Over the next few weeks I’m going to walking through a several part review of Andy Stanley’s Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. Andy Stanley is an incredibly popular pastor who has a massive influence and reach in American evangelicalism. This book is going to sell a lot of copies and be read by a lot of people. This is why I am so concerned about it.
I have heard several of Stanley’s sermons from the series that I assume he has used to write this book. There were many points in those sermons where he made some pretty amazing claims. He has talked about the Bible being a “house of cards.” He has claimed that Christians did not have the Bible until the council of Nicaea. He has talked about “un-hitching” the Old Testament from the New and even claimed that this was the perspective of Jesus and Paul.
If I have understood what Stanley is arguing correctly, he is slicing and dicing the Bible to make it more palatably to his audience.
These sermons where made in the context of trying to reach a secular audience. Stanley knows, like anyone living in the west, that there has been an attack on the “believability” of what is contained in the Scriptures. So much of this shake up was brought about by the New Atheists: Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett, and Harris. These men and their disciples pitted science against faith. You’ve got to pick one (oh and picking faith means your an idiot who is a cancer to society).
I mean really, what modern person could possibly believe in a six day creation, the exodus, or Balaam’s talking donkey?
So in order to reach the “secular millennial” who is far too scientific (yeah, right) to believe such things, Stanley wants to make it accessible. This is where I think he came across the “minimal facts argument” developed by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona. This follows the creed in 1st Corinthians 15 and the timeline of Paul’s conversion in Galatians chapter 2 to make the claim that the earliest followers of Jesus believed he was God within six months to two years after his crucifixion. While this is a great support to a diversified portfolio of apologetics, what Stanley has done (I think with the blessing of the authors) has said that this is all you need. You can go ahead and cut out all the things you don’t like or find hard in the Bible as long as you believe in the risen Jesus based upon the probability of the evidence.
What immediately comes to mind is Jesus’ words about “a house divided will not stand” (Mark 3:25). How can God’s words be at odds with God’s Word? I don’t believe submission to the lordship of Christ comes with opt outs. I don’t think we are called to faith in Christ because of the preponderance of the evidence. We are called to salvation because the words of the risen Christ who raises our hearts of stone to life (the very words that are found in the Bible). It must be this way because we are sinners, god-haters, and rebels from birth. Even if all the overwhelming evidence of Jesus’ resurrection stared us in the face we would still scoff and reject the Lamb of God. Unless the Spirit quickens our dead hearts we will never believe. If my assumptions are true and Stanley is okay with cutting parts and even testaments out of the Bible to get people “in the door,” it by definition is heretical. He is removing the very words that the Spirit uses to resurrect the sinners soul.
These are my assumptions and I will put them to the test as I read through this book.