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: The OT is chiefly concerned with vertical morality, which is not the same as the ethic taught by Jesus
Vertical morality, which is chiefly concerned with our relationship with God, is fundamentally selfish (“what’s in it for me”) and leads to both being ‘holier than thou’ and trying to be ‘just good enough’ to get into Heaven while still enjoying sin
I agree we should not be judgmental of others or become self-absorbed in our pursuit of God. I also agree that we should not try to ‘test God’ by seeing how close we can get to sin without actually crossing the line. That is a complete misunderstanding of the idolatrous nature of sin and the need we all have for a new heart, new desires, a new person in Christ Jesus.
- the OT has both vertical and horizontal morality
- vertical morality is not bad - it is only bad when we distort it by making it about us rather than God
I’m very confused. I have no idea what Stanley has been reading. I have never, ever heard anyone say that vertical morality is itself a bad thing. Usually they say that vertical morality without horizontal morality is bad - we need both together. In fact, usually people say that horizontal morality never works correctly unless you have your vertical morality properly sorted.
Also - the OT does have horizontal morality! I have no idea where Stanley gets the idea that OT morality is chiefly vertical - the second half of the Ten Commandments are all about how we relate to others. Leviticus talks about loving neighbor as self.
Leviticus 9:9-18 - “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.
13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
I was far more concerned about how my behavior affected my standing with God than I was about how my behavior affected anybody else.
Vertical morality, as I refer to it, assumes God’s primary concern is how our behavior affects him. That’s the vertical part.
My primary concern was me! I was concerned that offending God might come back to haunt me. Not to mention, wondering how close we can get to sin without sinning is tantamount to asking how far away from God we can get without losing contact altogether.
second, perhaps less obvious, expression of vertical morality. Through the years I’ve run into lots of folks who aren’t wondering how low they can go. They’re wondering how high they can get.
folks looking for a way to get closer to God can be just as self-absorbed as those wondering how far they can go without going too far.
the holier I got, the more intolerant and judgmental I became.
A steady diet of personalizing and individualizing concepts from the Old Testament contributes to the creation of a vertically oriented faith. God’s covenant with Israel was extraordinarily vertical.
This is the tone and texture of everything associated with the old covenant. It’s all very vertical.