[UPDATE: The original You Tube video containing Stanley’s remarks has been pulled (see above). Readers who wish to see the video can do so by visiting this site. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post.]
Andy Stanley’s comments on Adam and Eve have been making the rounds since they appeared on HereIBlog.com yesterday. In short, Stanley affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve, but not because Genesis says so. Rather, he bases his belief on what Jesus says about Adam and Eve. You can listen to the entire discussion above, but here are the relevant excerpts:
The foundation of our faith is not the Scripture. The foundation of our faith is not the infallibility of the Bible. The foundation of our faith is something that happened in history. And the issue is always – Who is Jesus? That’s always the issue. The Scripture is simply a collection of ancient documents that tells us that story…
Here’s why I believe this actually happened. Not because the Bible says so, but because of the Gospels – Jesus talks about Adam and Eve. And it appears to me that he believed they were actually historical figures. And if he believed they were historical, I believe they were historical because anybody that can predict their own death and resurrection and pull it off – I just believe anything they say.
Let me say first of all that I am genuinely grateful that Stanley affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve. In this day and age, that position is under siege, and I don’t want to minimize the importance of Stanley’s affirmation in this regard.
Nevertheless, there’s a poison pill in his remarks for the doctrine of scripture. The view of scripture that Stanley evinces undermines what evangelicals hold to be the verbal plenary inspiration of scripture.
While it is true that Christ’s accomplishment in the cross and resurrection is the basis of our salvation, it is misleading to say that the “foundation of our faith is not the Scripture.” Our only access to what Christ accomplished for us in history is through Scripture! The message of salvation comes to us in the Bible, apart from which there is no salvation. This is why the apostle Paul can speak of the apostles’ message as the “foundation” of the church (Eph. 2:20). Without their testimony which has been inscripturated for us in the Bible, there is no salvation.
Stanley says that his belief in Adam and Eve is not “because the Bible says so,” but because Jesus says so. The first and most obvious problem with this formulation is the fact that our only knowledge of what Jesus says comes to us from the Bible. There can be no bifurcation between “what the Bible says” and “what Jesus says.” The former gives us the latter.
But it’s also important to see that Jesus’ allusions to Adam and Eve derive from his belief in the authority of the Old Testament. As he assumes the historicity of Adam and Eve, he is at once affirming the total truthfulness and trustworthiness of his Bible—the Old Testament. When asked about the lawfulness of divorce, Jesus responds with “Have you not read…?” (Matt. 19:4). Then he quotes from Moses’ accounts of Adam and Eve as the basis for his belief in the permanence of marriage (Gen. 1:27; 2:24). Elsewhere, Jesus says that anyone who annuls Moses’ testimony will be called “least in the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:19). In short, if you were to ask Jesus how he knows Adam and Eve existed, he would say “because the Bible says so.” In this way, Stanley’s view of scripture falls short of Jesus’ view of scripture.
Stanley’s view also falls short of the Bible’s own testimony about itself. We could point to a number of passages in this regard, but perhaps the most conspicuous is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
In this text, “scripture” refers specifically to the Old Testament, and Paul says that all of it has been breathed-out by God himself. We do not hold to the Dalmatian theory of inspiration—that scripture is inspired in spots. Rather, we hold to its plenary inspiration—which means that every word of the Old Testament is just as reliable and authoritative as any word in the New. And we dare not play one against the other. It is, after all, the Spirit of Christ himself who inspired the Old Testament word (1 Pet. 1:10-11).
There is much more that could be said on what an evangelical doctrine of scripture ought to look like. If you want to read further, then I recommend that you take a look at Timothy Ward’s book. You will find that what I have written here is nothing new. Nevertheless, it seems that too many people are forgetting the basics and that we must reiterate these things over and over again. In an “evangelical” context in which pastors even have trouble remembering, the need is all the greater.