Irredeemable – Notes from Andy Stanley’s book “Irresistible”

A friend asked for my thoughts on this book. Here are my texts to him as I was reading it:

No complaints about the book so far.

As of chapter 7 of that book I’m starting to have problems.

I can’t remember the specifics now, but I think that’s when he dives headlong into the worst excesses of liberal protestantism. To wit: “You don’t put new wine in old wineskins, therefore how can you make value judgments that are different than the modern popular culture’s and still call yourself a Christian?”

Chapter 8 is littered with errors. I’ll probably have to go through it with a comb.

Chapter 12 is possibly the worst so far, as it basically says that if God acted now as he did in the Old Testament then he would be immoral and indefensible, but the context of those days justified his behavior. This is getting really bad.

Chapter 15 he strips Jesus of authority entirely, replacing it with horizontal morality. Not a mention of hell or the gospel.

That is, there is thus far no mention that sin and judgment are elements of the gospel, which means Christians must shy away from the reason forgiveness is necessary for fear of making people feel judged.

Finished the book. It doesn’t get better. Too bad, the guy is a talented rhetorician.

There isn’t as much blasphemy after he strips Jesus’ commands of divine authority, just bad strategy sold as good strategy.

It would be easiest for me to get the kindle book and start quoting…the main way he does this is by replacing divine command morality with “attraction”-based morality. So even God is called to account for actions that appear angry and hurtful.

Another point against Stanley:

Luke 5:36-39
36 He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

In other words, we may disagree over the meaning of the parable, but one thing we can’t claim is that the new wine is better. Stanley appears to have not read the ending of the parable he appeals to dozens of times.

My primary complaint, reflected in the title of this post, is that embracing horizontal morality makes the gospel unnecessary, and thus renders the rest of Stanley’s thoughts on Christianity irrelevant. I’ll explain this in detail when I dive into the later chapters in further posts, but here is an introduction to horizontal morality in the meantime. (I haven’t been able to quickly find any articles explaining why horizontal morality must be entirely dependent upon and subject to vertical morality, so I’ll have to search for something suitable or write it myself.) This is the central conceit of liberal Protestant morality, and the reason why their leaders always end up engaging in sexual immorality:

2. Christ of culture

Christ of culture sits at the polar opposite from the previous one. Cultural expressions as a whole are accepted uncritically and celebrated as a good thing. In theory, little or no conflict is seen between culture and Christian truth. In practice, the latter is compromised to accommodate the former. This is the view espoused by classic Gnosticism and liberal Protestantism.

Focus on the Family
Christ and culture: five views

Throwing out the OT is a secondary complaint, being motivated merely by the “bad strategy” I mentioned: a defensive response to the widespread acceptance of postmodernism. Josh MacDowell explains in Evidence that Demands a Verdict:

Nevertheless, for the past forty years our culture has been heavily influenced by the philosophical outlook called postmodernism. People today question why evidence for the Christian faith is even necessary or important. There is a skepticism in our land and around the world that has given rise to the misguided thinking of the Jesus Seminar, or more recently, the New Atheists, to confuse and disorient people about the true identity of Jesus Christ.

[…]

When I first wrote Evidence, there was very limited access to information. Today there is an overload of truth claims. In the 1970s people were exposed to ideas by their parents, friends, teachers in school, and then eventually professors in the university. But there wasn’t the Internet, where people now have endless access to unfiltered information.

Also, when I first wrote Evidence, people wanted proof for their beliefs. People wanted evidence. And then it began to switch about ten to fifteen years ago. It used to be that when I made a truth claim at a university, students would say, “How do you know that’s true? Give us some proof.” But then students started saying, “What right do you have to make that claim? You are an intolerant bigot.” Culture has gravitated away from the essence of truth to the emotion of the individual. Essentially, culture has moved from valuing substance to valuing form.

It happens to be the wrong response and betrays a shockingly bad understanding of human nature for a pastor. In his defense, that’s a problem baked into Protestantism from the beginning. Since I’ll be analyzing it in detail, I’d like to take the opportunity to deconstruct a similar movement on the Alt-Right. Liberal Protestantism and Alt-White paganism are in agreement that horizontal morality (neo-Platonic in the case of the latter) requires a change in attitude toward the Old Testament. The agreement between the modern liberal Protestant movement and the Alt-White is based in their shared underlying Gnosticism, as mentioned in the Focus on the Family article summarizing Niebuhr above.

Here, we compare various passages in the Bible with current standards of morality — both secular and religious. This section lists many events in the Bible that are immoral by today’s secular standards, including: genocide, murder of people for their religious beliefs, mass murder of innocent children, transferring guilt and punishment from the guilty to the innocent, executing some hookers by burning them alive, etc. They are sometimes called “hard passages” because they seem to portray God as behaving in a way that would be considered highly immoral by most people today.

Some of the early Christian groups, including many in the Gnostic tradition were so offended by what they viewed as profoundly immoral actions attributed in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) to Yahweh that they rejected all of the Hebrew Scriptures and/or even lowered the status of Yahweh to that of a demiurge — an inferior deity who lacks moralilty.

