Irresistible Book Discussion: Chapter 2 - A Blessing to the Nations


(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 II

Big Idea: God chose Israel to be a blessing to the nations and in spite of Israel’s rejection of God as King, God still kept His covenant.

Summary

God chose Abraham and promised to make him a blessing to the nations through his offspring. But after God delivered Israel from Egypt in the Exodus the Israelites struggled to understand how to serve this invisible God. All of the surrounding nations had statues of their gods - which is one reason Israel felt compelled to build the golden calf. And even after Israel was delivered from Egypt, they eventually rejected God as their King and demanded to have a human king just like all of the other nations. God had called Israel to be unique - to be a testimony of His holiness and mercy to the other nations - but Israel rejected that order and chose instead to be like the other nations. And yet God did not abandon His promise - He would use Israel to bless the nations.

Good Things

A good summary of a very large swath of Biblical history focusing on Israel’s call to bless the nations, the uniqueness of a God who is not made by human hands or connected to a specific plot of land and of Israel’s rejection of God as King.

Critique

I don’t have any specific critiques for this chapter. It was mostly a summary of core themes in Biblical history as Stanley builds up to his points about temple and empire.

Quotes

God created the nation of Israel as a means to a divine end. He created the nation for a global purpose. God’s global plan for the nation was first announced long before there was a nation. Around 2067 BC, God promised ninety-nine-year-old Abraham a son who would become a nation that would bless the world.

It’s difficult to bless all the nations of the earth when you’re making bricks for a king who considers himself master of the universe.

It’s confusing for us because we grew up believing in an invisible, everywhere-at-the-same-time God. But this was new territory for the people of Israel. Not having an object to worship was as confusing to them as their insistence on having one is to us.

The problem, of course, was God did not intend for Israel to be like all the other nations. God intended for Israel to stand out from all the other nations because he was planning to do something through Israel on behalf of all the other nations.

As predicted, most of Israel’s kings were disasters. The nation paid for this decision in treasure and blood. In this way they did become like all the other nations. In spite of this, God kept his promise to Abraham. He did not abandon his global purposes for the nation.


Irresistible by Andy Stanley
(Tabitha Gallman) #2

I also found @SeanO that the first two chapters contained basic biblical and church history. I found this history very helpful in considering a perspective of the culture. This helped me to think about the possible significance of why God chose this time in history for Jesus to be on earth revealing more of God’s power as the gospel survived miraculously. On page 24 I highlighted this in my book:

“While the Roman Empire and the Jewish temple were worlds apart, imbedded within each were values and assumptions that knit them together, creating a formidable obstacle to first-century Christianity.”

For me personally, I am finding that I don’t know enough basic church history to give me the insight needed for better interpretation of the Bible. Knowledge truly does change perspective.

In chapter two I liked the perspective Andy shows of the Israelites as a free people who can’t seem to grasp worshipping an invisible God. It makes me think of someone today who has been institutionalized or incarcerated for so long that they behave as if they are still confined even after being set free.

I found another really good article explaining Andy Stanley’s “Message & Method” that is misunderstood in Andy’s subject of his book here:


(SeanO) #3

@tabby68 I like the analogy of a prisoner who has been set free. In many ways Paul uses that analogy for us - we were slaves to sin, but now we are free in Christ. I also appreciate the article - I never realized that Stanley studied under one of the authors of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

I think the great thing about knowledge is that we can learn it in bits and pieces - it’s like putting together a puzzle. I don’t have all the pieces either. But growing in understanding is a fun journey - like watching the puzzle come together.

So for anyone out there who is still a bit suspicious, I affirm The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. Heck, I studied under the man who co-authored the whole thing. - Andy Stanley


(Tabitha Gallman) #4

Yeah @SeanO the more I learn about Andy Stanley the more open minded I am to his teachings.


(SeanO) #5

@tabby68 Great - that is what I was hoping. I’ve listened to enough Stanley to know he says some very helpful things. And I think this experience is a great learning opportunity - we really need to take time to listen to someone when we hear others condemning them.


(Andrew Bulin) #6

Thanks for posting this, @tabby68!
I can understand where Stanley is coming from in a post-Christian world where we need a different approach than, “because the Bible says so.” I think what we may find that someone who is limited to this approach may not have the depth of a trust-faith in God to understand the text. They may only be able to blindly accept what is written with little to no further analysis. I can see how this could be where post-Christians struggle. I don’t accept it for myself and I am a Christian. But I think it’s a weak argument if someone wants to be a Christian but refuses the authority and validity of scripture. In the podcast @SeanO posted, some time after 36 minutes, Turek argues (and Stanley agreed) that we can logically show the existence of God, miracles, etc., and believes that people can be Christian without believing in the inerrancy of the Bible. (I guess evangelism is a logical argument now?) I can agree that a Christian who is journeying towards God, building his/her trust in Him, gets in a fatal accident, and as a Christian still struggled with some passages, that this person will likely be in heaven. However, I’d want to be careful to point out that the Bible is still God’s message to Christians, and gives us the context of Jesus’ teachings. As such, I find that I do not believe we can be content with ignoring at least Biblical authority and still claim Christian discipleship. As Turek and Stanley point out, we need to arrive there at some point.

