Xaiquiri Matthews from XM Blogo did a very good refutation on Andy Stanley’s sermon series ‘Brand: New’. We would encourage you to visit Matthews site and read his good material.
Not So, Brand: New
A response to Andy Stanley’s sermon series
In Andy Stanley’s latest sermon series, “Brand: New,” he argues that the Old Covenant’s “temple model” has been completely replaced with the new Christian ethic: love. And he argues that if we are going to embrace Christianity, the “Jesus model,” then we must completely abandon every aspect of “temple thinking.”
There are several good things that can come out of what Stanley has said. For example, a question that everyone ought to regularly ask himself is, “What does love require of me?” He encourages people to love those who can do nothing for us. He also urges Christians, and especially Christian leaders, to become humble servants who aren’t too good for the poor and the dirty. He reminds us that our theology is no good if we are not loving. He reminds Christians to remember that they are not under the law. These are just some of the awesome takeaways from this sermon series that everyone would be wise to hear.
However, there’s an incredible flaw in what Stanley has been teaching for the last five weeks, and it is the foundation for everything he says in the series. He describes the “temple model” as a system of religion that involves sacred places with sacred men interpreting sacred texts to control superstitious people. I wish I didn’t have to explain this, but what he is teaching is a gross mischaracterization of the Old Covenant. And in mischaracterizing the Old Covenant, he comes to very wrong conclusions about the New Covenant and misses the primary purpose of Christ’s coming. To make this point even stronger, in making accusations against the Old Covenant, he essentially is making an indictment on the God who inaugurated that covenant. He says that the “temple model” is about how you as an individual can get right with God and that the “Jesus model” is about loving our neighbor. But the Law was never intended to make us right before God, and Jesus’ primary purpose for coming to earth was in fact to make us right before God. From the third chapter of Genesis to the third to last chapter of Revelation, the thrust of Scripture is primarily focused on what God is doing to restore man’s relationship with him.
So what is the Old Covenant?
There are hints at the Old Covenant in God’s interactions with Adam, but the Old Covenant explicitly begins with a promise to Abraham in Genesis 15. There was a promise of land, which we know from Hebrews 11 to ultimately be the hope of the new heaven and the new earth. And there was a promise that Abraham’s descendants, which we know from Galatians 3 and Romans 9 to be those with the faith of Abraham, would become a great nation. Throughout the New Testament, we learn that the truest fulfillment of those promises was found in Jesus. By faith we are adopted as children of God and are given an inheritance. However, all the while, there has been a problem; man is sinful, and God is holy. This is a problem because sin separated mankind from the presence of God. We learn in Genesis 17 that the sign of the covenant with Abraham was circumcision; circumcision was an external sign of an internal reality, namely the circumcision of the heart. When Moses received the Law four hundred and thirty years later, it was not given to help people become righteous through obedience. Instead, the Law of Moses was given to expose people’s sin and lead them to faith in the promise of God. God’s covenant with Moses was filled with promises for the nation of Israel that were dependent upon their obedience, but God’s covenant with Abraham was an unconditional promise. As the nation of Israel developed, the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle were introduced. Since God could not be directly in the presence of Israel because of their sin, these were the specific places where the presence of God would reside. Priests would offer sacrifices for the people of God and for themselves in order to come before God and make petitions on behalf of the people of God. Eventually, under Solomon, the tabernacle was replaced by the temple, and God’s presence would dwell in a place called the Holy of Holies inside the temple. The Old Covenant was never about “sacred places with sacred men interpreting sacred texts to control superstitious people.” The Old Covenant was about God’s promise to redeem his people, and the temple was about God’s desire to dwell among his people. Jesus critiqued Pharisees, religious leaders, in the New Testament, but that was because they missed the point of the Old Covenant, not because the Old Covenant was Pharisaical. Instead, Jesus and all of the writers of the New Testament upheld the goodness of all of the Old Testament scriptures.
And what exactly changed in the New Covenant?
The New Covenant does indeed replace the Old, not because the Old was flawed, but because the Old was fulfilled in Christ. In the New Covenant, no more sacrifices are needed because Christ was the sacrifice for sin once and for all. Baptism would replace circumcision as the sign of the covenant, and like circumcision, baptism would be an external sign of an internal reality, namely the baptism of the Spirit. In the New Covenant, God’s presence would not dwell in the temple; God’s presence would dwell within the hearts of believers through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The old temple was destroyed both symbolically and physically because believers are the new temple.
Why am I writing this?
Andy Stanley actually notes this aspect of the New Covenant, that Christians are temples. However, the conclusion he makes is that being a temple is what makes us valuable and is what undergirds the New Testament ethic of love. He says that the Old Covenant was about making sure our relationship with God was right and that the New Covenant is about pursuing right relationships with others. He even says several times during the sermon series something to the effect of, “Don’t worry about how you treat God. God is fine. All you need to worry about is how you treat other people.” This is blasphemy. Andy Stanley is right to criticize the Pharisaical qualities of the modern church like legalism, power-seeking, and theological divisiveness. But at worst, he is criticizing very purpose for Christ’s coming, to save sinners.
Andy Stanley misses the point of both Covenants, and he completely inverts the Great Commandment. He might as well be saying, “Love your neighbor with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your God as yourself.” He does, rightly so, say that our love for God is displayed in our love for others. However, his explanation of what is central to New Covenant thinking reveals that there is actually no love for God involved. In Andy Stanley’s explanation of the New Covenant, love for neighbor is central and the cross is simply something Jesus did that helps us not have to worry about our relationship with God anymore.
