Stanley makes an argument that to many sounds like heresy, but I believe is a strong and needed pivot for the church today. Stanley made the argument to his church that at the center of our faith is a person (Jesus) and an event (the Resurrection). He affirms the inspiration of Scripture and validates their incredible importance, but he stops short of making belief in the infallibility of Scripture a litmus test for salvation. And I think on that note he’s right on.
I personally remember back in college a Bible professor posing a question that at the time itself seemed like heresy: Are we becoming guilty of bibliolatry? It seems heretical even to pose this question, but Stanley addresses the trend in the evangelical world to make belief in all the Scriptures as co-equal with belief in Jesus when it comes to requirements for salvation.
Evangelicals celebrate the protest of Martin Luther against the Catholic Church and his rightful interpretation of Romans when he declared that salvation was sola fide, through faith alone. The question for evangelicals today is what or who must our faith be in for salvation? Is faith in Christ enough, or must we also believe in the sanctity of the entire Scriptures, Old and New Testaments?
Is the Bible co-equal with Jesus? That’s a fine line to walk. The Scriptures are where we find the stories of Jesus, so it makes sense to put the two on equal footing, but the Bible itself never declares a full belief in the Scriptures as necessary for salvation. Only faith in Jesus will save you. But since all of our recordings of Jesus are found in Scripture, it’s easy to elevate the Bible to co-equal status with Jesus, which the Bible itself never claims to do, and when we do that we put a book in a place reserved only for the Son of God himself: the absolute center of our faith.
But for Mohler, that’s not enough. He is president of an institution dedicated to (among other things) teaching the Bible, so an attack on any part of that book or its position within Christianity must be met with violent force. But I believe his article misses the point entirely and actually proves Stanley’s point. Stanley’s arguments might sound like heresy to the already convinced, but that’s not his audience. His target audience isn’t Christians, but non-Christians. Andy Stanley, much like the Apostle Paul in Acts 17 at Mars Hill, is engaging with skeptics about the claims of Christianity. He presented a convincing and well researched argument about the only claim of Christianity that is necessary for salvation: belief in Jesus and his resurrection from the dead. As heretical as it might sound (but it is not), belief in the infallibility of all of Scripture is not a litmus test for salvation. Belief in Jesus is all that is required for salvation, and even the Bible says that.
Mohler’s counter-punch to Stanley, as well-written and linguistically high-minded as it is, misses because he’s trying to counter an argument that Stanley isn’t making. Here’s the central issue: What’s at the very center of Christianity? What is necessary for salvation? Is belief in Jesus enough? Or is belief in all the Bible necessary as well? To many, belief in the infallibility of Scripture has become a litmus test for salvation, and that’s the heresy.