I agree with @SeanO, Chapter 2 was a good summary of a very large portion of history. I specifically liked Stanley’s emphasis on God’s “mobility and authority,” which was contrary to the Ancient Near East religions of the day. (29) It is despairing to consider how the Israelites had the advantage of having nearly a tangible encounter with God, and yet became impatient and disobeyed the first commandment with the help of Aaron. It’s humbling to me in understanding that the sin-nature of people can cause anyone to fail no matter how pious or close to God we may believe them to be.

Another interesting emphasis Stanley makes is that as God was working through Israel, He was not yet blessing the nations. Genesis 12:3 indicates that God would bless those who blessed Israel, and some alliances proved beneficial. However, we know that ultimately Christ is the promised Savior of not just the Jews, but all nations. I’m interested to see how Stanley may tease this out further.

The idea of the “suzerainty treaty” is very important considering how Stanley is detailing the nature of the old covenant.

This was a classic, I will as long as you do suzerain treaty. Keep my commands and I’ll keep you safe. The agreement was bilateral and conditional. If the nation of Israel didn’t uphold their end of the deal, God was under no obligation to uphold his. (33)

Then the nation (Israel) that would bless all other nations suddenly wants to be like the other nations and to have a king. For me, it’s a fascinating thing to ponder God’s grace and ability to still bring about the answer of salvation for all nations in the midst of this.


(Jimmy Sellers) #7

I am reading Angels: What the Bible Really Says About The Heavenly Host by Michael Heiser. In the chapter on bearing witness to God’s decrees he describe the giving of the law on Sinai from the POV of Deuteronomy 33:1-4.

33 Now this is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, blessed the ⌊Israelites⌋ ⌊before⌋ his death.
2 Then he said,
“Yahweh came from Sinai,
and he dawned upon them from Seir;
he shone forth from Mount Paran,
and he came with myriads of holy ones,
at his right hand a fiery law for them.
3 Moreover, ⌊he loves his people⌋,
all the holy ones were in your hand,
and they bowed down to your feet,
⌊each one accepted directions from you⌋.
4 A law Moses instructed for us,
as a possession for the assembly of Jacob.

He adds this as an explanation from an ANE POV how these suzerain treaties where witnessed to by a host of powers. In the case of the pagan neighbors, god’s and in the case of the Sinai covenant, a heavenly host. Because “covenant” will be a recurring theme In Andy Stanley’s book I thought it interesting to note this comparison of Yahweh’s treaty and it expectations to the rest of the suzerain/vassal treaties in the ancient world.

These treaties also typically listed those third parties who would witness the enactment of the treaty. It is of especial interest that the witnesses were exclusively deities or deified elements of the natural world. The list of deities was frequently so lengthy as to justify the conclusion that it was intended to be exhaustive: all gods relevant to both parties were called upon as witnesses, so that there was no god left that the vassal could appeal to for protection if he wanted to violate his solemn oath.…

Reminds me a bit of Paul’s trip to Athens were the locals felt it necessary to cover all their bases.

The witnesses were those entities that were called upon to observe the behavior of the party under oath and to carry out the appropriate rewards and punishments (the blessings and curses) connected with the treaty (see below). The fact that these enforcers are all supernatural beings reflects the underlying idea that in this covenant ideology strenuous (if not pretentious) efforts were made to place the entire covenant complex outside the realm of political and military coercive force, and into the realm of a voluntary acceptance of a commonality of interest between suzerain and vassal. In other words, there is expressed here the hope that the vassal’s obedience will be “self-policing,” i.e., based upon a conscientious regard for higher principles (the gods) than simply upon the fear of superior military force.

Heiser, M. S. (2018). Angels: What the Bible Really Says about God’s Heavenly Host (pp. 38–39). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Emphasis is mine.


(Tabitha Gallman) #8

@Jimmy_Sellers

“expressed here the hope that the vassal’s obedience **will be “self-policing,” i.e., based upon a conscientious regard for higher principles (the gods) than simply upon the fear of superior military force.”

