(Wesley Hill – First Things) Walk into one of the old Episcopal churches on the East Coast, and once your eye has adjusted to the light slanting in through the clear glass windowpanes onto plain white walls, one of the first things you’re likely to notice is the writing on the eastern wall behind the pulpit. Step closer and you’ll see it’s a placard with the Ten Commandments in flowing script. In 1604, this placarding of the Decalogue became a canonical requirement for Anglican parishes. A posting of the Commandments was to be “set up on the East end of every Church and Chapel, where the people may best see and read the same.” Right above the communion table, in view of all sermon-hearers, the Commandments were to issue their silent implication: These ancient words remain the word of God for the people of God.
Nor was this Anglican practice unusual by wider Christian standards. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “In fidelity to Scripture and in conformity with Jesus’ example, the tradition of the Church has always acknowledged the primordial importance and significance of the Decalogue.” Luther wrote in his Large Catechism that “those who know the Ten Commandments perfectly know the entire Scriptures and in all affairs and circumstances are able to counsel, help, comfort, judge, and make decisions in both spiritual and temporal matters.” Luther was merely summarizing what was by his time a catechetical commonplace. The Decalogue was, as he wrote elsewhere, “eternal.” The Ten Commandments were not a time-bound, culturally-limited expression of a superseded ancient society but were instead the abiding word of the God who had eventually been revealed as the God and Father of Jesus Christ.
None of this classic Christian perspective, sadly, is on display in Atlanta pastor Andy Stanley’s recent sermon on the place of the Old Testament in the life of contemporary Christians. Expositing the scene of the apostolic roundtable in Acts 15, Stanley declares, “Here’s what the Jerusalem Council was saying to the Gentiles: ‘You are not accountable to the Ten Commandments.’” Part of a threefold sermon series titled “Aftermath,” Stanley’s sermon went viral after the Christian Post website ran a story about it on Wednesday with the headline, “Christians Must ‘Unhitch’ Old Testament from Their Faith, Stanley Says.”
Stanley’s motive is straightforwardly evangelistic. He wants to convince those who have lost or are in the process of losing their faith that the difficulties they may have with the perceived violence and legalism of the Old Testament need not prevent them from coming to Jesus. Alas, most of the 39-minute talk can really only be described as an elaborate and educated flirtation with the old Christian heresy of Marcionism—the belief that the Old Testament is not authoritative in matters of Christian doctrine and morals.
Learn more about uber wolf Andy Stanley here