ReligiousTolerance.org
Bible passages considered immoral by many of today’s theologians and secularists

Stanley’s motive is clearly stated in the introduction:

In 2007, my son Andrew, who was thirteen at the time, accompanied me on a trip to China. During our visit we were invited to tour an American-owned leather goods factory. The owner was a friend of a friend. When we arrived, he graciously insisted on serving as our guide. Before we began the tour, he introduced us to a Chinese girl in her twenties who had worked her way from the factory floor into management. He asked if we would be okay if she shadowed us during the tour.

[…]

“Pastor,” she said, “why doesn’t everyone in America go to church?” I still haven’t recovered from her question. I had no idea how to respond. I still don’t. How do you explain thousands of empty churches to a young lady who would ride two hours to attend a church in another town? A young lady who would be there every time the door was opened, if there was a door to open? The Bible study she attended was part of a network of underground churches, what the Chinese government refers to as unregistered churches. Her participation put her at risk. Owning a Bible put her at risk. Talking about attending church in front of her boss put her at risk. Imagine her shock if she were to discover that not only do most American Christians not read the Bible, in most churches there is a closetful of Bibles that have been left behind. I don’t remember how I responded. I said something entirely forgettable. But I haven’t forgotten her question. It’s bothered me ever since. Her question is one of the reasons I’ve written this book. So, why doesn’t everybody in America go to church? Why is the church so resistible? Jesus wasn’t. Once upon a time, his church wasn’t either.

-Andy Stanley
Irresistible

The Alt-Right’s motive is not explicit, but in my opinion is transparent enough to state as categorically representative.

The New Testament Christian identity is inextricably linked to the Old Testament Jewish identity, which the Alt-Right leaders (correctly) identify as a fulcrum from which Jews have traditionally used to carve out favorable political positions in Christian societies. For example, it was often the case that only ethnic Jews were allowed to lend at interest in European countries. Alt-Righters therefore cast aspersions on the Old Testament in an attempt to sever this source of influence, calling it a monstrous, antiChristian, Jewish book and asserting that Jesus’ references to his Father are not the same as the warmongering Yahweh of the Old Testament. They claim, in short, that Jesus and his Father are European gods and the Yahweh of the Old Testament is an emergent, unrelated god of a barbaric, genocidal desert tribe who expresses all of their Semitic vices.

Their own preference for paganism notwithstanding (New Age, Jungian, primitive, etc.) , the Alt-Right’s revealed preference is for a Christianity which is resistant to Jewish influence over a Jewish-led paganism. To wit, their list of enemies ranks Jews higher than Christians, therefore they see a potential alliance with Christians to fight the Jews. That this is incoherent is irrelevant to their narrative due to a general ignorance of Christianity and the saturation of Old Testament references throughout the New Testament.

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13 Responses to Irredeemable – Notes from Andy Stanley’s book “Irresistible”

  1. Mycroft Jones says:

    The post ended just as it was starting to get really interesting. :) Rushdoony had an IQ of 180. Care to give his work another chance? You might find more in it than you did last time.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      >The post ended just as it was starting to get really interesting. 🙂

      Thanks, there will be more unless I get really distracted.

      > Rushdoony had an IQ of 180. Care to give his work another chance? You might find more in it than you did last time.

      I don’t recall looking at it at all. You’ll have to get in line behind glosoli since I assume he doesn’t have anything in audio, but given that constraint what’s your pick for me to read first?

      • Mycroft Jones says:

        Institutes of BIblical Law is Rushdoony’s classic. Almost every page has an anecdote drawn from history. I recommend starting with the Introduction to the Institutes. If that doesn’t appeal, then you haven’t lost too much time.

      • Mycroft Jones says:

        Audio book here: https://rushdoonyradio.org/the-institutes-of-biblical-law-volume-1/

        You can listen to the introduction and first chapter for free. He leads off by quoting Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English and then was burned at the stake by the Roman Catholics. Then he proceeds to the founding of America with the New Haven colony. And proceeds from there.

        The introduction is in 4 parts, you can click the links from the page included in this comment.

  2. Fox says:

    “Some of the early Christian groups, including many in the Gnostic tradition were so offended by what they viewed as profoundly immoral actions attributed in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) to Yahweh that they rejected all of the Hebrew Scriptures and/or even lowered the status of Yahweh to that of a demiurge — an inferior deity who lacks moralilty.”
    This frames their stance as the (sole?) result of moral indignation – it characterizes their dismissal of the OT as completely emotional reactions. A picture of a triggered feminist with problemglasses comes to mind.

