October 22, 2020

Mea Culpa: Andy Stanley’s “Temple” Model


I spoke too soon. Like often happens, I heard something and filtered it through my own learning and experience. Then I responded to what I thought I heard. That is bad listening, something I abhor. Mea culpa.

Yesterday, in our open forum, the subject of Andy Stanley’s “temple model” came up. A commenter referenced this article and quoted from it. When I got home, I looked it up and read it more carefully. Then I went to North Point’s site and listened to the actual message. And then I realized I’d had the wrong idea about Stanley’s use of the temple metaphor.

I had assumed Andy Stanley was talking about how we “do” church. In the past, I have used the term “temple mentality” to describe a life that revolves around the church. It was a way for me to critique Christian separatism. Jesus said his followers should be “in” the world but not “of” the world. A temple mentality reverses that, so that many Christians take themselves “out” of the world while still having a lot of the world’s characteristics “in” them. I referenced a post I wrote several years ago which contained these words:

The problem with much contemporary American evangelicalism is that it has created an alternate “kingdom,” one which is OF the world but not IN the world (the opposite of what Jesus intended). The freedom and prosperity we enjoy in this country has allowed us to withdraw from meaningful interaction with our neighbors in the context of real life situations so that we might spend time in “Christian” pursuits.

Churches are organized to satisfy this centripetal impulse. Life for many American Christians revolves around the “temple” and its program of activities for all ages and interests. It seems that the purpose of the church is to provide what Luther called a “roses and lilies” experience for people that protects them from the harsh realities of the world and the challenges of learning to relate authentically with those who don’t share our faith.

Adventures in missing the point, Chaplain Mike. What you say may be true, but it doesn’t relate to what Pastor Stanley was preaching.

When Andy Stanley talks about “the temple model,” he means something else.

Stanley’s message is actually a pretty standard evangelical look at differences between the old and new covenants, or as many would say, between “religion” that is constantly caught up with trying to please God and having a “relationship” with God that leads to love for others.

It’s a way of distinguishing law and gospel, contemporary evangelical style.

I won’t critique it here, except to say I don’t find it terribly profound, nor is it a very precise or accurate portrayal of old/new covenant distinctions. Plus, it reinforces shallow evangelical stereotypes of historic Christian traditions that are formal, liturgical, and sacramental. He might as well have called any church that has a traditional building, priests, stained glass, choirs and liturgical worship a “temple.” At least that’s what I would have heard in my evangelical days.

So, really nothing new here.

I do apologize for responding before I really understood what Andy Stanley was saying.

• • •

Here is another look at a much more theologically rich and historically sound understanding of the Temple and how it compares to Jesus and NT faith:


  1. I know a lot of Baptists. Whatever else they might be (and there are a ton of wonderful Baptists and non-denoms)…they certainly are not theologically rich nor do they have a very deep historical perspective on matters of the Christian faith.

    Thanks for a refreshing alternative.

    • flatrocker says

      So by knowing “a lot of baptists,” this gives you the right to make a sweeping pronouncement on their understanding and depth on matters of the Christian faith?

      Christian arrogance is never a “refreshing alternative.”

      • No…

        Because I know a lot of Baptists…AND because I have studied their errant, deceiving, and flat out dangerous theology of free-will and antipathy for the sacraments.

        • flatrocker says

          Would that be the fullness of all seven sacraments you speak of, or some other antipathy?

        • Well, this is fun.

          Steve, I’m a baptist; and while I’m not offended at your first statement (that we’re not theologically rich nor do we have a very deep historical perspective) I’m curious as to why you’d bring that up. Is Stanley a baptist? I’m pretty sure Wright is not. 😉

          Your second statement, about our “errant, deceiving, and flat out dangerous theology of free-will and antipathy for the sacraments,” is really fun.

          You’re right about the antipathy for the sacraments (or anything at all Romish). It’s so ingrained that we don’t even see it. But the free will thing is a false accusation. I’m almost finished reading a John Piper book, Five Points, at the recommendation of our pastor, because our church seems to be headed in a new-calvinist direction. Piper (and the stupid video on Sunday) makes the same accusations and false dichotomies that you’re making (or I think you’re making). Not all baptists think this. Not all free-will folks deny grace or election. It’s not an either/or thing.

          Stupid Piper book. Almost done, though. Now my wife is going to have to read it, and with all of my scribbling in the margins.

