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The Gospel Coalition Tries To Rationalize Andy Stanley’s False Teaching

The Gospel Coalition has branded itself as a hub of where Evangelicals can go to in order to have Christian commentary on contemporary issues. And it has become one of the largest online ministries in the process. Yet it had a certain reticence to address Andy Stanley, both earlier this year and now. In February, The Gospel Coalition tasked JD Greear to address Andy Stanley and homosexuality. In October, they bring on Hunter Beaumont of Acts 29. Unsurprisingly, this response is hardly better.

Whereas Greear’s article was a gaslight on both the history of Andy Stanley and his orthodoxy on this issues, Hunter Beaumont embodies the spirit of timidity in his response. His article, “Jesus Drew Circles and Lines: A Response to Andy Stanley” responds mostly to the missional mindset of Stanley as opposed to the more pressing core issues.

The line is a golden thread that runs through not only his sermon that day but also the history of North Point. It’s the philosophy that led to Stanley’s vast influence and to the place he was in that Sunday, sitting on a stool and talking nervously about sexuality.

I’m one of the “you” who have learned some things from Andy Stanley. I want to help you understand the appeal and pitfalls of his philosophy of ministry.

Hunter Beaumont establishes his desire to psychoanalyze Andy Stanley. This seems due to his affinity for his ministry.

Though I’ve never heard him use the term “disenculturation,” Stanley’s life work has been clearing away clutter to help people encounter Jesus afresh. I started studying his ministry because he was a missionary to disenchanted former evangelicals.

The son of a famous Southern Baptist preacher, Stanley’s journey is many others’ writ large. He worked as the youth pastor at his father’s Atlanta First Baptist Church but felt stifled by its culture. He wanted to leave the church but didn’t want to leave ministry, so he started a new kind of church. Doing so resulted in a painful falling out with his dad—and it resulted in a multiplying megachurch.

By the time I tuned in to Stanley in 2006, North Point was three campuses of thousands (today it has eight locations). It was a purposeful teaching church, positioning itself as an advance scout for evangelicalism, going where most churches hadn’t gone to solve problems they hadn’t solved. North Point concepts were distributed to other churches and church leaders through a resource ministry and annual “Drive” conferences. “You should come and learn from us” isn’t a new line. It’s been part of North Point’s ethos from the outset.

After detailing some controversies of Stanley framing the issues with Stanley as flaccidly as possible, Beaumont touches on the current debate between Al Mohler and Andy Stanley.

Much has been made of Stanley’s “circles and lines” analogy, but few have traced his rationale. It’s been his longtime concern to remove obstacles and declutter the message. To use missionary-speak, he thinks Mohler is teaching an enculturated form of Christianity (“his version of biblical Christianity”) that creates obstacles to people discovering Jesus. He wants to draw people into relationship (“circles”) who might not otherwise darken the door of an evangelical church.

But woven into this concern are several confusions. Mohler uses the term “biblical Christianity” to describe what he sees as essential things in Scripture, not cultural stuff “globbed on.” Mohler would surely recognize the validity of different cultural forms, ministry models, and even theological traditions. He’s not accusing Stanley of departing his preferred system. He’s concerned with something more essential. Thus, the Mohler-Stanley debate (and disparate use of terms) frames up the issue at hand: Is Stanley practicing a missional form of original Christianity? Or is he reducing the faith?

The question as to whether the Andy Stanley is engaging in heresy is not necessarily addressed. Beaumont frames Stan;ey’s problem as he simply has not thought all the way through the issues he is weighing in on because of his devotion to making the gospel easier for gentiles.

Stanley’s reductionism on the struggle of same-sex attraction is that he hasn’t taught the comfort or the warning. Calling chastity “not sustainable” for a person who has received the gifts Paul mentions downplays the riches of Christ’s sacrifice and the work of the Holy Spirit. How does justification matter when you fall short? How does the indwelling Spirit give hope for endurance? How does our finished washing in baptism bring out our true self in Christ?

And what about the warning? If a church doesn’t teach all this, then sexuality is reduced to a secondary disagreement, not a matter of necessary and possible sanctification.

He concludes:

We must seriously weigh some questions: Is the biblical sex ethic a boundary marker for the faith once and for all delivered to us? Can someone reject it and still inherit the kingdom of God? If she says she’s following Jesus but doesn’t follow this sexual ethic, how should we respond to her decision? Should we teach and counsel repentance? Warn about the eternal consequences of unrepentance? Are the manifold graces of God sufficient to sustain a life of obedience? The New Testament answers these questions with piercing clarity.

I suspect that if Stanley were to work out the answers to these questions and teach them, he might feel like he was drawing lines. But he’d also draw a circle in which the grace of God can abound more fully.

Unfortunately, he’s stuck between his ministry philosophy, which calls for less, and the Scriptures, which call for more. Something has to give. I’m praying it’s the ministry philosophy. I’m praying he becomes a student again and learns from some “you’s” who are doing the hard work of both welcoming sinners and teaching the whole counsel of God.

Actually, Stanley’s affirmation of homosexuality is because he is a false teacher. This isn’t a difficult issue. It’s an obviously errant teaching. Andy Stanley has been teaching this heresy for a long time. The Gospel Coalition is trying to rationalize obvious false teaching rather than exposing it.

Hunter Beaumont was the Acts 29 Board Member whose church has multiple gay-affimring staffers. So this really shouldn’t be a surprise.

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