By Shane Kastler
Much has been made about Atlanta megachurch guru Andy Stanley’s recent comments on the Virgin Birth of Christ. He seems to imply that it is an unimportant doctrine. Here’s a quote from his sermon: “Matthew gives us a version of the birth of Christ. Luke does, but Mark and John, they don’t even mention it. A lot has been made about that. If somebody can predict their own death and their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world, because the whole resurrection thing is so amazing. Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus. It really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.”
My argument is simply that you cannot disregard the virgin birth because it speaks directly to Jesus’s divine nature. Some say that later in the series, Stanley came back and “confirmed” his belief in the virgin birth. But the damage is done. He’s encouraged his people that what they believe about the birth of Christ is inconsequential. He’s also encouraged them that parts of the Bible can simply be ignored as myth. My question is: Who decides what is myth and what is truth? At worst, Stanley is heretical in attacking the virgin birth account. At best he is a confused megachurch guru who has the potential to lead many people astray. I think he’s dangerous and should be avoided. I base this, not only on his recent virgin birth remarks but his recent history of attacking the Bible and Christians who happen to attend churches smaller than his megachurch. In the last year he has said, “Parents who attend small churches are selfish and are not thinking of their kids.” He elevates children’s’ programs above the proclamation of the gospel. To his credit, he later apologized for that statement. Then he told Russell Moore, if he could be an “evangelical pope” for a day he would close all small churches that aren’t growing and give their assets to larger churches that are growing. Of course this was a hypothetical question, but what an insulting and arrogant things to say! In the same interview, he said he would encourage preachers to take their focus OFF the Bible and focus more on the resurrection. I’m glad he’s so enamored with the resurrection. But there are a lot of other amazing things about Jesus in the Bible that Stanley routinely dismisses; and what’s worse, he encourages others to dismiss. He’s also said that expository preachers are “lazy” and need to go topical. If he has a different preaching philosophy, that is fine with me. But it was an unwarranted insult.
Stanley will always have a following because he is a “big name” and he comes from a prominent family within the SBC. His father Charles is a popular preacher and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. So Andy is privy to some perks that most others don't receive. My argument is that he has taken those perks and built a church on watered-down theology and regular attacks on Scripture and faithful ministers who seek to exposit those Scriptures. He’s cool. He’s trendy. He’s popular. And he sees this as a green light to ridicule others how haven’t been given his perks. But God doesn't save sinners, nor bless ministers based on their SBC pedigree.
God has chose to save sinners through the proclamation of the gospel. “The dregs of society” (1 Cor. 4:13) like the Apostle Paul, were called upon to preach a gospel that elevated no one other than Christ. And God was pleased to save who he would save. Paul didn’t feel the need to water down the virgin birth. Andy should not either. Unless he's only interested in numbers and not genuine converts. And if this is the case, like many SBC churches, he is merely baptizing spiritual corpses. Then bragging about his numbers. He can besmirch the small churches all he wants, but many of the smaller churches are preaching the truth. A truth that is not always popular, especially with hotshots like Andy Stanley.
In conclusion. I know that Stanley and I agree on almost nothing. I believe that a man who slaves over the text and seeks to preach it in expositional fashion is doing the right thing. Stanley calls him lazy. I think Stanley's attacks are pathetic.
I believe that people who bring their children to a place that teaches them the true gospel, week in and week out, are raising them in the “fear and admonition of the Lord” as they should be raised. Stanley would insult such parents as selfish.
Stanley believes the virgin birth is a minor issue on the outskirts of Christianity. I would say that it is vital to the person and work of Christ. Was Jesus born the Son of God? Or is he the product of two sinful parents? The difference between the two ideas is infinite.
Let us respect the word of God for what it is….. the WORD of GOD. And let us refrain from ridiculing it for the benefit of our unconverted listeners. Perhaps Stanley means well. Perhaps he really thinks that downplaying miracles like the virgin birth will result in more salvations. If so, then Stanley is painfully ignorant as to how sinners get saved. God must open their eyes to the truth. And no amount of finagling on our part will enhance that. God must save. We simply stick to that which is true, then marvel at his results. Let God be true, though every man a liar. I hope and pray that Andy Stanley believes the same as me on this. So that we might jointly preach the truth. Accept the shame that comes for embracing a supernatural gospel. Then rejoice in those whom God has chosen to save.