A Review of Andy Stanley and The Grace of God

Book CoverA while back I noticed a long-time Christian reading Andy Stanley's The Grace of God. I was excitedly told that it was a wonderful book that taught so much. This, coming from a 45+ year Christian intrigued me, as I knew of Andy Stanley and his not-so-subtle assault on true Christianity and the Bible. Having not dug too deeply into Andy's past, I decided to give the book a go, in light of the raving review.

First, the book is copyrighted in 2010, so it was probably written at least 13 years prior to the time of this review. When I decided to read it, I wondered if the Andy Stanley of more than a decade ago was a different preacher than the Andy Stanley of 2022. The Andy Stanley of 2022 is by no means a "Christian" I would recommend to anyone. His Jesus seems to be a Jesus of his own imagination, who, in order to exist, needs to be detached from much of the Bible.

For example, Andy Stanley has tweeted (and deleted after the backlash):

The Christian faith does not rise and fall on the accuracy of 66 ancient documents, It rises and falls on the identity of a single individual: Jesus of Nazareth.

Think about that. It's right up there with Bill Johnson's blasphemous "Jesus Christ is perfect theology" nonsense. Yes, the nonsense sounds good, and is even "true" if you don't study the context in which it is said, but teaching like this is designed to cast doubt on much of scripture, separating Jesus from the very Word that he has been since the beginning. (See John 1:1-2John 1:1-2 (ESV '11)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

In John 5:39, Jesus specified:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me

Luke 24:27 adds:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:44 states:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.”

You cannot separate Jesus from the Old Testament or any other part of the Bible. The entirety of the Word of God points to him. To degenerate one is to degrade the other.

Andy dug in though. In defense of his tweet, in the sermon that was linked with it, Andy stated...

The truth is, Christians are not expected to believe what we believe based on a collection of ancient manuscripts written by men who never met each other over the course of hundreds of years in a time when everybody was superstitious, and everybody believed in the gods and there was no modern science…The foundation of our faith is far more substantial than that. It’s far more sustainable than that. [The Christian faith] rises and falls on the identity of a single individual: Jesus of Nazareth,

(see the sermon thread here)

Read that again. Don't let the searing hatred of the Bible pass you by. Don't let the damning language go unnoticed. Tying together phrases such as "not expected to believe... written by men... when everybody was superstitious... and believed in the gods... and... there was no modern science" will do nothing but desecrate people's faith in the Bible as the true and full Word of God. Andy sows the seed of doubt and mockery towards the scriptures, and then, having destroyed God's word, is free to invent his own Jesus, using only the selected portions of God's Word that he agrees with and sees fit. This is outright blasphemy.

In this sermon Stanley makes the point, multiple times, that even if some of the gospels are not correct or not true... if only one of them is correct, that's good enough. Andy's religion works if only 1/66th of the Bible is true. He doesn't need the rest of Scripture to carve out his idol, which he happens to name "Jesus."

In casting doubt on the inspired nature of Luke's Gospel, Andy says the following:

Luke is not writing the Bible. Luke didn’t have any idea there would ever be a ‘the Bible’. Luke didn’t know if his document would survive the first century. Luke had no idea if anyone would read it, other than the person he’s writing it for. He’s not writing the Bible. The Gospel of Luke isn’t part of the Bible. The Gospel of Luke is something that… was included in the collection of documents that was eventually titled ‘The Bible’, because of what the story contained when it was written, who wrote it and what it said about Jesus.

Stanley goes on to say:

So Luke’s account- this is important- his account of the life of Jesus didn’t become reliable when it was placed in the collection of documents we call the Bible. Luke’s account of the life of Jesus was included in the Bible because Luke’s account was considered reliable.

See what Andy did there? It's not that Luke is reliable because it's the Word of God or is inspired by God. Luke is reliable because of his human research. When you apply this same hermeneutic to the rest of the Bible, it's suddenly easy, even logical to throw out anything that doesn't, on the surface, cry out "I am well researched with human endeavor."

Stanley has also said:

(Christians need to) establish the Gospels as the text that informs their faith, not the entire Bible.


The Christian faith did not begin with Genesis. The Christian faith began with Jesus.

In downplaying the the virgin birth due to its unbelievability, Stanley has said:

If somebody can predict their own death and then their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world


Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the Birth of Jesus.

Yes, the virgin birth is "just a story" in Andy Stanley's mind, and that's fine with him and his thousands of followers.

It's blasphemy like this that leads to Andy's church singing a medley of songs from the purely occult driven 1970s rock group Led Zeppelin at the beginning of a church service rather than spending time in worship of the One True God.

But I digress. There are plenty of exposés of Andy Stanley... let's review the book. I will work through the book from beginning to end, pointing out some of the locations where I noticed issues, and occasional good points.