This seems to sum up how the Holy Spirit is working in each of us today in regards to moral laws? Would that be a correct way for me to interpret that? That out of a grateful and loving heart toward my heavenly Father for his gift of mercy I want to obey him and please him?

Also @Jimmy_Sellers, (forgive me for getting off-subject) but can you recommend any practical reading for someone like me who never truly began knowing God until later in life. I sincerely want to share the gospel, but just as I’m trying to understand the Bible, the culture seems to be changing so fast. I’m going into this Irresistible book discussion with an open mind, but I’ll admit it’s hard for me coming from a very legalistic background, then to a Southern Baptist denomination where more focus is put on education of the whole Bible.

I read just yesterday this quote that I personally took offensively. This is the quote:
“The gap between how quickly you change and how quickly things change is called irrelevance.”
Here is the link for that quote: https://careynieuwhof.com/6-characteristics-of-an-irrelevant-leader/

If that is true, then that makes me irrelevant.

I don’t want to be irrelevant because how will my children/grandchildren actually listen to me when I try to share the gospel, or sharing God’s written word with them.

Sorry again for getting off-topic, but this topic discussed has my heart and mind torn as I am witnessing the cultural gap not only in my family, but in my church as well. I feel like sometimes I’m the only one struggling with this issue.


(SeanO) #9

@Jimmy_Sellers Whenever I think of covenant the passage from Genesis 15 where traditionally both parties would walk through the middle to ratify the covenant and yet God walked through Himself comes to mind. God will keep the covenant, even if mankind fails. So powerful.

Genesis 15:12-20 - As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. 13 Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. 14 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. 15 You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”

17 When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates— 19 the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, 20 Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, 21 Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.”


(Jimmy Sellers) #10

It is an awesome thing to contemplate the faithfulness of God.


(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #11

@tabby68

I don’t know if this is what you were looking for but I saw this at the local book store and thought it might be interesting. I haven’t read it myself but I have heard pretty good things about the authors plus it has reviews by people I trust like J.Warner Wallace and Jim Daly.


(Tabitha Gallman) #12

Yes, @O_wretched_man, that’s exactly what I am looking for concerning the culture for today. I never really thought about the definition of culture because I hear the word thrown around all the time. I listen to Jim Daly all the time on Moody Radio. I think this will have to be the next book I read through after “Irresistible”. Thank you so much!


(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #13

@tabby68
no problem. Glad i could help.


(Jimmy Sellers) #14

It is my understanding that God never intended to coercer his chosen people ( I use the term not in the Calvinist sense) to obey him or to force himself on them. This is certainly one of the complainants that people use to critique the God of the OT. I posted this to illustrate that even the military and political powers of the day when making these treaties wanted them to be binding and to that end they would invoke every known deity between the parties as witness to the agreement. The threat of force was the least preferred method of keeping the peace.
@SeanO has already pointed to Gen15 :12-20 where Yahweh guaranteed the covenant as both the collateral (earnest money) and the guarantor of the agreement. There was no higher name to appeal to then Himself.
For me it is like going to the bank to borrow money, image your surprise when the bank President takes the loan papers, makes the down payment and collateralize the balance as well as signed as the guarantor of the loan and to this he added, just have faith in my ability to make good on this promise now go and enjoy life.

Just like this banker the God of the OT (Bible) is faithful to deliver. I just want to make sure that we don’t loose site of this and assume that God switched gears and somehow decided to do something different. God’s plan has always been Grace.

You ask about a book recommendation on culture try this on for size.


It is a good read and relevant today.


(Matt Western) #15

Hi @tabby68 I actually slightly disagree with the author on the particular quote you found offensive. If you spend your time chasing relevance, you will never get there, because ‘relevance’ whatever that is - is constantly changing. If you tried to be relevant every day you’d be like a headless chicken chasing after every new thing. :slight_smile: Having said that Carey Nieuwhof has a lot of experience and I have read a number of his articles to understand why churches fail, and to understand different styles of church leadership.

In 1 Corinthians 12 - the whole chapter, it explains that we are all members of one body - that is the body of Christ. It’s encouraging to realise that each of us has something of worth that Jesus can use to further his kingdom. It also has a quite humorous way of explaining it as well. ‘Does the eye say to the hand, I have no need of you; does the head say to the foot… if the body were only an ear, where would be the sense of smell’. So practical, encouraging, and quite a funny example to consider what Paul is saying in this passage.