        • Steve I take it you don’t attend any ecumenical services down the street at the Baptist church? ; )

        • “…errant, deceiving, and flat out dangerous theology of free-will…”

          I was raised a Southern Baptist and was one for a lotta years so I can see the liabilities of their doctrines as clear as anyone. But the “Five Points” don’t seem to me to be any less incoherent. It seems to me the idea of “free will” is not one to be surrendered lightly and without much consideration.

          If I can’t freely choose or reject salvation how can I possibly be held accountable? The idea that some are selected and others are rejected from eternity doesn’t testify to God’s ultimate grace so much as his infinite cruelty. And should I be surprised it always seems to be the “elect” who believe themselves so?

          I am struck by the demand of Matthew 25; the provocative idea that the fate of my eternal soul is in some way dependent on my actions here and now. That “faith” and belief in doctrine simply isn’t the point.

          The truth is the New Testament is neither consistent nor unvarying in its views. And that’s because it was written over at least a hundred years by different writers coming out of different life situations. I think true wisdom and true humility begins only when we accept this. I think the proper attitude is illustrated by one of Dante’s Popes who spent his entire life building up a vast complicated theory of the angelic hierarchy in heaven. Eventually he died and when he got to heaven he found out he was completely wrong. Dante says the newly deceased Pope thought it was the funniest thing he had ever heard.

          • Who has 5 points?

            Not us Lutherans.

            We hold to Christ…alone.

            The Bible speaks clearly that we do NOT have a free will when it comes to choosing God.

            The Gospel of John states it flat out…”…born NOT of the will of man, but of God.”

          • “The truth is the New Testament is neither consistent nor unvarying in its views.”

            Maybe, but I also think very little of it actually speaks to a theology of personal salvation at all. We just like to ram every single verse through that hermeneutic, because we’re so possessed with “what I get out of all this.”

          • Well said, Nate.

    • Some of the most rich teaching that I have ever received was in a Baptist church. Granted, the pastor was educated by a bunch on Presbyterians, but still that brush may be a little bit too broad.

      • No, it isn’t too broad just because there as plenty of wonderful exceptions. Being an Evangelical these days is tough. I have numerous friends who just can’t find a decent home church anywhere remotely near because no one in town can preach his way out of a brown paper bag. Really, we’re facing a crisis of preaching in America, because too many revivalists are acting like the used car salesman of religion. We should thank God for the many who do not, but they don’t always live in your neighborhood, and that is beyond pitiful.

    • “Some of my best friends are Baptists…” LOL.

  2. And I apologize if what I posted was misleading in any way. I was trying to put up enough to get a sense of what he was talking about, without being too lengthy.

    • You actually did a good job of summing things up, I might actually have veered things off course. I came at it from a slightly different angle because a friend had been posting about it recently. I think that there are two currents that are running through the message, as Chaplain Mike mentions, most of it is a pretty standard “Jesus changes everything” message, but the other part of it where he is talking about the things that have made there way into our current system, and in particular the couple jokes he makes about himself being one of those “Sacred men”, is the part that got me to want to engage in conversation on it. He makes a remark, which seems to point to the very pastor-centric way that we come together, and maybe even the celebrity Christian culture that he is a part of, and it really sounds like he is saying that it is a part of that antiquated system and that it should change, but at the end he just cracks a joke about him being their “Sacred” man, and a plug for the next sermon in the series.

      He asks the question of why people don’t “go to church”, and says that many of those things should not be a part of our gathering, or how people see us in the first place. He hints at sweeping change, being the generation that reforms the church so that people aren’t turned off by us. I think you open yourself up to most of the charges that were made in the comments when you use bold language like he did.

  3. If nothing else, someone finally got me to listen to the entirety of a sermon that I had made a number of comments on, but had only listened to a five minute clip of.

    • Oh, and that my gag reflex literally kicked in when he started describing the concert venue settings with their smoke machines and flashing lights for worship like they were a good thing.

  4. Let me recommend as food-for-thought a post by Derek Leman, a Messianic Jewish rabbi, who commented on the series.

    He wrote: “Andy, I hope you’ll realize that God didn’t make a mistake when he gave his teaching in the Torah and prophets. I hope you’ll realize you don’t have to denounce the Temple to uphold Jesus. I hope you’ll realize there is grace all over the pages of the first 80% of your Bible. And I hope you’ll take leadership in maturing Christian ways of talking about faith beyond the old supersessionism and the canonical narrative in which the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is a sort of mistake or test or deliberate misrepresentation of God’s love.”