First, I will say that Andy Stanley is an excellent writer. His work is easy to read and understand. He writes with humor and caring. His message of grace is positive and needed in today's world.

But Stanley is also a master of language and a master of psychology. He could convince you of a point without ever stating the point. He sows seeds of uncertainty and then later tells the fuller story, knowing his seeds have taken root. While overall the message of The Grace of God is good, and in many ways true, underlying the book is his perverted theology regarding the worth of the Bible and the holiness and sovereignty of God. Many readers will not know why, but for reasons uncertain to them, they will come away from this book praising the "grace" of Stanley's "Jesus" while at the same time doubting the importance of scripture, the holiness of God or the severity of sin. It's subtle, but a degeneration of God's Word is clearly there. The seeds of today's Andy Stanley were clearly present in this book of several years ago. I will give a few examples.

(Note: I have used an epub version of this book, so all references will be based on x of 294 pages)

In chapter 1 (In the Beginning, Grace), after correctly pointing out that the culture often reduces the concept of "sin" to merely a mistake, Stanley says:

So for reasons we will never understand, Adam and Eve were not content to eat from the abundance of the “yes” trees. They felt compelled to eat the fruit from the one tree God said was off-limits. And in that moment, sin entered the world. Immediately they became aware of their nakedness and were ashamed. (Page 30/294)

Do we really not know why Adam and Eve were not content to only eat from the abundance of the "yes" trees? Do we not know from reading the story that Eve was tempted by the serpent? Is the serpent so unimportant in the origin of sin in this world that Stanley must introduce the first sin with "for reasons we will never understand...?"

Two pages later, Stanley writes:

How did God respond to all the blame and the shame? Grace. He gave Adam and Eve precisely what they did not deserve. It could even be argued that he broke his own promise in order to give them what they did not deserve. They were warned that on the day that they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die (Gen 2:16-17**Genesis 2:16-17** (ESV '11) And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” ). But they didn’t. Growing up, I was told that they died spiritually. But that’s not part of the story. I was told they were separated from God. But that’s not in the story either. In fact, right after they sinned, Adam and Eve had a long conversation with God. It wasn’t the most positive conversation we find in the Scriptures, but God didn’t suddenly disappear from their lives. Their sin did not cause them to be unable to hear his voice. And their sin did not so separate them that God couldn’t or wouldn’t come looking for them. As we’ve already seen, God made the first move: “Adam, where are you?” (Page 32/294)

Now, we know that Adam and Eve didn't drop dead immediately upon eating the fruit, so this must be explained, but Stanley simply says "But they didn't" - basically calling God a liar. He further disqualifies the common rationalities often used to explain this apparent contradiction between God's promise of what would happen and what "actually" happened. Stanley sows two seeds. Your thinking will determine which one grows. Either (1) God is a liar, or (2), the Bible is wrong in its telling of the story. It can't be that Adam and Eve died in a different way or by a different means (such as their dying spiritually or being separated from God), because beyond simply saying "But they didn't," Stanley goes on to make sure these alternate possibilities are not open to his readers.

Two pages further still, on page 34/294, after using Merriam-Webster to define "mercy," Stanley, speaking of the word "curse" says:

To curse in Hebrew means “to surround someone with obstacles” or “to render someone powerless to resist.” In this sense, every good parent has cursed his or her child from time to time. To a child all discipline feels like a curse, but to the parent, it’s a way to teach two important lessons: disobedience has consequences, and obedience leads to freedom. God responded to Adam and Eve’s sin like good parents respond to their children: he disciplined them. For their sake and the sake of future generations, he disciplined them. And his discipline was an expression of grace for them and grace for those who would follow.

I'll admit, I had to search for his source for this definition. I first looked in Strong's, where we find:

H779 אָרַר 'arar (aw-rar') verb
to accurse, to devote to destruction, to bitterly curse.
a primitive root
KJV: X bitterly curse.

I then looked in Vine's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, where for H779 we find, among a greater definition, "It is a pronouncement of judgment on those who break covenant, as: "Cursed is the man who …" (twelve times in Deut 27:15-26Deut 27:15-26 (ESV)
“‘Cursed be the man who makes a carved or cast metal image, an abomination to the Lord, a thing made by the hands of a craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who dishonors his father or his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who moves his neighbor's landmark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who misleads a blind man on the road.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his father's wife, because he has uncovered his father's nakedness.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with any kind of animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who lies with his mother-in-law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe to shed innocent blood.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ “‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

I then looked in Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions with KJV. Here we have:

BDB Definition:
1) to curse
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to curse
1a2) cursed be he (participle used pr in curses)
1b) (Niphal) to be cursed, cursed
1c) (Piel) to curse, lay under a curse, put a curse on
1d) (Hophal) to be made a curse, be cursed

In the KJV, this word is exclusively translated as some form of the word "curse." The same is true of the NASB and the Berean Study Bible. The NET Bible also nearly exclusively translates this Hebrew word as a form of "curse" or very similar language.

