Irresistible by Andy Stanley
A Book Review Through Lutheran Lenses
Rating: 1/5 Stars
In a nutshell, Andy Stanley’s new book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World (Zondervan: 2018), is exegetically weak, promotes multiple heretical notions, denies the proper distinction between Law and Gospel and is a blatant attack on God’s divinity and the authority of the Christian Scriptures. What’s truly frightening is that this popular book is flying off the shelves in Christian book stores and is receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews at on-line book selling sites. This indicates that many are likely being deceived. This book review has been written so that you and those you care about won’t be.
The overall premise of Stanley’s book is that Christians have made Christianity too complicated. He bases that premise on the notion that the Bible didn’t create Christians, but Christians created the Bible…and Stanley thinks Christians have gotten it wrong since the very beginning (pg. 111; 131). His solution: Christians should “unhitch” themselves from the Old Testament. Yes. You read that right.
Stanley describes God in the Old Testament as a fire and brimstone God who sets people on fire, murders babies, and commands people to trample on the weak and the wicked (pg. 74; 91; 166). He refers to God the Father as “Israel’s invisible God King” who showed up only when he was “good and ready” and who often failed to keep His promises (pg. 29). Throughout the book Stanley continuously attacks God’s sovereignty.
The Old Testament is also relentlessly attacked. Stanley incorrectly suggests that Paul demanded that new believers make a clean break from the Old Testament Scriptures, which I might add were the only Scriptures in Paul’s Day (pg. 145). He claims that the imprecatory Psalms should horrify believers and should, along with most of the Old Testament, be rejected as violent words between violent men and their violent God (pg. 145). If that wasn’t enough, Stanley goes on to blame the Old Testament for most of the moral and ethical problems that have occurred in the last 2,000 years or so.
At no point in the book does Stanley point to the truth of God being a loving, gracious, merciful and holy God who is faithful to all of His promises. He completely ignores the fact that even after man’s failure to abide by the law, after man’s failure to love God, that God sent His only Son to die in man’s place so that men would be made holy and be able to abide eternally with Him (Romans 5:8). Instead of recognizing man’s failure, Stanley makes the claim that it was God who failed. In what is an odd twist, he seems to separate God the Father from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and implies that Jesus had to come to clean up the mess that God created.
From a Lutheran perspective, Stanley touches upon three heretical notions: Pelagianism, Marcionism, and Antinomianism. Pelagianism, in its most simple definition, can be described as the belief that God’s grace is somehow given because of men’s good works (Apology CA, XXI.14). Lutherans regard this as a form of heresy and adamantly disagree that men can be uncorrupted in spiritual matters, including the ability to make decisions for God based on their own free will (Formula of Concord, Epitome I.13). However, the whole premise of Stanley’s book is Pelagian in nature because he claims that Christians and the Church have made it too difficult for people to get the information that they need to make a “decision” for Christ.
While non-Lutherans who believe in “decision theology” may disregard the above as actually being a heresy, the rejection of the sovereignty of God and the authority of Scripture should make all Christians raise an eyebrow. In His book, Stanley dances with the heresy of Marcionism. In its simplest form, Marcionism is a Christological heresy in which there is the denial that the God of the Old Testament is one and the same as Christ in the New Testament. Furthermore, those who slip into this heresy generally believe that God in the Old Testament is bad/evil while God in the New Testament is good. Therefore, the Old Testament is often rejected altogether. This is precisely the message that runs throughout Stanley’s book.
The last heresy that comes through in Irresistible is the heresy of antinomianism. The Lutheran Confessions condemn antinomianism, which it defines as the belief that the proclamation of the law has no place in the church and that sin is excused purely on the gospel apart from the gospel’s relationship to the law (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration V.15). In short, those who slip into this heresy believe they can do whatever they want because they are forgiven and need not give any thought whatsoever to the law, disregarding it altogether. In fact, Stanley goes so far as to say that “thou shalt NOT obey the Ten Commandments” (pg. 110).
Stanley’s premise here is that “God set a timer on the Law” and its time has run out, therefore the law no longer exists (pg. 109). Contrarily, Lutherans understand that Jesus came to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17-20) and that while the law exists, Jesus Christ is the end of the law for us. John 15:10 clearly states that in order to abide in the love of Christ, mankind must keep God’s commandments. Additionally, Galatians 4:4-5 declares that Christ died to redeem those under the law. Finally, Jesus summarized the law for us when He was asked which of the commandments was the greatest. In Matt. 22:37-40 Jesus replied, “’Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
One cannot have the gospel without its relationship to the law, otherwise the Son of God died for nothing. The law points us to our need for the Gospel. The law teaches us that God is God and we are not. The answer is not, as Stanley suggests, to reject the law and all of the Old Testament scriptures. The answer is to understand where we stand under the law and then where we stand under the cross of Christ – completely forgiven and fully redeemed. Without the law there would be no Gospel at all.