Andy Stanley, ‘The Bible Says’ is Enough in Every Generation

I am thankful Andy Stanley recently reaffirmed his commitment to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. But the question remains, does his methodology treat God’s inerrant Word as sufficient? The doctrine of Scripture lies at the heart of all of our Christian faith commitments. The events of redemptive history are interpreted for us by the testimony of Scripture whether it be prospectively or retrospectively. If the Scripture is not authoritative, then we do not have a definitive understanding of the meaning of any event in redemptive history.

To believe the the testimony of Scripture is to trust the Christ of the Scriptures. While the events of Jesus Christ incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection are climactic, and serve as the interpretive key to all of Scripture, it does not follow to suggest that they are all that matter. Rather, because of Jesus, everything in Scripture matters. Every part of Scripture is an organic part of the unified Christ-centered whole.

To put it simply, one either believes that the Bible is the very word of God, or they do not. Attempts to decide what is really important in Scripture, to the exclusion of other portions of Scripture is always a fool’s errand. Those who would form a canon within the canon of Scripture, are standing in judgment over the Bible, rather than submitting to its message. Faithful Christians, do not simply consider the Bible a book about God, but rather the “living and active” word of God (Heb 4:12). Paul reminds us the entire Bible is a message to us: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).

The Lord Jesus Christ unequivocally accepted the Scripture as the infallible word of which “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Christ himself, the center and goal of Scripture, the word made flesh, declared from the beginning of his ministry, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt 5:17). Jesus explained the meaning of his life and ministry in terms of the Scriptural witness and taught his disciples to do the same. He lived out the biblical Messianic promise to the point where it could be said, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Cor 1:20).

The assertion, “in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled,” formed the shape of Jesus’s Messianic mission. Jesus is the one who intentionally tethers his incarnation, life, crucifixion, and resurrection to the Old Testament Scriptures. This is why Jesus asserts, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke16:31). When I critiqued Andy Stanley for saying that we should stop saying, “The Scripture says” in our sermons (See here  and here), an angry Stanley supporter sent me a message that said, “The Scripture doesn’t say anything! It is merely a recorded witness to Jesus. Wake up! Stop saying, “The Scripture says! Spotlight Jesus—not the Bible!”

There is a problem with that assertion, the Scripture itself directly contradicts it:

And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.” John 19:37

For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Romans 9:17

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” Romans 10:11

God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? Romans 11:2

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” Galatians 3:8

For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” 1 Timothy 5:18

Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? James 4:5

Some, like Stanley, argue that we should back away from focusing on the Scriptures, in order to focus on Jesus, for apologetic and evangelistic reasons. But this is the opposite of what Jesus himself did and taught his apostles. To unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:45-27). Jesus does not say, “Forget about Moses, and don’t worry about the Scripture because here I am, just focus on me.” He does not do this because the meaning of his life was bound up with the promises in the revelation of God as recorded in Scripture.

Thus, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy rightly asserts,

Authority in Christianity belongs to God in His revelation, which means, on the one hand, Jesus Christ, the living Word, and, on the other hand, Holy Scripture, the written Word. But the authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one. As our Prophet, Christ testified that Scripture cannot be broken. As our Priest and King, He devoted His earthly life to fulfilling the law and the prophets, even dying in obedience to the words of Messianic prophecy. Thus, as He saw Scripture attesting Him and His authority, so by His own submission to Scripture He attested its authority. As He bowed to His Father’s instruction given in His Bible (our Old Testament), so He requires His disciples to do—not, however, in isolation but in conjunction with the apostolic witness to Himself which He undertook to inspire by His gift of the Holy Spirit. So Christians show themselves faithful servants of their Lord by bowing to the divine instruction given in the prophetic and apostolic writings which together make up our Bible.

By authenticating each other’s authority, Christ and Scripture coalesce into a single fount in of authority. The Biblically-interpreted Christ and the Christ-centered, Christ-proclaiming Bible are from this standpoint one. As from the fact of inspiration we infer that what Scripture says, God says, so from the revealed relation between Jesus Christ and Scripture we may equally declare that what Scripture says, Christ says.

Someone can sincerely affirm biblical inerrancy in principal, as an abstract doctrinal truth, but for the principal of biblical inerrancy to be put into practice, our methods must emphasize the sufficiency of Scripture. We must proceed on the basis of the divine organic unity of the Bible, just as Jesus and the apostles did. In very practical terms, it means never pitting Jesus against any other portion of Scripture. For preachers, the logical consequence of biblical inerrancy is Christ-centered expository preaching.

“The Scripture says,” and “Jesus says,” are interchangeable descriptions. There is an absolute identification of the Scriptures with God speaking, and the Scriptures can accurately be described not only as “the word of God,” but also as “the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17, Col 3:16).

Stanley asked, “What is the faith of the next generation worth?” I agree with his answer—Everything. Paul’s gospel burden causes him to say, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Rom 10:1). His advice then is to tell them what the Scripture says, after all, the Scriptures are able to make you “wise for salvation” (2 Tim 3:15). Paul exhorts,

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Rom 10:9-11)

And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom 10:14-17)

Contextualization is an absolute necessity for faithful gospel ministry in a variety of important ways, but it never alters the very heart of our task to “preach the Word” (2 Tim 4:2). We do not make the Scripture relevant, we show its authoritative gospel relevance in every generation. The Scripture and Christ are unique and inseparable parts of the plan of our missionary God to save the world. To minimize one is to minimize the other. Our gospel mission demands that we unapologetically proclaim “the Scripture says,” as we preach Christ from the entire Bible to every tribe, tongue, nation. And we must also do so to Traditionalists, Boomers, Millennials, Gen X’ers, and all the cultural labels yet to come, till He comes.