I did finally find something close to Stanley's definition. In the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) we have this paragraph within the entry for mĕ’ērâ - H3994, a derivative of 'arar - H779):

On the basis of Akkadian (An East Semitic language, now extinct, that was spoken in Mesopotamia from the third millennium BC until its gradual replacement by Akkadian-influenced Old Aramaic among Mesopotamians in the 8th century BC - Wikipedia) arāru “to snare, bind” and the noun irritu “noose, sling” Brichto, following Speiser, advances the interpretation that Hebrew ’ārar means “to bind (with a spell), hem in with obstacles, render powerless to resist.” Thus the original curse in Gen 3:14, 17, “cursed are you above all cattle” and “cursed is the ground for your sake” means “you are banned/anathematized from all the other animals” and “condemned be the soil (i.e., fertility to men is banned) on your account.” Similarly, God’s word to Cain, “you are cursed from the earth” means Cain is banned from the soil, or more specifically, he is banned from enjoying its productivity. (Parenthetical Wikipedia comment mine)

Assuming the TWOT was Stanley's source for his definition of "curse," Stanley's obscure definition is actually from a different Hebrew word in the TWOT (H3994 - m'erah (meh-ay-raw') a derivative of H779). In Strong's, M'erah is defined as "a bitterly damning curse".

The word 'arar (aw-rar') most clearly means "cursed" as we traditionally think of the word in Biblical terms. Stanley had to go to another Hebrew word's entry using a non-Hebrew language derived definition to come up with his definition for the completely different word he was discussing. No wonder he didn't cite his source!

Go back to Stanley's definition of "curse."

To curse in Hebrew means “to surround someone with obstacles” or “to render someone powerless to resist.” In this sense, every good parent has cursed his or her child from time to time. To a child all discipline feels like a curse, but to the parent, it’s a way to teach two important lessons: disobedience has consequences, and obedience leads to freedom. God responded to Adam and Eve’s sin like good parents respond to their children: he disciplined them. For their sake and the sake of future generations, he disciplined them. And his discipline was an expression of grace for them and grace for those who would follow.

In all Biblical reality, God damned Adam and Eve, and all future mankind to eternal punishment due to Adam's sin. Without faith in Christ, Hell is the eternal punishment for all who sin. God's curse is extremely serious. Does Stanley give the honest warning regarding sin? Not even a little. God's reaction to sin wasn't eternal damnation as the Bible says - it was simply something equivalent to a good parent teaching his or her child a lesson. It only feels like a curse to us. Really, it's just some minor discipline, and that discipline is an expression of grace. No worries. We can stand in the corner for a while; we're good.

Stanley's complete disregard for the realities of sin and sin's consequences at this point is incredulous. His lack of respect for the Word of God is untenable. His downplay of the curse is beyond reckless to those who are living under it. Jesus may care about every jot and tittle of the Word of God, but with this carefully worded and inaccurate definition of "curse," it would seem that Andy Stanley does not.

It is true that God disciplines his children (Hebrews 12:6Hebrews 12:6 (ESV)
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
), but the curse was a different animal.

As Andy continued, I had to wonder if he cared about accuracy in his telling the story of the fall and God's response, as he messes up simple facts. For example, while scripture states that God clothed Adam and Eve and then tossed them out of the garden, Stanley reports that they were kicked out first, and then clothed as a form of "amazing grace"

From the very beginning God has responded to the sin of humanity with . . . well . . . amazing grace. (page 35/294 - bold Stanley's)

I wondered if Stanley would reference that the animals killed for clothing were the first sacrifice and death as the result of man's sin, but he did not. He does correctly point out that within Eve's curse the Savior was prophesied (He will crush her head - the second Adam).

Andy seems to write his narrative of Genesis from the viewpoint that God didn't expect the fall, but being God, he did a good job of dealing with the situation ("So God had a mess on his hands" page 39/294). Andy does not allow God to have been omniscient of, and sovereign over the mess before it happened. He equates the mess to a personal story of an unexpected dropped bottle in a kitchen pantry, which makes a large mess that simply has to be cleaned up. God is caught off guard in Stanley's analogy. Stanley points out that per Genesis 6:6, the mess filled God's heart with "pain." I found it interesting that Stanley specifically chose the 1984 edition of the NIV Bible for this verse, as "pain" is a less than ideal translation of the Hebrew ‛âtsab (Strong's H6087), as it misses out on the better concept of grief or being vexed. I would make nothing of this, but Stanley chooses from numerous translations in his bible quotes, often not providing reference, so he must have carefully chosen this version of this verse. The context of the passage shows that the sin did more than just pain God, as he strikes out against the sin in severe judgement. The NIV has since corrected their wording for this verse, and I could find no other translation that uses the word "pain" at the end of Genesis 6:6Genesis 6:6
ESV: And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
Net Bible: The Lord regretted that he had made humankind on the earth, and he was highly offended
NASB 95: The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
KJV: And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
NKJV: And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
NIV (2011): The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.
CSB: the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and he was deeply grieved.
Amp Classic: And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved at heart.

