Scot McKnight Steps in to Defend Andy Stanley and Misses the Point
Pastor Andy Stanley released a video last week in which he defended the historicity of Adam and Eve but seemed to call into question the authority and veracity of scripture. The video has been removed but here is a partial transcript including the most controversial section:
“The foundation of our faith is not the infallibility of the Bible. The foundation of our faith is something that happened in history and the issue is always ‘who is Jesus?’ That’s always the issue. The Scripture is simply a collection of ancient documents that tells us that story.
So when we talk about the Scriptures, and especially the reliability of the Scriptures, I think anytime that we can tie the Old Testament especially back to Jesus, we have done everybody, Christians and non-Christians alike, an incredible service by letting them know. . .You can believe the Adam and Eve story is a creation myth—so what?—who is Jesus?. . .
Here’s why I believe this actually happened. Not because the Bible says so, but because in the gospels, Jesus talks about Adam and Eve. It appears to me that He believed that they were actually historical figures and if He believed they were historical, I believe they were historical because anybody who can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off, I just believe anything they say. . . .
The foundation of my faith is not an infallible Bible, it’s something that happened in history Jesus came into the world, walked on the earth, represented God, was God, and then rose from the dead. And that’s a very, very important part of our approach to the Scripture every single week.”
Now Scot McKnight has stepped in to defend Stanley, but he misses the point. Here’s his summary of the argument:
“My summary: Denny believes in Jesus because he believes in the Bible as the Word and Andy believes in the Bible because he believes in Jesus as the Word.”
Not really. Andy Stanley said that he accepts the historicity of Adam and Eve ‘not’ because the bible records it - the bible, he explained, is ‘simply’ a collection of ancient documents that tells a story - but because Jesus said that Adam and Eve were real historical persons.
That is correct as far as it goes. If Jesus says something is true, then it is true. But what Burk saw as problematic - as do I - is Stanley’s dismissal of scripture as sufficient warrant for Adam and Eve’s historicity.
McKnight points out that we ground our doctrine of the bible in Christology, in the Person of Christ and his authority. And he is correct. Jesus, God the Son, says that that the Old Testament is God’s word down to the jots and the tittles(Matt 5:17-18) and that it cannot be “broken”(John 10:35). We are, therefore, obliged to believe the Old Testament accounts, including the account of Adam and Eve.
If Pastor Stanley had said that, then there would be no problem.
But that’s not what he said. He affirmed the historical event recorded in scripture on the basis of Jesus’ testimony while at the same time relegating the scriptures themselves (which Jesus affirmed) to a less reliable status than Jesus’ actual words during his earthly ministry. He creates a dichotomy between the historical events recorded in the Old Testament and the Old Testament itself. This despite the fact that Jesus words in the Gospels also include absolute affirmations of the Old Testament’s divine inspiration, authority, and truthfulness.
Stanley’s words are problematic hermeneutically because he seems, arbitrarily, to accept Jesus’ words with regard to the historicity of Adam and Eve but reject them with regard to the inspiration of scripture.
They are problematic logically because, as many have pointed out, Jesus’ words are themselves recorded in the scriptures - making Stanley’s assertion self-defeating. If the words of Jesus are reliable but the bible is less so then we cannot be sure that we have access the actual words of Jesus in the Gospels since they are recorded in the less than completely reliable source.
And they are problematic theologically because if we affirm Jesus’ claim that he is indeed the Word who is God, then we must affirm that he is also the Author of that “collection” of Old Testament stories that Stanley doesn’t have much confidence in.
Pastor Stanley’s words are hermeneutically inconsistent, logically incoherent, and theologically destructive to the doctrine of scripture.
I’ve heard from reliable sources that Pastor Stanley understands himself to be a bible-believing orthodox pastor. If it is true, I hope he will issue some kind of retraction or clarification for the sake of those who listen to him and follow what he says.
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