An article in Christianity Today titled “Should Pastors Stop Saying, ‘the Bible Says’?” caught my eye. The article began as follows:
It’s time to stop saying, “the Bible says.” At least according to Andy Stanley.
At Exponential, a church-planting conference attended by 5,000 in late spring (with another 20,000 watching via video), the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, said pastors should instead use phrases like “Paul says” and “Jesus says” when citing Scripture.
Further, the article reports that “the main reason for his injunction is ‘to keep people who are skeptical of the Bible’s authority engaged in the sermon.’”
Stanley also reportedly states that “it’s a question of evangelism, not theology,” and one of Pastor Stanley’s assertions is his “goal is to lead [people] to the place where they acknowledge Jesus to be who he claimed to be.”
Apologetics and the Word of God
Now although I have reasons (which I will share later in this article) why I disagree with the approach taken by Andy Stanley, at the same time, I am somewhat sympathetic to Pastor Stanley in what I perceive is one of the major problems he is attempting to address.1
You see, we live in a time that is often called “a scientific age,” when God’s Word has come under a massive attack from secularists who claim “science” has disproved the Bible’s historical accounts of beginnings found in Genesis. Of course, what they mean by “science” is actually the “historical science” in regard to fallible man’s beliefs concerning evolution and millions of years.
As a result of this attack on God’s Word (and sadly much of the church has helped this attack by compromising God’s Word in Genesis with evolution and/or millions of years), generations have been led to doubt God’s Word at the beginning. This leads to doubt and ultimately unbelief in the rest of Scripture.
When we are presenting the truth of God’s Word and the gospel today, increasing numbers in this generation are already doubting God’s Word and rejecting it entirely. Understanding this phenomenon as a major cause of today’s youth exodus, I believe we need to give them apologetics arguments confirming the truth of God’s Word as a part of our defense of the Christian faith. To us, this approach would deal with the problem that I believe Pastor Stanley perceives among evangelical churches in reaching people with the gospel. However, we must always remember that “
faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
An analogy AiG has often given to illustrate the use of apologetics in proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and the gospel relates to the account of Jesus coming to the tomb of Lazarus in John 11. When Jesus came to Lazarus’s tomb, He told the people to “
take away the stone” (John 11:39). Jesus could have moved the stone with one Word! But what people can do, He had them do. But what people couldn’t do—raise Lazarus from the dead—Jesus with His Word did!
The analogy is this: moving the stone is akin to us doing all we can to reach people—giving apologetics arguments to help them understand God’s Word is true. But we must never divorce this approach from sharing the Word of God, as it is God’s Word that convicts and saves through the power of the Holy Spirit. The two go hand in hand.
Because increasing numbers of people do not believe God’s Word can be trusted, I believe we need to give apologetics answers to defend the faith and point them to the truth of the Word, but always share the Word (Christ) that saves.
Man’s Word in Authority over God’s Word?
Now understanding this, I want to explain why I don’t agree with what is purported to have come from Andy Stanley, that pastors should stop saying “the Bible says” and instead use introductory phrases like “Paul says” or “Jesus says” when appealing to Scripture.
Generations of young people have been given the impression that man’s words can be in authority over God’s Word.
Because of the rampant compromise in the church with taking man’s ideas of evolution and millions of years and reinterpreting Genesis (and other parts of Scripture), generations of young people have been given the impression that man’s words can be in authority over God’s Word. In many ways, God’s Word is treated merely as words of the humans who wrote it, so we can reinterpret it any way we like. This is one of the reasons I believe why we now see young people in the church defending “gay marriage” and abortion. You see, if they have been told they can take man’s ideas about origins and reinterpret God’s Word, why shouldn’t young people take man’s ideas about marriage and reinterpret God’s Word on this matter?
I see an increasing trend in the church to treat God’s Word like a book written by fallible people, just like other books. Instead, we need to be reminded of what we read in Thessalonians: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
And we also need to remember that all of Scripture is God breathed—which is the meaning of this passage I quoted earlier:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17)
Because of the compromise in the church with man’s fallible ideas, and the intense attacks on Christianity by secularists, I, like Andy Stanley, recognize so many people don’t respect the Bible as the Word of God as they did in the past. But I do not agree with Pastor Stanley in emphasizing that “Paul says,” or Peter declares, etc. I believe it’s important to emphasize that this is what God has said through Paul or Peter. I am convinced of the need to help people understand that the Bible is not just the word of men—but that it is, in truth the Word of the living God. So these days at AiG, we often like to say things like, “Now, God has a warning for us here in 1 Corinthians,” or, “God, through Paul, tells us . . . .”
When you think about it, the first attack (which we read about in Genesis 3:1) was on the Word of God. This attack was from the devil when he asked Eve, “Did God really say?” God warns us through Paul that the devil will use the same method on us as he did on Eve to get us to a position of not believing His Word:
But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3).
This is a reminder to us that we need to emphasize that the Bible is the Word of God.
So while I empathize with Pastor Andy Stanley in regard to the way we are seeing generations responding to the phrase “the Bible says,” I believe our response should be to show we can defend the Christian faith, answer skeptical questions (1 Peter 3:15), confirm the truth of God’s Word (teach apologetics and ‘move the stone away’), and help people understand that the Bible is the Word of God. Even though God used humans to write the Scriptures, these men were specially “
moved by the Holy Spirit” to ensure every Word was God-breathed (2 Peter 1:20–21).