Should Christians ‘Unhitch’ from the Old Testament?

Andy Stanley is the Senior Pastor of North Point Community Church and North Point Ministries (NPM). There are six locations throughout the greater Atlanta area. Each week, more than 30,000 people attend services at NPM. He is the son of Charles Stanley who serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The elder Stanley is the founder and president of In Touch Ministries and served two one-year terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1984 to 1986.

Charles Stanley rarely gets involved in theological controversy. Andy Stanley is often in the news over some theological issue related to doctrine and ministry application. For example, at a recent conference, he argued, that church unity was more important than “theological correctness.” Church unity is very important. But what is the church to unify over? There are non-negotiable theological positions that define what it means to be a Christian, otherwise, any religion that’s unified, no matter what it doctrinal base, is legitimate.

The latest controversy concerns comments he made about Christians and the Old Testament. The following is from the Christian Post:

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In the final part of a recent sermon series, Stanley explained that while he believes that the Old Testament is “divinely inspired,” it should not be “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church.”

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To justify this, Stanley preached last month about Acts 15, which described how the early church decided that Gentile converts did not need to strictly observe Jewish law to become Christians.

“[First century] Church leaders unhitched the church from the worldview, value system, and regulations of the Jewish scriptures,” said Stanley.

“Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.” (Christian Post)

If by these comments Andy Stanley means that Christians are not bound by the sacrificial system, circumcision, and other ceremonial laws, then there’s nothing to disagree with. The New Testament makes it clear in various places that many parts of the Old Testament were designed to point to the coming of Jesus who fulfilled what the blood of “bulls and goats” could not (Heb. 10:4). That is the overarching theme of the book of Hebrews. Nowhere in the letter to the Hebrews are Christians admonished to be “unhinged” from the moral precepts of the Older Testament.

Other New Testament books address the same issue. Paul confronted Peter “to his face” (Gal. 2:11) because the apostle was imposing a number of ritualistic laws related to the Older Covenant on Gentiles, including circumcision. The apostle Paul condemns such a view in short order.

There may be a few Christians who claim that the Old Covenant ceremonial laws should be followed today, but they are few and far between.

What’s troubling about Andy Stanley’s comment that while he admits that Old Testament is “divinely inspired,” he goes on to say that it should not be used as “the go-to source regarding any behavior in the church.” Circumcision and blood sacrifices I get, but “any behavior”?

No one needs a savior from sin if there is no behavior that is sinful. How does a non-Christian know that he or she needs a savior? By reference to God’s commandments regarding morality, a point that’s made repeatedly in the New Testament. The New Testament writers don’t shy away from the law often quoted directly from the Older Testament.

The New Testament writers did not “unhinge” Christianity from some (many?) of the moral values of the Older Covenant. The laws from the Ten Commandments are repeatedly mentioned…


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