Irresistible Book Discussion: Chapter 12 - How the OT Ruined Church History


(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: If you mix the OT and NT, you get the prosperity gospel, the crusades, anti-Semitism, legalism, exclusivism, judgmentalism, fourteenth-century Catholicism, don’t touch God’s anointedism, God will get ’emism


The early Church fathers baptized the OT using allegorical methods of interpretation and paved the way for centuries of bigotry and violence. Nothing good comes from mixing and matching the covenants.

Good Things

I am having serious difficulty reconciling what Stanley said in the first few chapters about how the OT led to Christ and this chapter. This chapter contains quite a few misconceptions that are common among skeptics and I think Stanley really should have had someone proofread this one better. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, but the picture he conveys of the OT and of God as portrayed in the OT in this chapter are woefully inaccurate.


  • the Old Testament can be equally authoritative with the New Testament without being equally applicable
  • yes, the early Church father’s used Greco-Roman style allegorical interpretation when they approached the OT and it was not good hermeneutics, but that does not mean that the OT does not point to Christ
  • the God of the Old Testament was not violent in the modern sense of the word, which is uncontrolled and tempestuous anger. God raises up nations and brings them low - He will on day judge Heaven and earth. The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD was foretold by Christ and was itself an act of God’s judgment. God did not stop being the judge of nations when the New Testament came.
  • Christians misuse New Testament passages just like they do Old - the solution is not to stop teaching the Old Testament, it is to teach people how to study the Bible better
  • the Old Testament does not condone racism or senseless bloodshed

If we actually read the NT authors, they show an incredible consistency in God’s judgment between the Old and New Testaments. For example, Peter uses OT instances of judgment to warn false teachers about the judgment that will come upon those who do evil and teach others to do so.

2 Peter 2:4-10 - For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh and despise authority.


In a point-by-point comparison, the author explains how everything about Jesus is superior to everything about the old covenant.

Farewell, author of Hebrews. Come on, you can’t label portions of the Bible obsolete and claim to be a Christian. Can you?

This is in the Bible. One author of the Bible is calling the work of another author of the Bible obsolete and outdated.

As we mentioned earlier, the old covenant disappeared on August 6, AD 70, the day the temple burned and the sacrificial system ended. That was the day ancient Judaism died.

We call the Bible the Word of God and ignore the inconvenient, offensive portions of the old covenant while freely resurrecting the portions that suit us in the moment.

To be clear, obsolete doesn’t mean bad.

The church fathers, as they are often referred to, immediately went to work harmonizing the old covenant with the new so as to make it play nice with the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. They reinterpreted, allegorized, and rebranded them to make them line up with developing Christian thought and theology. Instead of putting a bow on ’em, they baptized ’em.

Once the Hebrew Scriptures were bound together with Christian Scriptures, the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures were granted the same authority as the Gospels and epistles.

Gentile church leaders reduced the Jewish Scriptures to proof texts and illustrations to support the teaching of the church. Preachers and teachers have been mixing, matching, allegorizing, and ignoring original context ever since.

Little did the brave church fathers know that by lifting the Jewish Scriptures out of their Jewish context and retrofitting them as Christian Scripture, they were laying the foundation for the reintroduction of old covenant style violence and bloodshed.

It wouldn’t be long before the violent God of the Old Testament became the violence-affirming God of the church.

Jesus treated the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative. Paul insisted they were God-breathed. Peter believed Jewish writers were carried along by the Holy Spirit. But they never claimed their faith was based on the integrity of the documents themselves. Christianity has a compelling, verifiable, historical story to tell. But the moment we anchor our story to an old covenant narrative and worldview, we lose our case in the marketplace.

unhitch our faith from God’s covenant with Israel.

Mix and match and you don’t get the best of either. You get the worst of both. You get the prosperity gospel, the crusades, anti-Semitism, legalism, exclusivism, judgmentalism, fourteenth-century Catholicism, don’t touch God’s anointedism, God will get ’emism,

(Tabitha Gallman) #2

I agree also that the OT does point to Christ, but the way Andy Stanley says it below makes me question is this true (I don’t know since I am ignorant about church history).

“The church fathers’ primary interest in the Jewish Scriptures was neither historical nor cultural. Their primary interest was Christological. They were convinced the Jews did not recognize and thus accept Jesus as Messiah because they didn’t know how to interpret their own prophets. No surprise, the church fathers had little interest in Jewish interpretation of Jewish Scriptures. So they went looking for Jesus.”

