It is disappointing when a well-known speaker uses a sermon to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Bible. That is what happened recently, when Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Church, preached a series of sermons on what he referred to as apologetics.
Of course, Stanley denies that he is undermining people’s belief in the Bible. His purpose, he says, is to talk to those who have given up on Christianity, and show them that they have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. This is an honorable aim. But, in the view of this writer, he has not achieved it.
In one of his talks he refers to a “Bible tells me so” religion as a sort of “house of cards”. This, says Stanley, is where we believe something simply because the Bible says so. The reason why he says this is problematic is because, he claims, it causes problems for our young people. These young Christians have been told to believe the Bible, but then get to college and find out that the walls of Jericho did not fall down, and that the universe was not made in 6 days, but started 14.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang. Stanley claims that a Christians foundation should be in the truth of the Resurrection, rather than the truth of the Bible.
There is an obvious problem with his statement. Where do we find out about the resurrection? We learn about it from the Gospels, which are in the Bible. We learn about the theological importance of the Resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15 – again, this is in the Bible. So, in order to put our trust in the Resurrection, we have to start by believing the Bible is true.
Stanley, at one point, claimed that early Christians did not accept the teaching about the Resurrection because it was inspired, but because it was true. He, therefore, affirms the truth of what is written in the Bible, but not the inspiration. This, however, is a problematic position. He has to rely on his version of church history, in order to maintain the truth of the biblical accounts. But this is putting the proverbial cart before the horse. His reason for accepting the truth of the Resurrection accounts is actually personal and subjective, because he is relying on an individual’s rationality, to make a judgment on the truthfulness, or otherwise, of a biblical account. This is the wrong way around. Our position is that we accept the truthfulness of the accounts of the Resurrection BECAUSE they are in the Bible, which is the inspired word of God. His comments about the origin of the universe are the giveaway. Stanley has shown that he will judge the truthfulness of the Bible, by reference to external standards, such as the Big Bang theory. The opposite angle would be the correct methodology – that is, we should judge the truthfulness or otherwise of cultural concepts, such as the Big Bang, by whether or not they agree with the biblical account.
One aspect of Stanley’s criticism is justified. Simply repeating “the Bible says so” as a mantra is insufficient. It is legitimate to delve further and ask why the Bible says something, or research the corollary of the truthfulness of a particular account. But at no point should such research place a higher authority on external standards than that of biblical truth. God’s word does not require our authentication. We require its authentication for our opinions.