    One can compare and contrast two different “moral universes” without judging either.
    According to infogalactic, one important figure (marcion of sinope) argued based on dissimilarity/incompatibility.
    “Marcion believed there could be only one true gospel, all others being fabrications by pro-Jewish elements, determined to sustain worship of Yahweh. Furthermore, he believed that the true gospel was given directly to Paul the Apostle by Christ himself, but was later corrupted by those same elements who also corrupted the Pauline epistles. Marcion saw the attribution of this gospel to Luke the Evangelist as another fabrication. He therefore began what he saw as a restoration of the original gospel as given to Paul”

    http://www.marcionite-scripture.info/Marcionite_Bible.htm

  3. Fox says:

    “So many Catholic Christian apologists wrote treatises against Marcion after his death, in addition to the noted work of Tertullian, that it has been possible to reconstruct almost the whole of Marcion’s Gospel of the Lord from their quotations.”
    Every author’s dream: To be taken so seriously that whole armies of writers attempt to pick your work apart even after your death.

  4. Quasimodo says:

    Even Vox Day agrees with me. In his Darkstream “Life is more than suffering”, around 33:05, someone asks if he should “venture” (yuck) into starting a family. And Vox Day basically answers that in this case, caution might be wise (he also called it a legitimate counter argument).

    Eugenics works. Mental illnesses are real. They suck. They are shit. And I have inherited an anxiety disorder and depression, most likely via my father, he most likely via his mother. (I already mentioned my hunchback and four inch penis, and my ugliness in general, my average intelligence and sucky life in as a whole.)

    The Bible nowhere calls the physical life a gift; the grace of God is. It’s Churchian theology; even St. Jerome mourned his birth every day by citing Jeremiah 20:14-18. Job, too, cursed it. And the whole point of the Book of Job is that Job remains pious, so that Job 3:3 is in line with it.

    I’m an accident, born out of wedlock. Your argument against antinatalism was not just weak, but extremely ignorant and rude even. “Pleasure is just an opiate” (or something like this). Antinatalism will never take off, but it’s in fact biblical if done out of love and a pure heart (St. Augustine: De bono viduitatis and De bono coniugali). Personally, I’m fine with eradicating mental illnesses and ugliness and low intelligence and psychopathy and crude immorality etc. pp.

    Your ignornace on the subject was also exhibited on a Vox Day post (“The handicap of high IQ”). Regarding Kaczynsky (whom you arrogantly call “Ted”), you wrote:


    Aeoli: Holding technology levels constant, if Ted were around people he liked, he would be happy.
    Koanic: Holding his social milieu constant, if Ted engaged in hunter gatherer activities, he would be happy.

    This is such crap, and the fact that I have to agree with an asshole like Koanic is really saying something here. Kaczynsky is mentally ill. And so, he would always have suffered. But today’s crowded, loud and ugly environment makes living in the modern world a tortorous experience for sensitive people like him or me. Apart from that, the ugliness and vulgarity of the modern world is unmatched, especially due to its technology. Jay Dyer gets it too, and suggests that at some point globalists might want to force everyone into megacities (see Dyerwave Vol. 1 around 4:00, no idea from where it’s from).

    Modern tech will most likely die anyway due to resource shortages, as Volkmar Weiss laid out in his magnum opus “Die Intelligenz und ihre Feinde”, who suggests that soon we will be back on riding our horses. Or by William Stanton in his “The Rapid Growth of Human Populations 1750-2000”.

    Also, the only utopia I would want to believe in is the Germanic Middle Ages, you don’t need to go back to a hunter gatherer lifestyle. The peace times of Alteuropa.

    I will end with some quotes by the great Colombian Catholic Nicolás Gómez Dávila:

    Modern man fears technology’s destructive capacity, when it is its constructive capacity that threatens him.

    Man’s three enemies are: the devil, the state, and technology

    ‘Nature’ was a pre-Romantic discovery which Romanticism propagated, and which technology is killing in our days.

    God invented tools, the devil machines.

    The man who invents a new machine invents for humanity a new concatenation of new forms of servitude.

    The modern machine becomes more complex every day, and every day modern man becomes more elemental.

    Slave of the machine is less the producer than the consumer.

    Fashion, even more than technology, is the cause of the modern world’s uniformity.

    • Aeoli Pera says:

      We disagree on many points, so it would be good to find a common ground first to narrow down the range of possible tangents. I agree that mental illnesses are real and people who have the more severe ones should not have children. I don’t categorize anxiety and depressive disorders among these, as I don’t believe the orthodoxy that these are inevitable genetic disorders. There are factors from the environment, social adaptation, and even social construction that each play at least as large of a role as simple heritability.

      For example, it’s unlikely Ted would have had anxiety issues if he lived in the Garden of Eden eating steaks and deadlifting every day.

  5. Quasimodo says:

    Correction:
    Even Vox Day agrees with me. In his Darkstream “Life is more than suffering”, around 33:05, someone asks if he should “venture” (yuck) into starting a family. And Vox Day basically answers that in this case, caution might be wise (he also called it a legitimate counter argument).

    Someone who is genetically predisposed to psychotic mental illnesses.

    This is also a good read:

    https://wildancestors.blogspot.com/2012/02/rapid-growth-of-human-populations-1750.html

  6. Pingback: Irrevisitable | Aeoli Pera

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