What are the facts behind that passage above? He makes no reference to those statements. How would I know what our church fathers’ primary interest in the Jewish Scriptures was? Could the church leaders have been concerned with the truth being shared with future generations in binding the Jewish Scriptures together with the Gospels and epistles?

(SeanO) #3

@tabby68 That statement really bothered me for a few reasons:

  • it is a terrible generalization - it is actually an ad hominem argument based upon maligning the intent of Church fathers as a whole - I don’t agree with much of their interpretation, but this sweeping statement is not sustainable
  • the Church fathers happened to be mostly non-Jewish and as a result used the methods of interpretation that were common in their own culture - we all have cultural blind spots - that does not mean they were not sincerely trying to interpret the Scriptures
  • this statement makes it sound as if the Jewish interpretation is the correct interpretation, when Jesus Himself pointed out that if they really understood the law and prophets they would recognize Him
  • the OT is prophetic! Even the Gospel writers quote many OT Scriptures that point to Jesus - I know Stanley knows this, but he really ought to include it here

I think Stanley is trying to use emphatic statements to make a point, but in this chapter in particular I think he could easily lead people to misunderstandings about the nature of the OT.

(Tabitha Gallman) #4

@SeanO - I am glad we are in agreement with that passage, and it would be the responsible thing for me to learn more about the church’s history. Can you recommend an author that writes from an unbiased point of view about the church and/or church leaders that is relative to our conversation? I ask you often because you always direct people to sources that are not necessarily biased, and I appreciate that. I will never be a scholar, but I definitely need to be prepared with an answer. Thanks Sean!

(SeanO) #5

@tabby68 Sure thing :slight_smile: I am certainly not a scholar on early Church history either, but I personally I like “The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation” by Justo L. Gonzalez for a general overview.

(Jimmy Sellers) #6

Jews did not recognize and thus accept Jesus as Messiah because they didn’t know how to interpret their own prophets.
Excerpt from Irresistible: Reclaiming the New That Jesus Unleashed for the World by Andy Stanley. Zondervan.

I am reading as we go so as not to jump to conclusions but this chapter makes me want to stop reading the rest of the book. Stanley is rough on the 2nd temple folks never mind that is was from the second temple folks that the God gave us Paul who had no trouble understanding the prophets after all he was fulfilling his role in the narrative that would usher in the eschaton. Jesus was the problem for Paul. Paul had no doubt that the resurrected Jesus was Messiah his problem was what to do with the scriptures that he believed were God breathed and fore told of an end time Messiah and all that was to precede him. Think of the OT use in the NT.
It is my understand that the use of the OT in the NT can be categized as allusion, echo, citation and quotation. Using these categories and looking at Paul’s epistles alone we see that these categories happen 189 times in Romans, in 1 Cor. 115 times, in Ephesians 44 times, 2 Cor. 56 times, in Gal. 30 times, in Tim 23 times, 1 Thes 18 times, in 2 Thes 18 times, in Phil 16 times, in 2 Tim 12 times, in Col 9 times and in Titus 7 times for a total of 537 times and this does not include any of the other NT books which have a total of 2572 recorded references.(of which Paul’s writing account for approx. 21%)
My thoughts.

(SeanO) #7

@Jimmy_Sellers Yes, I think this chapter was poorly written. I think this chapter has unsustainable generalizations and an inaccurate understanding of what the OT teaches. Prior to this chapter I was not sure I actually disagreed with Stanley, but I think that while these statements may have been made for their shock value, there probably is some level of actual disagreement on the issue of how we should relate to the OT.

That said, my goal is to get all my criticisms out here and then try to stick to his main point going forward unless new inaccuracies crop up :slight_smile:

(Lindsay Brandt) #8

The way I understood Andy as far as God’s judging the nations is since the destruction of the temple, instead of God bringing judgement on nations through other nations and natural disasters and such, judgement is reserved for judgment day. I didn’t understand him as saying that God does not judge nations anymore…am I misunderstanding you or him?

(SeanO) #9

@psalm151ls Where does the Bible say that God no longer judges the nations during history after the destruction of the temple? I do not know of a Biblical basis for saying that after the destruction of Jerusalem God forestalled all judgment until judgment day.

