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.