The Fall of the House of Stanley?
by Anna Kitko, Ratio Christi Regional Director for Tennessee and South Carolina
It comes as no surprise to followers of Andy Stanley and North Point Ministries in Atlanta, GA that their pastor and mentor has found himself once again in hot water. In a column published by Relevant Magazine Stanley disavows the use of the Ten Commandments for Christians today. As part of the Old Covenant, he argues, such things do not apply to believers under the New Covenant. This comes after last year’s controversy surrounding a Sermon where Stanley preached that Christians were also to “unhitch” themselves from the Old Testament. Arguing from Acts 15, Stanley taught his congregation of thirty-three thousand members that Paul, Peter, James, and the members of the Council of Jerusalem had echoed this sentiment when they had determined to cease to require the circumcision of Gentiles for the purposes of joining into God’s family.
So what’s all the hullabaloo about, you ask? For starters, God’s laws from both the Old Covenant and the New are not random. They are not simply God exercising power. God did not make them up spur of the moment to see if we would obey them.
Morality, reflected in the Ten Commandments, are the reflection of who he is: perfect holiness.
The reason we have these laws and the reason they are called “laws” is because they are the standard of holiness. We as Christians are not to commit adultery in any of its varying forms because God does not commit adultery. We do not go around murdering people because God does not murder. Morality is not relative to culture, rather morality is a universal that is derived from the eternally God himself.
Even more so, God's attributes do not change. He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) which means that the Ten Commandments have been true since eternity past and into eternity future whether they are articulated or not. They didn’t come into being when Moses carried them written in stone down to his people. They do not cease to be appropriate when Judaism became complete in Christianity. It is simply that this was the first point in history that they were physically written down. It was morally wrong to break the Ten Commandments prior to Moses. This is basic Christian theology.
But Anna, you’re thinking, I get it; and others have already written articles decrying Stanley’s failed Theology. Some have helped articulate a way that Dispensational Theology might be able to explain away his comments. This is a Cults and New Religions Blog. Why do you even care?
Excellent question. Here’s the rub: when you specialize in studying human behavior in the context of the rise and fall of aberrant groups, you notice that it is commonplace for their leadership to have started out seemingly well-enough and innocently enough. It is a sad reality that many of the groups that I study and track, actually began with a dynamic individual who, seems to me, was genuinely interested in preaching the Word of God. What happens is that over time, as the leadership gains traction, power, and fame, that power and fame rapidly erodes and exposes the holes in their belief about God that begins to remove any sentiment of trustworthiness in primary theological teachings. They demonstrate, simply by denying core concepts that they are not lead by the Holy Spirit but are rather lead by their own agendas. They thought themselves guides for the people but they demonstrate through their teachings that they are in fact blind guides (Matthew 15:14).
Now there are exceptions of course where malicious intent was always the agenda but that is material for another article. My point, and the reason Stanley has hit my radar is because my potential-blind-guide-senses are tingling. So instead of making the case of the theological correction of Andy Stanley as others have done, I am instead taking a different route. That route is this: Stanley has famously and regularly used cavalier and purposely misleading statements about the Word of God for what appears to me to be the sale of books or promotion of North Point Ministries. It is somewhat of a modus operandi for him. For example, just a few days ago he tweeted that the folks claiming controversy, who have responded to his own quotes verbatim, were really just individuals who need to buy his book to learn what he really meant.
He did something similar back in April where he preached to eight-thousand Orange Conference attendees that unity in the Body of Christ is more important than being theologically correct.
Are you seeing what I am getting at here? Andy Stanley is being unnecessarily and purposefully cavalier with Scripture for the sake of audience reception, marketing, book sales, etc. It appears to me that he has stumbled on what some of the most effective cult-leaders have also utilized: a cavalier attitude toward the Bible in order to play into what the audience wants to hear or will make them respond in the way he wants to his message.
He appears to be using the Bible for his agenda rather than preaching the Word reverentially for the sake of God’s agenda. He feels comfortable playing fast and loose with the very Book that turns darkness into light. His attitude betrays something deeper here.
When ministry leaders begin to forget that it is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit to place people in our audience, and we trade it for the best marketing strategy to keep ourselves popular, we have traded a foundation of gold for one of straw for our students (1 Corinthians 3:12). And the ease with which we neglect the whole of Scripture for greater fame as teachers, comes with a dire warning that we who have been entrusted with such things will be judged doubly for how we used them (James 3:1).
I do not know for certain where or if Stanley is guilty of such things. Nor am I here to determine that answer for you, dear reader. But I am here to use my calling to alert you to potential problems.
It is crucial that we monitor closely our theological mentors, that we remember that they are human, and that when their humanness comes to bear, we hold them accountable along with ourselves, to amend their error and humble themselves before the Word of God.
And when they fail to do this, it is my recommendation that we look elsewhere for instruction with great haste.
The haunting reminder that Charles Spurgeon gave to Pastors and Teachers rings true even now almost a century later,
“Far be it from me to turn the Pulpit of the Lord into a showbox to feature myself in.”
May this be a mantra we repeat regularly.
Anna Kitko is a Christian Apologist who specializes in Cults and New Religions. Her writing ranges from solving biblical difficulties to training people how to avoid coercive persuasion from aberrant Bible-based groups. She is an avid reader of Christian history and loves to point out ancient heresies being re-packaged and re-distributed in our culture. In addition to being a Regional Director for RC, she personally directs the chapter at University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Anna can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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