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Andy Stanley’s Scapegoating of the Jewish Scriptures

It’s about time! Some evangelical superstar had to say something. We can no longer ignore the gorilla of extreme conservative politics running berserk in today’s evangelical Church. In Pastor Andy Stanley’s book, “Not In It To Win It,” the author boldly goes where most evangelical leaders fear to tread.

The pastor of North Point Church in Alpharetta, GA is exasperated over the current trend of evangelicals who align themselves with right-wing conservative elements. He raises eyebrows in his criticism of pastors, Christian podcasters, and leaders who “lined up behind their political party of choice and leveraged our sacred text to validate political talking points.”

Most importantly, Pastor Stanley recognizes this development is detrimental to the cause of bringing the good news of redemption to all people.

In past generations, Christians broke down our culture into those who know Jesus and those who don’t. Instead, a significant segment of evangelicals has divided our society politically into the Left and the Right.

A few months back, I sat amazed listening to a message by modern-day “prophet” and evangelist Mario Murillo in which he stated the “enemy of the Christian is the Democrats.” Even Jesus did not designate the Romans or the Sadducees as enemies of His followers. Yeshua viewed His day’s political and religious parties as lost sheep in need of salvation, not ideological adversaries.

Evangelicals have turned a new corner where Jesus’ followers are intent on changing our world through endorsing political efforts, passing laws that reflect conservative principles, and supporting Right-wing candidates regardless of their ties to white Christian nationalism. Stanley points out that Jesus no longer changes lives in this revised evangelical era. Instead, Right-wing political activism is the key to the transformation of our broken society.

The past five years have been extremely challenging since I am not 100% on board with the angry tenor of evangelical conservative politics. I’ve witnessed ridicule and rejection from fellow evangelicals on social media because of my convictions.

Brotherhood in the Lord has been trumped by something or someone else. I sense my spiritual connection to certain Christians is no longer enough.

Nevertheless, I consider myself an independent who embraces the core tenets of conservatism.

We are not here to “win” elections, argues Stanley, but for a greater purpose: to radiate the love and compassion of Yeshua to bring non-believers to His redeeming power.

The key takeaway points I gained from “Not In It To Win It” (NIITWI), in addition to my observations, are as follows:

*Evangelicals have shifted the focus from sharing the good news to supporting political causes

*Evangelicals have opted to cancel fellow Christians who do not align with their conservative political viewpoint

*Evangelicals are placing their trust in political activism to change America’s culture more than the power of the Messiah Jesus

*Evangelicals have little issue aligning themselves with Right-wing politicians and talk show media stars who have the reputation of being white nationalist and even antisemitic

*Evangelicals have revised the Christian message as one bent on saving America rather than Americans.

*Evangelicals have no biblical basis for espousing the idea God made a covenant with America.

In Matthew 3:2 the prophet John the Baptizer in the New Covenant admonished his fellow Jewish seekers, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Today many evangelicals have revised John’s call to prepare oneself for the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. Today Matthew 3:2 has been revised to say, “Vote, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Dumping the Blame for the Political Divisiveness among Evangelicals on the Torah

Even though I embrace the concerns raised in Pastor Stanley’s book, I slammed on the brakes when I veered away from a roadblock in chapter four,” Kingdoms In Conflict.” Stanley’s earlier chapters about the problems in contemporary evangelicalism appear to be a setup for the bombs he releases later in the book regarding the Hebrew Scriptures.

Torah Scrolls
Torah Scrolls. Image by Image by Nelly Altenburger from Pixabay https://tinyurl.com/2p83w3em

In chapter 4 Stanley sows seeds of distrust towards the Jewish Scriptures to make his point. Andy believes the hot animosity among Christians towards the progressive Left and non-Trump supporting fellow believers is rooted in the Old Testament.

Consequently, these evangelicals absorb so-called militaristic triumphalism from the Torah and the prophets. Believers apply such terminology in their dealings with those who don’t line up with their brand of politics.

Therefore, according to Pastor Andy, Christians must unhitch themselves from the Old Covenant to remedy this problem. The reader of “Not In It To Win It” (NIITWI) soon realizes Andy’s questionable position on the Tenach forms the sub thesis in his book.

Author’s note: I have chosen to designate what evangelicals call the “Old Testament” or “Old Covenant” as the Hebrew or Jewish Scriptures, First Testament, or Tenach. For stylistic reasons or because I am trying to portray Stanley’s terminology accurately, I may use the term “Old Testament.” Forgive my inconsistency.

The Failure to See Divine Mercy and Grace in the Jewish Scriptures

The Georgia megachurch pastor believes the Jewish Scriptures lack any emphasis on love and mercy. Modern politically conservative evangelicals who read the Old Testament follow this lack of compassion towards others. Hence, we witness the combative atmosphere among followers of the Prince of Peace.

On page 71 of “Not In It To Win It” (NIITWI), Stanley quotes Philip Yancey to support the idea the ancient world was devoid of mercy. Stanley and Yancey agree that it wasn’t until Jesus arrived on the scene that the attitude toward mercy changed.

