Popular evangelist Andy Stanley recently raised the ire of some Christians on social media when he publicly said that Christians need to "unhitch" the Old Testament from their faith.
Stanley, the senior pastor of the North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, made the comments during an April 30 sermon to his congregation. The sermon was the third and final part of a lesson series titled "Aftermath: Not Difficult" that is available for public viewing on YouTube.
Stanley said that while he believes that the Old Testament is "divinely inspired," it should not be "the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church."
"(First Century) Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures," said Stanley. "Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well."
In his sermon, Stanley expressed his concern that many Christians are turning away from the faith because of certain passages in the Old Testament. He argues the early church moved past the Old Testament for the sake of newly converted Gentile believers and that the resurrection of Jesus was their focus.
"Jesus' new covenant, His covenant with the nations, His covenant with you, His covenant with us, can stand on its own two nail-scarred resurrection feet. It does not need propping up by the Jewish scriptures," Stanley told the congregation. "The Bible did not create Christianity. The resurrection of Jesus created and launched Christianity. Your whole house of Old Testament cards can come tumbling down. The question is did Jesus rise from the dead? And the eyewitnesses said he did."
Stanley said he understands his comments might be "a little disturbing" to some, but for others, it is "liberating."
"It's liberating for men and women who are drawn to the simple message that God loves you so much He sent His Son to pave the way to a relationship with you," he said.
"It's liberating for people who need and understand grace, who need and understand forgiveness. And it's liberating for people who find it virtually impossible to embrace the dynamic, the worldview, and the values system depicted in the story of Ancient Israel."
Stanley explained the Old Testament still holds great importance for believers.
"They are a means to an extraordinary end," he said. "The Jewish scriptures are the backstory for the main story. They're an important backstory. They're divinely inspired. They are God on the move through ancient, ancient times."
The video of Stanley's "Aftermath" series on the North Point Community Church's website has the following introduction.
"If you were raised on a version of Christianity that relied on the Bible as the foundation of faith, a version that was eventually dismantled by academia or the realities of life, maybe it's time for you to change your mind about Jesus. Maybe it's time for you to consider the version of Christianity that relies on the event of the resurrection of Jesus as its foundation. If you gave up your faith because of something about or in the Bible, maybe you gave up unnecessarily."
The Christian Post also reported Stanley's comments have come under fire on Twitter from other pastors and teachers.
Rachel Held Evans said Stanley "got this one very wrong," while Wesly Hill called Stanley's comments "an absolute theological trainwreck."
Lest you think I only pick on the Reformed guys, I agree that Andy Stanley got this one very wrong...https://t.co/61enrFUKtP
— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) May 11, 2018
Evans later tweeted, "I suspect Stanley was trying to get at the fact that Peter and Paul and the writers of the NT were willing to set aside things like kosher laws and circumcision in order to pursue the radical inclusion of Gentiles into the family of faith."
One Twitter user responded this way.
Morgan J Bolt replied, "I feel like I get what Andy was trying to say, but unhitching Jesus (or any biblical character) from their original context is the opposite of helpful."
Watch Andy Stanley's sermon in its entirety below.