Okay, so the title was a bit ‘click-bait’ but intentionally so. For too many people, we pre-decide what we believe about someone or something and then go looking for arguments to back up what we’ve already decided to believe. Andy Stanley has made some provocative statements in recent months and a portion of Evangelical Christendom has already decided he’s a heretic, so a blog like this elicits “What crazy thing has Andy said now?”
Well, let me go ahead and give you a heads up: the controversy surrounding Andy’s teachings (i.e. unhitching from the Old Testament) is mere kindling compared to the bonfire of his new book about to be released (available for pre-order now). A longer book review will be out in the next few days, but I wanted to set the stage by discussing one of Stanley’s provocative statements (that the old covenant or Old Testament is outdated and obsolete) and reveal the shocking author driving this whole narrative. In his book Irresistible, Andy Stanley finally shows his hand and reveals the author that drives him to make such shocking statements. But I need to warn you, if you’ve already pre-decided that Andy Stanley is a heretic, then you’re not going to like the rest of this blog post. No seriously, go ahead and click on something else. Ignorance is bliss.
In Chapter 12 of his forthcoming book, Stanley utilizes the words “outdated” and “obsolete” when discussing the Old Testament. Anticipating the pushback these provocative words will elicit, he gives voice to what the first objection among many would be when he says on page 153,
“Come on, you can’t label portions of the Bible obsolete and claim to be a Christian. Can you? [The author he refers to] says the new covenant rendered the old and everything associated with it obsolete.”
So what author has so influenced Andy Stanley to stake his entire career on such provocative statements?
Wait for it . . . the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews, in our good ole B-I-B-L-E.
Hebrews 8:13. Click on the link and read it for yourself. Or grab your paper Bible to make sure it’s actually in there.
No seriously, I’ll wait. I had to check it myself when I first read it.
13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. Hebrews 8:13
The author of Hebrews literally refers to the old covenant as ‘outdated and obsolete.’ (If you’re an ESV kind of person, it’s ‘obsolete and growing old’). Either way, it’s an incendiary way to talk about the Old Testament, especially coming from a New Testament author. By the way, the Latin word for ‘covenant’ is testamentum. When the Bible was translated into the English language, for some reason we stuck with the Latin word for covenant ‘testament’ rather than the word ‘covenant’ itself. What’s undeniable is that Andy’s inspiration behind his provocative claims about the Old Testament (or covenant) come from the pages of the New Testament itself.
So before we brandish our pitchforks and storm the gates of North Point Community Church seeking the head of Andy Stanley on a platter, let’s roll up our exegetical sleeves and wrestle with how the New Testament authors (including the author of Hebrews) interacted with the Old Testament. What we discover might just surprise us. As a student of the Bible (with a Master’s and Doctorate degree from an accredited theological seminary to prove it), I can guarantee you that Andy Stanley did his homework and handles his biblical exegesis with care and precision. If you buy the book looking for a smoking gun where Stanley denies the inspiration or authority of Scripture, you won’t find it. As one more sneak peek, I’ll quote him from page 158 when he affirms,
“Jesus treated the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative. Paul insisted they were God-breathed. Peter believed Jewish writers were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
So how can the Old Testament Scriptures be authoritative, God-breathed and inspired by the Holy Spirit while at the same time outdated and obsolete? That’s what the book aims to explore, and it’s a fascinating discussion. That is, if you’re still reading this with an open mind. Some have already pre-decided what they believe, whether Scripture might indicate otherwise or not.
Oh and by the way, Stanley isn’t creating this dust storm of a debate just for kicks. He’s got a very specific and a very compelling reason to plant his flag where he does in this debate. What’s the compelling reason? I guess you’ll just have to order the book yourself to find out. 🙂