Irresistible Book Discussion: Chapter 11 - The Obsolete Testament


(SeanO) #1

This is a book discussion of Andy Stanley’s book ‘Irresistible’ prompted by @tabby68, @O_wretched_man, @Lakshmismehta and @andrew.bulin . There have been some accusations against the book and we would like to take the time to hear what Andy Stanley is really trying to say and to offer thoughtful, gracious critique. Below is a podcast interview with Andy Stanley you may find helpful as well as the original post that started the discussion.

To participate - read along with us and share your thoughts and opinions :slight_smile: My thoughts are here hopefully to prompt discussion - so please do join in with your observations / thoughts so that we can all benefit from your perspective. May the Lord Jesus guide our discussion.

Chapter X

Big Idea: Believers belong to Jesus; not the Old Covenant.


Believers belong to Jesus; not the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is the obsolete covenant - the Old Testament should be called the Obsolete Testament. Believers in Jesus do not need to obey any part of the law - even the Ten Commandments. We obey a higher and stricter law - the law of the Spirit of Christ in us. We don’t obey the letter of the law but the teachings of Jesus by the power of the Spirit.

Good Things

Again, it is good to understand that the Old Covenant is truly obsolete. All on board for a trip to the New Covenant hop on.


I know Stanley knows the difference between misinterpretations of the Old Testament and accurate interpretations. But the way he talks it sounds like David was a barbarian barely worthy of honor and the Old Testament laws are a one way road to oppression and violence and the sacrificial system had nothing to do with the heart. But none of those statements are true! That is only when they are badly, terribly misunderstood and misapplied. None of these portrayals are accurate - in fact, they are the very same misrepresentations of these systems sometimes used by skeptics. So I am very confused as to why Stanley is promulgating them. I understand he is using emphasis to make a point, but I think he has missed the mark on this one and has misrepresented the OT.

I agree the OT is easy to misinterpret - that is the source of health and wealth preaching, legalism and many other false doctrines. But the OT does not support any of those when interpreted correctly. Even the legalism of the Pharisees was a misapplication and misunderstanding of the OT - not an accurate application of it. Jesus came to fulfill the law - not to abolish it. Yes, the law is obsolete. But the law itself spoke much truth and light into the culture in which it was given. Love your neighbor was in there and love God with all your heart - all in the law.

Matthew 5:17 - Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

I’m not sure that all of the bad things Stanley attributes to mixing law / grace are not more generally due to the depravity of the human heart, which twists the truth to fit its own wants and desires.

I imagine I would agree with Stanley on most of these things if we talked it out over coffee :slight_smile: But the way he is making his point in the book is, in my opinion, communicating an incorrect understanding of the OT.


Paul immediately saw the problems associated with blending the old with the new. As an educated Pharisee who spent his adult life studying, teaching, and defending the law, he instantly recognized the incompatibility of Moses and Jesus.

mystery—the mystery of the gospel—a mystery that, while heralded, illustrated, and foreshadowed by the Law and the Prophets, was not revealed until the arrival of Jesus.

The law, and everything associated with it, was a means to an end. And the end had come.

Believers belong to Jesus, not the old covenant.

According to Paul, Jesus followers are dead to the Ten Commandments.

To be clear: Thou shalt not obey the Ten Commandments.

“But wait!” you say. “God forgives sin. All I have to do is ask!” Not under the old Ten Commandment’s covenant, he doesn’t. You’ve gotta kill something or burn something

Under the new covenant, we don’t visit the temple. We are the temple.

Paul could not be any clearer. God’s covenant with Israel was made obsolete the moment Jesus ratified the new covenant.

The Obsolete Testament and the New Testament. It’s not pithy, but it’s accurate.

Our most embarrassing, indefensible moments resulted from Christians leveraging the old covenant concepts.

The issue Paul was responding to in the Galatian church was not how one gains salvation. The issue was the relevance of the entire Mosaic covenant.