On the contrary, when Jesus gives us the two greatest commands in the New Testament, he’s not only quoting the Old Testament, but he’s showing us the central ethic of Scripture across the board. Loving God and loving neighbor are not replacing the Old Testament; they are the two commandments on which all of the Law and Prophets are founded. Loving God and loving neighbor are the driving force behind every other command. Our love for God is and always has been important, and our love for others is and always has been important. However, Stanley seems to think that the first half of this is irrelevant and that the second half of this is something brand: new. Not so.
When Andy Stanley attacks the sacred places of the “temple model,” he attacks the dwelling place of God among His people. When he attacks the sacred men of the “temple model,” he attacks God-appointed, and yet flawed, men who sought the good of God’s people, and he implicitly attacks his own calling as a pastor to lead the church today. When he attacks thesacred texts of the “temple model,” he attacks the Scriptures that Jesus and all of the New Testament writers quote and affirm, and he calls into question the validity of the very text from which he is reading.
When he criticizes the church throughout history for becoming creedal and theologically-minded, he neglects the consistent New Testament warnings about false teachers and its urgings to guard our doctrine. When he tells you not to worry about your relationship with God, he mocks the practices of Jesus himself when he would retreat into times of prayer, meditation, fasting, and seeking the will of the Father. He undermines the purpose of baptism and communion which remind us of our right standing with God. He contradicts the consistent call of the New Testament for believers to work out their salvation by living obedient, holy lives. He says that the reasons people give for rejecting the church are things that Jesus called the church to reject as well, but Jesus said in John 15 that the church will be hated precisely because of their affiliation with him. There is clearly a huge disparity between how Jesus described the church and the picture Andy Stanley is painting of the church.
I don’t believe it would be wise to write Andy Stanley into the New Testament category of heretics and false teachers. However, I want to say publicly that Andy Stanley has shown, especially over the last five weeks, that he is, at the very least, an untrustworthy expositor of Scripture, and I would encourage those who have followed him to stop following him. Stanley has a tremendous platform and says a lot of good and helpful things, but when you are seeking pastoral leadership, you ought to seek it from those who prove themselves to be, more than just good communicators, faithful teachers of the Bible.
Andy Stanley wants you to stop worrying about your relationship with God and start worrying about your relationship with others. This is an incredibly unloving thing to tell you. We do indeed, as he says, show our love for God by loving others. However, if we truly love God, then our love for others will be driven by the desire for them to love God as well because we understand that a right relationship with God is what is best for them. The primary mission of the Church is to make disciples by preaching the gospel and teaching those disciples to obey the teachings of Christ. This is the mission that separates the Church from every humanitarian organization and non-Christian religion in the world. And it is love that fuels this mission. We want people to turn from their sin and trust in Christ because we care about people’s souls.
One of the things that Andy Stanley is right about is the fact that the church has largely been guilty of being unloving, and all of our pursuits of theological knowledge are ultimately in vain if they do not make us more loving. The church has been guilty of being more concerned with theological pride than with loving our neighbor. The church has been guilty of being more concerned with appearing wise than with operating with wisdom. The church has been guilty of accusatory judgment rather than graciousness and patience with sinners. The church has been guilty of selfishness rather than selflessness. The church ought not give up on solid theology, but the church ought to recognize that its theology is intended to propel its love.
The greatest command is not to love our neighbor. The greatest command is, always has been, and always will be to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. The ultimate way we love God is by glorifying him in everything that we do. And the ultimate way we glorify him in everything that we do is by displaying his character in our lives. This is why loving our neighbor is so significant. We are not in the business of love because love is the new law. We are in the business of love because we love God. We love others because, in love, the glory of the God we love and the character of the God we love and the kingdom of the God we love are on display. The church is called to love one another because we know love to be a central element of righteousness and godliness. The church is called to meet needs because we recognize that the kingdom of God is a place void of earthly neediness. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, and show hospitality to strangers, we are displaying the character of God. There are no hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, and poor strangers in heaven, and the church is called to love people in a way that reveals the kingdom of God on earth. More significantly, there are no unrighteous people in heaven. We can die without food. We can die without clothes. We can die as a martyr. We can die alone. But we cannot afford to die without God. Every earthly need pales in comparison to the eternal need for righteousness before God, and the most loving thing we can do for our neighbor is to bring them to the cross of Jesus Christ where that need was met. This is the ethic of the New Covenant.
The Holy Spirit is working in the hearts of believers to conform them to the image of Christ. As this happens, the love of Christ inevitably emanates. If we are truly his disciples, then love for others will be the fountain of our hearts. If it isn’t, then I pray that we would recognize that, repent from it, and turn to Christ for forgiveness and renewed life. A living faith works itself out in love, so may all of us pursue this kind of faith and consistently ask God to strengthen our faith to this end.
I love Andy Stanley. I really do. But my love for him leads me to pray for him that the faithful Christian leaders that I know are in his life would come beside him in correction, that the Lord would grant him ears to hear, and that the Lord would use his gifts to become a tremendous platform for the gospel. Will you join me in this prayer?
Source: By Xaiquiri Matthews, Not So, Brand: New, XM Blogio, http://xaqmatthews.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/not-so-brand-new.html, Published 02/03/2015. (Accessed 06/03/2015.)
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