Andy Stanley and the Virgin Birth

Andy Stanley the pastor of North Point Community Church is the subject of controversy again. In his sermon on December 4 of this year some claim he discredited the Virgin Birth of Christ.

Andy said, “If somebody can predict their own death and resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world…Christianity doesn’t hinge on the truth or even the stories around the birth of Jesus. It hinges on the resurrection of Jesus.”

That is a very strong statement when you realize that the Virgin Birth of Christ is a foundational truth fundamental to orthodox Christianity. Andy managed to anger several in the theological community.

Andy never said he did not believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ, nor did he deny its theological significance. Like anything said or written one needs to consider the context of the statement.

North Point Ministries’ website clearly says it was “founded in 1995 with the vision of creating churches that unchurched people love to attend.” With six different locations within the suburban Atlanta area and an average weekly attendance of 36,000, they appear to have succeeded. But success means nothing if it is founded on heresy.

What was the evangelistic thrust of the early church?

Many believe the Church was conceived when Christ first mentioned it, Matthew 16:18, but was born on Pentecost. Peter’s sermon resulting in the first three thousand converts to the new faith on Pentecost focused on the resurrection of Christ and said nothing of His birth. Peter proclaimed, “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses,” Acts 2:32.

Paul would later write, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

In all of his writings Paul never mentions the Virgin Birth, but declares the resurrection of Christ is “of first importance.” He further writes that our salvation is secured when we “confess…Jesus as Lord, and believe…God raised Him from the dead,” Romans 10:9.

It seems that the Virgin Birth of Christ was not an essential element of evangelizing the unchurched two thousand years ago, and Andy seems to be saying it is not an essential element in evangelizing the unchurched today.

This does not mean the narratives of Christ’s birth recorded in Matthew and Luke are unimportant. The infinite God confined the revelation of Himself to a finite Book, and nothing contained in it should be considered insignificant. It simply appears that if Christ’s birth was not the evangelistic thrust of the early church, should it be today?

Paul tells us, “But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another,” Ephesians 5:15. This is not a defense of Andy; I just believe the cause of Christ is not well served by senseless sniping.

“Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

Manassas, Virginia is a important landmark in our nation’s history. It was the scene of the first significant land battle of our nation’s one and only Civil War on July 21, 1861. It was also the place of a second battle in August of 1862. They are known as both the first and second Battle of Manassas, or the first and second Battle of Bull Run depending on whether your perspective is of a southern or northern persuasion.

Manassas is the scene of another battle today in what has become known as the war on Christmas. There is a nativity scene in the town’s Nelson Park, and an atheist group placed a banner next to it that reads, “At this Season of the Winter Solstice, LET REASON PREVAIL. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation got a permit for the banner, but as you can imagine those who support the nativity scene are “upset by the banner and found it offensive.” This is because Christians believe Christmas softens hearts and frees our minds.

For a number of years now atheists groups from different parts of the country have chosen the Christmas holiday to advance their cause that this is the “season for reason.” Believers counter that Christ is the “Reason for the season,” and they have an older claim.

Given our nation’s emphasis on Christmas, this is the time of year when atheists can generate the most notoriety for their cause and get the biggest bang for their advertising buck.

Getting angry and offended at atheists for their disbelief makes about as much sense to me as atheists trying to throw a wet blanket on the infectious joy of this time of year. The secular-minded will never be able to understand the Virgin Birth through reason alone; the wonder of Christmas can only be seen by faith. How can we be offended when those who have no faith fail to see that, which can only be seen by faith?

Atheists remind me of Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch stole Christmas!” You may recall in this children’s classic the Grinch was a miserable, cave-dwelling hermit annoyed each year by the celebration of Christmas in Whoville. Wanting some company in his misery the Grinch decides to visit Whoville and steal all the presents and decorations on Christmas Eve thinking it will make Christmas morning a time of sorrow. He is surprised when despite the removal of every symbol of the season, all the Whos in Whoville awake with joyous singing. The Grinch realizes that “maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

Atheists may try to steal Christmas, but I rejoice that on that first Christmas “in the city of David there has been born…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” Luke 2:11. “Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

The Liberal Media Doesn’t Quite Get Religion

In the wake of Donald Trump’s electoral victory, the liberal press continues to be mystified about what transpired. It seems they never saw it coming and are unable to explain it. It is the fact that Trump garnered 81% of the white evangelical vote that has them stumped.

In an article titled “Essay: Fake news, faith and reason,” Jerry Adler writing for Yahoo News asked “is there something in the mindset of a religious believer — someone who accepts the reality of an unseen deity, based on ancient accounts of events with no parallel in everyday experience –- that encourages the acceptance of unprovable claims in the realm of politics or science?”

The answer to that is yes and no. There is something in the mindset of the believer that embraces events like Noah’s flood and the Exodus of Israel from Egypt though there is no parallel in everyday experience; it is called faith. But that mindset does not predispose believers to accept some of the outrageous claims made by Donald Trump during his campaign. Maybe white evangelicals feared Hillary Clinton’s promise to promote the same-sex agenda and its concomitant threat to religious liberty.

Adler goes on to admit, “It is not an easy question. Christians put Scripture in a separate epistemological category: It is the word of God, not subject to the same empirical testing as a weather forecast or an unemployment report.”

