Megachurch Pastor Rejects Ten Commandments
Christians give lip service to the Ten Commandments while simultaneously violating it. Most evangelicals support monuments to the Ten Commandments, and many pick fights about placing them on public property. But one megachurch leader is more consistent: “Andy Stanley says Ten Commandments don't apply to Christians.” Stanley is also a preacher of the Prosperity Gospel. Both views reflect ignorance and/or contempt for Jesus.
How can evangelicals pound the table about the Ten Commandments while willfully violating the one about the Sabbath? The Bible is perfectly clear about its importance: “You are to keep the Sabbath, because for you it is a holy day. If anyone profanes it he must be put to death” (Exodus 31:14). You can argue with God if you like, but He clearly saw it as more important than theft and most other commandments. (The Bible explicitly defines the Sabbath as Saturday, not Sunday. Early on, Gentile-Christians rejected the Sabbath to distance themselves from Jews.)
Some Christians make a distinction between “ethical” and “ritual” commandments. Ethical commandments refer to man's relations to man, as in murder; ritual commandmemnts refer to man's relations to God, like the Sabbath. This distinction is unscriptural. God never explains himself, he just gives orders. Lots of commandments are both ethical and ritual. Also key commandments, which no one contests, are definitely not ethical. For example, the commandments concerning idolatry and worshipping other gods have nothing to do with ethics. And while evangelicals rail about the evils of homosexuality, that derives from another Old Testament law, one that literally involves the love of man rather than offenses against him.
Outrageous as it may be, Rev. Stanley is at least being more consistent than his colleagues. But when it comes to justifying his rejection of the so-called Old Testament, he misrepresents Jesus and the apostles. Like his colleagues, he counts on evangelicals ignorance of scripture and acceptance of authority.
Stanley Defends his Position
“The author of Hebrews says it best. Jesus was the ‘guarantor of a better covenant’ (Hebrews 7:22). Later he writes, ‘the new covenant is established on better promises.’ Besides, you weren’t included in the old covenant to begin with! So why are we fighting to build monuments to it?” Stanley doesn’t even attempt to make his point based on the teachings of Jesus – he relies on a minor letter that is in the New Testament only because it was wrongly attributed to Paul.
He added: “[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures… Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.” Once again, he ignores Jesus. He is also blatantly wrong about Peter and James - even about Paul, who flip-flopped depending on who he was talking to (famously speaking like a Jew to Jews, and a Gentile to Gentiles.)
For example, James was considered to be the most pious man on earth, and was called James the Righteous (or Just). Later Christian literature claimed he spent much of his time in the Temple’s Holy of Holies – where God ‘lived.’ In fact, no man was allowed in the Holy of Holies. Only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest entered it briefly to present an offering to God. But the fact that Christians created this myth not only shows that James observed the Jewish laws, it shows that most early Christians also valued these Laws – even if they themselves didn’t observe many of them.
Similarly, according to Luke, Peter attended the twice-daily shared sacrifices in the Temple when he was in Jerusalem. Luke made up a story about Peter’s dreaming about unclean food, but in fact Peter continued to obey the dietary laws. Paul even told the Galatians a story about it. Peter and the apostles continued to be righteous Jews. If Jesus did away with the commandments, they didn’t know about it.
CP reports “Stanley cited Acts 15, which described how early church leaders decided that Gentile converts did not need to strictly observe Jewish law to become Christians.” This is misleading. In Acts 15, James declared: “In my judgment we should impose no irksome restrictions on those of the Gentiles who are turning to God,” and only imposed the most basic commandments - those God gave Noah, ancestor of all mankind. James and the Apostolic Council did not reject the so-called Old Covenant, as Stanley claims. James was simply talking about more limited membership requirements.
This is clearer in The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, or Didache. After describing the minimal requirements for Gentiles, it says: “Be careful for fear that any man lead you astray from this way of righteousness, for he teaches you apart from God. For if you are able to support the whole yoke of the Lord [all the commandments], you shall be flawless. But if you are not able, do that which you are able” (7:1-3). That is, the apostles recommended that Christian Gentiles keep as many of the laws as possible. According to the apostles, Mr. Stanley is leading Christians astray from the path of righteousness by rejecting the Law.
What about Jesus and the Law?
Why did Mr. Stanley leave out Jesus? Probably because Jesus required his followers to strictly obey all the commandments. Thus in Luke 16:17 Jesus says, “It is easier for heaven and earth to come to an end than for one letter of the law to lose its force.” Similarly, in Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Truly I tell you, so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a dot, will disappear from the law …. Anyone therefore who sets aside even the least of the law’s demands, and teaches others to do the same, will have the lowest place in the kingdom of Heaven [i.e., is damned], whereas anyone who keeps the law, and teaches others to do so, will rank high in the kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus condemned those, like Stanley, who taught his followers to reject the Law.
This is a recurring theme in the gospels. Another example is when he is asked, “what must I do to win eternal life?” Jesus says: “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not give false evidence; honor your father and your mother.’ The man answered, ‘I have kept all these since I was a boy.’ On hearing this Jesus said, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Luke 18:20-22).
The remainder of the story leads us to another false teaching of Stanley’s, the Prosperity Gospel: “When he heard this his heart sank, for he was a very rich man. When Jesus saw it he said: ‘How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’” (18: 23-25).
Reverend Stanley said that instead of the Ten Commandments, Christians should make monuments to the Sermon on the Mount. But the first line of this Sermon says, “Blessed are the poor,” who will enter the kingdom of Heaven. Later Jesus said the corollary - woe to the rich, who are damned. This is a basic theme of his, repeated many times in many ways. To name a few more - you can’t serve both God and Mammon; the first on earth will be last in the kingdom of God; do not store treasures on earth, but in heaven, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
The first three gospels – the so-called synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke – contain the authentic teachings of Jesus - along with a considerable amount of non-authentic material. They are relatively brief. In the Gideon Bible, which is nearly pocket-sized, they occupy a little over 100 pages. It takes less time to read all three than to watch a mini-series. Yet evangelicals are abysmally ignorant of them. Only an idiot could read the gospels and believe that Jesus wanted to make his followers prosperous. Yet the Prosperity Gospel has millions of evangelical followers. I suspect the preachers know better, but prefer Mammon to God. Rev. Stanley’s father was a preacher, and it’s safe to say he knows Jesus’s teachings about wealth.