Yes, this is a strange title, but wait: there is a connection between the Atlanta pastor and the two Old Testament champions of the faith. Indeed, this article is all about faith: real faith versus false faith. Biblical faith is never divorced from obedience to God and his word. Fake faith is all about ‘if it feels right, do it,’ and anything goes.
Let me explain. I have written before about Andy Stanley, the preacher son of another well-known preacher, Charles Stanley. I have already penned three articles about the son over the past five years, given what worrying things he has said that are at odds with biblical Christianity.
For example, he has basically embraced the heresy of Marcionism, in which he dismisses the Old Testament as irrelevant for the believer today. Back in 2018, he said that Christians need to “unhitch” themselves from the OT.
And in another article, I took him to task for making this reckless claim: “Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles.” Good grief: so we can now kill, lie, steal and commit adultery since OT law means nothing to us now? See more on this here.
I also penned a piece on why the OT is indispensable to the Christian, and to ignore it or to reject it is to reject God himself.
So what is Andy up to now? Well, he has been quite weak on homosexuality, for a while causing many Christian leaders to be further concerned about him and his wishy-washy positions. Now he has come out and said homosexuals in churches have more faith than straights do.
Um, biblical faith is ALWAYS tied in with obedience. Just as one can never say a Christian living in adultery is faith-filled or faithful, so too here. A ‘homosexual Christian’ is a contradiction in terms – full stop. Living in known sin and being a faithful Christian is an oxymoron.
But some might argue that Stanley should be taken to task privately for all this. However, the old principle holds here: ‘Private sin, private rebuke; public sin, public rebuke’. When you proclaim heterodox views from the pulpit, then they need to be called out. Another American pastor – and an ex-homosexual – Daren Mehl said this on social media:
When someone as big as Stanley openly rebukes the Bible, it is Stanley who is openly in error and STANLEY who OPENLY needs to be corrected so ALL can hear. Andy got this far into heresy because he left the truth a while ago. He started to miss the discernment on lgbtq a while ago. His current public error is fruit of a seed from a while ago. I would place my bets he’s selfishly ambitious and looking for a “middle ground” or “third way” so he can play both sides without having to offend anyone with the truth.
Indeed this seems to be a long-standing habit of Stanley. He seems to want to straddle the fence and he seems to delight in being deliberately vague and unclear on these sorts of issues. In a recent article, Denny Burke warned that this recurring ambiguity of Stanley is just far too problematic:
Stanley’s message comes across as a straightforwardly affirming position on homosexuality in the church. He valorizes the faith of homosexuals as head-and-shoulders above the faith of straight Christians. He says, “the men and women I know who are gay, their faith and their confidence in God dwarfs mine. And so not only is there room, there’s plenty of room” for them in the church. He brushes aside what the Bible says about homosexuality as “clobber” verses, as if those texts somehow harm gay sinners. He even suggests that a change of theology is in order if churches can’t welcome gay people into their midst. That’s affirming, right? If it isn’t affirming, what is?
It turns out that Stanley’s message is as slippery as it is misleading. On the one hand, his remarks seem to focus not on gay people in general but on those who experience a true conversion to Christ. On the other hand, his remarks do not mention repentance from homosexuality or that homosexuality is even sinful at all. Nor is there any suggestion that a gay lifestyle might be incompatible with following Christ. Rather, his words suggest that gay people are extra-righteous for being willing to love a God who would deny them the desires of their hearts. In so much of what Stanley says, there is more insinuation than clarity. And that is the problem. It’s no wonder so many have interpreted his words as affirming homosexuality, even though he himself might blanch at the suggestion….
If Stanley means something different than the affirming impression this message leaves, then he owes it to listeners to say so. As it is, he can hardly complain when listeners hear the message and conclude that this teaching stands in direct contradiction to the Bible and the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
This wilful ambiguity by Stanley will always mean trouble. At best, one has to keep asking, ‘Just what is he saying?’ When you try to equivocate, use weasel words, and please everyone, then all that you end up with is confusion compounded. Indeed, so bad has he been at this that even the Christian satire website Babylon Bee did a piece on it back in 2018. It began:
“After yet another ‘confusing at best’ statement by popular preacher and author Andy Stanley, the pastor checked himself into a local theological rehab center Wednesday. Stanley voluntarily enrolled in a six-month rehabilitation program at the clinic after reviewing several troubling comments he had made in the past few years.”
One is immediately reminded of texts such as 1 Corinthians 14:8: “And if the bugler doesn’t sound a clear call, how will the soldiers know they are being called to battle?” (NLT) When pastors and Christian leaders try to keep everyone happy by watering down Scripture and being quite unclear as to what they believe and what they think the Bible teaches, they help no one.
Caleb and Joshua
So how does this tie in with the two OT champions of faith? Yesterday I wrote about Numbers 13-14 and how the spies who checked out Canaan came back with two reports. Only the two men mentioned here gave a positive report, while the others gave a negative one.
God was quite angry with the faithless and unbelieving Israelites and wanted to wipe them out, but Moses interceded for them. I did not however mention the rest of the story, as found in Num. 14:20-45. There we learn that God told Moses that these faithless wonders would not enter Canaan, and we read this in verses 36-38:
“And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing up a bad report about the land— the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the Lord. Of those men who went to spy out the land, only Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive.”
But what stood out to me in this portion of Scripture is what is said in v. 24: “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” He had a different spirit from those faithless ones.
This certainly seems to tie in with folks like Stanley. On the one hand, we have those who are true to Scripture and always align themselves with God’s word, and not the sins of the world. We also have believers and leaders in the church who are quite happy to play fast and loose with Scripture, and seek to be friends with the world. They are of another Spirit.
The need for preachers and leaders to stand strong on biblical truth and proclaim it fearlessly has always been great, but certainly so today. We have far too much compromise, equivocation, men-pleasing, and seeking to have feet in both camps.
The need of the hour is what we find Joshua saying elsewhere: “choose today whom you will serve” (Josh. 24:15, NLT). Mealy-mouthed pastors who want to please everyone will never be pleasing to God. The great English pastor Charles Spurgeon often spoke to this reality. Let me conclude with four brief quotes of his on this issue:
“You and I cannot be useful if we want to be sweet as honey in the mouths of men. God will never bless us if we wish to please men, that they may think well of us. Are you willing to tell them what will break your own heart in the telling and break theirs in the hearing? If not, you are not fit to serve the Lord. You must be willing to go and speak for God, though you will be rejected.”
“I would never believe that we were on the Lord’s side if all men were on our side.”
“Character is always lost when a high ideal is sacrificed on the altar of conformity and popularity.”
“This shall be an infallible test to you concerning anyone’s ministry. If it is man-praising, and man-honouring, it is not of God.”