Andy Stanley and the Dangers of an Inappropriate View of the Old Testament

I recently saw a news article headline that read “Christians must ‘un-hitch’ the Old Testament from their Faith.

I have encountered plenty of attitudes growing up that anticipate and/or lead to this kind of erroneous view of the Old Testament: “The Old Testament is just history.” “We’re under the New Covenant not the Old.” “The Old Testament just has good information, nothing necessary.” “We’re under grace, not law.” Etc. etc.

Those who use these kinds of quips without thinking – or worse, use them because their beliefs align with them – display a working ignorance of the New Testament authors’ reliance upon the Old Testament Scriptures: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Luke 24:27, Romans 16:25-27, Galatians 3:8, 2 Peter 1:19-21, etc. — and these are just some passages that specifically use the term “Scripture” when referring to the Old Testament! (See also Ephesians 2:19-21 for the idea of the Old Testament coinciding with the New as a norm in the mind of Paul…)

I try to share useful and/or helpful resources on this blog from time to time – so for more on this subject here are two podcasts where a Biblical Scholar and a pastor give reasons for why they think Andy Stanley’s statements in particular are downright dangerous and unbiblical.

Dr. James R. White on the Dividing Line [time mark 25:04]: http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/2018/05/10/james-cone-eulogized-by-evangelicals-andy-stanley-unhooks-the-old-testament-open-phones-on-a-ton-of-interesting-topics/

Chris Rosebrough on Fighting for the Faith [time mark 39:06]: http://www.piratechristian.com/fightingforthefaith/2018/5/oe7tde2xfb7n4vtw4txdcbklk3xsk2

Here is an article by Dr. Michael Brown that provides even more evidence for the interconnectedness of the Testaments: https://www.christianpost.com/voice/no-pastor-andy-stanley-we-should-not-unhitch-ourselves-from-the-old-testament.html

And here is an article with some good points from a few other thinkers: https://www.christianpost.com/news/theologians-warn-andy-stanleys-message-to-unhitch-old-testament-is-heresy-224026/

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“Canon Revisited” by Michael J. Kruger

{Book Review}

Though it is somewhat technical and heavy (especially where original languages are addressed) – as one would expect from a textbook – I found Dr. Kruger’s book to be an excellent (and non-overwhelming) introduction to the topic of the New Testament canon.

I especially appreciated the main theme of his apologetic purpose in the book:

“I was interested not only in when and how these books were recognized as canonical, but also in how we know these books are canonical. My concerns were not only historical but also epistemological (and theological)… Like me, the students in my class were not satisfied with just learning when and how the canon was received; they too wanted to know whether Christianity had adequate grounds to claim that these twenty-seven books were the right ones. That is the question that critics of the faith are always asking. And my students were looking for answers. This issue, then, is the motivation for this book. I have written it not so much to answer the question about whether the Christian belief in the canon is true, but to answer the question about whether the Christian belief in the canon is intellectually justified.” – Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited (page 11)

And I believe he has succeeded in his goal – at least, as far as is possible in one volume.

His explanation of this facet of the book in the Introduction (pages 20 & 21) – namely, his aim to answer the de jure objection as opposed to the de facto objection – was very helpful in setting up the other themes of the book.

Also, having been raised with no meaningful doctrine of canon, I found Dr. Kruger’s observations and instruction quite helpful. And his epistemology was far more intellectually satisfying – at least for me – than anything else I have ever encountered in Christian apologetics as far as the doctrine of canon is concerned.

Once he has laid a foundation for understanding the academic debate about canon, Dr. Kruger begins to help us understand that “the canon, as God’s Word, is not just true, but the criterion of truth. It is an ultimate authority.” (Page 91, emphasis original)

And he continues:

“So, how do we offer an account of how we know that an ultimate authority is, in fact, the ultimate authority? If we try to validate an ultimate authority by appealing to some other authority, then we have just shown that it is not really the ultimate authority. Thus, for ultimate authorities to be ultimate authorities, they have to be the standard for their own authentication. You cannot account for them without using them.” – Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited (page 91)

NOTE: this being a short review – and primarily only what I found most helpful – I hope the reader will forgive and understand that I am not including all of the qualifications given by Kruger for his statements.

