I’m not a huge Andy Stanley fan, to say the least. He likes to stir things up by throwing evangelicals under the bus in an effort to reach those who doubt, who are departing, those who are deconstructing and leaving the church behind. I appreciate his effort to reach people like that, but it seems counterproductive to hit the eject button on the family of the redeemed in the effort. I am not sure the end justifies the means.
The latest iteration of “Barbeque Andy Stanley” had to do with a quote he put out on Twitter. He cannot claim he was misquoted or anything, since it was his own tweet. Here’s the offending tweet that I have seen on several of my friends’ Facebook feeds today.
The cries of heresy rang throughout social media. The general response was that we can only know Jesus of Nazareth through the revelation of Scripture and so if the 66 “ancient documents” are not accurate then we have no sure and certain foundation for knowing who Jesus Christ was. After the initial furor, Stanley deleted the tweet and posted the full sermon, inviting people to listen to it.
I did just that – listened to the full sermon this morning. I would give the following observations.
1. Hot takes and shock tweets are not a good idea. He made this tweet and is no fool. He can hardly complain about the way it was taken, knowing EXACTLY how it would be received. It achieved exactly the effect he intended.
2. He is a brilliant communicator.
3. The sermon, strangely, is actually a DEFENSE of the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, especially Luke’s account, and it is a masterful exposition of Luke’s introduction. There is some solid material in and amongst all the skubala in the message, if you are willing to hold your nose.
4. There is enough of the nasty stuff to taint the message. He discounts the importance of inerrancy, is disrespectful to the Bible as a whole, flippant about many things we hold dear, and only seems to value the truth of the Gospels and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
5. He does make some redemptive statements about the fact that the whole Bible points to Jesus Christ and hints, in the end, at the reliability of the Bible, but never really affirms it after his earlier statements.
6. He makes a statement in the end that I think is key for him. He says that Luke is not reliable because it is in the Bible, it is in the Bible because it is reliable. Okay. I get that. I still don’t see the value in all the shade he threw at the “ancient documents” at the beginning of the sermon.
7. I used to listen to Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill messages and think they were the greatest things I heard until he said something so absurd I couldn’t believe it. Amazing gems of truth mixed in with horrible things. Andy Stanley is like that, only worse – more of the skubala and less of the gems. There is some solid exposition of Luke 1 and some good insights but overall, the sermon is ruined by his shock-jock statements about the Bible.
8. Not having been a regular student of all things Stanley, my impression is that he treats the Bible like a buffet – take what you want and leave the rest. He likes the Gospels (at least the parts of the Gospels he likes) and leaves the OT and much of the NT alone – sort of a red-letter Christian. “All Scripture is inspired” my friends, not just the red letters.
Observation about the clip above: I agree with the problems people had with that tweet. It’s horrible. If someone else had lifted it out of Stanley’s message I would chastise them and say they had unfairly represented what he said. Since Stanley tweeted that himself, he cannot complain about the misunderstanding. On its own, the tweet borders on heresy. The sermon is marginally better than the clip. It does remind us that judging an entire sermon or even a man on a tweet is less than solid ground.