Andy Stanley has inspired the rearranging of many electrons across internet pathways in the last few days. He said some truly troubling things in a sermon designed to encourage young people to remain in or return to the Christian faith, a noble and necessary effort. He stated that the Christian Faith was not based on what the Bible says, but on the fact that Christ was raised from the dead. He flatly stated that the Bible does not have to be completely true in all that it says in order for Christianity to be accepted. According to Stanley, the Christian faith is based primarily on the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles and Disciples and their interaction with Jesus Christ.
In an effort to be charitable, Stanley is trying to reach skeptics on the basis of the historical reliability of the New Testament writings. He points out that these documents are based on very carefully recorded eyewitness testimony, and they are basically reliable accounts of historical events like Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. All of this is true, but Stanley stops too quickly in his argument.
Stanley follows a basic argument that I have been exposed to ever since I first read Josh McDowell, J. Gresham Machen, and R. C. Sproul. The linear argument goes like this:
1. The Bible is good history. (Stanley is right with us here.)
2. We can trust what the Bible says about Jesus because it is based on eyewitness testimony. These eyewitnesses were willing to die for their faith. (Stanley stays with us.)
3. Jesus claimed to be God. He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Thomas said, “My Lord and my God,” and Jesus did not correct him (John 20:26-31). (Stanley hangs on.)
4. Jesus worked miracles and proved Himself to be God. (Stanley is still there.)
5. Jesus affirmed the truth of God’s Word. He said, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). He said, in prayer to God, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Christ affirmed the truthfulness of the Old Testament. (Stanley does not mention this.)
6. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to help the apostles remember and truthfully relate the events in the Bible (John 16:13-15). Christ affirmed the truth of the New Testament. (Stanley doesn’t bring this up either.)
7. We have a Bible we can believe to be completely true based on Christ’s authority and teaching. We can trust what the Bible says. It gives us God’s truth and equips us for faith and service (2 Tim. 3:15-17). (Here’s where Stanley ‘gets off the bus’ on this trip.)
To be repetitive, the conclusion that the Bible is true in all it says comes from the authority and teachings of Jesus Himself. We can’t ‘wiggle out’ of that. We can’t ‘side step’ it. We can’t ignore it. If what Stanley affirms to be true is in fact true, and we take a close look at the implications of those affirmations, then we have a Bible which is true in all it says by the force of logic.
But what of the skeptic who would embrace the core facts that Christianity is based on without accepting a Bible that contains no error? I admit the theoretical possibility of a person being a Christian who does not accept the Bible to be true in all it says in the original manuscripts, to fail to do so would excludeC. S. Lewis from The Kingdom of God. However, the greatest gathering of reformed theologians ever to get together said in The Westminster Confession of Faith:
By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. (WCF 14.2)
Believing the Bible to be true in all it says certainly is a reasonable and logical conviction, one that should be embraced by all. To fail to do so is problematic, and may indicate a heart not yet converted to Christ.
We should pray for Stanley, but we must be both charitable and firm in our reactions. He is on dangerous ground.
[It is beyond the scope of this post to address all of the issues Stanley brings up in the sermon. Please see the posts under the search label “The Argument from Scripture” at the right for the answers to many of them.]