If anyone has not heard by this point, Andy Stanley, being infamous for making some foolish statements about the nature of the church and the scriptures, has done it yet again. Yet the interesting thing here for those paying close attention, is that the recent debacle over him making the claim that Christianity doesn’t hinge off of the biblical account of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, is really just the outworking of his previous statements. Incidentally, it also mirrors the decent into liberalism and unbelief – more clearly, it is the preamble to that notable thundering of ol’ Harry Emerson Fosdick who asked, “Shall the Fundamentalists win?”
Fosdick stood on the mount of liberals, decrying the virgin birth, making exceptions to the inerrancy of the scriptures, and eventually came to deny the literal resurrection of Christ. His reason: fundamentalists were intolerant for making claims that such things could not be denied while one remains a Christian. Ultimately, he divided the secular and the sacred in expressing that science, reason, and modernism could not be harmonious with such historic doctrines. I’ll concede on the point that modernism and Christianity are not compatible; interestingly, one of these things has already faded away.
Andy Stanley, after making statements of clarity on his kerfuffle over inerrancy, made remarks affirming that he believes everything in the Bible to be inerrant, but not sufficient in the scope of evangelism. He commented that appealing to the Scriptures directly is not effective, instead of reconciling with and submitting himself to the Scripture’s account on the matter.
He then suggested to those questioning his methodology that, “Your preaching and teaching model is just that – a model. It may be time to break up.” Mr. Stanley, might I also suggest it may be time to break up, either from your methodology in refusing to take notes into the pulpit with you so that you don’t make statements that logically lead one to heresy (and then trying to save face later in writing), or from pulpit ministry altogether? This is not a game. Pastoral ministry is one of the highest callings one can have – and for that reason it will bring swift and fierce judgement (James 3:1). For one making his living off of speaking, they ought to take heed the fact that every careless word shall be judged (Matt. 12:36). Of all people, preachers ought to be the most careful in how they speak and guard the content thereof.
Joel Osteen even recognizes that words have power, though he inevitably twists this as he does with every poisonous thing that spews forth from his mouth. Mr. Stanley – the words you issue from the pulpit, as one who is called to teach the full counsel of God, are downright dangerous and capable of destroying the souls of those whom are in your care. There is a reason why Paul wrote to young Timothy, “Pay close attention to yourself and your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure the salvation both for yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16).
First, you are not beyond the pale of historical orthodoxy, where there are a plethora of writings from the Church Fathers, the Medieval theologians, and theologians from the Reformation period and onward, which give precise reasons why the virgin birth is a non-negotiable doctrine. Start with Anselm’s Why the God-Man? It is one of the more easy to read works – but it is also incredibly profound in explaining why the virgin birth was necessary and you can get it for free. We don’t have the liberty, no matter how large our Sunday services are, to follow the course of enlightenment ideals which throw off the shackles of God by denying the miraculous.
Secondly, it truthfully doesn’t matter if the virgin birth is not accounted for in all of the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. If something is stated even once in scripture – that is sufficient for you to expound upon, as it is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Of all men, preachers are to be the ones who lead people to see this. If we don’t, we only contribute toward that apathy and biblical illiteracy that is so prevalent in the American Church today. Yet they also are culpable for leading them to accept heresy. Denial of the virgin birth logically leads one to heresy.
It doesn’t matter if the goats think it palatable – you are called to feed His sheep. If you love Him, you will feed His sheep (John 21:15-17). You will lead them to drink deeply in the brook and cherish the Scriptures – for these things that are revealed belong to us and our children forever for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Deut. 29:29; Rom. 15:4). Notice that in all of these things, it is the power of the scriptures that accomplishes the work of God. It isn’t up to you, Mr. Stanley, or any other man to make sure the Word of the Lord doesn’t return void and be without accomplishing what God has intended (Isaiah 55:11). Isn’t that incredibly freeing? All you have to do is be faithful to what you’re called. Live out the measures stated in the Pastoral Epistles for leaders in the church.
The thing that seems to be lost in this whole discussion is that in you saying, “’The Bible says so’ is not enough anymore,” you are in turn asking many to say, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for Andy Stanley tells me so.” No under-shepherd gets to make such claims, even by loose or unintended implication. They are, at best, those who say, “Thus says the Lord.” Anything beyond that is speculation and it deserves no place in the pulpit, as pastors are specifically intended to call those in the flock to faithfulness to the text in all their ways.
So I’m going to just ask as one appealing to you in the Lord: repent of statements like this, which truly do reflect the heart of neo-liberalism, and come back to the text. That is the task of the preacher. None of this is predicated on how others might feel; again, it is bound within the Scriptures as the authoritative revelation of the Lord. God Himself calls you to this standard. If you can’t lead others away from heresy condemned long ago – step down. Is it not better to be free from the judgment of God? You are certainly not doing any favors with your influence to the small-town pastor of little notoriety who is seeking to be faithful to the text and lead his flock in a proper manner. Instead, you are propagating teaching that is a nuisance, which is yet another form of falsehood needing to be driven out because of the shallow, careless, yet in the end – dangerous, theology being streamed to the masses.
Mr. Stanley, please prove yourself to be a workman approved by God. If you can’t, please, for the health of the church: step down.
The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of my hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not rule over me; then I will be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:7-8).