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It’s time to stop saying, “the Bible says.” At least that’s what Andy Stanley says. At Exponential, a church-planting conference attended by 5,000 in late spring (with another 20,000 watching via video), the senior pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, said pastors should instead use phrases like “Paul says” and “Jesus says” when citing Scripture.

Stanley (who also made the case in his 2012 book Deep & Wide) told CT the main reason for his injunction is “to keep people who are skeptical of the Bible’s authority engaged in the sermon.” It’s a question of evangelism, not theology, he says. The goal is to lead [people] to the place where they acknowledge Jesus to be who he claimed to be. They don’t have to believe Noah built an ark and put animals on it to get there… To get a person to the point where they believe the Bible is authoritative, they first have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The reason Christians take the Old Testament seriously is because Jesus did.

IN RESPONSE Hershad York, professor of preaching. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote: “Jesus often attributed passages to individual authors like Moses and Isaiah, but he also introduced passages with phrases like, ‘It is written’ or ‘Have you never read in the Scriptures’?

Both formulas are legitimate. But Stanley’s reasoning is unsettling. It suggests unbelievers can’t relate to ‘the Bible says’ because that phrase grants equal authority to all parts of the Bible. This thinking inevitably leads to a canon within the canon. We should counter the suggestion that Genesis is less reliable than Matthew.