Andy Stanley Responds to the “Who Needs God” Controversy

Who Needs God?  Some Christians say Andy Stanley does.  In fact, he gets more attacks from Christians than non-Christians.  Is it his message, his method or both?

Some are upset with him because, in their judgment, he uses the wrong apologetic method by not assuming the Bible is true. Others are upset with him because, again, in their judgment, he doesn’t really believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and appears to agree too much with skeptics. (You can see some of their concerns in the comments of my previous post called Why Andy Stanley is right about the Foundation of Christianity and How to Defend it.)

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All of this criticism came to a head during Andy’s recent apologetics series called “Who Needs God.”  Now Andy has responded, and done so in detail.  His thorough response to these charges is called “Why ‘the Bible says so’ is Not Enough Anymore”.

In it he confirms his belief in inerrancy and explains his approach to reach, not non-Christians but post-Christians. Andy explains the difference between non-Christians and post-Christians, and how that difference has impacted his preaching approach.  His theology hasn’t changed, but his method to communicate that theology has.  The question is, should yours?

If you’re open-mined enough to engage this well-written piece, I would enjoy hearing your comments.  What does Andy have right?  What do you think he has wrong and why? Please only comment if you have read the entire article.

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18 replies
  1. Jp says:

    Some heresy in this article: “This is why I will continue to insist the foundation of our faith is not an inspired book but the events that inspired the book; events that inspired writers, born along by the Holy Spirit, to document conversations, insights and events—the pivotal event being the resurrection.” The foundations of our faith is grounded in the inspired Scriptures which tells us of the resurrection, what Christ and the apostles taught.

    • Joshua Nelson says:

      If the foundations of our faith are scripture, then please explain how Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire for over three hundred years without the Bible? There is heresy committed in Andy’s article, you along with many in the church have a false understanding of history. You do not exist because you have a birth certificate; rather, your birth certificate validates your birth. Our faith in Jesus does not exist because of the Bible; rather, the Bible affirms our faith in Jesus.

      • Karen Sheffield says:

        Yikes. Did you and I watch/hear the same info presented by Andy? I am forever amazed how same looking ears can hear so differently and seemingly wide open eyes see different truth.

      • Robert says:

        They already had the Old Testament, and all of the New Testament was written during the 1st century ny the original apostles, and a few of there contempries, like Luke, unless one gets their information from skeptical, unbelieving Bible scholars

        Without the Bible you and I would never know the God-Jesus of the Bible, nor the gospel. It”s God’s inspired, infallible, inerrant written word, without which you and I are lost.

  2. Roger Patterson says:

    I have read the article as well as watched all of the sermons in the series, (carefully and multiple times). One issue that is not addressed clearly is the place and time in which these arguments are used.

    Stanley claims in the article “This is why I’m absolutely convinced of the following: In the marketplace—not the church—in the public square, in the classroom, we must shift the debate away from whether the entire Bible is true and focus the debate on whether Jesus rose from the dead. ”
    But he delivered those messages in the context of a church gathering.
    I am stunned that he can be so self-contradictory.

    I understand he has a very different ecclesiology, but if what he does on Sunday morning is not “church,” then what is it?

    Secondly, while Peter and Paul surely contextualized their messages for Jews and Greeks, there was still proclamation of those truths. They did not set the example of entertaining the skeptics’ ideas, as Stanley claims. They proclaimed the truths and called people to accept or reject them.

    Third, to say that we have solid eyewitness testimony outside of the Bible is odd. If you appeal to these “written eyewitness documents” as merely the reports of men, why would a skeptic trust them? As a former skeptic, this boggles my mind. The old me would scoff at Stanley’s arguments and point out his many internal inconsistencies. He wants me to trust science when it comes to the big bang and origins, but not when it comes to people rising from the dead. The same scientists who tell me to trust the big bang tell me dead people don’t rise after three days. Why should I trust Peter or James? Stanley wants to have it both ways and creates a self-refuting system. The new me knows I can trust the big bang doesn’t explain our origins and that Christ rose from the dead precisely because the Bible tells me so. With God as its author, I will appeal to God’s authority over man’s opinions any day.

    Last, his approach assumes people are neutral determiners of truth. While he appeals to 1 Corinthians 9, he seems to forget that Paul first discussed the spiritual blindness in chapters 1-3. If the Fall has indeed corrupted us, as Paul clearly asserts, we cannot determine truth by examining “historically reliable documents.” The gospel is the power of God to salvation, not clever arguments.

