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One-on-One with Andy Stanley on ‘Irresistible’

I'm talking with Pastor Andy Stanley on his newest book and seeking the Bible.
One-on-One with Andy Stanley on ‘Irresistible’

Ed: Why did you decide to write Irresistible?

Andy: I love the local church. I’m concerned about the church’s messaging in a world where people can discover ‘what else’ is in the Bible without ever owning or reading a Bible.

Every high school senior and college freshman is a click away from a podcast, YouTube video, or blog that undermines faith, Christianity, and—in particular—the Bible. I’m convinced the time has come for us to step back onto the foundation of our faith—the event of the resurrection of Jesus. Irresistible reflects the approach I’ve taken to talking about the Bible for the past several years.

Ed: In your book, you talk about changing the way you talk about what you believe, not what you believe. Tell more about what you mean.

Andy: Well, I’m trying to put the words of Jesus, Paul, James and all the New Testament authors back in their mouths. Pastors have been saying “The Bible says” or “The Bible teaches” for generations. But, of course, the Bible itself has never uttered a word. Consequently, most Bible-believing Christians think the Bible is the foundation of our faith, that somehow the Bible created Christianity. It didn’t.

The church fully assembled the Bible in the fourth century. There were tens of thousands of Jesus followers long before the assembly of the Bible as we know it. So, in Irresistible, I encourage writers, teachers, and preachers to quote the inspired human authors rather than “the Bible.”

Now, for Bible-believing people, this makes little to no difference. But for those who don’t yet believe, this approach can make a big difference. Besides, the authors of the Bible were moved by the Holy Spirit. So, it’s better and actually more accurate to say, “James said,” “Peter writes,” “Jesus taught,” “Solomon says,” etcetera.

Ed: So, if we are seeking the Bible differently, what does that really mean? Can you unpack this further?

Andy: Well, let me back up. I want to help people think sequentially. That's my whole goal in this.

In other words, I want to help people see that our faith was launched by something that happened, not something that was written. My whole point is this: that Christianity began on Easter and everything went forward from there.

Even Luke tells us that Jesus walked around with those disciples explaining, re-explaining and opening their minds to the scriptures. So, the epicenter of our faith is the resurrection. The challenge now is that how we as individuals received our bibles is not the same way that the world originally received and assembled the Bible.

Most people reading my book—and most Christians in our country—became Christians as children; so, in essence, the whole thing was handed to us. But historically, gentiles didn't become all that interested in the Jewish texts until after they became interested in one particular Jew: Jesus Christ.

It was only after coming to know Jesus that they then got interested in reading and experiencing these Jewish texts for themselves. So, the way that scripture came together historically is much different from how we receive it personally. I think that that this can often distract us from the extraordinary event that initially launched our faith.

Ed: So, I’m with you on focusing on the centrality of the resurrection, the living Word, Jesus dying on a cross, raising from the dead, etc. But, how do we know about the living Word without the written Word that describes those things?

Andy: The way I often get that question is something like, "But Andy, the only way we know about the resurrection is the Bible." That's how the lay person asks that question. To which I reply, "That's not true.”

To be precise, we do not know about the resurrection from the Bible. We know about the resurrection from Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and the Apostle Paul, whose documents were later seen as so valuable by the first century church that they were protected at all cost.

People died to see these texts preserved and eventually they were assembled to become part of our New Testament and later the collection itself was given a title.

I'm clearly not in any way diminishing the authority of any of those texts. I just want people to understand that the Bible as a title for a collection of sacred documents—it’s not where we originally get the information from.

The Bible is simply the title given to these documents that were already inspired long before they were collected and assembled. For most Christians, this seems like much ado about nothing. But when we present the gospel to people outside of the faith, who left the faith or who feel that the Bible is ‘all or nothing,’ it can make a big difference.

At the end of the day, I'm just trying to get people to realize that the 66 books of the Bible are not where we learn about things from initially—it was the church and their very real exposure to the story of the resurrection that we get these accounts from. This story came from was eye witnesses who saw things happen with their very own eyes; it was these stories that were eventually documented and collected.

That's my entire point.

Part 2 will run tomorrow.

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One-on-One with Andy Stanley on ‘Irresistible’