If you pick and choose, you lose! The old covenant, like the new covenant, is an all-or-nothing proposition.

Even a pinch of the old covenant will corrupt the taste and texture of the new covenant.

In the minds of those closest to and most intimately acquainted with the old covenant, extreme violence was a justifiable means to an end.

When Paul became a Jesus follower, he could find nothing in the teaching of Jesus or of Jesus’ apostles to justify violent opposition against those who violently opposed him.

David was barbaric and violent. He raided and looted villages and murdered all the inhabitants to cover his tracks.

I knew better than to get into a spittin’ match with him over what the Bible says. I would have won. But she would’ve lost.

(Lindsay Brandt) #2

Hi, Sean. I am very interested in joining this discussion. I am in my last course at GCU in my undergrad, and it is on the Pauline Epistles (kind of perfect for this discussion). I have a lot of reading to do for that course, but I am going to order this book on Amazon, and I will return and discuss this week if I can get caught up on the reading.

(SeanO) #3

@psalm151ls Sure thing! Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

(Jimmy Sellers) #4

This is a comment from your last installment. I believe you hit the nail on the head, this book comes from sermon notes.
This reminds of something I learned along time ago when I went through a changes of Pastor at my church. His preaching and teaching was in my opinion just what I needed.
The new Pastor was not my cup of tea. It wasn’t long before he repeated his sermon and told the same jokes. Please note there was no deficiency in his message. It was sound and Christ centered just not in the vein of a good teaching Pastor.

I ask one of my mentors what did this mean? Why would God call away a good Pastor only to replace him with a Pastor I felt fell short.

This is what he said, "Sometime the Lord sends me a Pastor and sometimes the Lord sends you a Pastor but you can rest assured that God it at work in both Pastors.

This is kind of the way I feel about this book. I believe it was written for someone else.

Some quoted that I felt were stretching thing. I doubt that Paul instantly understood anything about his encounter except that he had encounter the risen Messiah.

he instantly recognized the incompatibility of Moses and Jesus. From day one, he recognized Jesus was not an add-on or a continuation of the old ways. In Jesus, he recognized the introduction of something brand-new.
Excerpt from Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. Zondervan.

Very strong language here:

He didn’t view the Jesus movement as a new version of Judaism. He viewed it as a perversion that must be eradicated.
Excerpt from Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. Zondervan.

I don’t think that Jesus or Paul had such contempt for the law:

Worse, the Ten Commandments sat back and waited for you to screw up. And when you did, they finally spoke up, not to defend you but to condemn you!
Excerpt from Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. Zondervan.

(SeanO) #5

@Jimmy_Sellers Yea, I agree I’m not the target audience. And I also think the tone in which he discusses the OT is inappropriate. Yes, it is an obsolete covenant. But it was still a covenant given by God. It is passed, but it still reveals much about the mind and heart of God.

(Scott ) #6

All I can think is, what would this sound like to someone who is Jewish? To refer to the Tanakh as the “Obsolete Testament”? It hurts to think that these words come from someone with so much influence.

(SeanO) #7

@srh4141 To be fair, the New Testament also calls it obsolete and Paul got very angry with those who tried to mix law keeping with grace through faith. So I see Stanley’s point, but I think the way he communicated it was a bit misleading.

Hebrews 8:13 - By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

(Scott ) #8

To say that the covenant being referred to in that verse in Hebrews has been made obsolete is one thing. To say that the entire Old Testament is obsolete is quite another. I suppose my question for him would be what he means by “Old Testament.” Was he was referring to one of the covenants in the Old Testament? Based on one of his quotes, someone could interpret his words to mean the entire Old Testament.

As you said, his approach is misleading. Some people could take it as dismissive of Christian tradition.