    As other’s have noted, Stanley’s approach saws off the branch he claims to be sitting on. He may affirm inerrancy, but he functionally undermines it through his approach. If we offer the unbeliever the option of denying that “all Scripture is inspired by God …” to win them and later tell them that they have to accept all of it, will they not see the bait-and-switch tactic for what it is–a clever trick?

    • Diane Hood says:

      I find Stanley’s writing very hard to believe after reading some of his other writings. Is this really his writing or someone else’s. We cannot change the Truth to get others to believe it.

      • Joshua Nelson says:

        Diane, Jesus is “the Truth,” not the Bible. Andy affirms the Bible’s authority and has never once changed the Truth. He extracts knowledge of and teaches about the Truth from Scripture. The Truth is a person, and his name is Jesus!

    • Joshua Nelson says:

      If you understood the history of the word “church,” your post would not be so wrong. The word church is a transplanted word into scripture when the Church of England developed the KJV in the 16th Century. The word we should be using is “assembly” or “congregation.” The Greek word used by the New Testament authors is EKKLESIA. It literally means “called out,” but since every Greek city had ekklesias or general assemblies, we understand the word to mean the universal body of Christ, or a local body of Christ. However, the word church, which means “house of god” or “house of worship” was ordered to be substituted in every place for the word ekklesia instead of Tyndale’s original translation that used the word congregation. This is because for centuries churches have been practicing things outside the authority of scripture under the guise of a word that shouldn’t be there in the first place. With that said, what you and I have experienced as a church service is abiblical. I’m not accusing you of practicing something that is unbiblical, but what probably 99% of churches in America are practicing today is not the biblical ekklesia. Non-believers are not part of an ekklesia even though they are often part of a church service. Andy Stanley actually understands this very well and recognizes that ekklesia is experienced in small groups, not Sunday services. Sunday services are in many ways the way churches market to the public; however, I bet I wouldn’t find much biblical ekklesia in your Sunday “church” either even though it is more “traditional.” Read 1 Corinthians 14; I’m yet to experience that in a Sunday service anywhere in America.
      So to sum it up. Andy actually understands much better than you do the word “church.” His sermons all fall into his mission, “to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Only in a growing relationship with Jesus can one actually experience and be a part of biblical ekklesia, but actually most of our church services are not biblical.

  3. Brian Pollock says:

    I have listened to the entire “Who Needs God” series and I’ve read Andy’s written response to the critics. I find myself wondering if any of them actually listened to the sermon or read his response. Andy’s target audience, which he clearly stated, were those people who had walked away from church because something they heard outside of the Bible “contradicted” what the Bible has to say and if that was so, then why believe the rest? They were relying on their childhood version of their faith because no one had been able to answer their hard questions for them. Answering those hard questions is why we should study Scripture first and apologetics second. I listen not only to Andy, but to Frank, J Warner Wallace, William Lane Craig (x2). Justin Bierly and Greg Koukl (x4) every week and Summit Ministry’s “Christian Worldview Thinking” as well. Andy clearly explained his purpose and his method during his sermons and strongly makes the point that returners need to focus on the truths that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, that He died on the cross and that He rose again. Those are the facts that all of Christianity are built on. If those folks aren’t ready to talk about baptism, justification, sanctification, eschatology, creation, the Flood, the Exodus, the conquest of Canaan or any other Biblical subject, let’s have them focus on the cornerstone of the faith. This is what the apostles preached in Acts. It needs to be the foundation of what we preach today. Not just our pastors, but all believers as we proclaim the Good News as we live our lives in response to our faith.

    What disturbs me is those that have attacked Andy without actually watching or listening to the entire sermon series. Greg Koukl, in particular, is guilty of this. Summit aired Part 1 of an interview with him this week and one of the first things he says is that he had not heard the sermon in question or any of the rest of the series, but that he’d read some excerpts. Then he was allowed to criticize something he did not know the details about. This was wrong and it struck me as even more so since Koukl’s “Tactics” is considered foundational for Christian apologists in the 21st century.

    Finally, Peter did not use the New Testament on the Day of Pentacost. Nor did Stephen when he delivered his awesome sermon that resulted in his stoning. More importantly, the risen Christ did not use the New Testament on the road to Emmaus. The books of the New Testament were not written yet. Instead, all of the them talked about the events in Jerusalem and how they fulfilled the Hebrew Scriptures. Don’t miss the pattern. Here is what happened and here’s what it means. We worship the Risen Lord because it is a fact that He rose from the dead. We don’t worship the Bible because it tells us so. Don’t lose sight of that fact.

