Andy Stanley, the pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia, recently announced that Christians need to “unhitch” the Old Testament from their understanding of the faith. By this he means to instruct people to ignore the Old Testament and focus solely on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, especially in evangelism. This statement was part of a sermon series encouraging those who’ve left the church to reconsider Christianity.
Jesus’ new covenant, His covenant with the nations, His covenant with you, His covenant with us, can stand on its own two nail-scarred resurrection feet. It does not need propping up by the Jewish scriptures.
The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is, did Jesus rise from the dead? And the eyewitnesses said he did.
Now, the resurrection is the central tenet of Christianity. If it didn’t happen, we have no hope (1 Corinthians 15:12–19). But “many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3, KJV) demonstrate that this event did indeed happen—it was a real event in history, as recorded in the Bible and prophesized in the Old Testament. But it isn’t enough just to know the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. That doesn’t answer the question of why. Why did Jesus die, and why did he need to rise again?
For answers to those questions, you have to go to the Old Testament, particularly Genesis. Think about it. Why did Jesus need to die? Because we rebelled in Adam against our Creator and the just penalty for sin is death (Genesis 2:17). A blood sacrifice must be made to pay the penalty for sin, and the blood of goats and bulls is offered throughout the Old Testament, but it had to be offered over and over again. It merely covered over sin, it didn’t take it away (Hebrews 10:4). But Jesus came as the Lamb of God to take away our sin (John 1:29). And Jesus had to rise from the grave to defeat death, the penalty for our sin.
You can’t preach the gospel message without the doctrines of the Old Testament, such as our sin nature (Genesis 3). In Acts 2, when Peter preached a sermon to Jews, he started with Christ crucified and thousands were saved. Why? Because the Jews had the Old Testament background to understand the message of the cross!
You can’t preach the gospel message without the doctrines of the Old Testament, such as our sin nature (Genesis 3).
But when Paul did the same thing in pagan Athens in Acts 17, his message fell flat because they didn’t understand who God was and why Jesus needed to die and be raised again. But when Paul started with the history in Genesis, laying the foundation for the gospel, some people were saved and others wanted to learn more. And our post-Christian culture is definitely a “Greek” culture much like Paul addressed in Acts 17!
The resurrection can certainly stand on its own two feet, so to speak, but it needs the history in the Old Testament to have any real meaning! Stanley does give a nod to the Old Testament as the “backstory” but completely ignores its doctrinal importance in understanding the New Testament.
In fact, the Old Testament is so essential that the New Testament writings are built on the Old Testament. Indeed, the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament 855 times—that means about 27% of the New Testament is quotations of the Old Testament!
Stanley also says during his sermon,
[Unhitching the Old Testament from the New is] liberating for men and women who are drawn to the simple message that God loves you so much He sent His Son to pave the way to a relationship with you. It's liberating for people who need and understand grace, who need and understand forgiveness. And it's liberating for people who find it virtually impossible to embrace the dynamic, the worldview, and the values system depicted in the story of Ancient Israel.
Again, I ask Pastor Stanley: how can you understand biblical grace and biblical forgiveness without understanding the history in the Old Testament that shows why we need God’s grace and forgiveness and why we can’t earn these things? Without that knowledge, grace and forgiveness are whatever we want them to be.
And why do we need a relationship with God through his Son? Why can’t I just come to God on my own merit? Well, we need Christ because we’re sinners and our relationship with God is destroyed because of sin, according to Genesis. We need the perfect sacrifice of the Savior applied to us so we can approach a holy God.
The gospel is only liberating to sinners because it’s grounded in history. Without the history of the Old Testament, it’s an unintelligible message!
Stanley seems to be setting up a strawman argument. He’s saying that considering the Old Testament to be important means you must “embrace the dynamic, the worldview, and the values depicted in the story of Ancient Israel.” But that isn’t what the Bible teaches! We’re part of the New Covenant, not the Old, and therefore are no longer under the Law (Romans 6:14). The law was a tutor or guardian to point us to our need of Christ (Galatians 3:24). While the Old Testament is still vital for Christians to understand, we aren’t bound by the law, a point the New Testament stresses frequently.
Describing the sermon, the church’s website states,
If you were raised on a version of Christianity that relied on the Bible as the foundation of faith, a version that was eventually dismantled by academia or the realities of life, maybe it's time for you to change your mind about Jesus. Maybe it's time for you to consider the version of Christianity that relies on the event of the resurrection of Jesus as its foundation. If you gave up your faith because of something about or in the Bible, maybe you gave up unnecessarily.
I would urge those who have given up on Christianity to reconsider their position, but I would urge them to do so because the Bible—all of it—can be trusted! You see, the message of the gospel (Christ’s death and resurrection) comes from the Bible. If the Bible’s history isn’t true, then why should we trust what it says about Christ? The ministry of AiG produces numerous apologetics resources to show people that the Bible has not been “dismantled by academia.” Actually, observational science confirms the history in the Bible, beginning in Genesis.
Yes, you can support the resurrection with some evidence outside the Bible. But you can’t support the importance of the resurrection and what it accomplished for us without going to God’s Word from the beginning! If all of God’s Word can’t be trusted, why should the message of the resurrection be trusted?
We can’t “unhitch” Christianity from God’s Word.
We can’t “unhitch” Christianity from God’s Word. It’s because God’s Word is true that we can know that everything it teaches—including the precious message of salvation—is true.
I discussed this item on Answers News today with regular cohosts Bodie Hodge and Dr. Georgia Purdom. Answers News is our twice-weekly news program filmed live before a studio audience here at the Creation Museum and broadcast on my Facebook page and the Answers in Genesis Facebook page. We also discussed the following topics:
Be sure to join us each Monday and Thursday at 2 p.m. (EDT) on my Facebook page or the Answers in Genesis Facebook page for Answers News. You won’t want to miss this unique news program that gives science and culture news from a distinctly biblical and Christian perspective.
I also encourage you to watch this presentation I gave some time ago where I shared video clips from other sermons by Andy Stanley that illustrate his compromise and nonbiblical stand:
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.
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