Can someone tell me what this quote means in context? My guess is that Andy Stanley is trying to vouch for the historicity of events and teaching later compiled in the books of the New Testament.
Out of context, however—which is the way the vast majority of people will read it—it sounds as if Stanley is denigrating the authority of scripture. I’m sure he would say that old-fashioned Bible preachers like me are bound to misunderstand him. We’re part of the problem. We’ve been preaching and teaching wrong for decades, at least.
But seriously, how is this quote even true?
First, Christians in the first three centuries had the Old Testament, which they believed did tell them that Jesus loved them—even if it didn’t use his name. Indeed, the Christian movement wouldn’t have gotten off the ground to begin with if the apostles didn’t believe wholeheartedly that Christ was the fulfillment of scripture. Read Peter’s sermons in Acts: they are all about the Bible.
Second, churches had copies of at least some gospels and epistles. Third, even if they didn’t, they had apostolic teaching, which the Holy Spirit ensured would be written down and compiled in our New Testament.
If his point is that Christians didn’t have a book in their hands called “The Holy Bible,” well, that’s true, but only trivially so. Absent anyone teaching people that Jesus loved them—and what that means and why it matters—who would know it, or care?