Andy Stanley’s Irresistible Book Review: An Introduction

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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.

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Book Review in Three

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Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson

Book Review in Three is my attempt to give a short summary of my thoughts on a book I’ve finished.  The goal is a reading time no longer than three minutes.  By nature, these won’t be exhaustive reviews and often I may link to others who have gone more in-depth for deeper analysis when needed.

This is not the first book I’ve read by Wilson. His book Death By Living was my introduction to his seemingly haphazard writing style. Needless to say I loved that book. Wilson was able to express thoughts I’ve struggled to articulate for a long time. He is able to weave together the seemingly random and mundane with the utterly brain spinning power of God’s sovereignty (only like a good Calvinist could).

While Death dealt with biblical concept that to live really means to die to ourselves, Notes tackles the problem of evil.

The problem of evil is usually the first place a secular/atheist/westerner unbeliever goes.

“If God is good, then why is there evil?”

Any Christian worth their salt needs to have an apologetic toolbox that deals with such objections. Unfortunately, while often logically sound and passionately fought for, such answers on this topic can ring hollow. They usually lack skin in the game. Evil can become academic too quickly. A pastoral 101 no-no would be to try to open said apologetic toolbox at a funeral.

This is where Wilson hits it out of the park. He has the apologetic chops. He knows Hume and Niche, but he answers them incarnationaly.

Life isn’t a lab experiment. It is a story. God is writing the greatest story ever, with billions of plot lines all woven together.

But to an infinite artist, a Creator in love with His craft, there is no unimportant corner, there is no thrown-away image, no tattered thread in the novel left untied.

The problem of evil is ultimately soul crushing if man is at the center of the answer. If we reason up to God from our fallen and haughty position we end up despising God for the story he has written. We shake our fists and say, “How could you let this happen!” It’s as if we expect God to be running our script when it is actually the other way around.

Do you dislike your role in the story, your place in the shadow? What complaints do we have that the hobbits could not have heaved at Tolkien? You have been born into a narrative, you have been given freedom. Act, and act well until you reach the final scene.

It’s not our story. God is not following our script. We are in his story and he has written every drop of it. Every crazy subatomic particle is obeying Him right now. Every solar flair and black hole is acting their parts. It is only us, made is his image who sought to grab the pen for ourselves, who fret and are angered by the beauty of the Author’s narrative. This is what Wilson draws out so well. He reminds us of how utterly small we are while how gracious the Story Teller is.

For ultimately God was not satisfied just to write us our parts, but he wrote himself into his story.

He exists on two planes. He sees the story as He tells it, while He weaves it, shapes it, and sings it. And He stepped inside it.

Christ came as the author in order to die for his people. He bore the evil that they allowed into His perfect world. He drank every drop of the righteous wrath that evil deserved. Then he put evil, sin, and death in the grave when he walked out of the tomb. It was always the point of the story.

Wilson’s book is one of the best I’ve read on this subject. He as able to stretch our narrow gaze to see how much bigger this whole thing is.

I highly recommend it.

ND.