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Response to Andy Stanley: Why Christians Can’t Discard the Old Covenant

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Pastor Andy Stanley believes that Jesus’ New Testament command to “love one another” effectively cancels out Old Testament instructions, particularly the Ten Commandments. A critique that fails to see the collaborative beauty of the scriptures.


The Christian Post recently published an article entitled “Andy Stanley says Ten Commandments don’t apply to Christians.” For context, Andy Stanley is the senior pastor of North Point Community Church, the parent organization for six other churches in the Atlanta, Georgia area. An estimated 33,000 people listen to him preach every Sunday.

The Christian Post is referencing an article by Stanley in Relevant Magazine, where he clearly spells out his opinion: “Participants in the new covenant (that’s Christians) are not required to obey any of the commandments found in the first part of their Bibles.” He’s also written a book called Irresistible about the topic.

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Stanley’s real disagreement is not with the Ten Commandments, though, so much as with the old covenant as a whole. The old covenant is the agreement in the Old Testament between God and the Israelites. Exodus 19:5-6 says, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.” The old covenant came along with many regulations about worship and living, but the gist is simple: God will bless the Israelites if they obey him.

And so it is this old covenant that Stanley claims is irrelevant to modern-day believers. Why? Because Jesus pressed the override button by giving his disciples a “new commandment” in John 13:34. Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

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According to Stanley, all Christians are supposed to do is follow this one command. He views this instruction as the epitome of the new covenant.

What’s alarming about Stanley’s view is not his emphasis on loving one another. Christians could stand to do more of that. No, what’s alarming is his recommendation that a huge section of the Bible—the Old Testament—should be completely deleted by a few sentences in the New Testament.

He’s pretty unequivocal about it, making statements like this: “Wherever and whenever the old was blended with the new, unchristian behavior and attitudes ensued.”

What’s alarming about Stanley’s view is not his emphasis on loving one another. Christians could stand to do more of that. No, what’s alarming is his recommendation that a huge section of the Bible – the Old Testament – should be completely deleted by a few sentences in the New Testament.

Stanley says that Christians have done great harm, historically, when they mix cocktails of the Old and New Covenants. He calls this the “weaponizing” of Christianity, continuing, “The justifications Christians have used since the fourth century to mistreat people find their roots in old covenant practices and values.” This is a huge statement, one Stanley offers without much nuance or explanation.

The problem is that, throughout the article in Relevant Magazine, Stanley keeps making sweeping statements that vilify the old covenant and reduce Christianity to the new covenant. “Imagine trying to leverage the Sermon on the Mount to start an inquisition, launch a crusade, or incite a pogrom against Jews. But reach back into the old covenant, and there’s plenty to work with.”

Hmmm. So everything that Christians have used to justify atrocities comes from the Old Testament? This is another blanket statement that begins to sound less like thoughtful critique of Christianity and more like Stanley willfully ignoring certain Biblical evidence to strengthen his position.

Let’s not be Christians who discard huge swaths of our sacred book. Let’s be Christians who accept that the Bible is a complicated, frustrating and beautiful book and learn how to read it better.

What about the writings of the Apostle Paul, someone who was firmly situated in the New Testament and covenant? Paul penned many opinions that have been used to mistreat people; women, homosexuals and slaves among them. Jesus himself said to the Jews, “You are sons of your father the devil,” a statement that was used to propagate anti-Semitism all the way up until the Holocaust. If we’re reckoning with the potential for the Bible to be used as a weapon, integrity demands that we look at all of Scripture. Since humans bring their biases and brokenness to their interpretation of the Bible, any of it may be “weaponized” to mistreat people. This isn’t an issue with the old covenant, this is an issue with Christians.

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Ultimately, I think that what deserves critique about Stanley’s position is this: we miss out on the collaborative beauty of the Scriptures when we reduce the old covenant to one thing and the new covenant to another. The Old and New Testaments work together to bring us truth. Let’s not forget that the old covenant includes directives like welcoming the stranger and the foreigner. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” Way back in the third book of the Bible we see the very same command Jesus gave to his disciples: “Love them as yourself.”

Let’s not be Christians who discard huge swaths of our sacred book. Let’s be Christians who accept that the Bible is a complicated, frustrating and beautiful book and learn how to read it better.