If you, like me, are active at all on the theological or church side of Twitter, you may remember that back in May, Andy Stanley (once again) went under fire for making an extremely controversial statement about the Bible. Tweets went flying left and right, quoting him as saying that Christians need to “unhitch the Old Testament from their faith” in a sermon at his church in Atlanta, GA. Naturally, I was shocked, annoyed, and I admit infuriated at what he said. The Old Testament is my favorite part of the Bible. The message of the Gospel permeates the Old Testament, and I will never tire of reading of the history and family lines that brought us the Messiah.
But, I didn’t tweet about it. Partly because I assumed (like the last Stanley controversy) things would blow over in a couple months and people would stop talking about it. However, I started noticing some tweets that caught my attention. Some were from a pastor I follow who, while we disagree on many theological points, I respect and appreciate hearing what he has to say (even when I disagree). He was annoyed too, but not for the reason most people I follow were annoyed. His tweets shot back at Stanley’s accusers, telling them that they had gotten angry about a five-second clip taken out of context form an entire sermon. He even wrote a blog post in support of Stanley. And then there was another from someone I see as more conservative. They said that they had listened to the sermon that the clip came from, and it wasn’t as horrible as everyone said it was. A little shaky, yes, but not horrendous and possibly not even heresy.
Like I do with many wildfire, fifteen minutes of fame controversies, I shrugged what was happening off and went on with my life. But darn it, if And Stanley doesn’t keep coming up in my feed. I found myself thinking about what he said over and over again. “We have to unhitch the Old Testament from our faith.” What on earth could anyone possibly mean by that?? And how could placing it in context make it better?
But then, Sunday afternoon, I was skimming Twitter when I came across a troubling screenshot of a tweet from a man I’m on the fence about. Basically, I think he has a lot of good things to say, but he’s also a huge fan of stirring the pot and making people angry (it seems – I’ve never met him in person so I could be wrong). This one screenshot of one tweet made it look like he held very unscriptural ecclesiastical views. I was genuinely surprised at the statement. So, I decided to try and find it on his timeline. It was in his replies, and the one tweet in the screenshot turned out to be part of a full statement he made in a “thread” as a response to someone he was debating. Upon reading the entire thread, I realized exactly the point he was trying to make and that he had not in fact rejected Scriptural teachings. Rather, he was promoting Scriptural teachings.
But that screenshot of a snippet of what he was saying is now making the rounds on Twitter. I’ve seen three separate instances outside of the original tweet now, accusing this man of heresy and claiming he is picking SJW-ism over the Gospel. When if they had jus done a little digging themselves, they would have discovered the claims made about him were untrue, and even slanderous. Which got me thinking about Andy Stanley. What if the same thing had happened to him? So I tweeted, asking for good links to the full sermon in which Stanley allegedly preached what could be considered heresy, or at the very least, walking away from orthodox Christianity. I received a response with a link to all three sermons in his series on YouTube.
This three part series is my analysis and response to each of the three sermons in this series. My promise to my readers is that, like I did with Steve Anderson’s sermon when I wrote my series on submission, I will listen carefully to each sermon, taking notes with exact quotes, and take the sermon as a whole. I will listen to understand the message he is trying to preach and compare what he says against the truth of Scripture. Because, as you will learn in a post later this week, I’m tired of the witch hunting.
Originally, I was going to open the first post of my series with the paragraphs above. But I decided to instead write a preface post, so that all my words in each post can be fully devoted to each sermon the post is on. So, why am I doing this? Why take the time to sit through and take notes on a sermon from a guy who will never be my pastor, who I probably don’t agree with in the least, to write about him on my blog that doesn’t exactly get thousands of views per post, just so I can be another blogger talking about the latest controversy in hopes that will up my readership?
Because I’m not doing this for views or new followers (although if that’s a result, that would be cool). I’m doing this because, as I will discuss in Friday’s post, we are far too quick to jump to conclusions about people we don’t like or don’t want to like. I went into Stanley’s first sermon fully expecting to hate every minute of it. But, as you will see next week, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the things he had to say.
If this series, along with some other posts I have coming, can teach my readers one thing, I hope it will be this: we all know what assuming does. Don’t let it do that to you. If you want to be outraged by what someone said or did, do your research. Find out if you really should be outraged, if you should just settle down, or if you should even stand in support of that person.
Lastly, I want to share something from the statement of faith I found on the website for Andy Stanley’s church, North Point Community Church:
- About the Scriptures: We believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God and that men were moved by the Spirit of God to write the very words of Scripture. Therefore, we believe the Bible is without error.
And also this, further down on the page:
- About the Christian Life: We believe all Christians should live for Christ and not for themselves. By obedience to the Word of God and daily yielding to the Spirit of God, every believer should mature and be conformed to the image of Christ.
This is the church, the ministry that Andy Stanley helped start. Their statement of faith claims they believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, that Jesus is God, and that the Word of God (the Bible) is crucial to the Christian life. Therefore, I am entering this sermon series assuming the best of Stanley, until he, with his own words, in the context of his own sermon, can demonstrate that I need to assume otherwise.