WASHINGTON – A mega-pastor of one of the largest “evangelical” churches in the U.S. is attacking the Old Testament again, this time insisting Jesus rendered the Ten Commandments null and void, issuing one new law “as a replacement for everything.”
Andy Stanley, pastor of the 34,000-member North Point Community Church in suburban Atlanta, who famously advised his flock to “unhitch” from the Old Testament in a sermon last spring, has now penned an article promoting his new book saying laws such as “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and “Thou shalt not kill” are no longer relevant to Christians living in the New Covenant era.
“You’ve heard the story before: A group of Christians puts up a monument of the Ten Commandments in a public space or on government property,” begins Stanley in his article titled, “Why do Christians want to post the Ten Commandments and not the Sermon on the Mount?” “Someone says it violates the separation of church and state. The Christians say taking it down would violate their freedom of speech. There’s some back and forth in court and both sides say some not-so-great things about the other. Rinse and repeat. But how many times have you seen Christians trying to post the text of the sermon on the mount in a public place? Or the all-encompassing commandment Jesus gave us? ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another — John 13:34 The one commandment! Doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? But if we’re going to create a monument to stand as a testament to our faith, shouldn’t it at least be a monument of something that actually applies to us?”
Stanley goes on to write that the Ten Commandments are from the Old Covenant, which he says “played a significant role in God’s creation of the nation of Israel. It gave them moral guidelines and helped separate this new nation from their neighbors. This was part of the formal agreement (or covenant) God created with his people, but Jesus’ death and resurrection signaled the end of that covenant and all the rules and regulations associated with it. Jesus didn’t issue his new command as an additional commandment to the existing list of commands. He didn’t say, ‘Here’s the 614th law.’ Jesus issued his new commandment as a replacement for everything in the existing list. Including the big ten. Just as his new covenant replaced the old covenant, Jesus’ new commandment replaced all the old commandments.”
The implications of that unequivocal statement have been staggering to other Christians who point out how the words of Jesus and the apostles seem to contradict them flatly and reject such a conclusion.
In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus says: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
“Andy Stanley is not preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus and the apostles preached,” says Joseph Farah, author of “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament,” which documents what he characterizes as “the miraculous, supernatural and perfect continuity of the Good News of redemption throughout both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.” “Nor is Stanley preaching the Gospel of personal salvation that Jesus and the apostles preached. Instead, he is preaching replacement theology – completely discarding about three-quarters of the Bible and misinterpreting what’s left.”
Farah calls Stanley’s reductionist gospel “Chick-fil-A theology,” an exegesis based on modern American Christian cultural traditions rather than the Bible.
“Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles,” writes Stanley. “Participants in the new covenant are expected to obey the single command Jesus issued as part of his new covenant: as I have loved you, so you must love one another. The new covenant replaced the old one. The covenant established by Jesus retired the covenant God established with the nation of Israel. This is why most Christians don’t mind a little bacon with their eggs. It’s why you can’t get either at Chick-fil-A on Sunday. (If we were still taking our marching orders from the old covenant, they would be closed on Saturday.)”
Writing a response to Stanley’s new assault on the Hebrew Scriptures, Grayson Gilbert, a graduate student pursuing a masters of divinity degree at Moody Bible Institute, disputes that Jesus only left His disciples with one new law to follow. In fact, Jesus issued hundreds of commandments in the gospel accounts, while affirming the Ten Commandments and the law and the prophets in Matthew 22:37-40: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
“Interestingly enough, Stanley bypasses these verses in his discussions, though I have a feeling he would explain them away and disregard that they are drawn from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, which are legal texts in and of themselves given to Israel,” writes Gilbert. “Furthermore, it is plainly stated in the text itself, these are a summation of the law and prophets.”
Stanley blames the Old Testament , not misguided Christianity, for centuries of horrors and abuse of those of different beliefs: “The justifications Christians have used since the fourth century to mistreat people find their roots in old covenant practices and values. Imagine trying to leverage the Sermon on the Mount to start an inquisition, launch a crusade, or incite a pogrom against Jews. But reach back into the old covenant, and there’s plenty to work with.”
“This not only fundamentally misunderstands the nature of God, but essentially claims He has instituted a means of oppression and ill-begotten values in the Old Testament,” writes Grayson. “In other words, the Old Testament is only the foundation of violence, oppression, and so forth, rather than revealing the character and standards of God. Let me be quite frank, Andy is about as close as one can get to saying the God of the Old Testament is different than the New Testament without explicitly stating, ‘The God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament.’”
It’s not the first time Stanley has been accused of the heresy of Marcion, who took just such a position.
Stanley concludes: “While Jesus was foreshadowed in the old covenant, he did not come to extend it. He came to fulfill it, put a bow on it, and establish something entirely new. The “new” Jesus unleashed made the faith of first-century believers formidable. Their apologetic was irrefutable. Their courage, unquestionable. And the results were remarkable. Dear Christian reader: Why? Why? Why would we even be tempted to reach back beyond the cross to borrow from a covenant that was temporary and inferior to the covenant established for us at Calvary?”
“Jesus is One and the Same as the God of the Old Testament,” says Farah. “He is described in John 1 as the Creator, the maker of all things that were made and in as the One and Only Mediator between God and man in 1 Timothy 2:5. It’s not just that Jesus was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, as Stanley says. He was there at the beginning. He tells the Pharisees: ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ In other words, Jesus referred to Himself as the great ‘I am,’ one in the same as the Father. There is no separation, no disagreement, between the Father and the Son. They are One.”
Stanley’s new book is called, “Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World.” It is currently ranked at Amazon as one of the most popular books in the “church leadership” category. Farah’s new book, prior to release, as one of the most popular in “Old Testament” category.”
Farah has challenged Stanley’s assertions on the irrelevance and inapplicability of the Old Testament in a series of commentaries:
Mega-sin in a mega-church culture
What is the foundation of our faith?
Meet a pastor who needs my new book – badly
Did God ever change His mind?
Is the virgin birth important to the Gospel?
‘Unhitch’ from the Old Testament? Jesus didn’t
Media wishing to reach Joseph Farah can do so by emailing [email protected].