Andy Stanley is a teaching pastor with a large flock in the Atlanta area of Georgia. Recently, I was alerted to two clips from sermons he recently preached—and these clips greatly concerned me. Not only do they contain error, but they show a complete lack of respect for the Word of God as what it is—the very Word of God—and as the ultimate authority.
How should we respond to what he is teaching in this clip? Now, before watching this clip, please understand I and others on our staff have watched a number of Andy Stanley sermons. When we see clips like the ones we are discussing, we always check out the context and compare with other sermons to make sure we are correctly understanding what is being said.
Warnings for Teachers
God’s Word has severe warnings for those of us who are teachers. God instructs us that some teachers/leaders are going to be a problem. You see, those who teach, don’t just teach facts per se. A teacher imparts a way of thinking, an interpretation of the facts, a worldview to the people being taught. That’s why God gives us this warning:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1)
My father was a schoolteacher, and he also loved to teach God’s Word. But he explained that he never wanted to lead anyone astray, which is why his favorite verses of Scripture began with, “Have you not read?” or “It is written.” He loved to emphasize the authority of God’s Word because it is the ultimate source of truth and the basis for our Christian worldview.
We need to judge what someone is teaching against the absolute authority of the Word of God. If we don’t do this, we can easily be led astray.
Another thing my father taught me was related to the various study Bibles. He would say, “Remember, the study notes are not inspired like the text, so always use the text as the commentary on the notes.” In other words, we need to judge what someone is teaching against the absolute authority of the Word of God. If we don’t do this, we can easily be led astray.
God’s Word has many warnings about shepherds who lead the sheep astray, so we really need to take heed of this issue. For instance,
“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1)Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have trampled down my portion; they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. (Jeremiah 12:10)Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15)
Anyone who teaches the Word of God must take heed to be very careful they are teaching the whole counsel of God and not adding their own ideas into the Word of God.
Compromise Has Catastrophic Consequences
As you consider the above video clip, think about how lukewarm much of the church is today. Think about the fact that there’s been a generational loss from the church, with Generation Z church attendance in the US down to less than 9%. Think about the increasing number of churches going soft on the LGBTQ worldview, accommodating their views instead of lovingly explaining how our beliefs and behavior have to be judged against the absolute authority of the Word of God and that such a worldview is sin.
This history in Genesis 1–11 is the foundation of all doctrine, our worldview, the rest of the Bible—of everything ultimately.
In the era we live in, a major factor that has greatly undermined the impact of the church and led to many of the younger generations leaving the church for the world is the rampant compromise the majority of church leaders have made with evolution and millions of years, thus undermining Genesis as literal history. And this history in Genesis chapters 1–11 is the foundation of all doctrine, our worldview, the rest of the Bible—ultimately, of everything.
This compromise has had catastrophic consequences on the church, including the impact on the younger generations who have become secularized and anti-Christian, with many leaving the church. So much so, that Generation Z is now considered the first post-Christian generation. Doubt in God’s Word led to unbelief.
Stanley’s teaching in that clip is a prime example of what has happened in much of the church. He makes it very clear that Christians can accept evolution and say God used it to create. In fact, he’s adamant Christians must accept this. In another sermon he gave, he said when it comes to science and the Bible, “science must win.”
But what he’s really saying by embracing evolution is that God used death, suffering, disease, and violence over millions of years to bring man into existence. And that God calls all this death and disease “very good,” as he describes everything he created this way (Genesis 1:31). But the Bible says death is the consequence for sin—it’s an “enemy,” an intruder into God’s once “very good” creation.
Was God Accommodating Unintelligent Humans?
By saying that God in Genesis was merely accommodating to the mental capacity of the ancients, Stanley has also accepted the evolutionary history of cultures of the past. He is saying that the ancient Hebrews were not as intelligent as we are today. And that God couldn’t explain how he created to them as they didn’t have all the “science” that we have today. So instead, God “accommodated” them in how he wrote about creation.
Despite Stanley’s claims to the contrary, this idea makes God a liar. If he said he created in six days (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11) but he really created in millions of years, then God is a liar, is untrustworthy, and not worthy of our worship. It’s an attack on the character of God!
And, furthermore, this claim that the ancients weren’t smart enough to understand simply isn’t true when you start with God’s Word. Man has been intelligent right from the start (see Genesis 4—early man was making and playing musical instruments and forging metal). I’m sure Adam was highly intelligent with his perfect brain.
Also note Stanley’s unbiblical assumption that the Bible’s creation account was written simply to counter the ancient Near Eastern myths of the day. The Bible doesn’t say that! No, the Bible claims that it is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) and is for all people, for all ages, for all time!
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. (Psalm 119:89)We would rather believe the fallible word of man than the infallible Word of God.
God knew that we in the twenty-first century would be the ones who would have trouble understanding the Bible, as our intellectual pride in thinking that we know a lot would make us believe that we are too sophisticated to believe God’s Word as written. We would rather believe the fallible word of man than the infallible Word of God.
