I’ve never really been a fan of Andy Stanley. I’ve never really been down on him either. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about concerning his church or him as a leader or speaker. Then again, I don’t really get into the sub culture of celebrity church leadership. Andy seems to get more attention when he says something dumb, like when he said that teaching verse by verse through the Bible is dumb, or words to that effect. Something not quite as dumb, though equally confusing, came from a sermon that had to do with appealing to the Bible as one’s authority for believing in Jesus and the resurrection and it has a bunch or people’s knickers in a knot.
Andy absolutely believes in the authority and inerrancy of scripture. I believe him when he says that. Let me get that out there first. However, when it comes to sharing Jesus with Millennials, he doesn’t see the point in appealing to the Bible since most of them dismiss it out of hand and have next to no knowledge about it. In the sermon he is reported as arguing like this.
“Christianity does not exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate. Your birth certificate documents something that happened. If you lose it you do not go out of existence.”
In one sense he’s absolutely right. If there were some disaster at the county records office and my birth certificate went up in smoke, I and thousands of others would’t just “poof” out of existence instantly. (Obscure reference, but remember in the Dark Crystal, when a Skeksis would die, a Mystic would “poof” out of existence? That’s my 80’s kid coming through.) If we were to somehow lose the Bible, would that change the historical fact of the resurrection? No.
Just accept it
However, let’s fast-forward 2,000 years. If someone were researching my existence in the year 4016 and no copy of my birth certificate could be found, they could conclude that I didn’t really exist, despite all of the other evidence. People would believe I existed because they chose to believe it, and they would be right. But even so, the next logical question that anyone, including a Millennial, would ask is, but how do we know?
Tell me if you’ve seen this like I have. There is this weird thing that is socially expected post Generation X. Whatever a person says about themselves, we are supposed to accept and acknowledge it at face value.
- “I’m an artist.”
- “I’m an entrepreneur.”
- “I’m 23 and an expert (anything).”
- “I’m the incarnation of Satan.”
- “I’m an alien and just visiting.”
We’re just supposed ton odd our head in agreement and say, “Really? Tell me more.” There was a time when we would get people mental health assistance when things got weird. Now, we aren’t supposed to judge but just respect. Have you noticed this?
By extension, when we tell others, “I believe in Jesus and the resurrection,” generally people are accepting of it but they silently say, like we all do when we encounter a weirdo, “Cookoo.” Or, if for some unknown reason other than choice, someone else decides to believe in Jesus too, maybe because we said so and we are good and nice people, then great. The Great Commission is fulfilled! But not really. Because then there is the whole thing with discipleship. But I won’t digress on that there.
It comes back to proof
Most Millennials, because they are very young at this point, can get away with this. They can get away without wanting or needing proof because that’s how the culture operates. Tolerance and acceptance, except for when we disagree. But the time will come when the crap of life hits the fan. Foundations are shaken. Marriage, a kid, loss of a job, cancer, death, life, something or a series of somethings will happen that will drive them to their knees and force them to ask something like, “What is real, what is true, and how do I know?”
Back to one of Andy’s arguments about a birth certificate. There are certain things you need your birth certificate to do. Some of these may have changed over the years, but things like,
- Get a passport
- Change your name on your license when you get married
- Apply for some government jobs
- Run for president (that one may be optional)
Without it, it doesn’t matter how many witnesses you bring, including your own mother who was there when the birth happened, you cannot prove that you are you. The office that needs the document may even want to believe you, but they need documentation.
To be fair
I do agree with Andy’s point when you cut through all the obfuscation. I also believe his method of argumentation is misleading and does more damage than good. He said,
“Christianity does not hang by the thread of ‘the Bible tells me so.’”
He’s right. Christianity hangs by the very strong steel chain of the historicity of the resurrection. But our primary source for this is the Bible. What I’m pretty sure Andy has in mind is people who preach Jesus and argue for Him like this; “Just shut up and believe in Jesus because the Bible is true no matter what.” Yes there are people who talk like that.
While most Christians these days don’t use the threat of violence to make you believe like radical Muslims do, they do use a kind of emotional or social violence that make unbelievers just as repulsed. I think Andy is trying to make a way around all of that so that more people will be exposed to the gospel, but he’s also leaving the most important piece out of it; God’s word. You can’t avoid the very thing that tells us about Jesus in the fist place.
Why the Bible matters
Do we need the Bible to believe the resurrection happened? No, we do not. But we do need it to know why it was necessary. Do we need the Bible to believe in God? No, we do not. But we do need it to tell us who He is and what His plan is.
We do not believe in God because we want to. We do not believe in God because He is the thing we have chosen to believe at the buffet table of things we could choose to believe. We should not believe in God because its our heritage in some way.
We believe in God because He has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His creation, through His Holy Spirit to us personally, through His word, and the culmination of all of these is through His Son Jesus. Every writer, every speaker, every teacher in the New Testament, including Jesus, when sharing the good news of new life through Jesus, appealed to one thing primarily; “it is written…”
It never gets old and we should never stop using it. We need to become what Paul described to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
[reminder]What are you doing in your life to be diligent and rightly using God’s word as Paul told Timothy?[/reminder]