Wait a minute! Wasn’t the quality of mercy already highlighted in the Jewish Scriptures, the very source Jesus was using in His instructions on mercy? In Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” Yeshua reflects the revelation in Exodus 34:7 that God Himself is merciful.

It is not true the ancients-Greeks and Romans-had no resource but Yeshua to understand the quality of mercy.

Did these ancient people have any access to the Jewish Scriptures?

Historically, the Greeks in Alexandria in 250 B.C. called on Jewish scribes in Jerusalem to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, resulting in the Septuagint. The Septuagint was chiefly composed for Greek-speaking Jewish people, but learned Greeks and Romans had access to this marvelous work.

The Greeks knew of the trait of mercy through the dissemination of the Greek Old Testament. The Jewish Scriptures often speak of the importance of mercy as a quality of God’s people. See Exodus 20:5-6, Psalm 23:6, Psalm 51:1; Psalm 69:16.

When Andy Stanley portrays first-century Judaism, he stays fixed on the Jewish religious leaders who opposed Jesus. In no way does this Jewish opposition by select leaders epitomize all Jewish religious leaders and Jewish people in the first century. Pastor Stanley demonstrates little understanding of first-century Judaism regarding the qualities of mercy and love towards others. These qualities are discussed and promoted in the writings of the Dead Sea Scroll community, rabbinical writings, and Jewish writings seen in the Apocrypha.

As it may be, many Jewish adherents in Yeshua’s time were not displaying the quality of mercy. Thus, Yeshua brought this neglected trait to the forefront. But Yeshua was not the first to speak of the need for mercy despite what Stanley and Yancey claim. The Torah advocated this trait 1400 years before the Messiah spoke the beatitudes.

In contrast to Stanley’s viewpoint, the God of Israel is non-stop in reminding Israel that He redeemed them, His elect people, from Egypt by His grace and that the elect nation can expect to experience more of His compassion. The fact that Andy fails to see the Older Covenant as a testimony of divine grace and mercy reflects his subpar view of the God of Israel.

In Deuteronomy 4:15-19 Moses warns the generation of Israel against committing idolatry. The Lord God of Israel has no physical form; therefore the Israelites are not to construct any graven images to represent Him.

Moses cautions God’s people in verse 23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you.” Why? “For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24 ESV). In fact, we learn when a child of God commits idolatry, this act will provoke the God of Israel to anger (Deuteronomy 4:25).

Is Pastor Andy correct in perceiving the God of the First Testament as an angry, jealous God? Is the God of the New Covenant a much-improved deity?

First, the reader will observe the New Testament quotes Deuteronomy 4:24 and repeats the same truth regarding the jealous nature of God, “for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29 ESV). Stanley’s upgraded diety still possesses the Old Covenant characteristic of jealousy.

Second, upon further reading in Deuteronomy 4, we detect more data on the nature of the God of the Hebrews. Moses advises the new generation of Israelites who are about to enter the Promised Land, on what will happen if they commit idolatry:

“And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice”.

(Deuteronomy 4:27–30 ESV)

Why can the new generation of Israelites depend on the Lord to hear their cries for help? Moses points his audience once more to the gracious character of the living God: “For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them (Deuteronomy 4:31 ESV).

Like the New Testament which describes the Lord as both a merciful and jealous God, the Torah portrays the God of Israel in the same way. Lest Stanley wants to rip apart the divinely woven fabric of both testaments, his exhortation for Christians to unhitch ourselves from the Jewish Scriptures would be devasting to the integrity of the Word of God.

I close this section with a quote from Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In an article discussing Andy Stanley’s theology, Mohler acknowledges the Atlanta pastor is a “master communicator, and he communicates very well and very often. His preaching and teaching often bring controversy, and he quite regularly makes arguments that subvert the authority of Scripture and cast doubt upon biblical Christianity.”

The Responsibility of the Conservative Right for Influencing Evangelicals.

Andy Stanley is correct to note the culture in evangelical churches is divisive, adversarial, and dismissive towards those who do not view the world through the same politically conservative lenses. The issue is not always with the content of conservative talking points. Instead, Stanley is bothered that politicized evangelicals often throw the truths of Scriptures regarding our treatment of others under the bus to get their points across.

If the Jewish Scriptures are not the culprit for influencing the evangelical battle with progressive politics, who or what is?

1. Politically conservative evangelicals have been known to replace the command to love others with hostility.

Stanley wisely unmasks the lack of love and mercy among politically conservative Christians. He questions, “what is the difference between Christian Republicans and Republican non-believers?” When followers of Jesus hate non-believers who are Democrats or progressives just like their non-believing counterparts, how is Jesus’ command to love others taken seriously?

Stanley questions, “How can we preach a united gospel if we are a divided church?”

Jesus gave His followers a new command to be known for our love for others (pg. 80). Love for others is THE mark of the New Covenant believer. Andy Stanley is dead on in his emphasis on love being the mark of the children of God. However. . . .