Again, in isolation this is not a big deal, and like a single mosquito bite, most people won't think anything of it. A hundred mosquito bites, though, and you may end up in the hospital. Stanley artfully and subtly questions the sovereignty and severity of God via multiple tiny bites.

The next mosquito is soon to follow. On page 40/294, in speaking of God's choosing Israel, Andy says:

God would begin with a nation, a nation chosen by him to demonstrate his power and goodness to the rest of the world. This nation would receive his favor as part of a one-sided covenant in which he obligated himself and demanded nothing in return.

This is an inaccurate view of the whole of the story. While God initiated the covenant without a preceding requirement from Abraham, God did ultimately give demands regarding man's obligations in the covenant, and every male on the planet will curl up a little bit upon hearing the first demand. In making the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17:9-11:

And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you.

It wasn't that the act of circumcision made Abraham righteous, for that was completely due to Abraham's believing God, but it can not be denied that there were demands afterwards, long before the institution of the law. It is the same today. Salvation is by faith alone, but if one is truly a Christian, we should expect to see that faith by their works (see James 2:18James 2:18 (ESV)
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
). Those works will not be born out of a legalistic obligation, but out of love for God and neighbor. In the Old Testament, it was known you were a Jew by your circumcision. Under the new covenant, Christians are known by their fruit/godly works (see Matthew 7:16-17Matthew 7:16-17 (ESV)
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.
, James 3:13James 3:13 (ESV)
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.
, 1 Thessalonians 1:31 Thessalonians 1:3 (ESV)
remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Later on the same page, Andy once again casts doubt on God's sovereignty by explaining that God had to start his own nation because:

Unfortunately, all the existing nations and civilizations on the earth were taken.

Always the master of language, using "unfortunately" and "taken" in the above sentence puts God in the place of needing to come up with a plan because "unfortunately," there were no other options allowed him. He even reinforces this notion on page 41/294 by adding:

God decided to start with an individual. This was certainly not the quickest route to nation building. But it was the only route in light of the consequences of sin and the redemptive purposes of God.

Stanley says that because all the other nations were already pagan and "taken," God had no choice. While it is true this is the route God took, it is improper for us to assume God was forced into this only possibility by the will of those who were not following him.

In speaking of Abraham, Stanley says that he was a "man with no influence" but this does not seem true from the Biblical text (though this is often broadcast by the prosperity teachers who want to paint Abraham as a nobody until he received God's blessings). Genesis 12:4-5 says:

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.

We know from Genesis that Abraham and Lot had so much stuff that an entire fertile valley wasn't big enough for the two of them; additionally, you don't own people if you're a nobody ("and the people that they had acquired in Haran"). Genesis 13:2 adds "Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold." While God does sometimes use people we would consider "nobodies," Abraham, while childless, is described as already having been a man of means before his encounter with God.

As Andy continues in Genesis, he makes various claims without support, such as saying that because of their time in Egypt, "the idea of a personal God having a personal relationship with people had long faded from memory." (page 86/294)

Stanley removes the importance of Jesus' sacrifice by saying:

He protected his people from the plagues, including the final, devastating affliction in which the firstborn of every household died. The death angel “passed over” any house bearing the blood of a sacrificial lamb on its doorposts, blood that symbolized trust in God’s mercy (Exod. 11:1–12:32).

I personally would say the blood symbolized the ultimate sacrifice that would be made by Jesus Christ - a necessary death for our sins, but that is strong language, implying that sin requires death, and Andy seems to avoid this connection whenever possible. As we saw earlier, for Stanley, sin requires nothing more than parental styled, graceful discipline.