(SeanO) #9

@srh4141 As Stanley points out in his book, the word for ‘Testament’ actually means ‘Covenant’. I agree we must think carefully about what the term ‘obsolete’ means. But ‘Old Testament’ literally translates to ‘Old Covenant’ because the OT is about the old covenant.

occurs twelve times in the New Testament ( Hebrews 9:15 , etc.) as the rendering of the Gr. diatheke, which is twenty times rendered “covenant” in the Authorized Version, and always so in the Revised Version. The Vulgate translates incorrectly by testamentum, whence the names “Old” and “New Testament,” by which we now designate the two sections into which the Bible is divided.

(Scott ) #10

While these words are interchangeable to some degree, I find it’s not always helpful to switch out one for the other, as in this instance. In my mind, any pastor making the claim that the old covenant is obsolete should be careful to point out that the Hebrew Bible is not.

(Scott ) #11

I should add that the point I was making is a bit different from what I think you were hoping for, which was a discussion of Stanley’s potential misrepresentation of the OT. I may have gotten us off-track a bit, which was not my intention.

To your point that Stanley “missed the mark” here - I agree. I would have appreciated a more nuanced approach from him when addressing this subject.

(Jimmy Sellers) #12

I do appreciate the distinction.

@SeanO in my notes I found this regarding the testaments.

The first known use of the phrase “Old Testament” occurred in the writings of Melito of Sardis (c. AD 180), and that of the “New Testament” in Irenaeus’s Against Heresies (4.91), from around the same time.

A little support from Eusebius:

14 Accordingly when I went East and came to the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave, Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books; of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book; Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras.12 From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books.” Such are the words of Melito.

Eusebius of Caesaria. (1890). The Church History of Eusebius. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), A. C. McGiffert (Trans.), Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine (Vol. 1, p. 206). New York: Christian Literature Company.

(SeanO) #13

@Jimmy_Sellers Good observation. I wish we could have the apostle Paul here to ask him a few questions :slight_smile: I think that certainly there is a difference between putting our confidence in the Old Covenant and being able to see the value of God’s self-revelation in the Old Covenant. And I think confusing those two is part of the problem that is occurring in this book.

(Lindsay Brandt) #14

Well, I just received this book in the mail last night and was able to read up to chapter 7 (or 8…) before the lines on the page started blurring and my tired mind could no longer make sense of the combinations of letters on the page. I plan on reading more tonight.

So far, I think I agree with everyone’s observations on this thread. I know the controversy is over the author wanting to seemingly throw the OT out as being God’s Word to us, but I could not help but think on what he said prompted him to write this book in the first place: the question of “Why doesn’t everyone in America attend church?” His response is basically (I am oversimplifying here a bit), Christians are mixing legalism with grace, because they affirm the whole Bible to be applicable to them. I think that sometimes the reason someone does something is much more telling than the fact of the act. Andy’s entire line of thought seems to be based upon the premise that the church in America is failing to draw people (or be attractive to people) because of something the church is doing wrong…and he assumes it is this fatalistic mixture of law and grace. Therefore, the Old Testament is “in the way” of people coming to Christ and, in turn, coming to church. For Christians to say the Old Testament is important and as much the Word of God to and for them as it was to the ancient Israelites is not okay, because it makes the Faith unattractive, according to Andy. To me, arguing from that standpoint and the assumption that this is why people are not attending church in America puts up red flags. The motive of the argument, it seems to me, is to make the Faith more palatable for people. I have more thoughts, but I want to stop there because I have been wrong before, and I want to get your thoughts on what I am thinking here. Motive does not necessarily make the argument flawed, but it can skew the perspective (though all our perspectives are skewed, because we only see as through a glass darkly) and cause an argument to be flawed. I may have nothing here, but I thought I would put down my first thoughts as I began reading the book and see what you all think.

(SeanO) #15

@psalm151ls Those are great thoughts! I think your concern is the one most people share when reading this book. I think the nuance I would add is that Stanley is confusing the Old Testament itself with misinterpretations of the Old Testament. People misuse the Old Testament a lot, yes. But that does not mean the Old Testament itself is the cause of all of those misinterpretations and abuses.