I don’t think this is a critical issue - but I am not aware of a Biblical text to support the idea. I can see how one might logically assume that without Israel there is no longer a chosen nation and therefore God has no representative nation upon earth through whom to judge. But God used pagan nations to judge other pagan nations and to judge Israel.

Where do you think Stanley finds support for this assertion? Maybe I am missing something…

(Lindsay Brandt) #10

Hi, Sean. Sorry for the confusion. I was just trying to get clarity for myself, to make certain I was understanding correctly what it was exactly that Andy was saying so that I could think on it. And no, I do not see a biblical basis for his assertion. I guess where my line of thought was coming from, and I apologize for not explaining properly, was that many Christians do pray for nations whenever they are hit with natural disasters, asking God to be merciful in His judgment, and that has bothered me for quite some time. Some of my friends at the church do that and just assume that every time something like that happens, it is judgment from God on that nation. So even if Andy’s assertion has no Scriptural basis, playing devil’s advocate, I can understand his bringing that up. Sometimes when my friends pray in that way, assuming God is judging a nation just because a natural disaster has hit it, I guess my thinking does lean towards assuming God has now chosen to judge people according to whether they have accepted Jesus or not, and that led to thinking perhaps God does not bring judgment on nations with Tsunamis or wars. However, I have never looked into it biblically, because I suppose I never thought to since, as you said, it is not really an essential issue. I think God, in His sovereignty, uses those things sometimes for His purposes, but I guess that I would have to say, now that I’m thinking about it, that it does bring the question of the judgment aspect of it to mind.

(SeanO) #11

@psalm151ls Good thoughts! I am glad that Connect is a place where we can think through tough questions like this one openly and sincerely. Honestly, I do not know one way or the other if God still judges nations with wars or natural disasters. I do not think the Bible ever says that He ceased doing so and yet the Bible also does not say that all wars / disasters were ever God’s judgment, even in the OT. The only ones we can be sure about are those mentioned by the prophets.

So I am not necessarily saying Stanley is wrong, but that there is no way of knowing he is right (unless I am missing something, which is quite possible…). However, I strongly agree we should never ascribe particular events to God’s judgment on a nation or people, since that is a mystery beyond finding out. Instead, we should seek to express the love of Christ to those who are suffering and to help them in what ways we are able in the hope that they too could come to know God’s love and grace.

(Lindsay Brandt) #12

I had another question come to mind last night. Andy insists that the books of the law were not for us and also insists that it is important to know that Jesus fulfilled the law, if memory serves me correctly. If the law was never for us, then why was it so important for all of us that the One who died in our place fulfilled it? That fact plays a crucial role in Jesus’ sacrifice being accepted by God on our behalf. If it never applied to us, why did it need to be fulfilled in Christ for his sacrifice on our behalf to be acceptable? Surely if the law was meant for the covenant with Israel alone, which God made clear through the Old Testament prophets was already broken, its fulfillment in Christ on behalf of humanity would not have been necessary.

(SeanO) #13

@psalm151ls The way I have always explained how we relate to the law is that we are free from its condemnation and from the civil / ceremonial regulations, but that the moral law is always binding because it is based in the character and heart of God.

Here is an article and short excerpt from it that explains why we do not need to follow all of the OT laws. The gist of it - and I agree - is that there 3 types of law in the OT - ceremonial (laws for the priests and purification of the people), judicial/civil (for the earthly kingdom of Israel) and moral (laws based upon God’s nature and eternally binding). When Jesus’ died on the cross, He put an end to the ceremonial and judicial law - He is our High Priest and King - we live a new life by the Spirit and not by the letter of the law. Our purity is not through sacrifices of goats and bulls, but once and for all by the blood of the Son of God.

(Lindsay Brandt) #14

Right, Sean! Thank you! I think that this question might challenge Andy with his thinking. He cannot say that the law is completely irrelevant in light of his own arguments. The truth that Christ’s perfect fulfilling of the law (which Andy insists proves his point) was a factor in the acceptableness of his sacrifice on behalf of all humanity, rather than proving Andy’s point, speaks in stubborn and uncompromising opposition to Andy’s rendering of the law as being completely irrelevant on the basis that it was given to Israel alone. Obviously, as you said, there is an aspect of it that must apply to all of humanity and not, as Andy argues, to only Israel.

(SeanO) #15

@psalm151ls Yes - Andy might argue that the law of Christ has replaced the actual commandments of the Old Testament even if some of the moral laws are equivalent. But I would be very curious to actually hear his response.