WASHINGTON – Despite the fact that God expresses His love for the righteous throughout the Old Testament – Jew and gentile alike – in a new book, one of America’s biggest mega-pastors claims the Hebrew Scriptures portray Him as “unapproachable,” living behind a curtain with love reserved only “for His covenant people,” suggesting He is a different deity than the one portrayed in the New Testament.
It’s the latest shocking suggestion from Andy Stanley, whose suburban Atlanta congregation exceed 34,000 attendees and a national following.
He writes in “Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed on the World,” released last week, that the concept of a loving God is a “uniquely Christian idea.”
In chapter 18 of his book, he cites 1 John: 4:16 with what he calls a “unique” theological statement: “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
“John equated God with love,” he writes. “This was novel. This was unique. This would change the world. God is love is a uniquely Christian idea.”
The claim was quickly rebuked by other Christians who see no distinction between God’s expressions of love for the righteous and faithful in the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament.
“Andy Stanley either doesn’t know his Old Testament Scriptures or is intentionally misrepresenting them,” said Joseph Farah, author of his own new release, “The Gospel in Every Book of the Old Testament.”
Farah said the Hebrew Scriptures speak of God’s love for the righteous and faithful – for Jew and gentile – in even greater abundance than do the Greek.
“This is just the latest outrageous lie being peddled by Stanley who has previously advocated ‘unhitching’ the Old Testament from the faith and study of Christians and labeled the Ten Commandments null and void,” said Farah. “This is reminiscent of the ancient heresy of Marcion who propagated the notion that the God of the Old Testament was a different deity than the God of the New Testament. That’s not what His Son, Jesus, taught, nor what any of His apostles said. They all loved and revered the only Scriptures that were written and published at time, the Hebrew Scriptures, knowing that the prophesied Redeemer had come to bring salvation to the lost and eventually, upon His second coming, restoration to Israel and the rest of the world. For whatever reason, that’s the truth Stanley obscures.”
In his book, Stanley contrasts Christian belief with both paganism and Judaism: “No one credited the pagan gods with being love or loving. They were jealous, fickle, capricious, and entertained themselves by trifling in human affairs,” Stanley explains. “For Jews, God was holy. Separate. Unapproachable. He lived behind a curtain. His love was reserved for his covenant people.”
“Of course, God was holy,” responds Farah. “He’s still holy and calls us to be so that we can have relationship with Him – just as Adam and Eve did, as their children did, as all the righteous, like Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah did. The Old Testament is the story of God’s effort to restore relationship with humanity despite its fallen nature. If Stanley just reads the New Testament, he should see that Jesus was there from the beginning, at Creation, as the one and only Mediator between God and mankind. That’s what I document in my book – the story of the Old Testament and New are the same, only with additional revelation about His Son and the nature of God and reconciliation with mankind. Jesus didn’t change the plan, He fulfilled it.”
Farah is not alone in his harsh criticism of Stanley’s premises. Writing in Pantheos.com, Grayson Gilbert, a divinity graduate student at the Moody Bible Institute, accused Stanley undermining the moral values of the Old Testament as oppressive and harsh.
“Let me be quite frank, Andy is about as close as one can get to saying the God of the Old Testament is different than the New Testament without explicitly stating, ‘The God of the Old Testament is different than the God of the New Testament,’” he wrote.
Throughout the new book and in recent sermons and articles, Stanley makes the argument that a key problem with modern American Christianity is that it keeps treating the Old Testament and the New Testament equally. He refers disparagingly to “old covenant leftovers” and says Christians have “an uncomfortable history and habit of selectively rebranding aspects of God’s covenant with Israel and smuggling them into the ekklesia of Jesus.”
Farah says Stanley has adopted a virulent form of “replacement theology” that robs Abraham and his descendants of God’s eternal covenants of them. In fact, Stanley labels that covenant in his book as “temporary.”
“Careless mixing and matching of old and new covenant values and imperatives make the current version of our faith unnecessarily resistible,” Stanley writes. Back in April, prior to the book’s release, Stanley advocated that Christians “unhitch” from the Old Testament.
“It’s the same miraculously consistent story from Genesis to Revelation,” says Farah. “God loves who love Him and His commandments, and He will blot out the sins of those who seek His forgiveness and mercy. It’s the same promise in all 66 books.”
Farah has challenged Stanley’s assertions on the irrelevance and inapplicability of the Old Testament: