UPDATE: For follow-up post, click here.
Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Ministries and contemporary Atlanta pastor, is one of the most successful pastors in America at building churches and drawing enormous congregations for his worship services. The six congregations Stanley has built across the metropolitan Atlanta area draw more than 30,000 worshippers each week.
In a recent message to his congregation Stanley declared, “One of the challenging things about the Christmas season and one of the challenging things about the Christmas story is, in fact, the Christmas story – the Christmas story as it relates to the birth of Jesus. Because there is so much miraculous, there is so much amazing, there is so much that’s really unbelievable about it and a whole lot of people just don’t believe; and I understand that.”
Stanley continued, “Maybe the thought is that they had to come up with some myth about the birth of Jesus to give him street cred later on.
“It is interesting because Matthew gives us a version of the birth of Jesus. Luke does, but Mark and John don’t even mention it; and a lot has been made of that.
“And you have heard me say some version of this a million times, but if somebody can predict their own death and resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world, because the whole resurrection thing is so amazing and, in fact, you should know this. Christianity does not hinge on the truth or even the stories about the birth of Jesus, it really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.”
Perhaps Andy Stanley is using some kind of shock therapy or reverse psychology to capture the attention of his audience, but some would consider it dangerous to even mention the word “myth” when talking about the birth of Jesus.
I do not want to be unjustly harsh on Pastor Stanley, because he has declared his conviction that the Bible is “without error in everything it affirms,” but in some of his sermons there seems to be some ambiguity and the lack of a “certain sound.” In a recent interview with Norman Giesler, the well-known professor, apologist, and author reasoned, “Some have jumped on Stanley for denying the infallibility of the Bible. However, at worst these statements are unfortunate and incomplete, but not explicitly heretical.”
In commenting on the virgin birth, Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, writes, “The doctrine of the virgin birth was among the first to be questioned and then rejected after the rise of historical criticism and the undermining of biblical authority that inevitably followed. Critics claimed that since the doctrine is taught in ‘only’ two of the four Gospels, it must be optional. The apostle Paul, they argued, did not mention it in his sermons in Acts, so he must not have believed it.
“Besides, the critics argued, the doctrine is just so supernatural. Modern heretics like retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong argue the doctrine was just evidence of the early church’s over-claiming of Christ’s deity. It is, Spong tells us, the ‘entrance myth’ to go with the resurrection, the ‘exit myth.’ If only Spong were a myth.”
Furthermore, I would staunchly disagree with the comment that “Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories about the birth of Jesus.”
It has been widely reported that Larry King, the well-known talk show host for many years on CNN, once said that if he could choose one person to interview from the course of human history, he would choose to interview Jesus Christ.
King said that he would like to ask Jesus “If he was indeed virgin-born.” He added, “The answer to that question would define history for me.” Larry King, even though his parents were orthodox Jews, understands that the virgin birth is a big deal.
Our faith rises and falls on the virgin birth. It is the divinity of Christ though His virgin birth that qualifies Him to pay the price for our sins. Our redeemer, of necessity, had to have flowing through His veins the rich, red, royal blood of deity, uncontaminated by sin, in order to be our Savior.
In his podcast Mohler added, “The fact is that biblical Christianity and ultimately the Gospel of Christ cannot survive the denial of the virgin birth. Because without the virgin birth, you end up with a very different Jesus than the fully human, fully divine Savior revealed in Scripture.”
It is because of the virgin birth that Adrian Rogers was able to say, “There was never a birth like the birth of Jesus before His birth; and there has not been a birth like His birth since His birth. When He was born He was as old as His Father and older than His mother. He had a heavenly Father, but no heavenly mother. He had an earthly mother, but no earthly father.
“Jesus Christ is the God-Man. He is not half man and half God. He is not all man and no god. He is not all God and no man. He is as much man as though He were never God and as much God as though He were never man. Jesus is the God-man made possible by the virgin birth.”
Dr. John Walvoord, president of Dallas Theological Seminary, said, “The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity. Upon it the whole superstructure of Christian theology depends.”
The whole essence of Christianity is predicated on the fact that Jesus is God in human flesh. John MacArthur said, “You see, if Jesus had a human father, then the Bible is untrustworthy, because the Bible claims he did not. And if Jesus was born simply of human parents, there is no way to describe the reason for his supernatural life. His virgin birth, his substitutionary death, his bodily resurrection, and his second coming are a package of deity. You cannot isolate any one of those and accept only that one and leave the rest or vice versa, accept them all but one.”
Earlier this year, Stanley seemed to minimize the importance of the role Scripture plays in the life of the believer and minimizing the importance of the virgin birth of Christ is simply the next step in what appears to be a downward trajectory. The virgin birth of Christ is absolutely essential, for without the virgin birth, mankind would not have a Savior (the God-man) and no resurrection could have occurred.
On this past Lord’s Day people around the word celebrated Christmas, commemorating the birth of Christ. The miracle of the virgin birth captivated our attention, prompted our worship, and elicited our joy as we bowed down before the virgin born Lamb of God who became our risen, triumphant Savior and Lord.