In contrast to Stanley’s beliefs, the Jewish Scriptures are not devoid of commandments to love fellow humans. See Exodus 34:6; Leviticus 19:18, 34; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 6:5; 7:7; 10:19; 30:6).

According to Yeshua, His command to love others is based on a higher standard, “to love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12). He was not giving a command to His Jewish followers that they had never heard before.

In his book, Stanley discloses how little he grasps the details of the Torah, which held the Israelites responsible for demonstrating love, concern, justice, and mercy to others.

Once Pastor Andy admits the First Testament is not lacking in divine mercy, love, and forgiveness, he loses his leverage to convince Christians to unhitch themselves from the Jewish Scriptures.

2. The warlike attitude among evangelical conservatives is due to the acerbic language used by Right-wing pundits.

As noted beforehand, Stanley argues the warfare language from the Old Covenant has crept into our sermons and conversations (pg. 124). These combative words have shaped our posture in dealing with disturbing cultural trends in America and political opponents. Pastor Andy notes our struggle is not against flesh and blood; our warfare is spiritual and against unseen enemies.

The “conquer and conquest lingo” in the mouths of God’s people is contrary to the teaching of Yeshua. For example, Yeshua taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 ESV).

Israelites Cross the Jordan / Fall of Jericho, Jan Luyken, 1698. Rijksmuseum

We must ask, “where does the weaponizing of evangelical politics come from, if not from the Old Covenant?”

Here’s my perspective: Rather than viewing the Older Covenant as the source of the warlike attitudes that have slid into the Church, I see a more significant influence on Christians coming from Right-wing conservative media.

I have spent several decades listening to FOX News pundits, conservative radio commentators, and Right-wing podcasters who rail incessantly against the Left. Like many followers of Yeshua, I spent night after night, for 2-3 hours, listening to FOX News to get a conservative take on current political events.

On each broadcast, the prime-time commentators on FOX New diminish and tear apart Democrats and progressives, sometimes for valid reasons. Yes, CNN has its anti-conservative perspective night after night. However, CNN has little impact on the evangelicals.

I believe evangelicals spend more time fed with FOX conservative thinking than influenced by the Word of God. Christians seem more aroused by Sean, Laura, Tucker, and Jesse than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

in the light of the FBI search of former President Trump’s Mir-A-Lago resident for classified government documents, several hard-right commentators sounded the battle cry against the FBI. FOX News Prime Time “I’ve never seen the base more energized. I’ve never seen the base more angry. I’m angry,” Fox News prime-time host Jesse Watters bemoaned, “I feel violated. The whole country feels violated. This is disgusting. They’ve declared war on us, and now it’s game on.”

There were even cries for armed warfare on behalf of Trump on social media. One NBC News report said, “in the minutes after news of the search broke, users on pro-Trump forums like TheDonald, a Reddit-like website that was used to provide logistics before the Capitol riot, urged immediate violence, asking questions like ‘When does the shooting start?’ and calling upon Trump to summon militias.”

Is this what Yeshua envisioned for His disciples? His followers joining amass movement of hostile speech and boiling anger towards our political opponents?

I do NOT hold FOX 100% responsible for inspiring warlike language among its listeners. Evangelicals are accountable to a higher authority for their attitudes towards others. However, the nightly angry diatribes of ultra-conservative celebrity broadcasters carry the potential to inflame listeners with boiling-hot emotions ready to be merged with militaristic imagery wherever it originates.

By continual listening to hard-Right conservative media, the last thing the believer will learn is how to love our enemies the way Jesus taught us.

3. Christians will claim they are expressing “righteous indignation” like the Jewish prophets in the Tenach who fumed at the injustices in their day. Really?

First, the Hebrew prophets were specially anointed and chosen by God to speak to the sins of southern and northern Israel and the nations. Their messages became Scripture, not angry rants against our secular culture like we observe among today’s so-called prophets

Second, the Jewish prophets spoke by the Spirit of the living God. He was their source. Not the nightly Israeli news. Those who claim today to be prophets of God often utter false prophecies and mistaken estimations of our culture.

Suppose they want to claim they stand in the same tradition as Old Covenant spokesmen. Then they should be held accountable for their false words according to Deuteronomy 18:20, “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:20 ESV). Likewise, the same rule of thumb is applied to prophets in the New Covenant era, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21 ESV). The measure of accountability for those who claim to possess the gift of prophecy today is no different than the test of a prophet under the Torah.

Third, an individual who claims to be a modern-day prophet is accountable for utilizing their gifting according to New Covenant principles. In Galatians 5:21-22, Paul tells the ekklesia at Galatia that the primary character traits in serving God mirror the fruit of the Holy Spirit in contrast to the deeds of the flesh.

In Paul’s catalog of the deeds of the flesh, he lists behaviors not to be found among those who call on the name of Yeshua: strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, and divisions (Galatians 5:20). How can one claim their “righteous indignation” is acceptable when their behavior is typical of those who are not filled with the Spirit of God?

In contrast, God’s people are known for “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23 ESV).