And once we understand this and why it is logical or necessary for a believer’s view of Scripture, Kruger continues with a summarization of what the rest of his excellent book explores in very helpful detail:

“When we do apply the Scripture to the question of which books belong in the canon, we shall see that it testifies to the fact that God has created the proper epistemic environment wherein belief in the New Testament canon can be reliably formed. This epistemic environment includes three components:

  • Providential exposure. In order for the church to be able to recognize the books of the canon, it must first be providentially exposed to these books. The church cannot recognize a book that it does not have.
  • Attributes of canonicity. These attributes are basically characteristics that distinguish canonical books from all other books. There are three attributes of canonicity: (1) divine qualities (canonical books bear the “marks” of divinity), (2) corporate reception (canonical books are recognized by the church as a whole), and (3) apostolic origins (canonical books are the result of the redemptive-historical activity of the apostles).
  • Internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. In order for believers to rightly recognize these attributes of canonicity, the Holy Spirit works to overcome the noetic effects of sin and produces belief that these books are from God.

These three components must all be in place if we are to have knowledge of the canon. We cannot know canonical books unless we have access to those books (providential exposure); we need some way to distinguish canonical books from other books (attributes of canonicity); and we need to have some basis for thinking we can rightly identify these attributes (internal work of the Spirit).” – Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited (page 94)

And, as I have said, the rest of his 295 page book covers an incredible, scholarly exploration of these ideas. Not to mention the amount of “further reading” that can be found in the 40 page Bibliography.

Finally, I very much appreciated this book in light of the availability of Dr. Kruger’s lecture series as a supplement. Though I cannot yet fully enjoy the Greek reading portion of that series (still working on learning to read it!), it was helpful to be able to listen to the different examples and ideas that he gave in the series that cannot be found (in at least the same form) in the book.

I would highly recommend this work to any serious student of the New Testament who is interested in its origins and any field of Christian apologetics along with Dr. Kruger’s other work on the subject; The Question of Canon.

Faith, Hope, and…Disney Dust?

{Guest Post by Mrs. J D White}

This is not a post bashing Disney. Who doesn’t like a good Disney movie with a side of microwave popcorn? (Unless it’s a bad Disney movie. They do exist.)

But I’m concerned that Disney’s wishful dream-dreaming might be creeping into even the way we think about our Christian walk.

Stuff like Jesus being our real Prince Charming. Or getting what we want by believing hard enough. Or treating a particular ministry or “faith person” as our Hairy Dogfather – I mean Fairy Godmother – delivering magical chariot-words to propel us to our destinies.

Or on another level, we think we can bring Christianity into general popularity by loudly celebrating Christians’ success stories, triumphing in political battles, and painting the Way of Christ as a way to the life you’ve been dreaming of.

The happily-ever-after story permeates our society. We know it’s a little unrealistic. (Flying carpets? Empathetic chameleons? Cute and fluffy aliens? None of us are truly fooled.) Yet, who of us haven’t wistfully prayed for our fondest little dream at the sight of a falling star, hoping that maybe just maybe God will make it all turn out nice.

I don’t have anything against good stories. I love stories with happy endings. And I think we NEED stories that remind us that good triumphs over evil.

i.e. The Wingfeather Saga(Books)

We just need to make sure we don’t mix up fairy tale ideals with sound theology.

Christ is coming back for his bride, the Church, and it will be the truly happiest forever-after that we could imagine. He will set all things right. Evil will be over and done with.

That is our blessed hope. The not-yet of the truth we already cling to.

But Christians, dear brothers and sisters, we have need of remembering that this life is not promised to be full of victories for us. Freedom from slavery to sin, yes indeed. But we are not promised fame. Or fortune. Or magic prayer that heals when we sing. Or genie Bibles that transform us into princes, able to walk our way to the top of things, in style. Or a step-by-step adventure to appease a wrathful deity and slay dragons and win the heart of the fairest in the land.

Remember our Christian brethren through the ages. Cast out, poverty stricken, neglected, beaten, tormented, sick, unpublished, unrecognized, forgotten, unsung, beheaded, burned, ridiculed, persecuted, bereaved, grieving. Most live and die in ordinary obscurity.

Yet not without hope.

Our salvation is coming. Our healing is on its way. Our Bridegroom is preparing a place for us and our hope will not prove vain.

For a little while we must face trials of many kinds, and though we count them as joys because they are bringing us closer to Christ, we still have to learn endurance. Sometimes following Christ means going lower, turning down a lucrative opportunity, giving up a dream or having that dream ruthlessly wrenched away from you, enduring long hours of pain while the world goes on without you, loving your enemies by not retaliating, loving your family through their most unloveable seasons.

And, hey, remember…Rapunzel spent nearly 18 years ALONE with a woman who loved her only for what she could get from her. Cinderella was orphaned. Peter Pan got what he wanted, but not really. Snow White was hunted, and exiled among strangers.

