The pastor of the second-largest church in America, Andy Stanley, wants to change the way Christianity is taught to reach new generations of skeptics, according to his book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. While he has every good intention, he proposes a shocking approach that takes the church back centuries—not to the first-century church led by the apostles as he claims, but to a later time when Replacement Theology was the prevailing theology and the church was, therefore, largely anti-Semitic.
While that is certainly not his intent, it is the ramification of his dismissal of everything Jewish in the Bible—namely the Old Testament—deeming it obsolete. Speaking of the Old Testament, the apostle Paul said it was useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). All of the New Testament writers treated the Old Testament Scriptures as foundational. Stanley, however, sounds more like second- and third-century Church Fathers when he says that the Old Testament and Judaism have been brought to an end and replaced with something totally and completely new—Christianity.
Even more disturbing is the way he describes Judaism in only negative terms. It is a well-known fact that during the time of Jesus the priesthood and some of the Pharisees had become corrupt. Jesus was not the only one who denounced them for it. But in this book, Stanley describes Judaism itself as the problem—it is legalistic, hypocritical, self-righteous, and exclusive. He even claims the apostle Paul tried to keep Judaism from “eroding the beauty and simplicity” of the ekklesia (church) of Jesus. Of course, Paul was against legalism—not Judaism.
There are many issues found in his 330-page book to address. This article, however, is a summation of the dangers in adopting Stanley’s definition of irresistible Christianity.
The Bible No Longer Makes Sense
Because Replacement Theology creates a disconnect between the Old and New Testaments, it is hard to teach the former in an exciting way. I have been reading and studying the Bible for over 40 years and I find it is the most exciting book on the planet—one that makes perfect sense from Genesis to Revelation! To teach the Old Testament is obsolete is what produces this disconnect. To teach it in its proper context, however, and under the inspiration of the very Holy Spirit who inspired its writing, makes it stand up and come so alive it is life-changing!
Anti-Judaism Leads to Anti-Semitism
A lesson learned from Christian history is that the anti-Judaism of some early Church Fathers led to anti-Semitism and persecution of the Jewish people by later generations. This highlights the danger in Stanley’s negative descriptions of Judaism. He even blames the sin of the church throughout history on the influences of Judaism—the ultimate example of anti-Semitic scapegoating if ever there was one. Leading Christian voices today must resist this theology and thereby stop the slide down a slippery slope toward renewed anti-Semitism in the church.
Jesus Becomes Gentile
Reading Jesus from any perspective other than a first-century Jewish one lends itself to misinterpretation. If a church considers the Old Testament irrelevant to the Christian faith, then it is studied less and less, creating followers of Jesus who are unaware of the Old Testament foundations for all he did and taught. He was not some Greek god with a mythical birth and resurrection story, but came in a carefully prepared Jewish context that explains His teachings, death, resurrection, and His future return to the earth as King. Without that context, we read Jesus through gentile, twenty-first-century eyes that see Him just like us, and not who He really is.
A Blind Church
Replacement Theology holds that the Jewish people have lost their standing with God, due to their rejection of Jesus as Messiah, while the church has assumed their place. Therefore, their return to their ancient homeland in the last 100 years is just an anomaly—a political accident—and has no theological significance. These Christians deny that the God of Israel has brought the Jews back to the Land just as the Hebrew prophets said He would. This return prepares the way for the next great act of God in which the Messiah returns to the planet to defend Jerusalem, judge the nations for their evil treatment of His people, and establish the kingdom of God on earth. A blinded church will not understand the times we live in and may find itself outside the move of God in our day.
Throws out the Baby with the Bath Water
Instead of throwing out legalism, Judaizing, or misapplication of the Mosaic Law, Stanley has thrown out the entire Old Testament. In so doing, he has set a dangerous precedent for new generations of believers adhering to a Christianity that is void of its eternal, spiritual context, which is, simply put, a Jewish one. A better solution to the problem Stanley is trying to address is to study Scripture in its proper cultural and religious context and teach the overarching story of the Bible that truly makes it the most exciting book on the planet!