We need to check our angry political demeanor at the door of the Church and allow the Spirit of God to shape our attitudes, not political commentators, many of whom do not live according to Yeshua’s teaching.

The Mistaken Cry to Unhitch Christians from the Old Testament

Pastor Stanley is rightly concerned Christians might be pulling Old Covenant language into how we express ourselves to those who oppose us or have different views.

© Maksym Dragunov/Shutterstock.com/Enclyclopedia Britannica

To Stanley’s way of thinking, the person or group on the receiving end might become confused as to the intentions of the person using such language.

Evangelicals need to refrain from using warlike imagery they allegedly gleaned from the 39 books of the Old Covenant. To accomplish this, Stanley must demonstrate the inferiority of the first testament in contrast to the newer revelation. Once the Old Testament is shown to be on a lesser level than the New Covenant, Stanley has his basis for admonishing Christians to free themselves of God’s older book.

Stanley’s arguments that Christians should unhitch from the Jewish Scriptures are as follows:

1. The Old Covenant contains shadows pointing to the substance of New Covenant realities. “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Colossians 2:17 ESV). Stanley upholds New Covenant believers have become infested with Old Covenant shadows from the past (page 128). The reality of the fuller revelation has come, and New Testament believers need to “distance” themselves from Old Covenant shadows.

In contrast to Stanley’s interpretation, the context of Colossians 2:17 focuses on believers judging one another regarding their adherence to Old Testament shadows. “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath” (Colossians 2:16). Paul never said to stop practicing the Jewish festivals. He merely warns against judging one another based on adherence to these traditions.

In the New Covenant Scriptures, Paul and the early Jewish believers observed Jewish traditions and adhered to the Torah (Acts 21:20). This is the Torah Pastor Stanley tells modern followers of Jesus to disengage from! In addition, Paul went out of his way to convince the Jewish community he was not teaching Jewish believers to stop keeping the Torah commandments.

Stanley argues Old Covenant feasts are obsolete for New Covenant Jewish believers. Then why did Paul instruct them to keep the feast of Passover in 1 Corinthians 5:8, “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth [bold text from author].” Paul told the Corinthian believers to keep the feast with the right attitude. Paul did not instruct messianic Jewish believers to unhitch from celebrating Passover. From the Book of Acts, we know Paul observed Passover, Shavuot, and Yom Kippur (Acts 18:21; 20:6,16; 27:9).

From early church history until the Nicean Council in 325 AD, both Jewish and Gentile followers of Yeshua kept the Passover feast as a way of commemorating the resurrection of Yeshua and His message of redemption from sin.

On page 130, Stanley argues, “In my experience, justifications Christians use to mistreat people are often rooted in Old Testament practices, narratives, and values.” This argument is odd since Jewish people keep the Torah’s laws, traditions, and values and are not known as violent, adversarial people.

Stanley’s concern about evangelicals infested with Old Covenant types and shadows is a non-sequitur to his argument. Andy has failed to demonstrate how evangelicals are provoked into using unloving language towards their political opposition by employing Old Covenant types.

2. The Old Covenant has come to an end and is not to be part of a Christian’s life. Andy Stanley accurately notes God made His covenant at Sinai with Israel and not with followers of Jesus. Despite the fact God did not place gentile believers under the Law, the moral and ethical principles of the Torah still have relevance to followers of Yeshua. The Law is the divinely inspired Word of God and speaks to us today.

Stanley has opened a can of worms when He claims Jesus came to replace the Old Covenant. Yeshua’s words concerning the Law are not “replace” but “fulfill.” See Matthew 5:17-18. How can God’s later revelation “replace” past revelation that still bears the marks of divine authenticity? The Torah explicitly says God’s people are not to add or take away from His written revelation (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). Stanley has not consistently dealt with this issue.

Ironically, Stanley praises the excellence of the Torah in one breath and then denigrates it. In contrast, this is what Yeshua thought of the Torah, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19 ESV).

In contrast to Pastor Andy’s call for evangelicals to disengage from the Jewish Scriptures, Yeshua based the commandment of the “Golden Rule” on the Torah. In Matthew 7:12 the Lord instructed His disciples, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (bold author’s).” Rather than jettison New Covenant believers from the “subpar” Older Covenant, the Messiah establishes that transformed behavior by His followers is based on the Torah and the prophets.

Paul taught, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8 ESV). If one uses the Torah to gain righteousness before God and ignores His provision of salvation in Yeshua, the messianic theological scheme rejects that viewpoint. One searches the New Testament in vain to find Stanley’s negativity towards the eternal Torah.

3. The Old Testament’s history is characterized as murderous and blood-soaked. On page 133 Andy Stanley claims Yeshua was born under the Old Testament with its bloody, violent history. What a flippant thing to say about the Scriptures upon which Christians build our faith.

Stanley reminds us the “wrathful, punishing God of the Old Covenant” is unlike the loving, graceful God of the New Covenant. Of course, the pastor brings up God’s command to Israel to go into the territory He promised Israel and wipe out the Canaanites.

