A trio of Messianic Jewish leaders in the Atlanta area is the latest to publicly sound alarms concerning the "replacement theology" teachings about Christians and the Old Testament by Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point, the nation's second largest church.
In his latest controversial comments about Christians moving away from the Ten Commandments, Stanley said, "The new covenant replaced the old one. The covenant established by Jesus retired the covenant God established with the nation of Israel."
Stanley sparked controversy last year when he preached a sermon series calling on Christians to "unhitch" their faith from the Old Testament. That sounded, to many believers, Jewish and Gentile, like a form of replacement theology—the idea that the Church has replaced biblical Israel and that God's promises to Israel as a nation and the Jews as a people are essentially over. At the time, Stanley said his words had been taken out of context.
Ryan Lambert, a Messianic Jewish teacher and outreach director for First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) ministry based in Jerusalem and Atlanta, has attended seminars at North Point and respects its leadership. He made his concerns known to high-level staff members at the church. He said he was told that when Stanley's new book was published, many of the issues would be cleared up.
Last fall, Stanley released his book entitled, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. But after reading the book, Lambert wrote, "My concerns that had been raised during Pastor Andy's sermon series were not only confirmed but significantly increased."
Lambert and two colleagues at FFOZ, Toby Janicki and Damian Eisner, appeared in a video response to Irresistible called "Irreplaceable: the Answer to Andy Stanley's 'Irresistible' Replacement Theology."
Lambert cites a passage in Irresistible in which Stanley wrote, "(Paul) knew the legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and exclusivity that characterized ancient Judaism would eventually seep into and erode the beauty, simplicity, and appeal of the ekklesia (church) of Jesus."
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Lambert responded, "I don't think Andy Stanley is an anti-Semite. But this kind of rhetoric, which speaks of Judaism as something that has been replaced and that is characterized as 'self-righteous' and 'eroding' the ekklesia can and has led to common negative Christian stereotypes of both Judaism and Jews. Too often throughout history, such stereotypes and characterizations have led the way toward hostile, violent, and destructive actions toward the Jewish community by the hands of Christians."
He added, "Pastor Stanley's words are dangerous."
The Messianic leaders say their purpose is not to "bash" Stanley, and Toby Janicki, a non-Jew, acknowledges that Stanley is trying to solve a problem with the post-Christian generation who sees the God of the Bible as a "mean God," who commanded violence, or that biblical accounts don't square with their perceptions of modern science.
But Janicki believes Stanley's solution to basically "leave the Old Testament behind," is a slippery slope.
"What happens when you get to that stuff (violence, etc.) in the New Testament, because it is in the New Testament as well?" Janicki insists. "We have to read the Bible in its proper Jewish context." He is troubled by Stanley's statement, "You could read through the Old Testament and never see Jesus."
"I don't know how that is possible," Janicki said. He asserts the Old Testament is woven with Messianic symbolism from start to finish, and Stanley's contention is "simply not true."
Damian Eisner said, "Andy would criticize us for pointing out Yeshua (Jesus) in the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) and the Tanach (the Old Testament) because he actually criticized the church councils and early church fathers because they were desperate to bring the Jewish scriptures in where they never belonged." Eisner calls the first 150 pages of Stanley's book "a car wreck," but says "the last hundred pages or so of the book are about love."
Lambert, Janicki, and Eisner say they're committed not only to battle replacement theology in the church but to produce and communicate solid biblical teaching within a Jewish context through First Fruits of Zion ministries.
BELOW: Irreplaceable - The Answer to Andy Stanley's "Irresistible" Replacement Theology