    • “old supersessionism”…yet isn’t this what Christianity is all about? Ignoring the critical dig of “replacement theology”, Christians by and large believe that the Church has somewhat “replaced” Israel (but really, Gentiles have been grafted into Israel, yet the new combined entity is not called Israel, it’s called The Church).

      I guess I also don’t understand Messianic Jews all that much. You worship Jesus, great…so why also uphold whats been done away with?

      (to take things to an even bizarre level, there are members of my old cult church that identify themselves as ‘Torah Abiding Gentiles’, fully christian yet still, seriously here, keeping all the old customs and festivals and feast days and whatnot. i just don’t understand it.)

      • You’re not alone — I don’t really understand it much either.

        Like most modern Christians, of course, I think understanding the Jewish roots of the Church is very important and incredibly insightful. My primary confusion comes from the fact that, from the perspective of practicing Jews, conversion to Christianity means you cease to be a Jew. And so has it been for about 1900 years..

        Obviously, such a convert can always identify with his Jewish roots, and can even celebrate them within his new-found faith in such Messainic congregations. (And I have no problem with that.) But in any larger sense he is no longer actually Jewish, a point only underscored all the more by asking whether any children born to him later will be Jewish. I can only assume that Messainic Jews somehow decide who’s still Jewish by their lights, which only raises other bizarre questions like whether Gentiles can/should “convert to Messainic Judaism” or is “just becoming a Christian” good enough?

        Similar confusion also bedevils Christian Zionist discourse, which, unlike most MJ, is conducted without any familiarity with Judaism as it actually exists. From what I can tell, in that setting Jewish identity is apparently assumed to be entirely genetic. Converts to Judaism simply don’t figure in to the equation: Jews are lineal descendents of Abraham, period. The rest of us are goys. Any of us can become Christians, but we can be distinguished by bloodline, the thinking must surely go.

        Perhaps cermak_cd can help us out here.

        • So isn’t “Messianic Jew” essentially an oxymoron?

          What is a Messianic Jew? A Christian.

          • They believe that Jesus was/is the messiah, not necessarily that he was/is divine.

            Also, the belief that Jesus did away with the Jewish law (for the Jews) is a weird reading of Paul, given that both Paul and Jesus were presumably largely observant.

          • Robert F says

            What is a Messianic Jew? A Christian.

            When the antisemites go after Jewish people, they include those Jews who follow Jesus Christ.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            Ask St Edith Stein, Martyr.

        • The way now read Paul (full disclosure: through the guidance of NT Wright) it seems to me that, from a strictly NT perspective, and from that of the original Christian-Jewish movement, it would not be possible to cease to be a Jew simply because one became a Christian.

          What the first century San Hedrin may have said, or what a modern Jew might say, of course, could be very different. But it seems that from Paul’s perspective, and as best I can understand Peter’s also, the basic assumption was that they remained Jewish, and encouraged other Jews to continue to think of themselves as Jews. What parts of the Torah to practice exactly as inspired became a major question, of course, given that the Messiah had been crucified and raised, yet with some being fiercely committed to circumcision. In what ways was God completing something that had been started, and in what ways was he writing things anew? It’s not tidily answered even in the BIble. But then again, that question was on the table even before/outside of Christ, it seems, as Jews across the diaspora were adapting the Mosaic revelation to accommodate their sociopolitical reality.

          Through the goggles of 20 centuries worth of religious divergence, including persecution and anti-semitism, it’s hard to put these pieces back together again, but that what the NT seems to say, from where I sit. One small example: Paul from Acts 22, in front of the high council- “I am a Jew…” not only that but in the next chapter “I am a Pharisee…”

          Derek Leman, below, can give some perspective here, I’m sure…

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Similar confusion also bedevils Christian Zionist discourse, which, unlike most MJ, is conducted without any familiarity with Judaism as it actually exists.

          Don’t get me started on Christian Zionism. Every time I’ve seen “Anti-Semitic Zionism”, it’s been part of the whole Hal Lindsay/Left Behind/Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist trip. Where the Jews, the Arabs, the Russians, the Chinese, you, me, everybody becomes nothing more than pieces to move on the End Time Prophecy gameboard.

      • Dana Ames says


        I think for at least some of those “Torah-abiding gentiles” it is a case of needing a historical connection to earliest Christianity, along with the very real human need for remembrance via ritual (which everyone does in spite of some vehemently denying it or the need for it). In Evangelical settings, participating in keeping the Church Year or anything else that smacks of Catholicism is unthinkable; often the Jewish feasts are seen as somehow “purer” than what the big bad Roman Church came up with – all those “traditions of men” that were forced on people as being necessary for salvation,.etc. And as at least some of us here at IM have noted, most Evangelicals don’t really have much of a “historically sound understanding” of the church past AD 100.