Biblical scholars are mindful of the circumstances surrounding God’s instructions to Israel to go into the land of Canaan to dispossess its inhabitants. The dwellers in the land had the opportunity to repent of their idolatry.

Concerning Abraham’s descendants, God told the patriarchs, “And they [Israel] shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites [Canaanites] is not yet complete” (Brackets author’s] (Genesis 15:16 ESV). The Canaanites were allotted 40 years to repent of their idolatry.

In contrast to Stanley’s wrathful, punishing Old Testament God, the Scriptures portrays the God of Israel as eager to pardon and bless the nations outside Israel. In addition, the Lord told Israel to dispossess only seven nations living in the land and never to go on an indiscriminate rampage of conquest towards anybody who gets in the way.

The question remains, “How can God tolerate the wiping out of these people?” Dr. Daniel Block, the Gunther H. Knoedler Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, suggests that if Israel acted like the Canaanites, they also would have been wiped out.

God ordered the Canaanites to be destroyed not as genocide but for purely spiritual reasons. He was guarding the holiness of Israel through whom He would bless the earth. Evil is contagious and needs removal. Pagan idolatry is an abomination to God. Yet Israel would never be a blessing to the nations if she became entangled in Canaanite paganism.

“The Great Day of His Wrath,” 1851-1853 oil painting by John Martin

In many instances, the ancient people of Israel came under divine judgment for their idolatry. God showed no favorites. Yet there are numerous occasions when the Lord of Israel forgave His people for their iniquities. He is fundamentally gracious, according to Dr. Block. Nevertheless, Andy Stanley fails to see the grace of God in the older covenant.

Let us not draw a blank about the dark history of violence, murder, and persecution of others by so-called Christians. Is Stanley unaware of this? Has he not heard of the Crusades and the Inquisition? These movements of Christian violence have nothing to do with the Jewish Scriptures. The violence of these Christians came from their persecution of those who did not accept Yeshua or did accept Him and then went wayward.

In addition, Christians have used texts in the New Testament like Revelation 2:8 and 2:9 to discriminate against and persecute Jewish people, described in these texts as the “synagogue of Satan.” If we employ Stanley’s logic, followers of Yeshua should unhitch themselves from the New Testament!

Taking Aim at The Grand Persecutor in Chief, Paul the Apostle

In his chapter, “The Inquisitor in Chief,” Stanley focuses on Saul of Tarsus. Rabbi Shaul. Pharisee Saul. Law-abiding Saul. Jewish Saul. Stanley is adamant about painting the beloved Apostle as the leading persecutor of followers of Yeshua.

Saul approved of the stoning of Stephen (pg. 147). He admitted to persecuting followers of the Way (pg. 150). He even felt justified in his zeal (Acts 22:3-4). According to Andy Stanley, Paul “was fulfilling the Torah.” It was not his interpretation of the Torah but the standard interpretation” (pg. 151). Stanley provides no examples of the “standard interpretation” of the Torah among first-century Jewish scholars to support his accusations.

I find several problems with Stanley’s position on Saul of Tarsus.

First, Stanley erroneously pins the blame for Saul’s persecution of Jewish followers of Yeshua on the Old Testament.

The Georgia pastor neglects to mention Saul solely went after Jewish followers of Yeshua. He did not persecute gentile believers. Paul was zealous in protecting the Jewish community against fellow Jews who believed in Jesus as the “false” Messiah. In Saul’s mind, Jesus was a false prophet and a dreamer of dreams who persuaded Jewish people to worship Him as God. According to Deuteronomy 13:6-11, if a family member or a friend entices others to go after false deities, that person is to be killed.

Biblically speaking, Paul obeyed the Torah in his zeal to stop what he perceived as an idolatrous cult among Jewish people. Was he wrong in his adherence to Torah? Over-zealous, yes. Nevertheless, his diligence reflected a heart that wanted to please God, not because of some Jewish sectarian perspective. Andy Stanley’s issue is not with Paul, but with the author of the Torah Paul obeyed-God Himself.

In other texts, Paul complimented observant Jewish people for their zeal for God. Yet like himself, their fire for spiritual truths was not in accordance with knowledge. Read Romans 10:2-3, “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (ESV).

In Paul’s thinking, the Jewish people of his day are fervent in their commitment to God. However, they did not have an understanding of receiving God’s righteousness. They choose to attain righteousness instead. Consequently, their enthusiasm was misguided. However, Paul did not blame the Jewish Scriptures for this error.

https://christianpublishinghouse.co/2018/05/30/who-was-gamaliel-that-taught-saul-of-tarsus/

Where did Paul say because he became overzealous as a law-keeping Jewish person, the Torah is to be rejected, ignored, or set aside? Paul never denied his Jewish background, as Stanley appears to say.

Still, Stanley presses hard to blame Paul’s actions against Christians because of his obedience to the Torah (pg. 152).

When Yeshua revealed Himself to Saul on the road to Damascus, He did not rebuke Paul for obeying the Torah, a book Stanley thinks is defunct. Instead, Yeshua says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”(Acts 9:4–5).