In discussing the use of God's name and the third commandment (Exodus 20:7Exodus 20:7 (ESV)
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
), Andy wisely points out the following:

While honoring the LORD’s name is very important, he didn’t give this commandment to discourage people from calling out his name when they hit their thumb with a hammer. This commandment addresses a deeper concern. The clearest translation of the Hebrew in the third commandment is, “Do not misuse the name of the LORD.” Or to paraphrase, Do not attach God’s name to something he hasn’t attached it to himself, and do not leverage the name of God in order to accomplish your own agenda. God was about to give the new nation of Israel a constitution of sorts, consisting of hundreds of laws and statutes, and he didn’t want them to start looking for loopholes. God knew people would try to use his name to support their traditions as a means of nullifying or circumventing his law. By the time of Jesus, religious tradition allowed a person to dedicate all his or her worldly goods to God using a kind of estate-planning scheme. The person said, in essence, “God, all of my wealth and possessions are yours. I’m holding on to them, and they’re yours when I die, but if you want to use them, just let me know.” Then, when the aging parents of these schemers needed support, the children would say, “I would love to help you, Mom and Dad, but I have dedicated all of my wealth to God, and I’m storing it for him in case he needs it. You don’t want to take what is the LORD’s, do you?” (page 92/294)

Stanley is correct in saying "The clearest translation of the Hebrew in the third commandment is, 'Do not misuse the name of the LORD.'" His paraphrase, however, is limiting on the fullness of the command. While it is true we should "not attach God’s name to something he hasn’t attached it to himself, and do not leverage the name of God in order to accomplish your own agenda" we also should not be in the natural habit of using the Lord's name as a curse word when we hit our thumb with a hammer. I have known many Christians who with extreme regularity use the name "God" as a curse word and as an expression of disgust. As Ray Comfort asks people, "would you use your mother's name as a curse word?" Such use of God's name (and the name of Jesus, which is similarly used) is insulting, and while Stanley does not say this is not wrong, his careful wording does place this sin in the "not so sinful" area (per Stanley, the true sin God was getting at, is the "deeper concern"). We must remember, even frivolous use of the name "God" is blasphemy, and such use resulted in stoning in the Old Testament (see the story of a young man who misused the name of the Lord during a fight and was stoned per the direct word of the Lord - Leviticus 24:10-14Leviticus 24:10-14 (ESV)
Now an Israelite woman's son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, and the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be clear to them. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
). Stanley's psychology of writing is subtle and cautious, but as you work through the book, you will see the many pinpricks that add up to a gaping wound. Each pinprick seems frivolous, but the end result is quite damaging.

For two examples of such verbal subtlety, on page 103/294, Stanley states of God that it was "His intention was to establish a nation that loved his law because the people trusted its source." In using the words, "His intention" Stanley is suggesting that God did not get his way. On page 107/294, Andy states that "God gave Israel specific laws to obey that would not be appropriate today. Many of these rules address issues no longer in existence." This may or may not be true. Andy gives no examples of which rules he is talking about. Because of this, the concept is left purposefully vague. This leaves the reader open to assume that (whatever) they feel is no longer relevant can be ignored, as it's not appropriate today. Sadly, Stanley's next sentence says, "Instead, governments have a responsibility to discover the way God intended people to live in a community..." We don't need to look at that archaic law in the Old Testament... the government will tell you what's right and wrong. This is dangerous.

The next passage that caught my eye was Stanley using negative imagery to suggest a grossness and uncivilized nature of the Old Testament. He says:

I first heard the story of Israel conquering the city of Jericho as a child in Sunday school. War stories were always the most engaging, and this one was particularly engaging because we were taught a song that commemorated Israel’s victory that day...
Those are great memories, and I recall that particular Old Testament story with a sense of wonder. It taught me an important life lesson: I have nothing to fear when facing obstacles or intimidating enemies; a great and powerful God loves me and has promised to fight on my behalf! So imagine my reaction when, years later as an adult, I read the rest of the story:
When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. (Josh. 6:20–21)
Pause for a moment and imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of that day. The violent, bloody carnage that took place as the Israelite army killed every living thing in Jericho. For me, visions of Rwanda replay and I feel the same sick feeling I experienced during my visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. If you think about it for too long, you begin to feel a little like you’ve discovered a secret about God, a dark side people rarely see or try to pretend doesn’t exist. It helps me appreciate why some people refuse to believe in the God of the Bible. I can understand why some reject the Old Testament God as a more primitive, inferior being compared to the tender, compassionate God of the New Testament. (page 113/294)

To Stanley's credit, he then proceeds to correctly speak about God and how he is viewed in the Old and New Testaments. However, before doing that (and Andy does this regularly in this book), Andy has sown the seed of "ick." If the actual Biblical text wasn't severe enough, Andy throws in "visions of Rwanda," "same sick feeling" and "genocide." This is great psychology! Make the Bible seem gross before talking about how great it is. That seed of grossness will be planted, and even if unconsciously, the seed will grow in the back of the reader's mind - the Old Testament has laws that are no longer relevant and is sickening to read. There might even be a dark side people are trying to pretend doesn't exist. Again, in isolation, this would be no big deal, but this is Andy's regular pattern throughout this book, and it serves his underlying purpose.

