Don’t believe in Jesus’ virgin birth? Not a problem, says Andy Stanley

December has apparently proven to be an interesting month for the Rev. Andy Stanley, son of a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta — one of the largest congregations in the country.

Though it is only now breaking in to the open, the Baptist world has been rocked by a Dec. 4 sermon in which the son of famed TV evangelist Charles Stanley discounted the importance of believing in the virgin birth of Jesus. His entry point:

“A lot of people just don’t believe it. And I understand that. Maybe the thought is, ‘Hey, maybe they had to come up with some myth about Jesus to give him street cred, you know, later on.’ Maybe that’s where that came from.

 

“It’s interesting, because 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 of that….

 

“You’ve heard me say some version of this a million times, so this will be old if you’ve been around for a while. But see, if somebody can predict their own death and then their own resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world.”

Many Baptists were aghast at what they saw as an unexpected new front opening up in the war on Christmas. From Baptist Global News:

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., took exception to Stanley’s view in a Dec. 16 podcast describing the Bible stories about Christ’s incarnation as “the central truth claim of Christmas.”

 

“Just in recent days, one Christian leader was quoted as saying that if Jesus predicted his death and then was raised from the dead, it doesn’t matter how he came into the world,” Mohler said. “But the Bible insists it really does matter and the answer given from Scripture very clear in the gospel of Matthew and in the gospel of Luke is that Jesus was born to a virgin.”

We’ll let the religion desk of the Washington Post weigh in as well:

This is not the first time Stanley…has had to defend remarks from his sermons. Earlier this year, after critics accused him of downplaying the authority of scripture, the nondenominational pastor attributed the issue to his nontraditional preaching style.

 

“The real story is the handful of Southern Baptist professors and writers (not so much preachers) who seem to have nothing else to do but listen to bits and pieces of my messages,” he said in his statement to The Post. “Anyone who listens to all three [sermons in the series] will know that I stand firmly within the orthodox Christian tradition regarding the incarnation of Jesus — including the birth narratives as presented [in] Matthew and Luke.”

 

Stanley also said he believes people can become Christians without knowing the narratives around Jesus’ birth.

Reader Comments 0

121 comments
Harlequin
Harlequin

After reading the entries on this blog, I can now see that my decision to join the ranks of the "unchurched" was a good one! 

RobertAlan777
RobertAlan777

The meaning of the Greek word translated virgin is a smokescreen.  It can mean young woman or it can mean actual virgin; but that is not the point.  Context often dictates meaning.  That is only one factor.  When the angel appeared to Mary and told her that she was pregnant of the Holy Ghost, it came as a surprise to her and she said, asking, how can this be, seeing that I have never known a man?


Furthermore, it does not matter what else Andy preached in his sermon.  His words can't be taken out of context.  It does not matter than he has not said that he actually denies the virgin birth himself; the point is that he is SOFT on the doctrine and thinks that it does not matter.  Like bad lies require more and more lies to keep the lie hidden, so one bad theology will cause other doctrines to fail like rotting teeth falling out of the gums.  Bible doctrine is not pick or choose; even as if you offend one point of the law you are guilty of all; because they are all connected—a harmonious whole.


It matters not what other lovely, albeit probably very casually and poorly stated things he said in his entire sermon... it requires a good dose of sugar to help the poison go down without noticing it.

VanceMullis
VanceMullis

I am certain Andy is right. "Believe in the virgin birth" is not a requirement to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Neither is a belief in the inerrancy of scripture, which is a doctrine not even presented in scripture.

A few months ago, Andy's comments on inerrancy were what shocked certain establishment. I got the impression that he backtracked on those statements. I would have preferred he stuck with the original statements, because there is no scriptural reason to demand an allegiance to the inerrancy of scripture and the doctrine can be damaging. When a person taught inerrancy finds one of the minor errors in scripture, it can cause a crisis of faith.

Now, when he moves away from a literal reading of the first creation story (Genesis 1.1-2.4a), that will remove a large stumblingblock that is keeping people away from Christianity. The fact that there is a second creation story (beginning in Genesis 2.4b) with a different order and method of creation -- proof from the Bible itself that we are not to take the early chapters of Genesis literally.

Andy Stanley is a wonderful pastor and teacher. My prayer is that he will be able to overcome some of the failed or incorrect doctrines that he was taught in his early years and then he can help move the evangelical establishment into a place of greater effectiveness for the Kingdom of God.

Kerry Hill
Kerry Hill

There is no War on Christmas it's made up by right-wing idiots

weetamoe
weetamoe

I did not think Baptists believed in the virgin birth--or purgatory or limbo.  Most  Catholics--practicing or lapsed--are secure enough in their faith and their ability to reason-and know the connection between the two-- to understand that discussions in this particular  newspaper column become nothing more than an opportunity for the  bitter and hate-filled to insult those they really know nothing about.