Paul failed to see that Jewish followers of Yeshua were not idolaters. Why? Because Yeshua revealed to Saul that He is the Lord. He is the same as the God of Israel, the God Saul serves.

Yeshua corrected Saul’s zealousness and made it clear he was persecuting those who serve the true God of Israel. Note this well. Yeshua did not rebuke Saul for persecuting messianic Jewish believers (though that is implied). Primarily, Yeshua challenged Saul’s mistaken theology.

In no way, would I justify Saul’s persecution of the early Jewish followers of Yeshua. It was wrong for Paul to act violently against those he opposed.

In 1 Timothy 1:12-13, Paul faced the sins he committed against Jewish believers prior to following Yeshua. He confessed, “I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” [bold author’s] (1 Timothy 1:12–13 ESV). Paul claims he acted in ignorance. The Apostle casts no blame on the Jewish Scriptures. Such an action would be unthinkable to Saul.

His careless behavior was due to his unbelief in the deity of Yeshua. Why else would he persecute a Jewish messianic sect? In the first century, there were many instances of false Messiahs. Yet they were not objects of persecution. Once messianic Jews proclaimed the divinity of the Jewish Messiah, they were tagged as idolaters by the Jewish religious leadership.

Is idolatry any less of an abomination to God under the New Testament? Has God’s character of holiness changed between the testaments?

Second, Stanley ignores New Testament passages in which God comes down hard on disobedient Christians.

Many passages exist in the New Testament in which the justice of God towards disobedient followers of Yeshua comes into play. Look at John 15:2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2 ESV).

Followers of Yeshua are in danger of being taken away or thrown away if they are not abiding in His truth. John 15:6 warns,“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”

A few more passages establish that the New Testament is not ALL love and happy thoughts. “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16). From Paul, we read, “For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jewish people], neither will he spare you [gentile Christians] ” (Romans 11:21 ESV).

Paul uses strong language in Galatians 1:8 towards those who attempted to place gentile Christians under the Law. He writes, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be ACCURSED” [bold and capitalization mine] (Galatians 1:8). Accursed? In Andy Stanley’s New Testament of love and bubbles?

One more example from Acts 5 should suffice. Two Jewish members of the messianic community were untruthful in their offering to the Lord. Observe what happens to them in Stanley’s so-called unhitched New Covenant community. “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it” (Acts 5:4–5 ESV).

Let us not discount the fact that New Covenant also uses militaristic language. Examples exist in several passages: we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37); to overcome the evil one and the world (1 John 2:14; 4:4; 5:4-5); the one who conquers and stands up to false teaching will be blessed (Rev. 2:7, 11); war will be waged against those who do not repent of false teaching (Rev. 2:16).

I’m unconvinced the 12 Apostles would be comfortable singing the hymn, ” Onward Christian Soldiers.” However, these militaristic terms have a context and a significant meaning attached to the historical circumstances in which the phrase appears. The writers of the New Covenant never intended these military metaphors to be used in the way we relate to the lost or those we disagree with politically.

This warlike language in the New Covenant is not a carte blanch giving Christians the freedom to describe Christian opposition to the evils in our culture. In contrast, Paul uses the term “overcome” to explain how believers are to deal with the evils in our midst, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21 ESV).

We do not overcome evil with antagonistic language that turns the one who opposes us into an enemy. We seek to do good to those who oppose us.

Perhaps Pastor Stanley should concoct his version of the Bible, which leaves out the offensive passages that cause him angst. He would fall in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson with his “cut and paste” Bible that eliminated verses that offended his deist beliefs and sensitivities.

Third, Stanley condemns all of first-century Judaism based on the behavior of a select few.

Were all law-abiding Jewish people, rabbis, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and other Jewish groups on board with Paul’s behavior? After all, they followed the same Torah as Rabbi Saul.

The instigators who sought to kill messianic Jewish believers in the first century did not quote from the Law to justify their actions. See Acts 9:23-24; 22:12-15. Still, Stanley claims on page 155 that Paul was an example of what Old Covenant living looked like.

Stanley contends that 1st century Judaism weaponized the Scriptures. Then Andy claims weaponizing Christianity, the message of love, is impossible (pg. 157).

Theoretically, Andy is right. However, 2000 years of Church history towards the Jewish people say he is dead wrong. Violence, massacres, and threats of violence have been integral to specific periods of Christian history, especially towards God’s elect people, Israel. Stanley commits a disservice to the relationship between the Church and Israel by ignoring this dynamic that has hurt the connection between both communities.

Sadly, those who claim to follow Jesus still engage in violence towards those they disagree with. In a recent article by CNN author John Blake, “An ‘Imposter Christianity’ is Threatening American Democracy,” he points out, “The incongruity of people carrying “Jesus Saves” signs while joining a mob whose members are pummeling police officers leads to an obvious question: How can White Christian nationalists who claim to follow Jesus, the “Prince of Peace” who renounced violence in the Gospels, support a violent insurrection?“

Blake is referring to the January 6th Insurrection, where many hard-core conservative “patriots” were on hand and engaged in a riotous breach of the nation’s capital. We know evangelicals were present in this disorderly crowd based on the Christian signs they carried and the slogans on their clothing.