Stanley is not teaching God’s Word as written in Genesis but is imposing man’s religion of evolution (really a form of atheism) on God’s Word. Sadly, just like the Israelites, so many of our leaders have taken man’s false religion and compromised God’s Word with it. This is an attack on God’s Word and an attack on the character of God by blaming God for millions of years of death, disease, violence, and suffering as the evolutionary story details.
A verse I often think about in regard to such matters is this one:
Let God be true though every one were a liar. (Romans 3:4)
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3–4)
Can We Prove Jesus Rose from the Dead?
Now, consider the second video clip that alarmed me. This one is much shorter.
In this clip, Stanley says we don’t know Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible tells us so. He says it’s the other way around—we know the Bible’s account of the resurrection is true because the evidence tells us so.
Without the Bible, Christians have no foundation for their worldview.
I do understand he believes this is the approach needed for a culture that doesn’t believe the Bible. But I vehemently disagree. Without the Bible, Christians have no foundation for their worldview. Even if people don’t believe it, we have to deal with that aspect first when talking with them. In other words, find out why they don’t believe it. If they don’t have the foundation of God’s Word, they are not going to believe because of supposed evidence.
But let’s think about this. How do we know Jesus bodily rose from the dead? Did any of us see it happen? No—it happened 2,000 years ago. But haven’t people researched the resurrection and found all sorts of evidence consistent with him rising from the dead? Yes, but such evidence—though it is powerful, and we can certainly use it in our witnessing—does not ultimately prove he rose from the dead.
In fact, no matter what evidence we point to in geology, biology, astronomy, etc., none of this proves in an ultimate sense that the Bible is true.
Now, it is certainly true that such evidence properly interpreted does confirm the Bible’s history. For instance, the molecule of heredity, DNA, is a complex information and language system. No one has ever seen matter produce information or observed a language arise from matter by natural processes. Our observations and experience show information and language have to come from an Intelligence. Such evidence confirms an Intelligence behind life. This certainly confirms the first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning God, created. . . .” But it’s not absolute proof.
Think about it. We are finite beings living in the present. We don’t know everything. We don’t know how much we do or don’t know in relation to whatever there is to know! When we try to interpret the evidence of the present in relation to the past, how do we know we have all the relevant information to make the correct interpretation? Some information we don’t have could totally change our interpretation. That has certainly happened, with scientists solving crimes using circumstantial evidence. When new evidence came along, some of the interpretations changed and people thought to be guilty were found to be innocent after all. We need to have all the necessary information—but we can’t know everything. So what do we do?
There Is a Book
Well, we have a book that claims over three thousand times to be the Word of God. This book claims that God moved people by his Spirit to write his Word, what he wants revealed to us about life, the universe, and history. This book, the Bible, tells us that God knows everything—he is infinite in knowledge and wisdom. He has all information.
In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3)
If God’s Word is what it claims to be (and it is), then the infinite Creator God has revealed to us the key information we need to know to have the ability to correctly interpret this world in relation to the past, the present, and its purpose and meaning.
Therefore, we never stop thanking God that when you received his message from us, you didn’t think of our words as mere human ideas. You accepted what we said as the very word of God—which, of course, it is. And this word continues to work in you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NLT)This means if we build our thinking on God’s Word, we will have a Christian worldview to enable us to look at the world through “biblical glasses” and have the ability to correctly interpret and understand it.
This means if we build our thinking on God’s Word, we will have a Christian worldview to enable us to look at the world through “biblical glasses” and have the ability to correctly interpret and understand it.
We Must Have an Absolute Authority
Genesis chapters 1–11 is the history that is foundational to the rest of the Bible and thus our worldview. So, when we start with God’s Word, we learn that the God revealed to us in the Bible is the One who created all things.
Now, by just looking at the world—for instance, at DNA—we might deduce that there’s an Intelligence behind life. But we would not know who that Intelligence is unless he revealed himself to us. If we just looked at the world with all its death, suffering, and disease, we could assume that the Intelligence behind life must be an ogre to make such a violent, disease-ridden, suffering world.
But when we start from God’s Word, we know who that Intelligence is: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And we understand that there was no death or disease to start with, but these entered the world because of sin. We find man has a problem called sin which alienated him from God. We even find in Genesis that God promised Someone would come to save us from our sin and restore our relationship with God (Genesis 3:15). We learn later on that the “Someone” is Jesus—the One who became flesh for us, the babe in a manger 2,000 years ago.
I say all of this to emphasize that it’s important to understand we can’t know anything absolutely unless an absolute authority has revealed to us what we need to know.
The Bible Tells Me So?
Andy Stanley claims we don’t know Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible tells us so, but that because Jesus rose from the dead, we can believe what the Bible says about this event. In reality, Andy Stanley is actually claiming he knows all information about the resurrection, so he knows it’s true, so now he can proclaim that what the Bible says about the resurrection is true. This is not so.
