Andy Stanley, Billy Graham, and the Bible on the virgin birth

Andy Stanley, megachurch pastor and son of noted pastor Charles Stanley, said of the virgin birth, this past December,

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.

I was not surprised that Andy Stanley said what he said about the virgin birth. Though S. Lewis Johnson reminds us that the miracle was the conception, the birth itself was bloody, messy, and like every other birth in history. After I heard him preach it, I never thought about the virgin birth the same way again!

In any case, Andy Stanley continues to deny our fundamental doctrines (I’ve kept track and there are may doctrines he denies). The way his church treats worship tells us this, too. Just last month he had go-go dancers as part of the singing.

It is not possible either to deny the virgin birth yet accept Christ as holy, sinless deity. When Stanley made his statement, there was quite rightly a hullabaloo over it. However, Stanley is not the first pastor claiming to be conservative who denies the virgin birth as necessary to the faith. Billy Graham also denies the necessity of belief in the virgin birth. Yet there is no hullabaloo over Graham’s denial but only excuses made for his ‘misstatements.’

In my thorough study of Graham, which encompassed listening to sermons from 1949 through to the 1980s, reading several of his books, reading books about him, listening to interviews, and reading two dissertations looking at the evolution of his theology over Graham’s 50 active years, the conclusion is clear to me. In 1993 Graham said to Time Magazine (as codified in Ken Garfield’s book Billy Graham, a Life in Pictures, of the virgin birth specifically,

Graham has said that the virgin birth of Christ is NOT an essential part of the Christian faith. In an interview with a United Church of Canada publication in 1966 (“Billy Graham Answers 26 Provocative Questions,” United Church Observer, July 1, 1966), Graham gave the following reply to a question about the virgin birth of Christ: 

Q. Do you think a literal belief in the Virgin birth — not just as a symbol of the incarnation or of Christ’s divinity — as an historic event is necessary for personal salvation?
A. While I most certainly believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, I do not find anywhere in the New Testament that this particular belief is necessary for personal salvation.

Graham denied the necessity of the virgin birth not just once but several times in different decades. Graham’s response was a classic example of his penchant for doubletalk. Is there any other kind of salvation, besides the personal? Is there global salvation? Impersonal salvation?

And if we use his silly statement as the basis, “I don’t find anywhere in the New Testament” …we can also say “I don’t find anywhere in the New Testament any specific reference to the Trinity” so therefore “belief in the Trinity is not necessary to personal salvation”.

If Christ be not the virgin-born Son of God, He could not be our Savior. To reject the doctrine of the Virgin Birth is to reject the only Sinless Savior that God has provided for sinners.

Of course Graham’s denial of Jesus as the exclusive way to God, as seen in his adoption of the wider mercy approach, was articulated clearly and affirmed with questioning, at Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral interview in 1997, displays Graham’s saddest denial of all.

As mentioned above, Stanley is not the first impostor to preach that believing the virgin conception is unnecessary as a part of the fundamental beliefs for the faith, Graham got there long before Stanley did.

There are five fundamentals of the faith which are essential for Christianity-

1.      The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1; John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8-9).
2.      The Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27).
3.      The Blood Atonement (Acts 20:28; Romans 3:25, 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:12-14).
4.      The Bodily Resurrection (Luke 24:36-46; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 15:14-15).
5.      The inerrancy of the scriptures themselves (Psalms 12:6-7; Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20).

Below is a VERY general look at Thomas P. Johnston’s Examining Billy Graham’s Theology of Evangelism, (p. 379) Graham’s four phases of Graham’s life and Graham’s evolution of the five fundamental doctrines.

 

The fact is, Jesus told us wolves will come in sheep’s clothing. This means they will appear as friendly and soft-spoken. They will seem to adhere to the Bible’s truths, but they are inside ravenous for your soul. Wolves subtly deny God, just as satan did in the Garden. An excellent example of this subtlety is Graham’s statement “I do not find anywhere in the New Testament that this particular belief is necessary for personal salvation. Be wary, friends. Even popular pastors can be wolves. As a matter of fact, especially popular pastors can be wolves.

GotQuestions: Why is the Virgin Birth so Important?

Jesus was not born in sin; that is, He had no sin nature (Hebrews 7:26). It would seem that the sin nature is passed down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12, 17, 19). The Virgin Birth circumvented the transmission of the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.

Ligonier: Must Christians believe in the Virgin Birth?

Christians must face the fact that a denial of the virgin birth is a denial of Jesus as the Christ


Grace To You: Why the Virgin Birth is Essential

The virgin birth is an underlying assumption in everything the Bible says about Jesus. To throw out the virgin birth is to reject Christ’s deity, the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and a host of other related doctrines central to the Christian faith. No issue is more important than the virgin birth to our understanding of who Jesus is.