There are some good points in the book too, despite the underlying problems (and these problems are significant - especially considering that this book is geared towards people who won't know better and will more likely absorb the underlying message). One of the points in the book where I made positive comments is on pages 120-122/294. Here, Andy tells the story of Rahab and makes a great connection, showing similarities between her story of trusting God for protection when a promised death is going to come and the Passover. I liked that - a foreshadowing of Christ not only in the Passover, but similarly in Rahab as well. This is great news for everyone because Rahab was a prostitute - not a God-fearing "pagan."

Sadly, Andy does overstretch the story though, for on page 129/294, Andy states:

Isn’t it interesting that when the Israelite spies offered to spare Rahab’s life, they said nothing about her lifestyle? Abandoning her trade was not part of the deal. Changing her life wasn’t discussed.

While what Stanley says is true, it's not really relevant to the Biblical story, nor can any intention regarding this be pulled from the Biblical story. For some readers, adding this line may downplay the idea that a change in your fundamental nature is to be expected with a decision for Christ. Regardless, the soldiers were not witnessing to Rahab or offering her any sort of spiritual salvation, but were simply being kind to her as they had promised, because Rahab had hidden the messengers (see Joshua 6:17Joshua 6:17 (ESV)
And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.
). This is very similar to what we see in Judges 1:24:

And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city, and we will deal kindly with you.”

In another example of Stanley denigrating the Old Testament, the opening paragraph of chapter 8 is as follows:

Perhaps the richest and most profound statement concerning God’s grace is found in one of the strangest stories in the Bible—the story of Jonah. Skeptics have argued for centuries that this story could not have happened. No one can live for three days in the belly of a fish. And arguing that it was a whale, not a fish, is really not all that helpful. If this story is historical, then it required a miracle—actually, several miracles. Jesus referenced Jonah. Apparently he thought Jonah was a historical figure and that the events recorded in the book of Jonah actually happened. So that’s my view. I always side with Jesus on debatable matters. Here’s why: he rose from the dead. I’d like to do that someday. So I just go with Jesus’ take on things, even when they are hard to take. (151/294)

In addition to suggesting the story is debatable, Andy states he believes this story, not because it is in the Bible, but because Jesus referenced it. Despite shamefully giving several reasons for doubt regarding Jonah's story, this paragraph wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the paragraph that immediately follows it:

Having said all of that, if the story of Jonah is just too much for you to swallow, then I want to give you an out. Just think of this as a myth with a message. You’ve been inspired by fiction before. You’ve seen movies and read books that weren’t historical but moved you to tears and made you want to be a better father, mother, boxer, gladiator, whatever. So put this in that category and follow along.

Consider the language Andy has used. "Debatable," "too much to swallow," "myth with a message," "inspired by fiction," "...that weren't historical." "So put this in that category and follow along." You don't need to believe the Old Testament. I only believe this story because Jesus referenced it. You can consider the stories of the Old Testament fiction and still be inspired by them, so "put this in that category and follow along."

For another good point in the book, in discussing the story of Jonah, Stanley says:

Why would God answer the prayers of someone who turned his or her back on him and then asked for help only after hitting bottom? A prayer of rededication doesn’t carry much weight in the belly of a fish. What could be more self-serving? Yet even when the consequences of Jonah’s decisions consumed him, and he was barely able to keep going, and he had no one to blame but himself, God heard his cry for help. Perhaps it was then that Jonah realized that the purpose of God’s discipline was not to pay him back but to bring him back. In this way, the discipline of God was simply an unexpected extension of his grace. Even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. (158/294; bold, Stanley's)

If the bold text didn't harken the reader back to Stanley's false definition of "curse" from earlier, this would be a great paragraph on it's own. Sadly, though, negating the power of that curse is a part of Stanley's purpose with this story. Like many preachers, Stanley makes a good point despite incredibly poor and inaccurate use of the Biblical text.

While most of Stanley's subtleties have been to insult the Old Testament, Stanley goes after Jesus' character in similar fashion in chapter 9. On page 174/294, Stanley is talking about how his being a pastor sometimes makes people uncomfortable when around him. He states that this wasn't the case with Jesus and that "people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus." Then with loaded language, Andy states the following:

As one of Jesus’ earliest followers, John watched him interact with people the religious system had discarded as unfit. He attended parties with Jesus in homes owned by the people his mother had warned him about. Following Jesus required John to step out of his religious comfort zone so many times that I’m sure he must have felt as if he were losing his religion altogether.