I’m being a little melodramatic there, but my point is this: we’ll all experience good things in our own life stories, and we’ll all experience painful things, but our ultimate victory as Christians is not yet. And we shouldn’t take personal successes as indications of God’s approval or take suffering as always only punishment or from the devil.

We have a lot to learn about our God. We can learn some things from Disney stories, but we have to remember there’s more.

We’re in a better Story, and it’s not about us, and it’s not over yet. It’s about Jesus, and He’s still at work, still building his Church, and He sees every tear, hears every cry. Happily forever after will come when Jesus comes back.

May it be soon.

Come Lord Jesus.

My Husband Ruined my Favorite Devotional

{Guest Post by Mrs. J D White}

Well, that is definitely a click bait title. (But let’s face it, this blog could use one of those, hey?)

A more accurate title would be something like “my husband helped with the ruining of my ability to use the Bible as help-yourself self-help” (See why I went with the click bait?)

I grew up in a Bible-reading, Bible-studying, Bible-loving home. Claiming ignorance of Biblical teachings has never been an option. I also have been in Bible-exegeting churches all my life. I guess pretty much I’m a fish in water when it comes to Bible stuff.

That being said, it’s been an interesting process figuring out how to read, understand, and apply the Bible for my own life. (Lots and lots of failing along the way!)

In high school, I attended a Bible study led by our church’s youth pastor. He gave us a fabulous challenge.

Read all of Romans. Straight through. In one sitting.

What!? You can’t do that it’s so long. And it’s, like, the Bible. You only read it in little pieces. Like a toddler eats broccoli. Right??

Oh, and read it (straight through in one sitting) every day for a week.

Now you’re asking me to eat a whole salad in one bite?? This is crazy.

But I did it.

The first time was hard. The second time it started to actually make sense for the first time ever. By the fifth time? I was head over heels in love with Romans.

Now…zoom forward through my life a few years, to the part where da’husband comes in. He likes to read, and he studies theology like a regular seminary student (who can’t afford regular seminary so he just gets the textbooks and lectures from the library and Amazon and iTunesU.)

We have conversations about Bible stuff all the time. Life experience (by God’s grace) simply hasn’t allowed that to be optional. We’ve seen some crazy stuff (who hasn’t these days tho).

One of the things we have become super convinced of is the extreme importance of reading Bible verses in context, not using Bible verses OUT of context, and seeking to understand the author’s original intent (I have a hunch there will be a whole post on that last point, coming soon…ask me how I know)

Basically, the idea is that in order to understand any particular Bible verse well, one must also consider the surrounding verses, and even chapters and books.

For example, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” sounds like a great superhero Christian verse at face value, but it takes on a more real-life tone when you realize Paul was talking about enduring suffering and enjoying abundance to the glory of God.

Likewise, have you ever studied the context of “Without vision a people perish”? Or “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…” or “Nothing is impossible with God”? (Consider it a dare! Go study!)

Ok, but what does any of this have to do with the title of this post?

See, I used to approach the Bible like I was simply “supposed to read it.” Because it’s “good for you.” I’d pick a chapter, and read it, annnnd….done! Check that off the list! Or I’d have a question and try to find the answer by looking up words in a concordance and doing a topical study. (“What is a Christian girl supposed to wear? Hmm, let’s look up “modesty” – I’m sure that will tell me what type of denim is the most godly.”) Or I’d read a verse or two and try to figure out how they apply to me personally (ie, the “devotional” approach).

The trouble is, it’s really hard to see the stunningly beautiful over-arching, under-girding, permeating purposes of Scripture if you just read it in smaller chunks or only use a concordance to find words. I’m not saying topical studies are bad or that you can’t read small pieces of Scripture. I just want to suggest that if you sometimes read whole books or letters in one sitting (or two or three sittings…let’s be real…Isaiah is long), and if you look for the over-all message of that book or letter, you might be amazed at the whole new level of coherence that you can discover.

But I gotta warn you. Once you start discovering the importance of context, you might have a hard time flipping open your Bible and pointing at a random verse and taking it as personal prophecy. You’ll be more likely to flip open your Bible randomly, see a book name, start at chapter 1, and keep going. And your heart just might rejoice at the amazing wisdom and glory of God that the Bible is fairly bursting with.

(I could thank a lot of people for this change of perspective- my parents, siblings, pastors, people who don’t like me, friends. And I am grateful to them, from my heart.

But it sounds funnier to just blame my husband.)

