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Andy Stanley is the popular megachurch pastor based outside Atlanta, Georgia, who has been raising eyebrows lately for espousing positions that have him at odds with basic Christian teaching.
Son of the well-known pastor Charles Stanley, Andy told his congregation at North Point Community Church not too long ago that believers can learn a great deal from homosexual churchgoers “who love Jesus” and “want to worship with us,” declaring that such LGBTQ persons “have more faith than a lot of you.”
He’s also cast doubt publicly over the historicity of Noah’s flood, the Israelite exodus from Egypt, and the fall of Jericho, slamming this “version” of Christianity as a “house of cards” because “as the Bible goes, so goes our faith.”
And now, Andy Stanley has decided to take it a step farther, unhitching himself entirely from the creation account, not just in questioning the veracity of Genesis but in claiming that evolution and the Bible are compatible.
In a sermon highlighted by one Twitter user recently, Stanley asserted that,
“There’s no necessary conflict between evolution and theism because evolution is a means. Theism says there was an agent…The Genesis account of creation, the point of that isn’t here’s how God did it. The point of that is that God did it.”
This argument, which isn’t new, goes by the name of theistic evolution, where the evolutionary theory articulated by Charles Darwin almost two centuries ago is only wrong in that Darwin purged God from the equation.
But, its advocates insist, he was pretty much right on everything else.
Stanley stressed that resolving this apparent “conflict” in favor of evolution was important because kids are taught one set of beliefs in the household and another set at school, which can be confusing for young minds.
It makes you want to grab him by the collar and say, Bruh, that’s the point: public schools are outwardly hostile to a Christian world and life message.
That government schools presuppose a naturalistic explanation for the universe isn’t an apologia for theistic evolution; it’s a cautionary tale on school-wide indoctrination.
The “conflict,” by the way, isn’t over science but over worldviews, in particular, over a worldview that aims to “discover a model by which life could have evolved without a need for God.” Consider astronomer Carl Sagan’s famous line from the 1980s: “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”
It’s the atheist’s twist on John 1:1.
So, getting back to Stanley’s evolution support, the guy appears to be completely overlooking the metaphysical dispute inherent in these origin stories as he tries to harmonize Genesis with Darwin.
That’s not nearly as concerning, though, as how he tries to harmonize the two.
To hear Stanley tell it, the Jews of the Old Testament were too primitive to understand the actual process God used to orchestrate the beginning of the world, leaving God no choice but to tell them a white lie. Stanley maintains,
“God as a heavenly father does something for you and for every generation from the beginning that we should be so grateful for…God accommodates to our capacity…What was the capacity of ancient, ancient, ancient, ancient slave-culture Hebrews? Was there any way in the world that God could explain to them how he did it? No!”
This lack of “capacity,” Stanley continues, is akin to a parent explaining where babies come from to their kids. We give a different answer to a five-year-old than we do to a teenager.
Are we lying to our five-year-old, he asks, when our answer varies by age? We are not. We are just catering to their limited awareness of the world by giving them age-appropriate answers to complex questions.
The Israelites, in this analogy, are the five-year-olds.
Where to begin?
Putting aside the remarkable arrogance it takes to suggest that God’s chosen people, including Moses, were a bunch of dum-dums who couldn’t quite grasp the intricacies of the cosmos, what is Stanley’s biblical evidence for coming to such a bizarre conclusion?
A pastor, mind you, has an obligation to represent God’s Word faithfully because the Bible is God’s self-revelation to humanity (2 Timothy 3:16). This means senior leaders, especially those in teaching roles, ought to let the Bible speak for itself on all matters of doctrine.
Contrary to Stanley’s claims, then, there will always be “necessary conflict” between evolution and theism because the Bible interprets the creation account for us, and it plainly does not comport with the naturalistic assumptions that reflect the hive-mentality of today’s scientific community.
Let’s review the videotape:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”–Exodus 20:8-11
Can’t get more straightforward than that.
To be fair, Andy Stanley is not alone in his analysis.
Other prominent Christians have similarly tried to synchronize Genesis with Darwin, like describing the first chapter of the Bible as some sort of poetic allegory that is not to be taken literally.
However, if our hermeneutic is to let the Bible interpret itself, it’s obvious that God connects the Fourth Commandment specifically to the sequence of a literal six-day affair, as the Exodus passage above indicates.
You know who else appeals to the Genesis narrative as a historical event?
When the Pharisees tried to play a gotcha game with Him over the subject of divorce, recall that Jesus responds by saying, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4).
If the original description of creation was good enough for the Son of God to reference — “have you not read” and “from the beginning” — it should be good enough for you, me, and Andy Stanley.
There are other problems with theistic evolution.
Within an evolutionary model, death and destruction happened for millions and millions of years before man came on the scene. Per this hypothesis, death and destruction were integral to the method of natural selection where only the strongest endured, and then evolved.
Yet according to Scripture, how did suffering enter the world?
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”–Romans 5:12
In other words, death is the result of Adam’s disobedience, not because some creatures were more fit for survival than others.
And what about man’s uniqueness as the crown jewel of the created order — how does that fit into an evolutionary paradigm?
By shoehorning Darwin’s increasingly discredited worldview onto the pages of Scripture, man is stripped of that fundamental characteristic which renders him most unique. We no longer bear the image of the Almighty Himself but are, instead, the imprint of a lower life form.
It makes a complete mockery of man as the Imago Dei, and for that alone, it should give self-professing Christians pause before proceeding.
Unbelievers will reject the premise of creation, of course, as it goes against their pre-commitment to a materialistic universe devoid of the supernatural. But we’re not talking about unbelievers here.
We’re talking about men who preach from the pulpit, who are expected to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).
There’s something seriously wrong when church leaders find themselves playing footsie with secularist efforts to remove God from the center of His story.
Follow Jason on Twitter! @JasonMattera
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.