The article continues, “That’s because they follow a different Jesus than the one depicted in the Gospels, says Du Mez, who is also a professor of history and gender studies at Calvin University — a Christian school — in Michigan. They follow the Jesus depicted in the Book of Revelation, the warrior with eyes like “flames of fire” and “a robe dipped in blood” who led the armies of heaven on white horses in a final, triumphant battle against the forces of the antichrist.”

Andy Stanley has a confused view of the Jewish Scriptures and first-century Judaism. His book ”Not In It To Win It” loses all credibility because of his unbiblical view of the Scriptures. His argument persuading Christians to unhitch themselves from the Old Covenant is nothing short of unorthodox.

Al Mohler adds, “He [Stanley] actually says: “I am convinced for the sake of this generation and the next generation, we have to rethink our apologetic as Christians, and the less we depend on the Old Testament to prop up our New Testament faith the better because of where we are in [the] culture.” These words convince me Stanley has placed himself outside the camp of evangelical orthodoxy.

Fourth, Stanley fails to see a complete portrait of the character of God in His dealings with Israel and the nations.

Is the Tenach a book of aggressive campaigns built on anger, bias, and wrath?

How soon Andy Stanley forgets the prophet Jonah who went to preach repentance to the Ninevites, a warlike people who deserved divine retribution. Even Jonah agreed with that assessment. But when the people repented, and Jonah could no longer preach an angry message against the Ninevites, he was disappointed. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” ]italic’s mine] (Jonah 4:2 ESV)

Jonah’s account illustrates the gracious love of God in the Tenach as opposed to the God Stanley portrays in his anti-Old Testament rant.

A few more examples of God’s love and grace in the Tenach are necessary. In Exodus 32, the Lord‘s anger burned hot against Israel for worshiping the golden calf. The God of Israel wanted to destroy the nation and start over with Moses. But Moses interceded for God’s people, and the Lord relented. The leader of Israel demonstrated his own mercy in his prayer as he relied on God’s forgiveness to restore a remnant of those who rebelled against Him. In addition, Moses’ prayer for Israel included a request for God to spare Aaron, who acted as a sinful leader in the creation and worship of the idolatrous calf (Exodus 32:13-15; Deuteronomy 9:18-20).

I recall God forgiving David for his sins of adultery, conspiracy to commit murder, and covering up his sin. “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5 ESV).

When the Jewish Scriptures describe God’s requirements of His people, the thrust of His demands is not more ritual or obedience to His commands. God wanted His people to fear Him, surrender their hearts to Him and repent of their sins.

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12–13).

In Micah, the prophet addresses the same issue, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 ESV)?

Rather than focus on the occasional warlike imagery in the First Testament as Stanley does, we discover the Jewish Scriptures are more focused on the heart of the worshipper in agreement with the New Covenant’s attention to the heart that loves God and others.

In Deuteronomy 10:16, Israel is admonished to circumcise their heart and remove the stubbornness of resistance to the Lord. In Deuteronomy 10:19, Moses instructs the people of Israel to “Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19 ESV). Sounds very much like the New Covenant.

Instead of expressing hostility to other nations, the word of God encourages Israel to love the foreigner in their midst. Unfortunately, evangelicals with an America First ideology are more inclined to build a wall at our borders to keep strangers out and not think about sharing the good news with them.

Contrary to Right-wing evangelical thinking, the Lord plans for His Church to include all kinds of people (Romans 1:13; 11:13; 15:9, 18; 16:26). How can we proclaim a gospel that appeals to all nationalities and ethnicities if our politics seeks to keep immigrants-legal and illegal-out of our county?

The command to love the stranger or foreigner in our midst has become neglected by hard-right Christian so-called “patriots .”The Scriptures advocate, “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34 ESV).

Without the Old Covenant, Christians are removed from the spiritual depths of the Psalms, the wisdom of Proverbs, and many significant portions of prophecy as found in the major and minor prophets. Once more, I ask, “Why didn’t Andy Stanley merely admonish Christians to shun using warlike language to describe their opposition to our culture instead of suggesting evangelicals unhitch themselves from all 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures?”

The serious ramifications of telling Christians to unhitch themselves from the Jewish Scriptures.

1. Andy Stanley has entrapped himself in the Marcion heresy.

Marcionism is an anti-Jewish belief that emerged in the mid-second century. The originator of this belief was Marcion, a gentile from Asia Minor. Mark Kinzer, in his book “Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism,” states that Marcion was “propounding the view that the God of Yeshua was different from and superior to the God of Israel” (pg. 185). He rejected the authority of the Jewish Bible and established a scriptural canon that included an expurgated version of Luke and ten letters of Paul. In 144 A.D., Marcion was excommunicated by the Bishop of Rome.

