Don’t Jump On Andy Stanley Too Quickly
By Norman L. Geisler
Recently (2/2015), Andy Stanley, well known contemporary Atlanta pastor, said that “The foundation of our faith is not the infallibility of the Bible. The foundation of our faith is something that happened in History. The issue is always, who is Jesus? The Scripture is simply a collection of ancient documents that tells us that story.”
Some have jumped on Stanley for denying the infallibility of the Bible. However, at worst, these statements are unfortunate and incomplete but not explicitly heretical. For, first of all, the Bible is not “simply a collection of ancient documents,” not in any absolute sense but only relatively as compared to Jesus as God incarnate. At any rate, his statement as such is incomplete for the Bible is more than this. The Bible is also the infallible and inerrant written Word of God. But, as far as I know, Andy does not deny this either here or anywhere else.
Second, of course, theologically there is an important sense in which the Bible is the foundation of our faith. For without it we have no divinely authoritative basis for what we believe. However, Stanley is right in affirming that actually it was Christ, not the Bible, who procured our salvation by his death and resurrection (1Cor. 15:1-6). But this is not to say that the Bible in not an infallible written authority pointing us to Christ (Jn. 5:39).
Third, Andy goes on to say that he believes the Adam and Eve story, “not because the Bible says so, but because in the gospels, Jesus talks about Adam and Eve…. And if he [Jesus] believed they were historical, I believe they were historical, because anybody that can predict their own death and resurrection, and pull it off, I just believe anything they say….” Some have jumped on Andy for this statement since they claim he doesn’t know this is true about Jesus except for the gospels. However, this is not a circular argument since he is not assuming here that they are divinely inspired but only that we have good historical evidence that they are reliable. And if they are reliable, then Jesus’ affirmation is reliable when he pronounces that the Bible is more than merely reliable; it is the inspired Word of God (Mat. 5:18; Jn. 10:35).
In brief, Christ is the foundation of our faith ontologically (in reality). However, the Bible is the only infallible foundation for what we believe epistemologically (how we know). Historically, we have only reliable (not infallible) documents to support the claim that Jesus is God (and that he proved it miraculously) and, thus, he can be trusted when he affirmed that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God. This is to say nothing of the fact that the Spirit of God confirms to us through the Bible that it is the Word of God (1 Jn. 5:9-11).
In short, Stanley’s presentation is theologically incomplete, but it is not technically incorrect. However, it would be wise to revise the statement that “the Bible is simply a collection of ancient documents” because It is more than a human book; it is divinely inspired. While at times Andy fails to clarify his contentions theologically, his main point can be verified apologetically as part of an overall argument from the evidence for the infallible Word of God. This argument moves from historically reliable documents to the divine authority of Christ who (supported by miracles) affirmed the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture. Of course, this is not the only apologetic approach that can be taken on the topic. However, this classical type apologetic method has been used for nearly 2000 years by Christ (see our The Apologetics of Jesus, Baker, 2009), the apostles, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, C. S. Lewis, and R.C. Sproul. So, with this approach, Stanley is in good theological company (see our Christian Apologetics, Baker, 2013).
Update, October 5, 2016:
In personal communication with Andy I was able to confirm his belief in the ICBI statement on the full inerrancy of the Bible as well as Jesus’ affirmation of the complete errorlessness of Scripture. Our concern was not with Andy’s beliefs on other matters being debated in Christian circles that do not involve a direct denial of the inerrancy of Scripture.
Norman L. Geisler,
General Editor of www.DefendingInerrancy.com