This statement shows how addled Adler is. There is an aspect of faith that is intuitive and possibly defies epistemological categorization (Hebrews 11:1), but when the Bible makes truth claims about creation they are definitely empirically verifiable.

Almost three millennia before the invention of the telescope Job declared that God “hangs the earth on nothing,” Job 26:7, and modern science confirms the earth is floating in space. While the Scriptures clash with some scientific theories, modern science has never disproved a single observable fact recorded in the Bible.

And I would also tell Adler that the infallible and unchanging Word of God cannot be compared, nor should it, to a fallible weather forecast, or a changing demographic like an unemployment report.

There is a gulf between the mindset and subsequent worldview of Christianity that the liberal media cannot bridge. Paul tells us “a natural man [an unbeliever] does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised,” 1 Corinthians 2:14.

Unbelievers and nominal believers will never be able to logically comprehend the things that genuine Christians embrace by faith. This is why the liberal media has difficulty reporting on religious matters.

Dean Baquet executive editor of the New York Times said in a recent interview, “I think that the… media powerhouses don’t quite get religion…We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives.” He is right, because the chasm between belief and disbelief cannot be jumped in a single empirical bound.

Will HGTV Fix Fixer Upper

The fourth season of Chip and Joanna Gaines’ popular HGTV series Fixer Upper has begun amid controversy. The couple’s pastor Jimmy Seibert of Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas is reported to have preached a sermon and in it has said that marriage is between “one man and one woman” and “homosexuality is a sin.”

This has LGBT activists demanding that Chip and Joanna comment on where they stand regarding same-sex issues. Their network issued a statement saying, “We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”

The hit series has yet to host a same-sex couple. HGTV and Fixer Upper may be on a collision course to do so. LGBT activists are relentless in their need to feel accepted and normal, and the entertainment industry is overly accepting and sensitive to their demands.

The Gaines have yet to comment, but Chip tweeted, “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. DO EVERYTHING IN LOVE.” This is a quote of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 from the New Living Translation.

Current circumstances present Christians with a dilemma. How are we to “do everything in love” as we are commanded and “not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret,” Ephesians 5:11-12.

Paul was addressing issues of immorality. If Christians are to be true to the Scriptures we must admit homosexuality is immoral, so how do we “do everything in love” when interacting with immoral people?

If I were a car salesman it would be easy, in a strictly business transaction I would be more concerned with a person’s credit than their moral background, heterosexual or homosexual.

But if I were a wedding photographer the situation gets a little more complicated. I would not want to be forced to commemorate a homosexual wedding in pictures, anymore than I would want to commemorate a heterosexual nude wedding, and for the same reasons, I find both offensive.

We now live in a post-Obergefell v. Hodges America. Christians are going to be forced to address these kinds of dilemmas, and there will be a learning curve as we seek guidance on how to “overcome evil with good.”

I think many Christians are uncomfortable with the state of affairs in America right now and would feel better if the LGBT community would slip quietly back into the closet, but I think God has allowed these things to happen so we can address the evil in our midst.

The tension between one’s right to force their immorality on another and the limits of religious liberty is about to get greater. Christians will need wisdom as much now as we ever have, so “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,” James 1:5.

Looking for Loopholes

He was born William Claude Dukenfield, but his stage name was W. C. Fields. In the 1930’s and 40’s he parlayed his Vaudeville experience into a film career. As a comedic actor he was renowned for his salacious levity. Though he was an inveterate drunk and adamant atheist, surprisingly, he enjoyed studying theology. Shocked, a friend once asked him if that was a Bible he was reading. Holding little sacred and always looking for a laugh Fields replied, “Yes, I was looking for loopholes.”

I fear there are many people who read their Bible in the same way; they are looking for loopholes. They claim to be Christians and want people to think they are the salt of the earth, but they say some of the most ridiculous things as if they know what they are talking about.

This is something I have heard ad nauseum over the years, “You do not need to go to church to be a Christian.” That statement is nonsense on so many different levels. If being a Christian means to live as Christ lived, then they need to read their Bibles, Jesus did. He read and knew the Scriptures so to be like Him would require one to do the same.

Back to going to church, we read, “And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read,” Luke 4:16. The Son of God was in His place of worship on His day of worship, and to be like Him we should be in our place of worship on our day of worship.

Christ did not “need” to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath but He did: it was His custom, his practice. He came to this earth to serve (Mark 10:45) so He went to the synagogue to do that very thing. Scattered throughout the Gospels one cannot deny Jesus was in the synagogues regularly and many of his miracles of healing occurred there.

I know there are people in church for the wrong reasons; Jesus called them hypocrites. You see He had them in His day, and he did not let them stand between Him and doing what was right.

Many say they hate organized religion, but I know something they would hate even worse, disorganized religion. Jesus had the same problem way back then, the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted to kill Him, and eventually succeeded, because He upset the status quo of their organized religion.

Jesus Christ instituted the Church so that we as believers could work together to make disciples of all nations. None of us can do it alone, we will always be “better together” than we would ever be as a “lone stone.” If you are a Christian your brothers and sisters need your help; quit looking for loopholes.