Earlier this week I wrote an editorial titled: “Andy Stanley’s approach to the virgin birth.” I questioned his approach to this vital doctrine of our faith because he seemed to minimize the importance of this miracle. You can read that editorial here.
Pastor Stanley was kind enough to contact me and said the sermon I referenced was the first of a three-part series. He then asked if I had heard the other two sermons, to which I replied I had not. He indicated the series was actually an apologetic for the virgin birth of Jesus.
Since his contact I have listened to the two additional messages and want to issue an apology for writing an editorial that was not altogether accurate.
In the second message Stanley affirmed that God needed Christmas to demonstrate His love for us. He proclaimed, “God sent His Son to pay the price that we owe in such a way that once we embrace the truth of the story we would never ever doubt God’s love. We needed to see it to believe it. He had to be with us so we could know He was for us.”
In his third sermon the North Point pastor declared that we needed the virgin birth. He stated, “No one was expecting a virgin birth. It is not critical to the storyline of God sending a Messiah to the Jewish people.
“In fact, this was a weird idea. It was a kind of Greek leftover – from Greek mythology. In Greek mythology the Greek gods were always mating with Greek, beautiful, human females in order to have these God-person creatures like Hercules and Helen of Troy whose father was Zeus. The whole idea of gods mating with humans to create these god-human creatures was not Jewish. It was Greek. It was pagan.
“Nobody was expecting the virgin birth. It was not critical to the story of the Messiah coming to deliver the nation of Israel; and making this up doesn’t help the story.”
Stanley continued, “For Matthew to have manufactured the storyline doesn’t help the story. It hurts it. It’s weird. Nobody is going to believe it. The Messiah doesn’t need to be born of a virgin. Nobody is going to believe that. The only reason this story made it into the narrative is because it is true.
“The reason people rallied around Jesus was not because of the virgin birth, but the resurrection. After his death there was not a group of people who said, ‘Well, I think we can keep the dream alive because of the virgin birth.’ Nobody said that because after He died they expected Him to stay dead.
“So, Matthew would not have made up the story, because it does not help the narrative. It hurts more than it helps. But Matthew tells us that an angel appeared to Joseph and Mary in a dream and said, ‘This Son that is about to be born to you is special. He has been conceived by the Holy Spirit of God.”
After these remarks Stanley called for a drum roll and emphatically affirmed the virgin birth and Christ’s reason for coming to earth.
I communicated to Pastor Stanley that I spent my years in college and seminary listening to professors of theology who spent their time and mine teaching theology from a neo-orthodox perspective and demythologizing the Scriptures. Therefore, I am super-sensitive to anyone who mentions myths and the doctrines of the faith in the same context.
Andy Stanley’s approach to teaching the virgin birth is not wrong, but different. Perhaps his method is the best way to reach Millennials and the unchurched. He is certainly having success at gathering the multitudes. However, I do maintain that he may be using shock therapy and reverse psychology to capture the attention of his audience.
The next time I will listen to a series before I draw my conclusions. I will look before I leap. And I promise not to shoot and ask questions later.