In the final part of this eight-part series on what one must believe to be a Christian, Stanley flat out argues that we must not insist that Christians believe in the inerrancy of the bible in order to be a Jesus follower, saying that demanding potential converts believe the bible is true and without error is an unnecessary obstacle to them coming to Christ.
(In) every generation, new and novel ideas (like biblical inerrancy) get woven into certain expressions of the Christian faith and into certain traditions, new and novel ideas. Some are harmless, some, we’ve discovered, are a little bit harmful. And oftentimes, these new and novel ideas get elevated to the status of doctrine, or dogma, or ‘these are essentials, you got to believe this’. And if you reject some of these new and novel ideas, you’re not even considered a Christian anymore. You can’t even be a part of that faith tradition, you can’t be a part of that church.
And they elevate these new and novel ideas to the point where they’re at the same level with the deity of Christ and you know, some of the things that we all know are essential.
And when this happens, when non-essentials begin to characterize or define a group of churches or church or denomination, thoughtful, honest people of faith, thoughtful, honest people sometimes feel like ‘you know what, I gotta I gotta step back from my church, I’ve got to step back from my faith tradition, I’ve got to step away from my denomination, I still believe in God. And I, I still believe in Jesus. But I’m not sure that approach is the approach.’
His goal is to draw people back by giving them a pass to not believe the parts of the bible they don’t agree with.
If you left the Christian faith because of anything in or about the Bible, if you’ve walked away from faith or you’re considering walking away from faith, because of anything in or about the Bible, I want you to pay so close attention. Because at the end today, I want to invite you back.’
Pointing out that he studied under Norman Geisler, author of the book ‘Inerrancy,’ Stanley recalls that after he received blowback for preaching his infamous sermon series Who Needs God, resulting in evangelical leaders “saying some not-so-nice things about me,” Norman Geisler called him up to encourage him, telling him, “That’s good apologetic preaching. People just don’t understand apologetics, and they don’t know what the bike is. You need to keep going.”
Stanley explains his apologetic:
The bottom line in terms of what a person must believe about the bible in order to be a follower of Jesus, it’s really this simple: you just have to believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John are reliable accounts of actual events. That’s it. …because if you do, then you will also believe that Jesus, who claimed to be the son of God and our king, and everything we’ve stated in this series follows from that one idea.”
He notes that Christian apologists always build their case on the resurrection of Jesus, not the inspiration of the Bible, and that “our faith does not rise or fall on an errorless text” or a bible without error, but rather Christianity rises or falls on the identity of Jesus. He further notes:
When you watch a Christian apologist, somebody’s contending for the faith, debate and atheist, christian apologists always build their case on the resurrection of Jesus, not the inspiration of the Bible. Because these educated men and women understand the foundation of our faith isn’t an errorless text. It is the event of the resurrection.
“There is no single modern view of inspiration that is essential to following Jesus, and when the church elevates a specific definition of inspiration in order to make it the litmus test for who is or isn’t a Christian, that’s a problem.
This is tragic…when a specific view of inspiration is elevated to the status of doctrine, the bible becomes an obstacle to faith to some.
As we’ve said so many times, the foundation of our faith is an event that launched the movement that assembled the Bible.
He rejects the idea that “an error in any part of it undermines the credibility of all of it” saying that “the ‘all or nothing’ view is mistaken, and it is unnecessary, and it creates an unnecessary offramp of faith for some people. It sets people up for an unnecessary crisis of faith.”
“So is the Bible important? Extraordinarily important. But while the Bible is not the foundation of our faith, it is certainly extraordinarily relevant to our faith. But, and this is my point, this is what I want you to hear today. There is no single modern view of inspiration that is essential to following Jesus. I want to read that again. There is no single modern view of inspiration.”
Earlier this year Stanley said “these four ancient first-century documents that depict the life and teaching of Jesus, if any one of these, not even all of them, if any one of these is a reliable account of actual events, even if it’s mostly reliable, then if that’s true, then you need to, and I need to sit up straight and pay attention.”
Stanley previously preached in 2016 in his Who needs God sermon series:
“If the Bible is the foundation of our faith, it’s all or nothing. Christianity becomes a ‘fragile house of cards’ religion. Christianity becomes a fragile house of cards that comes tumbling down when we discover that perhaps the walls of Jericho didn’t. … What your students have discovered, and if you read broadly, you’ve discovered, it is next to impossible to defend the entire bible. But if your Christianity hangs by the thread of proving that everything in the bible is true, you may be able to hang onto it, but your kids and your grandkids and the next generation will not.”
He concludes with a discussion from Acts 15 and the edict from James to the churches, calling inerrancy an obstacle to belief like circumcision was, and it must not be insisted on.
“(James) says, Therefore, having heard both sides, it is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Why would we make it unnecessarily difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God?
Why make something that is not an essential to their faith an essential which becomes an obstacle? He’s talking about his own Bible.
‘James, are you saying that God’s law as as revealed through Moses is a potential obstacle to faith in Jesus?’ And James and Peter and Paul would say, ‘Yeah, let’s not make it difficult, we should not make it difficult.’
And we shouldn’t either. The Bible should never be an obstacle to someone’s faith and decision to follow Jesus.”
Bonus: The end result of Stanley giving his congregants, church leaders, and pastors permission to reject biblical inerrancy:
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Did a Pastor at Andy Stanley’s Church Just Out Him as Gay-Affirming?! Read the Excerpts
Contemporaneous Text Messages from 2019 Support Gay-Affirming Charges Against Andy Stanley
For other non-LGBTQ Controversies, he made waves for encouraging Christians to essentially throw out the Old Testament, arguing that believers should “unhitch” themselves from portions of Old Testament Scripture. He denied the Genesis account, saying God only said it to ‘accommodate to our capacity,’ repeatedly told his congregants, ‘I’m not arguing that the bible is correct,’ and told his church the ‘foundation of our faith is not the whole bible.’
Stanley argued that Jesus’ birth and the events surrounding the nativity doesn’t really matter, thus casting doubt upon his supernatural birth by saying “If somebody can predict their own death and then their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world” and “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the Birth of Jesus.”’