        At least those folks are being honest about their longings through their actions, even if they themselves may not completely understand why they have those longings.


        • ” And as at least some of us here at IM have noted, most Evangelicals don’t really have much of a “historically sound understanding” of the church past AD 100.”

          I think I’ve met very few (probably countable on one hand [outside of academic circles]) who know much about the church BEFORE AD 100. We are so ignorant of Greco-Roman culture/society/values, first-century Judaism(s), the Greek language and ideas, and what not that we literally have little real understanding of what Jesus, Paul, James, etc. were saying and teaching.

          It has dawned on me recently that if there is a theology test at the pearly gates, we’re all in trouble. If not, then God is probably a lot more generous with his grace than most of us think.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I think I’ve met very few (probably countable on one hand [outside of academic circles]) who know much about the church BEFORE AD 100. We are so ignorant of Greco-Roman culture/society/values, first-century Judaism(s), the Greek language and ideas…

            To the point the Bible was originally written in Kynge Jaymes Englyshe.

        • I think Dana has it pretty much nailed: there’s a universal yearning to connect to something deeper and ritualistic, and Messainic Judaism threads the needle for some Evangelicals. As I once explained it to someone, “Evangelicals won’t ever daven at the Wailing Wall, but they sort of wish they could.”

          I recall from my youth those “Jewish choruses” we’d sing in our Pentecostal/Charismatic churches in the 80s. Campy though they could sometimes be, I still wish they’d caught on more than they ever did — they were generally superior to modern evangelical worship songs because they (A) were primarily Scripture choruses, (B) were infinitely singable, and (C) in no way tried to ape contemporary forms. But this was about as far as we took this yearning where I was.

          Christian Zionism could be thought of as a yearning for the same sort of thing, but in prospective rather than retrospective manner.

          • Does anyone sing these anymore? I’m talking:

            “Then Shall the Virgins Rejoice in the Dance”
            “Jehovah Jireh”
            “The Zeal of God Hath Consumed Me.”

            I forget the others now, but there were surely several more we sang.

          • I’m the Messianic Jewish blogger and rabbi whose post was alluded to above. I’d encourage those of you in this thread of comments to find out what MJ really is. Some of the statements above were mischaracterizations and more than a little sad. You might look at my blog, including a post called “What is Messianic Judaism?” But more than that, please get the Zondervan volume Introduction to Messianic Judaism edited by David Rudolph and Joel Willits. Or you could keep misunderstanding us and the connection that really exists between Jews who follow Jesus and non-Jews who follow Jesus.

          • Rick Ro. says

            Thanks for the comment, Derek! Stereotypes, gross generalizations and gross characterizations are quick and easy, and thus found frequently on blogs, even here at iMonk. I’m glad you came to clarify and correct the perception of MJs.

          • Thanks, Derek, for chiming in. As I said somewhere above, I’m for a deeper understanding of how Christianity arose out of Judaism.

            From what I gather from a brief perusal of your blog, your view of MJ (the majority view?) is that it is a form of Judaism that acknowledges _both_ the Messiahship and divinity of Christ, rather than a form of Christianity that finds certain Jewish practices helpful — or merely interesting. Or at least that’s how things have tightened up in the last ~40 years.

            Ultra-Orthodox Jews look askance at secular Jews or at Reform Judaism. To my knowledge, however, they wouldn’t generally claim that such people are actually not Jews at all. With this in mind, am I mistaken in my thinking that they would, however, still view MJ as lying outside of Judaism altogether? If I’m mistaken, I’d like to know, because it’s precisely what I claimed.

            Despite this, I suppose that those within MJ, as practitioners of Judaism as they see it, would have criteria whereby they could receive Gentiles as Jews into their midst (even if — like all Jews — they wouldn’t view this as anything to promote). Since I’m not in such circles, I just wouldn’t know how that works, but that would seem an odd state of affairs: one could either be a Christian, or a Christian+Jew. Or maybe it’s only strange to me because it’s vanishingly rare.

            This probably isn’t the venue for you to answer, but thanks again for dropping by.

          • “Jehovah Jireh”
            “The Zeal of God Hath Consumed Me.”

            My cult church did. So at least just 5 years ago.

            I really need a better way to describe them than “cult church”. They preach Jesus, but everything else screams cult. So…not sure.

