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 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.
Big Idea: Jesus made no attempt to harmonize the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, so why do we?
Jesus made no attempt to harmonize the Old Covenant with the New Covenant, so why do we? We do not need to figure out how God’s behavior in the OT meshes with the tone and content of Jesus’ teaching. God was at work in the world in many places other than Israel - the Old Testament only tells us the story of this one nation that was in a bilateral suzerain treaty with God. That’s it - that is all it is… The Old Testament is great for inspiration, but not application. The Old Testament served its purpose - now lets move on.
I agree that the NT authors did not consider the Old Covenant binding and that we should not diss the OT.
This was a difficult chapter for me. I think Stanley’s understanding of the Old Testament - with David as a barbarian, no afterlife, Israel just one among many nations, God supposedly playing ‘by the rules of the day’ - is incorrect in significant ways. I am not certain anymore that having coffee with Stanley would resolve the disagreements, though I expect it would clear up some of them. He has repeated a few phrases again and again in this book that just are not correct. I now understand why the book received so much criticism, though of course we should always let our words be seasoned with salt.
In the spirit of doing so, I want to say a brief prayer for Stanley. “Father, we thank you for the fruit that has come from Andy Stanley’s ministry. I am concerned that my brother is wrong on a number of key issues. Please give us insight as we seek to understand what he was thinking and please grant him a spirit of wisdom and revelation in knowledge of You.”
- God is the same yesterday, today and forever - it is perfectly rational to expect God’s behavior in the OT to match Jesus’ teaching in the NT, even if we are in a different era of salvation history
- Why did Jesus come specifically to the Israelites rather than any other nation? The entire OT makes the claim that God chose Israel, not because they were special - they were not, but He chose them nonetheless. Israel is not just another nation that happens to have a particular treaty with God - they are the chosen people.
- God did not - and I will repeat this again - did not - just ‘play by the rules of the day’. This particular statement nearly broke my heart because it does such violence to character of God. God constantly states how he is different than the gods of the nations - not only is He the living God in contrast to the lifeless idols of the other nations, but He is the God who is merciful and shows steadfast love.
- it is not at all clear that ‘most ancient Jews did not believe in an afterlife’. While this is a common assertion among liberal scholars, it is clear that Daniel at a minimum believed in the resurrection of the dead. And it is quite possible that Abraham and his family believed that ‘going to be with your fathers’ meant more than just dying.
Leviticus 20:26 - You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
Romans 9:1-5 - I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. 5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Exodus 34:10-16 - Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you. 11 Obey what I command you today. I will drive out before you the Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 12 Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land where you are going, or they will be a snare among you. 13 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.
15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. 16 And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same.
just accept the fact that everything in Exodus through Malachi, while fascinating, is not binding. It’s not your covenant.
The authors of the New Testament considered the old covenant Scripture, but they didn’t consider it binding.
The Old Testament is not a comprehensive book about God. The Old Testament does not tell us everything God was doing everywhere in the world. It’s not a biography of God’s early years.
But what we learn about God comes to us through the filter of Jewish history and a specific covenant.
Jesus warned his Jewish audience against tampering with the old covenant in one breath and then claimed to be the fulfillment of all things old covenant in the next. He made no attempt to harmonize the two.
Yet he did not attempt to harmonize God’s behavior in the Hebrew Scriptures with the tone and teaching of Jesus. Why? That was then. This is now. What God did in the past was the necessary path to accomplish what he intended to do all along.
All the gods of the ancient world were human rights violators. Within the context of first-century violence, nobody batted an eye at the violence depicted in the Jewish Scriptures. This was standard fare. Standard warfare. That’s just the way the world was. If the God of the Jews was going to establish a nation for himself, he would have to wade into the fray and play by the rules of the day.
Everything promised between Exodus and Malachi is promised within the context of a bilateral suzerainty treaty between God and a nation. It should all be interpreted within that context.
Most ancient Jews didn’t believe in an afterlife.
The Old Testament is great for inspiration, but not application. Don’t do anything the Old Testament tells you to do because someone in the Old Testament tells you to do it or because they did it themselves.
If it sounds like I’m being harsh or critical of the Old Testament, I’m not. Jesus said if you diss the Jewish Scriptures, you’ll be sent to the back of the line in the kingdom of heaven. And I hate lines.