Monday, January 20, 2020

Irresistible by Andy Stanley


Irresistible

By Andy Stanley
336 pages

Andy Stanley’s latest book, Irresistible, is a fascinating read. He has done his homework and has poured considerable thought into it. Despite it’s controversial tone for conservative Christians, his applications are worth considering. Personally I’m still processing the book and how I will change my approach based on what he says. Writing this synopsis is helpful for me and hopefully reading it is helpful for you.

The book is broken into four different sections:

Section one: Simply Resistible

In part one, Andy seems to be asking himself the question “Why are so many people leaving the Evangelical church in America? And why are we becoming so post-Christian?” So many in this country have a Christian background of some sort - they grew up in church, they have plenty of peers who are Christian, and they know the gist of Christian beliefs. So why aren’t they flocking to church?

Ever since the days of Constantine and Christendom, the church has tried to mix and match an “Old Testament” lifestyle with a “New Testament” one. In Andy’s words, “I’m convinced it’s the mixing, blending, and integration of the old with the new that makes the modern church so resistible.”

Mixing and matching old with new leads to a lot of confusion: posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms but not portions of the Sermon on the Mount, establishing priests in some churches rather than pastors, misunderstandings of terms like “annointing”, proliferating tithing over generous and sacrificial giving, and seeking dating advice from a pagan king with several hundred wives.

Mixing and matching can also lead to atrocious behavior from God’s people: the crusade of the 11th century, Christian leaders declaring natural disasters as proof of God’s judgment, and political campaigns based on God’s blessing on a particular nation. He writes “The most shameful and embarrassing chapters in church history were not the result of anything Jesus or the apostle Paul taught. Our most embarrassing, indefensible moments resulted from Christians leveraging the old covenant concepts.”

Jesus introduced something very new for those devoted to God. That newness is explained in great detail in the next section.

Section two: All Things New

Andy describes the practices above as trying to rebrand, repurpose, and retrofit the Old Testament into the church. But the church and the Christian life is a completely new way of living and honoring God.

He declares that the Old Testament is essentially an old “covenant”. And it was a covenant made between God and the nation of Israel. Sure, there are principles and stories that were recorded for our learning today, but following the old covenant is not our mandate from Jesus. For clarity, Andy states “I’m not suggesting the two testaments are not equally inspired. My point is they aren’t equally applicable.”

Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets (Matt. 5:17). Andy defines this fulfillment in these ways: “To bring it to a designated end” and “The old covenant is obsolete.” Practically speaking, he declares that the Ten Commandments have no authority over us. The OT law has no authority over us. The promises found in the old covenant are not our promises.

The Old and New Testaments are incompatible in application today. “The Old Testament is great for inspiration, but not application.” Andy also asks us to “resist the temptation to resolve theological, ideological, or ethical conflicts between the Old Testament and the teaching of Jesus and the apostles.”

Instead of cherry-picking which OT principles we want to apply, and which ones we will shove away as commands we don’t have to follow anymore, Andy reminds us in the next section of our new ethic as followers of Jesus.

Section three: A New Ethic

The old covenant is concerned with vertical morality. Vertical morality “assumes God’s primary concern is how our behavior affects him.” It leaves us trying to remain holy, to separate ourselves from non-Christians, or having a personal walk with God that doesn’t involve other people.

Horizontal morality is the new ethic. Honoring God is equated with loving one another here on earth. Jesus asserted that reconciliation with a brother or sister comes before reconciliation with God (Matt. 5:23f). Loving God is inseparable from loving our neighbor (Matt. 22:39). Tithing is not nearly as important as showing mercy and justice to others (Matt. 23:23).

“Doing for others what one hoped others would do in return was so… so old covenant. Jesus instructed his followers to do unto one another as he had done unto them.” Jesus gives his followers a new command: to love one another. Loving others isn’t an additional commandment; it is a replacement for all other commandments. Even the big ten. “Jesus followers weren’t expected to look up. They authenticated their devotion by looking around.” This is far less complicated, and yet far more demanding.

Section four: A New Approach

The final section of the book is probably the most controversial for Evangelicals. In order to share our faith in the modern world of science and post-modernity, and draw back the young generations who have left organized religion but not necessarily Jesus, Andy urges us to adjust our approach.

First, he encourages us to stop leveraging “the Bible says.” Appealing to the Bible was effective when our culture was receptive and respectful of the Bible. The foundation of our faith isn’t an inspired book; for Christians, it is the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ is what prompted the writing of the New Testament and the devotion of the early church.

Second, he asks us to start calling the Old Testament something else. As he argued earlier, the OT is actually an old covenant; a covenant made for ancient Israel. Andy uses less misleading terms like “the Jewish Scriptures” or “The Hebrew Bible” and he calls the New Testament “The Christian Bible.”

Tangible reasons for these suggested changes in our approach are given in the last chapters: “Our faith doesn’t teeter on the brink of extinction based on archaeology or the history of the Old Testament. Anyone who lost faith in Jesus because they lost faith in the historical and archaeological credibility of the Old Testament lost faith unnecessarily… When skeptics point out the violence, the misogyny, the scientific and historically unverifiable claims of the Hebrew Bible, instead of trying to defend those things, we can shrug, give ‘em our best confused look, and say, ‘I’m not sure why you’re bringing this up. My Christian faith isn’t based on any of that.’”


Before tearing Andy’s approach apart, I suggest reading the book in its entirety first. The cost of the book (both financially and in time spent reading) is well worth it.

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