Look forward to hearing more of your thoughts :slight_smile:

(Tabitha Gallman) #16

This is what I, myself, along with members of my local church are feeling right now as we are very quickly changing from the outside in to a whole new “style”.

I worry sometimes that we are trying to give ourselves more credit than the gospel alone when we start worrying about how the message is “presented”. God doesn’t need any of us to spread the gospel.

Now as I am reading Mr. Stanley’s book, I don’t worry about him as I did before, but I do worry about the people who may interpret his message the wrong way.

I look forward to discussing future chapters with you @psalm151ls

(SeanO) #17

@tabby68 I would like push back a little bit against the idea that it does not matter how we present the Gospel. I think a high quality presentation shows others that we value what we are presenting. Think about it - if you dress in dirty old clothes even though you have the option to do otherwise, people assume you must not really value yourself. In the same way, if we say that the Christ is the most important Person in the universe, and beyond, to us, and then do a poor job of presenting His truth, that says that He must not really be as important as we claim. Our actions need to match our words.

That said, I do agree that we must never change the Gospel in order to suit modern sensibilities. But I think presentation is very important.

Colossians 4:6 - Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

(Tabitha Gallman) #18

You are absolutely right @SeanO. Thanks for pointing that out. My emotions were speaking for me because I would hope that I never give a “sloppy presentation” of Christ and what he means to me. Let me try to articulate my thoughts a little better.

I think sometimes I assume people are attracted to the same things that I am attracted to and even assume that what is relative to me works best all around, but if we actually talk to people we will discover that we all just want to be loved and to feel included. (This thought reminds me of one of Max Lucado’s story’s I used to read to my kids called: “If Only I Had a Green Nose”)

So I think I was trying to say that we shouldn’t assume that what makes Christ irresistible to some will make Him irresistible to others.

Hope I said that right. :grinning:
Thanks Sean!

(SeanO) #19

@tabby68 Great thoughts :slight_smile:

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #20

Again, I’m late here.

I gotta say, that story Stanley tells about the father objecting to his daughter dating a black man was really sad. :persevere:

Stanley also mentions the justification of slavery taken from the OT. This reminds me of a book I read called The Book of Negros, which is a historical fiction novel that follows the life of a black woman taken from Africa during the American slave trade when she was only 11 years old. This novel was only the second novel I’d ever cried while reading. Anyway, I’d like to quote a section from the book that shows this evil attitude of slavery trying to justified: (the main character here is addressed as Meena but her full name is Aminata Diallo)

Anna Maria chuckled. “I’m for humanity and all that rot,” she said, “but many people more intelligent than I have argued that the slave trade saves Africans from barbarity. Are you aware of that?”
“The English just say that to justify their own devilry,” I said.
“What about you?” she said. “Worldly. Intelligent. Literate.”
“So the fact that I can read justifies the theft of men and women?”
“Theft? The traders on Bance Island pay dearly for their acquisitions.”
“It is theft nonetheless.”
“But, Meena, theft begins right on this continent (note: this dialogue is taking place in the colonization of Freetown Africa) with the Africans, stealing and plundering each other.”
“For whom do you think they are stealing each other?”
“Africans were dealing in slaves long before the first ones were sent to the America,” she said.
“We had an expression in my village. ‘Beware the clever man who makes wrong look right.’”
“I can just imagine how the Liverpool businessmen would reply to that,” she said.
“It’s where many slave-traders run their affairs in England. They would ask if you could be debating with me or if you could have read hundreds of books, had you not first been taken a slave. Was that not your salvation? And are you not a Christian?”
“Not really,” I said, welcome for a change in topic. “I go to church to be with my people, but I can’t say that I’m a Christian.”
Anna Maria fell into an uncomfortable silence.

You see here Anna Maria trying to justify the wicked means to an end the might bring Christian salvation, but obviously that is not what we Christians believe in. The ends never justify the means. Never. That would be to miss the point of the Gospel.