Despite the obvious speculation regarding John's thinking, consider the following questions. What would you say if I asked you, "what would you think of a pastor who had dinner with a sinner?" What if I said, "what would you think of a pastor who taught gospel truth at a sinner's house?" Now... what if I asked you, "what would you think of a pastor who parties with sinners?" Would your response be different? Most likely it would. "Party" is a loaded word that paints a very different picture in the mind of most people than the language the Bible uses to describe Jesus' interactions with those the Jews considered less than worthy. "Party" implies that Jesus is cool. He doesn't just go to some stuffy dinner so that he can find opportunity to share the good news; he parties. Pretty much everything a non-Christian (and most Christians) would think of regarding the activities at a party would be sinful. As Stanley seems to have a very light view on sin, it is helpful if he can use language to show Jesus accepted sinful activities. His language here does just that. Some might even conclude that Jesus even participated in sinful activities. Once again, Andy Stanley proves he is a master of word and psychology.

Since Stanley makes the point that everyone likes Jesus, suggesting that he even goes to sinner's parties, I find it odd that Stanley admits on page 182/294 that some actually did refuse Jesus' hospitality (Luke 9:54Luke 9:54 (ESV)
And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

Over the next several pages, Stanley pushes the narrative with crafty language, making Jesus and the disciples look like partiers. Andy starts by pointing out that Matthew, when writing the genealogies, "went out of his way to spice up his list with a couple of shady ladies and an editorial reference or two" (page 184/294). As further insult to Matthew, Andy says that when Matthew was writing the genealogy (which is filled with liars, swindlers, lawbreakers, a murderer, a slave-trader, an adulterer and a prostitute), Matthew, as a Christian, thought, "Perhaps—with a grin on his face— Matthew thought, My kind of people. At least they had been. And they were his kind of people right up until the day he met Jesus." While the follow-up sentence attempts to negate the grinning statement, the statement of the grin was in the tense of Matthew's writing his Gospel, and as always with Andy, the negative seed is planted before the positive admission.

Further partier language is seen in the following, when Stanley discusses Jesus being at Matthew's house:

They dined on Matthew’s food and drank his wine, along with Jesus and his posse, who laughed and sang with Matthew’s motley collection of religious and social outcasts. There under one roof was righteousness personified, celebrating right alongside unrighteousness on steroids. (192/294)

The language is purposeful, and paints a picture of Jesus - and his posse. It doesn't matter who you are talking about, if you describe someone as drinking wine, laughing and singing with a posse and celebrating with a motley collection of people - you are painting a picture, and this picture is insulting to the righteousness of God. When I read this, I almost see Jesus holding up his mug of beer in the bar, singing, laughing, and having a good ol' time, maybe even enjoying a dirty joke or two (what other kind of joke does a motely crew tell?). This is not the pictorial language of the Bible, nor is this pictorial language Biblical at all. It is shameful blasphemy.

On page 211/294 Andy begins a conversation about the Israelites being attacked by the serpents, which is found in Numbers 21:4-9. Before we read the Bible passage, I want to look at Stanley's introduction to the story:

During their wandering years, the Israelites found themselves in an area inhabited by thousands of poisonous snakes. By the time they realized what was happening, it was too late to do anything about it. People were being bit by the hundreds, and many were falling by the wayside and dying. The Lord instructed Moses to craft a bronze snake and set it on a pole. Anyone who was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake lived (Num. 21:9). It was an object lesson meant to teach the nation to look to God for their protection and provision.

In reading Stanley's account, you would think that it was merely by chance that the Israelites found themselves in an area inhabited by thousands of poisonous snakes. The unspoken parallel is that we, also per chance, may find we need a savior; that if we find ourselves in a bad situation, we should look to God for provision and protection. Stanley's telling leaves out the Israelites' responsibility for their own sin and God's reaction to it. It was only about where they happened to find themselves (in an area inhabited by thousands of poisonous snakes). How does the Bible introduce this historical event?

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:4-9)

Notice the difference. In the Biblical story, the people had become impatient, speaking against God and against Moses, complaining about their circumstances, and because of this, God sent fiery serpents among the people. In Andy's telling, they simply found themselves in an area inhabited by thousands of snakes, seemingly by no fault of their own.

On page 215/294, when discussing Nicodemus' realization that there must be more than the legal system of the Law, Andy states regarding Nicodemus:

At last he understood the hypocrisy inherent to a system in which lawkeeping was essential to eternal life.

By saying the hypocrisy is "inherent to a system" Andy is blaming God's system, but the Bible makes it clear that the problem was not God's law, but us. That was the very purpose of the law - to show us that we are indeed the problem, to make sin apparent, and to make that sin exceedingly sinful in our eyes (see Romans 4:15Romans 4:15 (ESV)
For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
, 7:7-12Romans 7:7-12 (ESV)
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
; Galatians 3:19Galatians 3:19 (ESV)
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
). The law allows us to see our sin from God's perspective. It is when we see this truth, we realize the need for a savior.

As we're nearing the end of the book, I did note a few good quotes that Andy uses in his writing, especially when discussing the woman at the well, and despite the great liberties Andy takes with that story, they are worth noting here.

