitly within the content of Paul’s epistles and the “red-letters” of Christ. Secondly, Marcion explicitly taught that the teachings of Christ were in stark contrast to that of the Old Testament. While Andy Stanley has differed from Marcion by seemingly affirming the other gospel witnesses of the New Testament, his statements are tantamount to the same expression of Marcionism.

“The justifications Christians have used since the fourth century to mistreat people find their roots in old covenant practices and values. Imagine trying to leverage the Sermon on the Mount to start an inquisition, launch a crusade, or incite a pogrom against Jews. But reach back into the old covenant, and there’s plenty to work with.” – Andy Stanley

Furthermore, Marcion believed that any who held to the Old Testament’s teachings was opposed to Christ and falling away from the faith. It is abundantly clear that Andy Stanley believes the same thing and in fact actively encourages people to stay far, far away from it. Again, we’re not talking about a carefully worded, precise manner of saying, “Don’t be so foolish and deceived to think that you can go back to the Old Covenant! Don’t be bewitched into thinking personal righteousness merits your salvation! We have a better covenant!”

That isn’t even remotely what Stanley has advocated for and the careful reader and listener will see that. There is a reason why people are taking exception to what Stanley has been saying, and it isn’t due to the fact that they don’t download and play all of his sermons one-by-one. No, it’s the content of what he keeps peddling as accurate, biblical teaching.

At this point, my only argument would be that you shouldn’t unhitch yourself from the Old Testament. You should study it deeply and come to see its beauty reflected all throughout the New Testament. You should grapple with understanding the Law, because regardless of what Stanley advocates, it is profitable for New Testament Christians in multiple ways. Yet lastly, when someone argues you ought to unhitch yourself from any portion of Scripture, perhaps you ought to just unhitch yourself from them.

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  • TinnyWhistler

    I seem to have missed where you discuss how one discerns which bits of OT law to take seriously and which to disregard. We won’t talk about the food thing since that’s dealt with explicitly in the NT, but what about things like medical treatment, clothing, housing, hygiene, religious practice and observance, care of the poor, treatment of slaves, interpersonal relationships, animal husbandry, investigation of crimes and

    You say that we shouldn’t reject OT law. Ok, how do we handle it then? I’m not saying that you claim that these things lead to salvation, I’m asking how they *should* be handled.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Though I would likely apply it differently than Calvin, I do agree with him in the threefold use of the Law. As far as the hermeneutical principles behind that, indeed, it is a complicated study – but that is not to say we don’t “take it all seriously’. What I mean by that is there is a far greater commonality between the OT and NT in terms of continuity with respect to moral commands. In terms of geographically pertinent commands, I believe we can extrapolate and apply the spirit of the Law. In terms of restrictive laws (i.e. dietary) or Levitical laws, we also see these are no longer in effect due to explicit passages within the NT. Other commands are directly reiterated in the NT. We can also have disagreements on how this applies. The post here isn’t really a treatment on how to treat the fullness of the Law – that would be far too great a task to mount in a blog post addressing both that and Stanley’s misconceptions. I don’t hold Christians are “contractually obligated” to the Law in the same conditions the Israelites were, but rather, to simply dismiss the Law in full, as Stanley does, is very problematic.

      • TinnyWhistler

        Calvin makes me laugh, because many of his arguments for how he divides up the Law come down to “Times and cultures have changed, this bit is super inconvenient because we have a different society so let’s say that it’s fine now.” and then he’s used extensively by the very people who are most resistant to any sort of discussion about how to divide up the law differently. “You’re advocating for moral relativism!” is my favorite defense of the elevation of one’s favorite interpretations.

        “Spirit of the law” is also hilarious because as soon as people disagree on what that means, they go back to calling each other names and declaring that the other has lost all sight of what Truth actually is.

        I think that if one is going to be ok with explaining away ANY of the Law for modern use, one must be prepared for the reality that people are going to disagree on every single bit of what can be safely ignored for practical day to day use. Claiming any sort of authority or Absolute True knowledge on what bits can stay or go just seems silly, since it’s all about the hermeneutics at that point.

        Of course, there are always those who insist that their interpretations are beyond question because they’ve been given “eyes to see” and thus any disagreement is just proof that the other is deceived. I’m sure you’ve had those conversations.

  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    Three days ago I read an article on Josh Daffern’s blog (also on Patheos) entitled “Has ‘Irresistible’ Cracked the Code to Reach the Nones?”. It is about Andy Stanley’s new book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. Daffern says that it “has the potential to be as disruptive to church as we know it as Martin Luther’s 95 Theses were when they were nailed to the door of Wittenburg Church hundreds of years ago”. He also says: “For those born and raised on the inside (the majority of those who will read Irresistible), Stanley’s comments on the Old Testament will sound at best provocative and at worst heretical”.

    Of course, as I read this article, I thought of you and what you might say about it. I thought you would disagree that Irresistible is comparable to the 95 Theses, and that you would likely be among those who call Stanley’s teaching on the Old Testament heretical. You haven’t mentioned the book here, but you have addressed a few of its main points.

