WASHINGTION – Mega-pastor Andy Stanley, who boasts one of the largest congregations in America, famously advocating dumping the Old Testament, calling it “outdated and obsolete,” then said the Ten Commandments were no longer applicable, then smeared the God of the Jews and now explains that he sees little “grace” in the Hebrew Bible.
The comments in his sermons, in interviews and in his latest book, “Irresistible,” are prompting more and more criticism from within Christianity on nearly a daily basis.
One of the latest controversies is a sermon dating back to April in which he said you don’t see a lot of grace in the Old Testament.
“When you look at the Old Testament, when you look at the Old Covenant, when you read the story of Israel, when you read the prophets of Israel, you don’t see much of this,” Stanley said, pointing to a slide on a screen to the word “grace.”
But it’s not just the Hebrew Scriptures that Stanley believes get too much attention from Christians today.
He also says he thinks Christians put too much emphasis on the Bible altogether – New Testament and Old.
“I would ask preachers and pastors and student pastors in their communications to get the spotlight off the Bible and back on the resurrection,” he said in an interview months ago with Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
The size of Stanley’s suburban Atlanta Northpoint Community make it one impossible to ignore. Several years ago, the church spent millions building its own three-lane overpass to keep parking lot exit times within 30 minutes. Several satellite campuses are now reported attended by nearly 34,000 weekly.
The latest criticism of Stanley comes in response to a sermon on Acts 15 in which the apostle Paul famously sought advice from other apostles, including James, the leader of the Jerusalem congregation and younger brother of Jesus over the issue of whether new gentile followers of Jesus needed to be circumcised in obedience to the Old Testament commandments in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Joshua.
Acts 15:1-2 explains: “And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”
While there are disagreements within the church today about interpretation of the ruling by the council, circumcision was ruled unnecessary. But Stanley went further in his sermon suggesting, in effect, that the entire moral law of the Old Testament was thrown out by the first century church. While he’s not alone within the 21st century church in teaching that, the notion that there is little grace found in the Hebrew Scriptures has provoked widespread reaction.
“I count at least 37 critical and relevant references to ‘grace’ and 34 to the words ‘gracious’ and ‘graciously’ in the King James Version,” said Joseph Farah, author of the new book, “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.” “Grace abounds in the Hebrew Scriptures. It’s everywhere. It’s a concept found in Genesis, throughout the Torah, the historical books, the Psalms and the prophets as is most everything Jesus and the apostles taught in the New Testament, as one familiar with the original Scriptures would expect. It’s astonishing that Stanley would make such a comment publicly. My research into finding the Gospel in the Old Testament revealed even the messages of the Good News of redemption and restoration and mercy was found literally everywhere. The Messiah bringing this Good News was expected in the first century by many Jews and is still expected by many today.”
Jeff Durbin, pastor of Apologia Church in Tempe, Arizona, commented on the Acts 15 sermon by Stanley, reacting in horror.
“What? When you read the Old Testament you don’t reach much about much of this?” he began. “It’s interesting because of the centrality of all of what the New Testament says about the Old Testament revelation and the covenant God has made and the salvation we have. The apostle Paul actually makes the point in the Book of Romans Chapter 4 to buttress his point about the work of Christ, saved by grace through faith, apart from the works of the law. That this was the way God has always saved people. It wasn’t through the Old Testament that they were saved by law, he says. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. What do you mean that there is so little of this in the Old Testament?”
Al Mohler, president of the Baptist Theological Seminary, and Reform apologist James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, are also among those who leveled criticism of Stanley’s interpretations of the Bible as well as his de-emphasis of both the Old and New Testament.
“Adam and Eve were promised a redeemer immediately after their fall in the Garden,” says Farah. “That’s the beginning of the Good News and it is grace. Noah found grace in the eyes of God. Abraham found grace in the eyes of God. Lot found grace in the eyes of God. Jacob found grace in the eyes of God. David and many others throughout the Scriptures found grace through their faith. It’s the story throughout the Old Testament. It cannot be overlooked unless you don’t read it or you don’t want to see it.”
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