Perhaps, a resource for you to connect to your grandchildren (and children) is the 5 minute videos at theBibleProject.com. I don’t know the age of your grandchildren, and without wanting to be rude, it appears the 15-25s struggle to stop and think as generally they are on facebook. It’s probably not an age group per se, but we kind of live in an age of information overload. I know I’m a bit irrelevant in area of social media - i really don’t understand the obsession with selfies. Maybe a short video clip on a subject might be good to share and say ‘what do you think of this’. :slight_smile:

Be encouraged - I feel your heart to reach your children and grandchildren for Jesus. Every generation needs to learn to stop and listen to the wisdom of the older generation who have so much life experience. :slight_smile:


(Tabitha Gallman) #16

@Jimmy_Sellers - Oh, ok, I understand the point you were making now about the importance of these treaties and this one in particular being binding (given God was the one making the agreement) and the host of “heavenly” powers witnessing the suzerain treaties.

The thought that God never breaks a promise, and how this promise through grace remains the same always, is very comforting.

Thank you for the book recommendation. I just now looked at the introduction and this is a book I definitely want to read because I didn’t know how to articulate the problem I am having with this issue of culture and Christianity This author seems to hit on the issue that I’m struggling with now. @Jimmy_Sellers and @matthew.western Are we as Christians suppose to change culture, is culture changing Christianity or is there a balance? First and foremost, I need to understand what “culture” really is and/or what the modern definition is. I like this quote from the author:

“So the concept of culture is very broad, encompassing in one way or another the totality of our life in this world. For this reason, we don’t want to “get it wrong” in figuring out a Christian’s relation to culture. If we get the relationship right, it will positively transform our lives and the world around us, but if we get it wrong, it will deform our lives and the world around us.”

He goes on to describe three models for relating Christianity and culture.

It would seem to me that this book that @Jimmy_Sellers recommended may be some excellent reading to do alongside such a controversial topic that Andy Stanley brings up because it could possibly point to how we as Christians should relate to our “modern” culture.

(@matthew.western - I hope I didn’t mislead you to think that I already have grandchildren (I can’t wait to one day enjoy grandchildren), but just to set the record straight I hope to one day be able to relate to my future grandchildren from a Christian perspective.)


(Jimmy Sellers) #17

Here are a few bullet poits from the book.

Christianity against Culture

  • Some proponents of “Christianity against culture” tend to view the Church primarily as a bomb shelter. Sort of like Zion in the Matrix. Safe zone for the good guys
  • Other proponents of “Christianity against culture” view the Church primarily as an Ultimate Fighter. Again like the Matrix they sent out teams to fight the bad guys.

Christianity of Culture

Those with a “Christianity of culture” perspective tend to build churches that are mirrors of the culture. Sort of like ancient Roman. Gods and temples everywhere with smell of BBQ in the air. The big tent of religio. All are welcome as long as you don’t go making any demands how to live.

Christianity in and for Culture

We live in and for our cultural context.

This is a quote from the author of the book Bruce Ashford.

Kuyper gave me my first insight into the fact that Jesus Christ is relevant to every dimension of society and culture, and that for this reason we should allow our Christianity to shape absolutely everything we do.
Ashford, B. R. (2015). Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians (p. 3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

So who was Kuyper:
Abraham Kuyper lived in 19th-century Holland and served as prime minister of the Netherlands, founded a Christian university, started a newspaper, and wrote influential books on theology, art, science, and many other topics.


(Andrew Bulin) #18

@Jimmy_Sellers,
Where would you put the curses and exile in with non-coercion? The Israelites went and enjoyed life to their detriment and the consequence was that God punished them tremendously because they were in a covenant with Him. He demanded holiness:

Leviticus 19:2 NASB
[2] "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Once God’s people were in covenant, there was a higher expectation of them. An interesting prophecy of this was by Amos, chapters 1 - 2. In 1:1 - 2:3, God’s message of wrath is for the crimes against humanity that the other nations committed. Then when He gets to Judah (this was the time the monarch was divided between Judah—the more faithful—and Israel), the crime seems simpler. However, it was personal to covenant and relationship, unlike than the rest of the nations:

Amos 2:4-5 NASB
[4] Thus says the LORD, "For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they rejected the law of the LORD And have not kept His statutes; Their lies also have led them astray, Those after which their fathers walked. [5] “So I will send fire upon Judah And it will consume the citadels of Jerusalem.”

I think we agree that the grace that covers us cannot be fully appreciated. I believe God still had some expectations, and still does. But I see the miracle in the salvation of all nations through Christ Jesus that even after all the wretchedness His people did, the nations did, and even I do today, salvation is still accessible to those of us who actively struggle to be holy since we (as Christians) desire to obey the One who saved us.

To conclude Amos’ message (and many other prophets), God still promised healing afterward:

Amos 9:14-15 NASB
[14] "Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, And they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit. [15] “I will also plant them on their land, And they will not again be rooted out from their land Which I have given them,” Says the LORD your God.