And remember that Stanley accepts man’s view of evolution and millions of years as true, and this is his basis to declare that what Genesis records about creation is not all true. So why shouldn’t people take the word of others who claim Jesus didn’t rise from the dead to then declare the account of the resurrection in the Gospels can’t be true?
Pastor Stanley, like us all, is a finite, fallen human being with very limited knowledge. But instead of subjecting himself to the authority of the Word of God, he starts outside the Bible to go to the Bible to make pronouncements over God’s written Word. No wonder he rejects a literal Genesis. Sadly, this is the case for the majority of our church leaders and Christian academics today, particularly when it comes to Genesis. (That’s one reason we host an Answers for Pastors and Leaders Conference every year—we want to encourage pastors, leaders, and others to stand firm on the authority of God’s Word! This year’s conference, Contending for a Biblical Worldview, is taking place at the Ark Encounter October 3–5.)
Think about it. Really, Stanley is acting in accord with our sin nature because of what happened in Genesis chapter 3. Part of our sin nature concerns us wanting to be our own god. Consider Genesis 3:1 and Genesis 3:5, the temptation by the devil. Satan tempted Adam and Eve to question God’s Word, tantalizing them with the desire to be like God to decide good and evil (truth) for themselves.
In actuality, the statements Andy Stanley is making about Christianity and God’s Word are reflecting this sin problem we have. He is letting his sin nature master over him in this instance instead of letting God’s Word tell us clearly what we should believe. And I would say that about all Christians who reinterpret parts of the Bible (like Genesis) because of beliefs from outside the Bible.
It’s All About Jesus
The whole Bible is actually about Jesus, from the very first verse. From Jesus is the Creator (Colossians 1:16, “For by him all things were created”) and Savior (Revelation 5:9) to the very last verse, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Revelation 22:20–21). It’s all about Jesus!
God reveals all we need to know about Jesus in his Word.
God reveals all we need to know about Jesus in his Word. We know Jesus rose from the dead because the Bible tells us so! We know we are sinners because the Bible tells us so. We know we can be saved through faith in Christ because the Bible tells us so. We know we need to repent of sin because the Bible tells us so. As Christians, we know we will spend eternity in heaven because the Bible tells us so.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:17)
I still remember singing the chorus as a child,
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Yes, the Bible tells me so—that’s how I know who Jesus is, that he is the Creator, that he died and rose from the dead, and that he is our Savior.
This blog post is adapted from two Facebook posts I made about Stanley’s teaching. Those posts caught the attention of commentator Todd Starnes who invited me to be interviewed on his radio/podcast program about Stanley’s teachings.
My Facebook posts recently created a very large response. There were (as expected) a number of Andy Stanley supporters who took issue with me. I was accused of taking him out of context, of misinformation, of not understanding his way of reaching those who reject the Bible, and so on.
I believe this 10-minute segment from my appearance on the Todd Starnes program deals with all those issues. I give a bigger overview of what Andy Stanley teaches and the great concerns many have with what he is saying.
A lot of those who opposed me claimed I haven’t listened to his sermons, but a number of us at Answers in Genesis have listened to many of his sermons over the years. I believe we have a good understanding of his approach to the Bible.
Ultimately, it comes down to an authority of Scripture issue: it’s how we view Scripture itself. It also comes down to understanding the nature of man, worldview, and how a Christian needs to communicate to non-Christians. And it involves how one sees the Genesis account of origins.
I do my best to cover all of this in a short interview.
One more thing. I had some people claim I should have met with Andy Stanley personally before making public comments about his teachings, and some even claimed it was a Matthew 18 situation.
This is not a Matthew 18 situation at all, as that teaching has to do with personal disagreements within a local church. I hold nothing against Andy Stanley personally.
Also, Andy Stanley makes very public comments about the Scriptures and about how he disagrees with certain approaches others have to the Scriptures. So we have every right to comment on them publicly.
Many Christians and Christian leaders comment publicly about what I teach and write, but I never claim they should have come to me personally first.
Public error requires a public response because truth matters!
We Judge Against the Authority of God’s Word
Such compromised teaching undermines the authority of the Word of God and results in Christians who are lukewarm at best.
I don’t judge Stanley’s word against my own opinions but against God’s Word. Sadly, Stanley is judging God’s Word against his own word as well as the word of fallible scientists he has chosen to believe.
Such compromised teaching undermines the authority of the Word of God and results in Christians who are lukewarm at best. Sadly, over time, many will doubt God’s Word and end up walking away from the Christian faith.
I know a lot of people will be upset with my critiquing such a popular speaker. But all of us need to accept that Andy Stanley is not the absolute authority: he is a fallen human being like all of us. He has a sinful heart as we all do, and our sin nature is prone to exalt the word of man instead of the Word of God, which was the temptation the devil made to Eve in Genesis 3:1.
We do have an absolute Authority—God. He has given us his Word. So we need to judge our own actions and beliefs and what others are saying against the absolute authority of God’s Word.
We need to pray for Andy Stanley: that God will open his eyes to the truth of God’s infallible Word and that he will faithfully teach God’s Word to people.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.
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