What do I think of Andy Stanley’s book published by Zondervan? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Andy Stanley has in the past made himself a controversial figure. It’s understandable why that is. He knows in his newest book that he’s putting himself in a risky position. The whole idea behind the book is how to make the faith irresistible and reclaiming what Jesus launched into the world.
At that start, I even wonder. Can we ever say that Christianity was truly irresistible? It seems like a lot of people did a pretty good job resisting it. So much so that Paul required a personal experience to stop murdering Christians and the Romans didn’t really hesitate to persecute them.
Stanley has been put under fire for statements he has made about the Old Testament and inerrancy. I do understand both. I have a lot more sympathy with the trouble he got into on the latter. My father-in-law, Mike Licona, got caught up in inerrancy debates just because he dared to interpret one passage differently and then a host of others were brought out. I think a lot of people got turned off on the topic of inerrancy because of that.
The Old Testament, I am a bit more cautious on. I think Stanley does make it right more towards the end. He shows that when people come to believe in Jesus in the New Testament, they do come to embrace and study the Old Testament more. Well and good. Still, I wonder if he thinks that Old Testament apologetics is all a waste.
I don’t think he does, but one can get that impression sometimes. I think there are many great and precious truths in the Old Testament. My wife came to know Jesus because of a passage in the Old Testament. Many of us know it. It’s Psalm 139 where God says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. The Old Testament tells us we are in the image of God and begins the story of sacred space that God seeks to create. I am fully convinced that without understanding the Old Testament, your understanding of the New will be woefully inadequate. Sometimes, I do wonder if many doctrines I disagree with in the church fathers came up because none of them, as far as I know, were Jewish.
I think sometimes Stanley’s language of the Old Testament can be over the top. Yes. The book of Hebrews refers to the old covenant as obsolete. That does not mean the Old Testament is obsolete. The Testament contains the covenant, but it is more than the covenant.
Yes. The God of the Old Testament is seen as violent at times, but what about the God of the book of Revelation? Yes. The God of the Old Testament said things about slaves, but what about the fact that Jesus and Paul never told people to release their slaves en masse? The God of the Old Testament condemned homosexuality and so did Paul, but you know, Jesus didn’t say anything about it so maybe it’s okay.
I should clarify I think Jesus didn’t speak about it because in ancient Israel, it wasn’t an issue. It was just condemned and if anything, Jesus’s silence on the matter should be seen as tacit agreement with the principle. He didn’t hesitate to speak out in other places where he thought the law was not right, such as divorce.
This isn’t to say that I disagree with everything Stanley says in this book. Some material I think is quite helpful. I think it’s important to realize that a contradictin in the Bible does not spell the end of Christianity. I think it’s important to realize that we don’t have to answer every question about the Old Testament, or even the New for that matter. I think it’s important to realize that we can know moral truths apart from the Law.
I also think it’s a great point to say that we meet many people who say they want to get as close to that fine line without crossing over it as they can, which is a self-emphasis. On the other hand, there are many people who want to be full of God and the Holy Spirit and have a passion in prayer and such. Unfortunately, that can also still be just an emphasis on self. You want to have these things sometimes because you want to be sure you are in the right.
I think it’s a good insight to say that the love of God must not be just vertical, but it must be horizontal as well. I think though that Stanley can neglect the vertical in some cases. What about passages like Matthew 6 where you go into your prayer closet alone and don’t show people that you’re praying? Your Father who sees in secret rewards you.
Of course, if we do something just for a reward, that’s not good, but sometimes God tells us to do things and we will be blessed. The verse in question is one such case. Let’s face it. When a man starts dating a girl, you can say all you want the nobility of love and such, and many good men somewhere do, but yeah, he’s also thinking about the privilege of having sex with her.
I think it’s a great question to ask what love would require of us. What is the most loving thing we can do? It’s a good principle to look at if we want to study how it is a Christian should walk. It’s also noteworthy that the apostles repeatedly pointed to the example of Christ and walking like Jesus.
I also did enjoy the bit on eschatology and the destruction of the temple. I have been an orthodox Preterist for years and it’s good to see someone well-known like Stanley presenting this viewpoint. I hope more Christians will come to embrace it.
In the end, I have mixed feelings. I understand the motivation behind the book and why it is that way and for that, I agree, but I still fear we can be too dismissive. I wondered at times about how Stanley would answer if someone asked who was skeptical about Jesus, “Is the God of the Old Testament the Father of Jesus?” I don’t doubt that Stanley thinks such, but I just wondered.
But if Stanley wanted controversy, he’s certainly produced a work that will bring it about. If Stanley has overstated his case, then it could just be that this leads to the work that can bring about the necessary corrective that will be the balance without going to the extreme that the inerrancy witch hunt has gone. I am also thankful for excellent work in New Testament scholarship, but I hope we will see more in Old Testament as well, like Walton and Longman.
If you pick up this book and read it, you might agree with most of it, you might disagree. Either way, you will have an opinion. Most everyone who reads this will have something to think about.