And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, “that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old. ’After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it.” (Acts 15:12-18).
Let’s start with the comments from Pastor Andy Stanley. I understand what he’s saying if by “unhitching” the Christian faith from Jewish Scriptures, he means you don’t need to strictly observe Jewish ceremonial law to become a Christian (Acts 15). In other words, you do not have to become Jewish in order to become a Christian.
However, let’s look more closely at what is occurring in Acts 15. Pastor Stanley uses the Acts 15 account of the Jerusalem Council as the basis for his assertions. The Jerusalem Council was called to decide whether non-Jewish believers must submit to all the requirements of the Law of Moses, especially circumcision, in order to be accepted as members of the church.
The decision of the council was that they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles because it is by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone that they are saved. Since no further restrictions are imposed by God, we must not impose any.
However, it is interesting to observe that Pastor Stanley does not point out that James grounds the council’s pronouncement in the Old Testament text of Amos 9:11-12, which is printed above. See also Jeremiah 12:15 and Isaiah 45:21. This Old Testament text is not implicit to James and council’s decision, but rather foundational to it.
David E. Prince, pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes, “James and the church leaders did not unhitch themselves from the Old Testament, but rather found biblical authority to make the decision which was made. Stanley attempts to co-opt the fact that the Bible comes to us as progressive revelation to meet his own agenda of severing the teachings of the New Testament from the Old Testament. James, contrary to Stanley, did the opposite. James grounds the declaration of the council by showing that the position of the council was in continuity with God’s authoritative revelation in the Old Testament. The inclusion of the Gentiles was promised in the Old Testament, and the apostles are in full agreement with the message of the prophets. The restored kingdom of David will include the Gentiles (Acts 15:16-17). Rather than unhitching or completely detaching from the Old Testament, the apostles saw the Gentiles as the living fulfillment of the promise of the Old Testament.”
One of the evidences that the Bible is the Word of God is fulfilled prophecy. When you take away the Old Testament, you are removing a particular prophetical pillar supporting the authority of the Bible.
As Pastor Timothy Clothier explains, “He (Pastor Andy Stanley) seems to offering a misguided apologetic for the Christian faith. He’s made similar arguments elsewhere such as “you don’t need to believe the Bible you just need to believe in the resurrection.” Without question problematic and misguided, however I’m not sure he’s trying to out rightly undermine Christianity. However, it may be the result.”
Pastor Clothier continues by saying, “I think this is also a bi-product of his preaching/church philosophy. I heard him say, years ago, that walking through a book of the Bible was an easy cop-out because you didn’t have to be creative. However, when one determines to be the originator of content and not the expositor of content you eventually run out of solid content. That coupled with the fact he’s eliminated the OT from all consideration he’s not left with much to preach on/from.”
The Bible says, ironically in the Old Testament, that there is no new thing under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Andy Stanley begins with a premise. The Old Testament offends some people. Stanley does not want them to be offended. Therefore, you “unhitch” the church from the Old Testament. Haven’t we witnessed this in the church over the past several decades with the removal of crosses, any mention of sin and the denial of biblical doctrines which offend such as Hell. E.g. Love Wins by Rob Bell.
Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Let us resolve to not allow anyone to unhitch us either individually, or corporately in the church, from the whole counsel of God: both Old and New Testaments.
Soli deo Gloria!