Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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 many 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, reading two dissertations looking at the evolution of his theology over 50 years, the conclusion is clear to me. In 1993 Graham stated 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 Graham's 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 from Thomas P. Johnston's Examining Billy Graham's Theology of Evangelism, (p. 379) Graham's four phases of Graham's life and Graham's slow apostasy 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.

Here are some resources outlining the importance of belief in the virgin birth as necessary for faith.

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.

8 comments:

  1. "Andy Stanley continues to deny our fundamental doctrines ... The way his church treats worship tells us this, too. Just last month he had go-go dancers as part of the singing."

    Go-go dancers?!

    I knew he did the "fun" (his word, not mine) Beatles performance and some other similar garbage during "worship" last year.

    Churches that promote him have leadership with (at best) minimal discernment.

    -Carolyn

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  2. One more thing, Jesus doesn't need "street cred".

    Here's a passage, let's call it food for thought: 2 Peter 2. Just start at the top.

    -Carolyn

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  3. Great post, Elizabeth. Just goes to show that the popular teachers can be wrong. Or that they can start out solid and drift away from the truth. we have to be Bereans and compare what is taught to scripture, not just blindly trust someone. People can be in error, they can be deceived, and they can be false teachers. So many trust Billy graham because he has been around a long time and was more solid once upon a time. He also has (from the beginning of ministry?) compromised with the Roman Catholic Church and sent Roman Catholics who came forward at his evangelistic crusades back to their RC church. Some point to a train trip he took once with a former cardinal as the turning point for Graham on this issue.

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  4. I've watched videos of some of the "worship" services in Andy Stanley's church that were absolutely repulsive. It astounds me that he and others maintain a voice in their pulpits with the blatant blasphemy and disregard for Christ they spew. It seems they are the equivalent of politicians who push beyond the limits to find that their followers have no boundary lines. I think the distinction between the true and the false is coming more into focus...the separation of Christ's few from the deceived multitude. So many do not have ears to hear the truth. They prefer an emotional experience and entertainment.

    Also, Andy Stanley is a fast speaker and man of many words. I personally think its a technique he uses to impress his listeners with all his knowledge and don't give them an opportunity to process his words before moving on to his next point. He talks over their ability to think.

    I lost respect for Billy Graham years ago because of his ecumenical association with the pope and regard for Roman Catholic religion. To me, that's an unacceptable dividing line.

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  5. Just finished Child in the Manger by Sinclair Ferguson. Chapter 6 "The Burden" discusses this.

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  6. Thank you Elizabeth. I have been very confused over the SBC worship of Graham for quite a few years now after I began looking into these issues. It is shocking how so many have put him on a pedastal regardless of his associations, beliefs, and quotes over most of his ministry. I remember him taking Mormons off the list of cults after Mitt Romney went to see him when running for president. I've also read where Joel Osteen has visited him in recent years and Graham has always been encouraging to him and tells him there is nothing he would change about his ministry etc. People like to say these things started in his "old age" but they do not know (or care to know) the facts. He is loved by the world - a red flag we should pay attention to. Thank you for speaking the truth about this; it surely isn't the norm or acceptable to point these things out in "the church" today.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Regina. I agree. The verse in Luke 6:26 should be enough of a clue, (Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets,) but people just do not want to hear it. Graham's statement to Schuller in an interview in the late 1990s was a clarion signal, where Graham said people who don't know Christ in pagan tribes but are sincerely looking for something higher than themselves, will be in heaven. (Wider Mercy doctrine). Oy.

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  7. i have such a big problem here ..
    One believes in God & then one picks & chooses the powers of God .. "yes" .. "no" .. "no" .. "yes" .. like we know something about anything.
    Look around at the creation .. who caused all this magic to happen ?
    Albert Einstein & his mottle crew of wannabe scientists ?

    Who is anyone to question the hand of God or His infinite wisdom?
    Please !
    It all began with one cell dividing, so maybe God went back to the beginning & caused one cell to divide .. again ?
    We either believe that God did all this or we don't, but no one has any better ideas other than to say .."I think that a virgin birth is possible." or "Personally, I do not believe it"
    Either was we don't know zit so we are being pretentious.
    About God ?

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