One last note of practical honesty: These days, I’m a mom of two very small children. I don’t read the Bible every day. I read large chunks of Bible on some days – and then the dishes don’t get done, I stay in my pajamas til lunchtime, the kids get annoyed at me, and dinner is late.

The Fact of God

I would propose to the reader this thesis: God is the fundamental definer of goodness.

Expansion of the Thesis: in being the first cause and the prime mover of all creation, God has the absolute right to dictate what is good. Higher still, as the ultimate power; the only giver of life who exists outside of the entirety of the universe, He can command anything He desires of His creation and it would be fundamentally right and good.

Side NOTE: the proof for this thesis will obviously be assuming the existence of God and the reliability of the Christian Scriptures.

Proving the Thesis

1: First Cause; the Eternal, Uncreated Nature of God

God has always been. He came up with the very concept of time and then created it when he created the universe; Genesis 1:1. In fact, in the book of Job God’s creative act (and ability to destroy – or cease to provide life for – what He created) is something HE Himself uses as an argument for His unique qualification to demand worship and obedience without need of answering any man for His deeds; Job 38 onward… Isaiah 40 bears a similar idea (verses 22 and 28 specifically mention creation and God as Creator).

Through the prophet Isaiah God mocks those who would try to compare Him to anything in His creation; Isaiah 41:21-24 and Isaiah 46.

2: Ultimate Power; the Omnipotence and Autonomous Will of God

Thus we have the beginnings of the reason why God is the standard of what is fundamentally good. He is the only being that exists within the category of “god” in the highest sense; Isaiah 43:10, 44:6-8, 45:18, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, etc. – so there is nothing above Him. And since there is nothing higher than Him, there is nothing that restricts Him. Psalms 115:3 & 135:6, Isaiah 14:24-27, Daniel 4:34-35, Psalm 33:4-11, etc.

Put in positive terms (as the psalms listed above are) God has the capability and freedom to do whatever He wants. Be that create something, or destroy something He has created, or anything that might fall between those two realms of possibility. Psalm 104:27-30, Job 34, etc.

3: Giver of Life; Divine Ability and Prerogative

God is the very sustainer of the universe. Not simply in that He made it and made it functional, but He continues to cause it to function. (Colossians 1:15-17) Without the continued intervening, life giving power of God the very atoms that make up the cells of your body would cease to exist – let alone function properly. John 1:1-4, 5:17, Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 8:6, etc.

Thus, if the very universe’s existence is dependent upon God, He has the fundamental right to make whatever demands of it that He may – be it from mankind or otherwise – and because there is nothing higher than Him and He exists in a category all His own that cannot be constrained by anything outside Himself, those commands would automatically fall within the categories of “right” and “good” for the creatures to whom they are given.

4: Otherness; the Holiness and Omnipresence of God

God’s very being is entirely “other” when compared to His creatures. He is Spirit: John 4:24, Numbers 23:19… And He is eternal: Psalm 90:2, Revelation 1:8, 21:6, & 22:13

His absolute “otherness” to His creation is expressed in His title as the Thrice Holy God: Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8. Nowhere else in Scripture is this form of Hebraic emphasizer used about God. Not even in the epistle where John gives us the awe-inspiring truth of God as the very definer and giver of true love (1 John 4:16) does he use this type of triple emphasis.

And so we have touched upon the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is the fact of God.

Thus far I have done nothing to define His goodness – or examine what He has said is good – but merely have provided the reasoning and “proofs” undergirding the thesis I proposed in the outset of this post. The actual topic of God’s very attribute of goodness and what He has declared to be good for His creatures is beyond the scope of this post – except to say that the greatest good for the creature is to worship, love, and obey the God that gave them life and provided a way for that to be done in the Christ.

Defining Deception: A Review

Every professing Christian in the U.S. should read this book. It is concise and easy to read – by far the quickest read I have ever found on the subject.

Costi Hinn and Anthony G. Wood have done a fine job of objectively examining Bill Johnson’s neck of the Word-Faith / NAR woods and condemning (and/or pointing out) problem areas without going on a “slander campaign.” They display their Christian concern many times in explaining their intent before continuing with the hard truth – here are a couple quotes as examples:

“Any man who dares to raise the charge of unintentional or intentional heresy against another must do so with humility and biblical evidence, ultimately requesting others within the true circles of Christian belief to carefully consider the assessment…” – Costi Hinn & Anthony Wood, Defining Deception (Preface, page ix)

“…Christians must not stand idly by while God’s Word is maligned. No matter our attachments and no matter how much we love someone, the most loving thing we can do is tell the truth and stand with Christ. All have sinned and no one is perfect, but those claiming to be teachers are held to a higher standard (James 3:1), and those teaching falsehood about Christ are to be called out (Rom 16:17-18)…” – Costi Hinn, Defining Deception (page 57)

Side NOTE: This is definitely a book where every reader who picks it up should start with the Preface – it’s subtitle speaking for itself: “Heart of the Authors.”