VanceMullis
VanceMullis

Baptists do believe in the virgin birth; they don't believe in purgatory or limbo.

The virgin birth is clearly described in scripture. Purgatory and limbo are not.

Richard Cowan
Richard Cowan

# No To All Democrats Destroying America There's No Such Thing As A Good Democrat

Harlequin
Harlequin

Temper, Temper! BTW, would staying on topic be too much to ask?

Mason Tubb
Mason Tubb

If Christ's body was not half-God, it would have failed him during his process of atoning for all sin and pain. He endured every pain and affliction for everyone who ever had lived or will live would ever have, and by extension all suffering that would ever be experienced in the universe. Luke 22:44 "And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." It is scientifically possible to sweat blood, but the amount of pain your body has to experience for that to be possible is far beyond the threshold of being something you could survive from, and that's just bleeding from one pour. Christ however bleed from every poor. The pain he experienced went beyond what any mortal could endure, beyond what any but god himself can even comprehend. I testify that Christ was the literal son of God, that he bleed for us all, that with his resurrection he has broken the chains of death for us all, and that through following him, we may return to live with our father in heaven in eternal life.

Far-Out
Far-Out

Andy Stanley is one of the few people in this world who still preach the pure gospel, just as Jesus did.  Isn't it interesting how many folks who claim to be Christians are throwing him under the train without even confirming the information.  Christianity teaches that if you have a problem with another you go to that person first.  It is all about relationships not gossip and rumors the way most of the world handles things.  Christianity is not a "religion" thank God.  Christ abhorred the Pharisees who practiced only "Religion".

Religion is rules and regulations and condemnation.  Christianity is love, forgiveness and freedom.  It's a shame that so many dare to call themselves Christians today and judge others so freely. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Ah, the redefinition of what being a Christian is has been happening over the past years and accelerating this year. Lying, insulting, speaking down to others, and minimal compassion were all cornerstones of Trump's campaign. The religious right voted him into office and said that it all didn't matter. More and more guns...WWJP?

carterjoseph1950
carterjoseph1950

Reared Catholic, went to parochial school eight years, taught by Dominican nuns, learned the liturgy back and forth, learned from it, left the church as an adult, admire Jesus as the infinitely wise genius he was. But I never regret my rearing or my leaving. Don't need religion. Just try to be a good person and make this world a better place.


Thank god I'm an atheist. 


Archangel
Archangel

@carterjoseph1950 Too bad you closed out an otherwise intelligent post using the same type of divisive ignorance you accuse Christians to have. 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@carterjoseph1950 While not an atheist myself, I too was raised in the Catholic Church. Jesus, through his teachings, gave us the model to live our lives peacefully, respecting authority and our teachers, and providing us a philosophy to live our lives. You do not have to go to church to be a Christian...you live the philosophy!

Rickyzee
Rickyzee

@carterjoseph1950 But how can you define "good" without God? There has to be an objective moral lawgiver that defines what good is.  Otherwise, we are just a  higher order of primates, and the ideas of good and evil are just the subjective opinion of an individual or the culture they live in. In other words, you trying to be a good person is just your opinion of what is good. Maybe they are things that a lot of us would consider good. But, there are people and cultures blowing up buildings and shooting people in the street who believe just as firmly that the things they are doing are "good". I agree that you don't need God to be good, but you need God to ground what "good" is. 

Phil Fincher
Phil Fincher

Get your facts straight before you post crap like this

MyLibrarian
MyLibrarian

One of the many reasons I am thankful I am Catholic: authoritative teaching about doctrine, not dependent upon what one preacher thinks.

DerekGator
DerekGator

@MyLibrarian Really, seems to me that you are completely dependent on what one preacher thinks, the Pope.

Harlequin
Harlequin

@DerekGator @MyLibrarian :The Roman Catholics I've known in America, are as "Cafeteria" as American Protestants. They pay lip service to the "Bishop of Rome" and turn around and do their own thing!

mgunter
mgunter

I would have to hear his complete sermon to make a comment. At first blush it appears to be troubling. One thing for sure, we're all gona face death one day and after that comes judgement . My prayer is that all will accept Jesus as Lord and Savior before it's too late.

Debbie Grant Willis
Debbie Grant Willis

Proverbs 26:4, Believers, do not argue with fools, as you might be mistaken as one.