Marcion of Sinope (source: wikipedia)

Mohler does not conclude Stanley is a Marcionite, “To be clear, Andy Stanley does not endorse the full heresy of Marcionism, which was universally condemned by the early Church. He actually appears to aim for the heresy of Marcionism, and his hearers are certainly aimed in that direction. He clearly says that God is the same God in both testaments but says that He reveals himself in two completely different ways. Like Marcion, he argues that the Church must unhitch from the Old Testament.”

On a positive note, messianic Jewish scholar, Mark Kinzer, bookmarks the positive Christian response to Marcionism. The traditional church “produced an unequivocal affirmation of the Jewish Bible as Christian scripture. Thus, the Church proclaimed that the Father of Jesus Christ was the God of Israel, and the God of Israel was the Father of Jesus Christ” (pg. 185).

Unlike Andy Stanley, the historic gentile Church preserved its connection to the original Jewish tradition present at the foundation of the Church. In Stanley’s unhitching scheme, he is severing Christianity from its Jewish roots.

2. Andy Stanley presents scant evidence the early Jewish believers unhitched themselves from the Jewish Scriptures.

When the New Testament was penned, the only Scriptures the early Jewish followers had was the Tenach. If Paul or the other apostles were telling Jewish people in the first century to unhitch from the Tenach, as Stanley claims, the messianic movement would have come to a screeching halt. No Jewish person would have joined a movement that abandoned the Jewish Scriptures.

It is one thing for the New Testament writers to warn against using the Tenach to gain righteousness. However, no place in the Scriptures tells believers to disengage from the Old Testament. Instead, Paul tells New Testament believers to see the Old Testament examples as reminders of how they should not act, and these examples have nothing to do with using warlike language (1 Corinthians 10:6-11).

On page 157, Andy Stanley notes that an attempt to blend the two covenants results in a perversion of Christianity. In contrast to Stanley, the New Covenant contains numerous passages from the Jewish Scriptures that reveal Yeshua fulfilled the First Covenant messianic prophecies. The Old Covenant is a consistent resource for instruction for messianic living according to 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

I find it odd that Stanley is so adamant about evangelicals unhitching themselves from the Torah. In opposition to Andy’s position, the provisions of the New Covenant include God writing His laws on the hearts of New Covenant believers. Hebrews 8:10, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Hebrews 8:10 ESV).

Andy Stanley has a real problem here. He is in direct opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit as promised in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:33-34. How do we unhitch ourselves from principles, values, and stipulations inscribed in our hearts by God?

Does Andy pray, “Lord, please unhitch me from the Old Testament laws You placed in my heart?”

The Lord viewed His statutes and commandments as a tool to show His greatness among the nations. “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:6–8 ESV).

These verses alone form a powerful rebuke to Andy Stanley’s admonition for evangelicals to unhitch themselves from the Law. God desired His statutes and commands to testify to His presence among His elect nation. His regulations provide God’s people with wisdom and understanding before the nations. These are the same commandments Andy Stanley wants Christians to unhitch themselves from.

I refer to Al Mohler’s article again, “Andy Stanley argues that the Old Testament should not be cited as “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church,” but the moral law of the Old Testament remains honored by the Church and repeated (even intensified) in the New Testament. Peter, James, and Paul did not ‘unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish Scriptures,’ nor can we.”

Conclusion

Andy Stanley has done an excellent service to the Church in pointing out what has taken place in the Body of Messiah in the last few decades (pg. 171). He rebukes the self-serving, self-preserving culture warrior among evangelicals who have chosen to sidestep the New Covenant lifestyle.

Here’s my main concern. As I survey the evangelical chatter on social media, I detect Christians have become angry people. The more politically conservative believers in Jesus are, the more enraged they become.

When a child of God spends night after night listening to hard-right pundits railing at progressives, pro-choice advocates, gay marriage supporters, gun control, the presence of CRT in our schools, and the secularization of our country, they expose themselves to discussions that stir up frustration, anger, and hateful emotions. Is this how God wants us to respond to our culture?

Shouldn’t we be praying for these people we disagree with? Shouldn’t we be showing them the love of Yeshua rather than the anger stirred up by conservative media sources? They need to hear the message of God’s grace, not hard right political rhetoric.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

Conservative news pundits are not all committed Christians who heed the teachings of New Testament living. As a result, listeners are drawn away from New Testament principles and left with pent-up emotions about society’s sad shape.

Of course, the audience can vote for the candidates or bills that best mirror their conservative principles. Listeners can also financially support particular candidates or volunteer to help get them elected.

However, the remainder of the time, we allow ourselves to get pumped up with bitterness and frustration by exposing ourselves to these evening rants. This aggressive approach has ignited an emotional fuse connected to a time bomb ready to explode in the evangelical Church.

Listen to these passages from the New Covenant:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV).

“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8 ESV).

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1:19 ESV).

The Great Commission is not about getting the candidates of our choice elected. We are not in it to win it. We are in it to share the good news of God’s redemptive love in Yeshua. We are in it to pray and love for those we disagree with and to NOT create divisions in the Church over politics.

One Response to “Andy Stanley’s Scapegoating of the Jewish Scriptures”

  1. Sandy Goldstein says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your gift of clarity.

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