By |October 4th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: , , |

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today


  1. Dora Carrington October 4, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    I am with pastor David Prince end of story

  2. jesse aragon October 4, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    The word became flesh it is alive n always will be

  3. Half-TruthSlayer October 4, 2016 at 8:48 pm

    The word of God is indeed the word of Christ. Great article. I should have read the United Methodist Book of Discipline (BOD) before I became a member of the UMC. The BOD is almost the same size as the Bible Itself. The common montra of the UMC is “Open hearts, open minds, open doors”. Unfortunately some UMC leaders seem to also believe in a closed Bible. Some openly defy not only the BOD but the Bible itself. Sad to see this happen to a church that once was so dedicated to the Word as the foundation of faith.

  4. […] of the Christian faith. I responded to this last week. Just tonight, both Jared Wilson and David Prince  have posted thoughtful responses. For my part, I would reiterate what I said last week. I really […]

  5. […] Andy Stanley, ‘The Bible Says’ is Enough in Every Generation – “I am thankful Andy Stanley recently reaffirmed his commitment to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. But the question remains, does his methodology treat God’s inerrant Word as sufficient? The doctrine of Scripture lies at the heart of all of our Christian faith commitments. The events of redemptive history are interpreted for us by the testimony of Scripture whether it be prospectively or retrospectively. If the Scripture is not authoritative, then we do not have a definitive understanding of the meaning of any event in redemptive history.” […]

  6. stuart taylor October 6, 2016 at 11:59 am

    I don’t doubt the sincere motivation of Andy Stanley in his approach to winning people to Christ. However, the Bible is God’s Word and carries a unique power when read, heard, remembered that is available in no other place. Stu Taylor P.S. I was converted as a college Freshman reading the Bible in my room almost 60 years ago. Holy Spirit power!!!

  7. Bob October 6, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Pastor Prince:

    I am desperately trying to wade myself through this controversy. I have grown a lot from Stanley’s teaching so this is disconcerting for me. It seems each side has their go to verses to support their views. I was wondering, could you address Stanley’s biblical examples that he gave in his response? The one example you gave in this article involved Jews which would have accepted the authority of the Torah. It seems this would support Stanley’s conclusions

  8. Dean October 6, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Dear Pastor Prince, My Pastor forwarded your previous article to me “Andy Stanley’s Statements about the Bible are not Cutting Edge—They’re Old Liberalism”. My internal response to fellow Christians who attend my church is below. Did Mr. Stanley recant his previous position?

    There’s a huge problem with this line of reasoning and teaching…


    1. Scripture was written by God using men who directly interacted with the Father, Son or Holy Spirit and didn’t deviate from the truth revealed by either the Father, Son or Holy Spirit when writing the 66 books that are known as the canon of scripture.


    2. Scripture was written by Men without God’s interaction and is not God’s word or the authors of the Bible did get directed by God and either purposefully or accidentally corrupted God’s word.

    IF POINT 1 is True

    1. The Bible is infallible in its recorded history, teaching, prophecy and how God desires us to live our lives, the Bible teaches absolute ethics.

    2. Therefore the Bible is the most logical source of information to use for teaching adults and children.

    3. Therefore Andy Stanley is illogical in his thinking. Another problem with one of Mr. Stanley’s quotes (in italics), besides those already mentioned in the article.

    “The first, second, and third century Christians, who faced tremendous hardship, believed Jesus loved them before the Bible told them so.” The first, second and third century Christians were taught the Gospel of Christ, namely the scriptures in the oral tradition. The Bible did tell them so, they heard the word of God.

    IF POINT 2 is True

    1. The Bible isn’t absolute truth and Man can’t be absolutely sure what parts of the Bible are truth and what parts have been corrupted.

    2a. God didn’t author or authorize the Bible, therefore God purposefully left us in the dark, guessing about ethics, prophecy and history. It was his will to keep us uninformed.


    2b. God wanted to give us scripture, but man corrupted it and either God allowed this (which leads us back to 2a) or God isn’t all-powerful and was thwarted by Man.

    3. Therefore Andy Stanley has a valid point, but then I’ll ask him why he doesn’t promote ethical relativism (I’m assuming Mr. Stanley does not promote this view). I’d also like to know how Mr. Stanley determines which parts of scripture are truth and which are erroneous.


    Christ knew the scriptures absolutely, to the word and verb tense. He believed the Old Testament was historical fact. In Luke, Christ verifies that Abel existed, Lot and his wife existed. In Matthew, Christ verifies
    Noah and the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jonah, Daniel and Isaiah. In John, Christ verifies Abraham.

    Christ taught the books were written by those the books were named after, including Moses writing the Pentateuch. Christ verifies in Matthew, Mark and Luke that the Old Testament was spoken by God the Father or the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, the men holding the pen were faithful to the truth and his word was kept in pristine condition.

    Christ warned against adding or subtracting from scripture. Christ is the Word of God (the living Bible in flesh, blood and spirit). The concept of Bibliolatry is nonsense, Christ actually chastised men for their ignorance of the scripture. Christ said the Bible was more powerful than his miracles (see Luke).

    So who should we believe Jesus Christ or Mr. Stanley?

  9. Leslie October 6, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    I am trying to understand the difference between Tim
    Keller’s new book tied to his Sunday morning class where they state: “The difference with the Café is what you’re using as your authorities,” Mr. Ellis said later. “Typically, in a Christian class, the Bible is your authenticity. To this group, the Bible is just another book. You can use it, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle.”

    And what Andy Stanley is saying and doing.

    Can anyone help?

  10. Staff October 7, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Jared Wilson does a really good job of explaining the difference.

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