      • Paul occasionally referred to the combined entity as “Israel.” Or at least there’s a case for that. In Romans 11, for example “All Israel shall be saved…”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I guess I also don’t understand Messianic Jews all that much. You worship Jesus, great…so why also uphold whats been done away with?

        Historical tradition? After all, those “what’s been done away with” are the ways of their original culture and people, their tribal identity markers.

        However many “Messianic Jews” are just the opposite. Locally, at least the ones on local Christianse AM Radio come across as “Calvary Chapel with Hebrew Buzzwords” — “HAVE YOU ACCEPTED YESHUA HA-MOSHIYAH AS YOUR PERSONAL ADONAI AND SAVIOR?????” This might be due to proximity to Calvary Chapel Ground Zero.

        (to take things to an even bizarre level, there are members of my old cult church that identify themselves as ‘Torah Abiding Gentiles’, fully christian yet still, seriously here, keeping all the old customs and festivals and feast days and whatnot. i just don’t understand it.)

        I remember J Vernon Magee calling them “Secondhand Jews” in an old radio broadcast.

    • From my perspective, this has been one of the glaring eyesores in evangelicalism that, once that and a couple other particular dominoes fall for people, they will have to either change their surroundings and leave…

      That the Old Covenant was not actually a “religion of works-salvation” while the Church knows that it’s “all by grace alone.”

      That comes down, and then you quit reading the NT like it’s a basically on big treatise against legalism. To wield against everyone who’s not like us, so that we can call ourselves the ones with “authentic relationship with God” while everyone else is “just going through the motions.” When I lost this self-congratulatory BS attitude, I started seeing what Jesus cares about.

      I don’t know if that’s what Stanley said, but it’s pretty standard issue reading of the OT, and it wouldn’t be surprising.

  5. N.T. Wright’s point is well taken; the temple served as a “signpost”. Fixating on the signpost is a distraction to what we actually should be “seeing”.

    • A “symbol,” as it were. So much of liturgy and ritual is exactly that: Symbolism to point to the deeper reality. The reaction against that removes the symbol because they feel it has gotten confused with the reality, but they wind up replacing it with inferior symbols or pointing to a different reality.

  6. Daniel Jepsen says

    Loved the N. T. Wright video. Spot-on.

  7. This is for flatrocker;

    A Baptist steeped in their theology could not listen to this without going apoplectic:


  8. I missed the conversation yesterday, but this is one of those strange intersections of events for me. I will be preaching on Jesus in the Temple from John 2 this Sunday. That video clip of Bishop Wright’s is something I listened to at least 5 times yesterday, pondering it/s meaning, and trying to figure out how to put that core concept into my sermon – without actually just parroting him word for word.

    And because I love to actually draw in the other texts in the lectionary readings, how to integrate the 10 commandments and Paul’s discourse on the foolishness of the world from 1 Corinthians.

    And make it into a GOSPEL PROCLAMATION, not a bible history lesson.

    And do it in 25 minutes.

  9. Mea culpa.

    No, no, we can’t have this. You aren’t suitably contrite enough. We’ll need to bring this up regularly and you’ll need to grovel and acknowledge again you were wrong. Now look at the floor and apologize.

    …but seriously, you have my respect for writing this. Well done.

  10. OldProphet says

    Talk about stereotypes! I’m an Evangelical, a non demom, and a charismatic to boot. I have quite an in depth knowledge about the Church and church history post AD 100. How do you like those apples? But, of course, most church people think I’m a heretic andout in the garden. Well, in a yadda la Vida baby!

  11. OldProphey says

    “Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”. Who knew that Janice was a Word of Faith girl!

  12. As one who attends Andy Stanley’s church, I had the opportunity to hear all five of the sermons in this series live and in person, and I must say it gave me something like goose bumps to see it wind up here on this blog.

    I found that Stanley’s idea of the temple model, at least with respect to the Jewish temple, dovetails rather nicely with what N. T. Wright has to say about Paul and his understanding of the role of the temple in the Christian faith. Granted, he doesn’t express it with anywhere near the same theological depth as Wright, yet he said consistently throughout the series that the temple was not a bad thing or a deficient thing which needed to be replaced; it was a good thing given by God to pave the way for Jesus but now that Jesus has come the temple has served its purpose.

    • Joe- In the middle of the series, I told someone that NT Wright came to mind as well. What took place in Jesus was so big, so ground-breaking, massive changes took place (and would continue to do so).

    • Really glad someone with the mainstream exposure Stanley has is saying this, Joe.