Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley became the subject of controversy after he said that Jesus’ birth is not as important to Christianity as His resurrection.
While preaching earlier this month about Christmas, the pastor of North Point Community Church said he wouldn’t be too concerned about how a person was born if that person could accurately predict his own death and resurrection.
“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,” he said in a Dec. 4 sermon entitled ‘Who Needs Christmas.’
“Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus. It really hinges on the resurrection of Jesus,” he added.
Stanley also mentioned many people question the story about Jesus’ birth because it was recounted only in the books of Matthew and Luke but was missing from the two other gospels, the books of Mark and John.
His comments drew criticism from other Christian leaders.
In an editorial published Dec. 13, evangelical magazine Christianity Today said denying the miraculous conception of Christ “entails direct and conscious rejection of the authority of Scripture and the apostolic teaching which it embodies. And the seriousness of such rejection is incontestable and incalculable.”
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in response to Stanley’s preaching that the virgin birth of Christ is the “central truth claim of Christmas.”
Mohler also said Scripture points out clearly that the virgin birth is crucial to biblical Christianity. He argued that if the virgin birth was not true, then the gospel cannot stand.
“If Jesus was not born of the virgin then the Bible cannot be trusted when it comes to telling us the story of Jesus, and that mistrust cannot be limited to how he came to us in terms of the incarnation,” Mohler said in a podcast.
He said further that Christianity “cannot survive the denial of the virgin birth” because without it, the nature of Jesus as being fully human and fully divine is lost.
In his defense, Stanley said people often misunderstand what he says because of his “communication style.” He said he often presents ideas based on how skeptics deal with them.
“I am often misunderstood because of my communication style,” he told The Washington Post. “I frequently verbalize what I know unbelievers and those who have left the church believe, assume or remember a college professor saying.”
He blamed Southern Baptist professors and writers who had “nothing else to do but listen to bits and pieces of my messages” for fanning the controversy.
The Dec. 4 sermon was just one of a three-part sermon series, in which he communicated his belief in the “birth narratives presented in Matthew and Luke,” Stanley explained.