    It does indeed sound as if Stanley has strayed far into heresy. One wonders why he doesn’t see this, considering how many people have publicly and criticized his controversial teachings and severely warned against them.

    Regarding “But, of course, as Andy Stanley affirms in his piece, we need to stop mixing the old with the new – because the blended model is responsible for all the ills of Constantine, the Crusades, the Reformation, and so forth”: Do you mean this sarcastically? (I disagree with it.)

    • Gilsongraybert

      I haven’t read the book as of yet. I may, I may not simply depending on the time I have in the midst of seminary. But yeah, I meant that sarcastically – I suppose throwing in a [sic] could clear that up a bit huh?

      • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

        It shouldn’t be necessary to add a [sic]. In a sense, he is right–but he goes much too far. During the Reformation, there were professed Christian leaders who thought that the Law of Moses should be made civil law. Luther wrote against this. It can be seriously problematic to mix “the old with the new”. However, as you say, Stanley goes much too far in what he thinks and says about it.

        I would say that comparing Irresistible to the 95 Theses is more than a “bold move”. With all due respect, Josh Gaffern thinks too highly of Andy Stanley. Seeing as he is promoting Stanley’s new book, I think he isn’t going to stop defending him anytime soon. At present his article about Irresistible is accessible here:

  • NorrinRadd

    I only recently subscribed to the “Evangelical” stuff here at Patheos. I don’t know that I’d ever heard of Andy Stanley until I saw Josh Daffern’s article a few days ago. (I was aware of Andy’s dad, though I don’t know that I’d ever listened to any of his sermons or read any books. I’m delighted to see Andy making good use of “Obsolete and Outdated Covenant,” an expression I’ve found occasion to use almost daily for the past several years.

    I don’t find anything alarming about that “Relevant” article you linked, and upon which this blog post is based. Perhaps I would if I had a lot of familiarity with Andy’s preaching and saw some troubling trend. Or perhaps not.

    If indeed Andy is “wrong” — at least compared to historical “orthodoxy” — then there is a great need for the Church to explain clearly and meaningfully why Paul said that “Love your neighbor as yourself” fulfills the WHOLE Law, why Jesus said that THE Commandment that would define Christians to outsiders is “Love one another,” why Jesus said “Treat others as you wish others to treat you” sums up the ENTIRE “Law and Prophets,” why Paul, per Gal. 3, Col. 2, and Eph. 2, said that the entire law and every decree, ordinance, and Commandment thereof was abolished, cancelled, nailed to the Cross, hung on the Tree.

    Of course even in the New and Better Covenant there are things that at least have the appearance of laws. Noting that does not solve the problem. There needs to be a meaningful and coherent explication of this obvious inconsistency in Scripture. Until then, I will joyfully live in grace, mercy, and liberty.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Let me try saying it another way: no one is arguing for us to be under the Law to please God, or that we are saved by the Law in any sense. What I am saying is that it is bad to ditch one’s Old Testament and say it isn’t profitable for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness, just as Paul says is true of all Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16. Even still, the Law serves its purpose among mankind.

      Love does indeed fulfill the whole Law – but fulfillment does not mean that we no longer pay attention to anything in the Law, it means the motivation of any command finds its roots in love itself. Andy has said you don’t need to obey any command in the front part of your Bible (the Old Testament), but only this one command in the New Testament.

      This is just false, as many commands are re-stated in the New Testament for us to obey (and the Law of Love surpasses even the former Law, which was abolished in Christ). I would clearly say we are not “contractually obligated” to the Law as Israel was. Again, no one is arguing that we are under the Law in this sense – but we do argue that the Law is not to be tossed aside as if it holds no value for us to instruct us, even in measures of holiness and obedience.

      What this must mean then is that love has specific actions that accompany it. It isn’t just warm, fuzzy feelings, or what we feel we would like to be treated like – but specific ways God has intended we treat one another. Indeed, even the Law of Love has moved beyond a narrow law to a broad one, meaning it moved from precise instruction to principle (like the example of the parapet in the post above).

    • Herrnhut

      Andy Stanley is among the bests of evangelical preacher as he flows with Jesus. In the first Sunday, our LORD appeared to a couple going home to Emmaus saying “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.”

      The entire Old Testament is not about saving Israel. It is all about Jesus, Son of God who was to come to save the whole world. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrew 8)

      The unbelieving churches have suffered long enough for trying to earn blessing by ten commandments. There have not been any blessing but curses for all those practicing their ten commandments. All blessing flow from Christ Jesus, Amen.

  • Sharon Gruner

    Thanks for sharing! To me the most dangerous part of his article was the complete disregard (almost intentional) to the most important commandment to love God with everything we are. Basing the goal of Christianity on loving others seems new agey to me. We were saved from ourselves to love God and then others. we can’t know Him without the full cannon of scripture