Andy says (all bold text is Andy's):

Jesus taught, and Nicodemus discovered: eternal life isn’t a reward for good people; it’s God’s gift to forgiven people. (page 222/294)
The grace of God is not limited to an act of God at the time of our salvation. The grace of God is the life of the Savior coursing through the souls of believers to sustain us through those things that will not or cannot change. (page 240/294)
A declaration of thirst is an invitation for God to quench your thirst. (page 243/294)

The last numbered chapter of the book is chapter 13: Commissioned for Grace. In this chapter, Andy falls for the same deception propagated by people such as Steven Furtick of Elevation Church. Andy says:

If the church is God’s primary vehicle for dispensing the message of grace, then the local church is clearly not for church people. It’s for everybody. (page 267/294, bold Stanley's)
Like every church, we fight the gravitational pull toward creating a church for church people. But that’s a fight worth getting involved in. (page 282/294)

While I see the point he's trying to make here, the point can only be made by going against the words of scripture. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the church is primarily for church people (see Acts 2:42Acts 2:42 (ESV)
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
, 20:7Acts 20:7 (ESV)
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.
; Hebrews 10:25Hebrews 10:25 (ESV)
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
). The very definition of the Greek word for church (ekklesia) refers to a group of people who have been called out. Many today have turned this on it's head, and in doing so, have diluted the gospel and compromised on sin so that they can be "seeker sensitive." By hiding the truth, we think we won't offend non-Christians, but all we are really doing is keeping them in darkness, unaware of their true need for a savior who forgives the greatness of their sin. Instead, we give the false gospel message that simply says that if we find ourselves in a land inhabited by snakes, then we can look to God for protection. This is a blight that has crept in to many churches worldwide and while it may bring in members, it does little to make true Christians.

Andy gives example of this ideology himself on page 274/294. In discussing James arguing that grace has been made available to Gentiles as well as Jews, Andy says that "the church should not make it difficult for people who are turning to God." This is completely true! Andy says that he even hung Acts 15:19 on his office wall:

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

But the quote doesn't stop at the end of verse 19. James' whole judgement is as follows

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. For the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.”(Acts 15:19-21 NIV)

Andy does eventually get to this message, in quoting the letter from Acts 15:23-29Acts 15:23-29 (ESV)
With them they sent the following letter: The apostles and elders, your brothers, To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia: Greetings. We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul — men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
, but he never explains the text. Also, as is the pattern, he only does this after planting the seed where the quote ends early. It's only a mosquito bite, but by this point in the book there have been untold similar bites.

Andy's version of James' judgment is to simply not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. The Biblical version of the judgment shows that there is an expectation of a new way of life, and of a removing of oneself from the pagan ways of the culture around them - not in order to become a Christian, but as part of the Christian life. This cost must be counted when deciding to follow Jesus (see Luke 14:25-28Luke 14:25-28 (ESV)
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

But as Andy says, "We wanted to create a church that unchurched people loved to attend." And this is the problem. If the unchurched love to attend, then they are not being convicted, because conviction isn't loved, but it is necessary before the true need for salvation is realized. The Gospel is an offence, but it is also the power of God for salvation (see Romans 1:16Romans 1:16 (ESV)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
, 1 Peter 2:6-81 Peter 2:6-8 (ESV)
For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
, 1 Corinthians 1:181 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
, Matthew 10:22-23Matthew 10:22-23 (ESV)
and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
). The full gospel message is God's way, but Andy, like many others, has determined that God's way doesn't work, and he has developed his own way instead.

It's interesting; Stanley concludes his book by admitting that during the entire time of writing the book he had a voice in the back of his said saying "but what about..."

While I’ve been writing this book, there has been a little voice in the back of my brain whispering, “But what about . . .”

“What about obedience?”
“What about disobedience?”
“What about repeated misbehavior?”
“What about bad habits?”
“What about justice?”
“What about repentance?”

So it was tempting to conclude with a chapter on the benefits of obedience and the consequences of sin. After all, we can’t have people running around taking advantage of God’s grace.

But I chose to ignore that little voice because all the what-abouts are irrelevant to a discussion of grace. There’s no connection at all. (page 284/294)

But there is a connection. As I said at the beginning, Andy Stanley is an excellent writer and a master of psychology. He tells a beautiful story of grace, but that story greatly misinterprets who Jesus is and what the Bible is. The grace of Andy's Jesus is similar in many ways to amazing grace offered by the Jesus of the Bible, but sadly, Andy's Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. Like Thomas Jefferson, Andy has taken the bits and pieces of the Bible he likes and has used cunning and insult to belittle the rest. I would not recommend this book, especially to non or new Christians, as it will lead them down the deeply deceptive path of Stanley's imagined Jesus.

Declare and Decree... Can you prove that? Deity of Jesus and Personhood of the Spirit in the New World Translation