I have read a lot on the Word of Faith movement (and some on the NAR) – and I believe the authors of this book have done the best job yet of pleading for discernment from the followers (potential or otherwise) of this movement with compassion and understanding, but without pulling any of the necessary punches on its heretical and often blasphemous nature.

One example of the easy to read nature of this book is that it’s main purpose – namely thoughtfully examining the doctrine and practice of Bill Johnson and Bethel Church – is covered in the course of 7 chapters that cover only about 117 pages. The last quarter of the book subsists in appendices that address errors common to all of “charismatic” Christendom.

In particular I found Appendix 4: The Myth of Being Slain in the Spirit (page 151) to be very helpful in articulating why that particular practice is not truly based in the Bible.

Here is a link that can be used to obtain the book.

And here is a link to the blog also written by Costi Hinn and Anthony Wood.

Another resource – that also happens to now have some interviews with Mr. Hinn – is the seminar Clouds Without Water by Justin Peters. The Original format of this seminar, A Call for Discernment, was used by God to fully pull me out of the mire of this movement that I grew up in.

Again I would urge the reader – if you know anyone who is or are yourself familiar with and/or influenced by Word-Faith or “New Apostolic” teaching – to look into these resources.

A Final Note on Kenneth Hagin

After my lengthy critique of his ideas in “the Believer’s Authority” I am well aware that there are those who would accuse me of “consigning the man to hell” – and I am aware of those Word-Faithers who would tack on an idea like “simply because he got a few things wrong.” Not that I wish to build and burn any form of straw man, but allow me to say a few things to attempt to dissuade the more reasonable objectors from thinking the worst of me and/or my methods…

1: I have said to my wife many times in the last few years that it could very well be that before the end of his life God broke through to Hagin and saved him. But I have said just as often, that the fruit of Hagin’s “ministry” and life give us no reason to ASSUME that God saved him at all, unless it was so soon before the heart-attack that claimed his life that he had no time to publicly recant… so to end this point I will add: It is not our job as followers of Jesus to consign/make the final judgement about whether anyone goes to hell… OR heaven! (it seems to me – for all their fear of “judging” – that way too many Christians are willing to wave there hand in front of the professing “believer” and pronounce that there can be no doubt of their being destined for heaven – without one bit of concern about the current and constant fruit of that person’s life…)… something to think about there, I would say.

2: public material is free game for critical review – be it positive or negative. It should be the assumption of everyone that anything anyone says in a public format is open to feedback, and the teacher and/or leader who claims to speak of the doctrines of the Bible should expect and desire feedback (in any form; rebuke, exhortation, refutation, correction, encouragement, etc) from fellow shepherds (and the occasional “sheep”) in the faith. No one should be surprised when someone is criticized for what they write – and Christians who have influence over others should welcome such challenges, since “teachers will incur a harsher/stricter judgement” and they should seek to keep their repeated errors to an absolute minimum… Hagin, like his disciple Copeland and his contemporaries Oral Roberts and Benny Hinn, never seemed open to such critical examination.

3: Finally – and within the same vein of point “1” – the fact that I vehemently condemn statements of blasphemy and/or heresy should not cause the reader to automatically categorize me as “hating” Kenneth Hagin or as a “hateful” person in general… do I hate the rotten fruit and lies about God perpetrated by what was/is spewed from books and “ministries” like Hagin’s? YES. I despise anything and everything that belittles, degrades, and attempts to spit upon the honor and glory of the Great and All-Mighty, One True God, Yahweh. But it should not be an assumption of the reader (especially those who are so “charitable” and “positive”-oriented) that in acting that out I am committing the sin of hatred against another human being.

On that note, it should go without saying that I am open to any thoughtful criticism a reader might have of my own statements about Hagin’s book “The Believer’s Authority.” And even if the reader wishes to criticize my own method(s) of critique, I would be happy to discuss them… I would be completely inconsistent and hypocritical if I were not willing to do so, after all.

In closing, I encourage the reader, once again, to think critically about the things that they read and – especially in matters of theology and doctrine – to not merely accept the words of any man without testing them against Scripture.