HobartDale
HobartDale

I understand and agree with Rev. Stanley that people can become Christians without knowing the narrative around Jesus’ birth.What will convince people about Christianity is the example of people trying to live the teachings of Jesus, understanding His life and death and resurrection.The rest is theology.The important thing for Christians is to live the life and teachings of Jesus and leave the theology to those who make a career of theology.Hobart Dale

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@HobartDale So what other "controversial" accounts in his history do you not embrace? Religion has become "comfortable" for many who do not embrace his recorded history and teachings.

Harlequin
Harlequin

@HobartDale "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" -Luke 6: 46 

y8sisgr8
y8sisgr8

If you pay strict attention to what Stanley has said, (not what people are saying that he said), he has not said point blank that he does not believe in the virgin birth.  His comments are largely about how the world perceives this and how people are trying to rationalize the birth.  It is a mark of a good pastor to see where people are coming from, and find some common ground in which to agree upon before gradually guiding them to a more theological position.  You will never win anyone to Christ by beating someone over the head with the virgin birth and insisting that this is the common benchmark of all believers and you are going to Hell if you don't believe!  You really believe a new convert is supposed to have a degree in theology before he can be considered a Christian?  It takes years of nurturing, teaching, and loving before someone who initially balks at the Virgin Birth can see the real picture about what Christianity really stands for.    

Gina Mir
Gina Mir

Religions are destroying the world

Chuck_L
Chuck_L

Virgin birth isn't a miracle. All it takes is to get some sperm past the hymen. Obviously that isn't done the traditional way but it is possible. I've heard that the virgin birth was taken from Greek mythology to help gentiles understand and identify with Jesus. I agree with Mr. Stanley that whether you believe in the virgin birth isn't all that important. Living according to Jesus' ministry and teaching is what's important, not arguing about how he was conceived.

Julie Estes Bowlick
Julie Estes Bowlick

Shame on you AJC for falling for sensational headlines ...totally untrue...listen to his entire message

Margaret Penny Wood
Margaret Penny Wood

It was a mistranslation. Original versions said Mary was a young woman, not a virgin. Mary Magdelene was not a prostitute either. That was a bad translation in the 5th century.

VanceMullis
VanceMullis

The "young woman" term is in the Hebrew version of Isaiah that is quoted in the gospels. Virgin is not a mistranslation of Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament.

Daniel Eason
Daniel Eason

Did they "mistranslate" Isaiah and Jeremiah, too?

Leslie Nein Devine
Leslie Nein Devine

I would guess everyone here that is condemning Andy Stanley has listened to the entire message. If you haven't, maybe you should before judging bits and pieces of a message. How disappointing and tragic when the Body of Christ tears into their own without even the respect to gather all the information before crucifying each other. What a lovely message you are sending to the world about who we are as Christians. The enemy doesn't even have to lift a finger outside the church to persecute us, we are doing it to ourselves. \U0001f614

Harry Pence
Harry Pence

His point was that the resurrection was the act that should be most emphasized, he is a student of the Bible and has spent more time studying it in a year than the collective commenters on this thread.

Ryan Mclean
Ryan Mclean

just think of these hypocrites actually cared about something important

CharlesThomas Duke
CharlesThomas Duke

Well I don't understand,Jesus is real,he is the true son of God,why is it hard to believe?

Brenda Cooper
Brenda Cooper

Exactly. Ppl he didn't say he didn't believe in the virgin birth.

Arden Jones
Arden Jones

I just read some conservative christian news who are angry about this. Are conservative Christians now the liberal media too? And this is a battle that has been going on since the inception of Christianity as a religion separate from Judaism. Maybe it's time for you to brush up on your Christian history.

Harlequin
Harlequin

"My preacher can beat up your preacher!"

Susan Camp Fraser
Susan Camp Fraser

I am a Christian. I believe. Don't judge me for it. I don't judge you for your unbelief so give me that same respect.

Chris Wright
Chris Wright

People can believe in walking on water, a talking snake a virgin birth, taking a rib out of somebody randomly and making another person in yet in the same breath deny basic science.

Karlye Ramer
Karlye Ramer

We got a talking burning bush too!! Don't forget the burning bush.

Ryan Mclean
Ryan Mclean

and trying to explain how Noah got those two penguins from the north pole to the middle east LOL

Ryan Mclean
Ryan Mclean

Karlye Ramer and the man who lived comfy inside a big whale

Chris Wright
Chris Wright

Ryan Mclean Don't forget two dinosaurs and don't forget how the carnivores somehow didn't kill the herbivores in the process. We can BELIEVE that but God forbid some science show up now

Peyton Waylon
Peyton Waylon

Don't forget the part where Jesus's Daddy turned rocks into bread but can't feed the poor of today.. lol