  4. PaulG says:

    I think I heard of this sort of apologetics from William Lane Craig previously, where he basically would assert that the question of inerrancy is really an internal one and not an external one, to a certain point no unbeliever I have come across is convinced by “you are decontextualising the text” or “actually what it says is this”, I suspect it is a combination of those with “have you studied the historical evidence for Jesus Christ’s life death and resurrection” (infallible proofs)/arguments for the existence of God(best explanations) etc.. Now if you’re going to have a teaching on these approaches, this is called apologetics training, I think that people need training so that they can fend off many of the attacks that people today face, especially in university campuses. This idea of reasonable answers for your faith is biblical, but it does not constitute salvation it is merely a tool to ensure you can withstand “worldly wisdumb” and hopefully that your answers will get the other to stop and realise that the church(congregation/body of Christ) has thought about these things and that there are answers to those questions. When faced with the question of inerrancy, I would normally ask the person to write their scholarly articles, because on blogs and chat forums or even in short direct discussions it is extremely difficult to defend every silly decontextualizing error etc. I normally pick just one and leave it at that because it they are not interested in seeing past their bias it is something that you will have to just tell them where the answers are and leave it at that and allow the Father to correct and direct, without closing the door on the conversation too easily. From the comments that He made I do not see a serious error in his approach, as it will allow for time to instruct and correct a lot of those and their so called errors. He is correct our faith does not hinge on the book it hinges on Jesus Christ, yet if the facts contained in the book are incorrect then do we know Jesus Christ and does this not lead to a form of gnosticism. So I’m content that he holds to biblical inerrancy even though for the sake of discussion he allows people the space to voice their thoughts so that there can be an open and hopefully honest discussion. If you really want to complain about someone look at look for the New Covenant Group, which are seriously gnostic in their approach.

  5. Sara says:

    He is spot on! The inerrancy of scripture for many is a stumbling block that prevents them from seeing Christ. Why keep pushing them to a wall they can’t see past? My own experience … once I questioned the truth of Scripture, why Jesus IS the only way, why it all makes sense, why not another God, creation vs. evolution…. my life is forever changed. Before, the answer of the “Bible said so” was NOT enough.

  6. Karen Sheffielkd says:

    Andy is right on. His Daddy Charles is my old time favorite but Andy hits the nail on the head EVERYTIME in a modern day fashion. My soul finds comfort knowing that Andy knows exactly what I know to be true and that he has a platform to speak the truth into our digital world. I love you Charles and I praise your beautiful son who continues your legacy in this world. But most of all, thank you you Father for your only begotten Son.

  7. James says:

    I’ve been watching Andy Stanley’s Who Needs God series, and to me it’s the most powerful and profound sermon I’ve heard from a preacher. Pastor Andy Stanley is compelling me to renew my faith, and I’m am very thankful for his message. The purpose of these sermons was to reach people struggling with religion, and it was almost like his message was sent from God for people like me. He is inspired.

  8. Branden says:

    Andy has been sent by God to make changes. God knows a lot of people will disagree and a lot will agree.

  9. Branden says:

    He was sent here to show who God really is. He is a part of God’s army. God will surprise you with the people He is sending here. It’s all a part of his plan for the end time.

  10. Larry Highley says:

    I recently went to hear Andy Stanley in person. While I was troubled by parts of his talk, there were some points that were very compelling as well. The audience was largely Pastors and Elders, so I think I would have liked it better if he had explained his stance on Scripture a bit less flippantly than he did during his speaking time. There were a couple questions that arose in my mind as he spoke. He stated that the New Covenant supersedes the pervious way in which God dealt with men. That is fine and well, but there are passages in the Old Testament where God made promises to people that were eternal in nature. To say those things are abrogated, makes God a liar, which is absurd. So what does Stanley have to say about those promises? If he really thinks those promises are immaterial because of the work Christ did on the Cross and his subsequent resurrection, then why should anyone trust God will not change His way of dealing with man again? What stops the culture from rejecting Christ and requiring God to intervene in a new and different way? It is for that reason I believe we have an obligation to uphold the entirety of the Bible, because to do otherwise, causes more problems than solutions as a whole. What Stanley proposes plays well to Post-Christian people, but is problematic for a general audience and heretical for those who hold to Scripture. Another person posted that the belief in a resurrection would be troublesome for a skeptic with or without the basis of Scripture, but without the inerrancy and inspiration from God of Scripture, the whole Gospel is a house of cards. There is no basis for belief other than recorded eyewitness statements. But those statements are in the very book that Stanley says has little relevance to the Post-Christians. Good luck selling that.


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