Tag Archives: Christmas

Andy Stanley, and Critics Who Shoot First, and Ask Questions Later

Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley. Promoter of Biblical truth... or compromiser?

Atlanta Megachurch pastor Andy Stanley is in trouble again with a number of his fellow evangelical leader friends… or have his “friends” succumbed to a “Shoot First, Ask Questions Later” approach to evaluating his preaching?

Do you “fact check” what you read on social media, or any other source of news and information, particularly when it involves a controversial matter of grave concern?

I had just come back from a Christmas trip to visit family, when I ran across a Patheos blog article with the alarming title, “Andy Stanley: Please Relent or Step Down from Pastoral Ministry.” Mmmm…. Yet another scandal among God’s people? A megachurch pastor gone astray? What embarrassment for the Christian faith is it this time?

In this article, the author compares Andy Stanley, a megachurch pastor in Atlanta, and son of popular Bible-teacher Charles Stanley, with the mid-20th century liberal minister, Henry Emerson Fosdick, and a modern-day prosperity doctrine guru, Joel Osteen. Wow! If you know anything about evangelical theology, these are serious charges to lay against any evangelical pastor.

Andy Stanley’s preaching faux pas, per the Patheos blogger, was taken from an early December 2016 sermon delivered by Andy Stanley, regarding Christmas and the difficulty that many people in our secularized culture today have believing in the Virgin Birth of Jesus. Our scientific world has tested the credibility of such miracles, and so, many wonder if the Virgin Birth is not some type of man-made fiction. In responding to the doubts of many, Stanley was partially quoted in a Washington Post article as saying, “If somebody can predict their own death and resurrection, I’m not all that concerned about how they got into the world.”

What does that mean?

The Patheos blogger I was reading, along with a wide variety of other Internet bloggers and Christian media outlets, since early December, took this to mean that Stanley believes that the Virgin Birth is not an essential matter of Christian faith. Others interpret this by saying that Stanley was “questioning the significance of the virgin birth.” Even the venerable president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Al Mohler, took exception to Stanley’s statement as quoted by the Washington Post, on a recent “The Briefing” podcast (though it should be noted to Dr. Mohler’s credit that he did not name Stanley directly):

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. The fact is that biblical Christianity and ultimately the Gospel of Christ cannot survive the denial of the virgin birth. Because without the virgin birth, you end up with a very different Jesus than the fully human, fully divine savior revealed in scripture.

Now, I agree with folks like Al Mohler that the Virgin Birth is an essential doctrine to Christian faith. It is one of the historic, fundamental beliefs of Christianity, not to mention the entire foundation for the Christmas story. But is it accurate to say or imply that pastor Andy Stanley is now denying the essential doctrine of the Virgin Birth?

Upon reading and hearing these things, I harkened back to another controversy that pastor Andy Stanley had earlier in 2016, a story covered here at Veracity (part #1 and part #2).  In that controversy, Stanley was accused of denying Biblical inerrancy. Yet strangely enough, Stanley made his own defense by appealing to one of Stanley’s teachers and mentors, Norman Geisler, who was glad to offer support for Stanley. Norman Geisler was one of the primary architects behind the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy, articulated in the 1970s. So, it really is strange to imagine that Andy Stanley, an enthusiastic student of Geisler’s, would find himself accused of denying Biblical inerrancy, then defended by Norman Geisler, and then still be accused by some of his fellow evangelical leaders as being “dangerous.”

Strange. Very strange indeed.

It reminds me of something Yogi Berra might have said: It is like “deja vu all over again.” Continue reading


The Incarnation in Three Minutes

Merry Christmas, from your friends at Veracity, and enjoy the following video. If you have a friend who is skeptical about the supernatural aspect of the Christmas miracle, and its implications, encourage them to read this exchange by pastor Tim Keller and an agnostic New York Times journalist, and discuss.

 


When Did Advent Celebrations Start?

Have you ever wondered where and when the season of Advent started? Reformed Theological Seminary history professor, Ryan Reeves, puts together some really helpful videos on church history related topics, and the following 5-minute video introducing Advent is really good.

My only quibble with the video is professor Reeves’ statement that “no one, by the way, believed that Jesus was actually born on December 25,” at the the 1:20 mark in the video.  Actually, there was quite a bit of speculation in the early church as to the correct date of Jesus’ birth, as I learned in researching an early Veracity post on the topic. In the early 200s, roughly 150 years before the Western church officially designated December 25, as the celebration feast for Jesus’ birth, the church father Hippolytus calculated December 25 as the correct date for Christ’s birth, from his Commentary on Daniel (Reeves is primarily an historian of the Reformation, and not the early church, so I will give him a pass). But Reeves’ larger point stands, centuries later, that we simply do not know when Jesus’ birthdate was with any firm degree of certainty, once you examine the Bible, and other arguments made by other commentators.

The celebration of Advent is not contingent on the exact date of Christmas. Rather, it is about encouraging the community of believers to dedicate some time to spiritually prepare for the coming of the Christ. Syncing the birth of Jesus with one of the shortest days of the year has great symbolic importance, in that as the days just begin to get longer (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least, where Christianity grew the most in the early centuries), it corresponds to the idea that Jesus is the light that has come into the world, and thus overturning the darkness of the present age.

Come, Lord Jesus!


Nunc Dimittis, As Sung By Natalie Dessay

Worship the coming Savior…

Simeon, an elderly Jew, had received a promise from the Holy Spirit that he would not die before laying eyes on the Messiah. So when Mary and Joseph bring the child Jesus to the Temple for the purification, specifically the Jewish consecration of the first born male, pidyon haben, Luke 2:22-28, Simeon took Jesus into his arms and uttered the Nunc Dimittis, named after the first phrase in Saint Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible, the Vulgate (Luke 2:29-32), translated here by the English Standard Version:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.” 

Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a cantata, Ich habe genug, meaning in English, “I have enough,which was first performed in Leipzig in 1727. Bach’s text is only loosely based on Luke’s text, but it conveys the meaning intended by Luke rather well: God had kept His promise to Simeon.

I have enough; I have taken the Savior,
the hope of the Gentiles, into my yearning arms.
I have enough; I have seen him, my faith has held Jesus to my heart;
now I desire but even today to depart with joy from here.
I have enough!

French opera soloist, Natalie Dessay, sings the Aria from Bach’s classic work, from the German:

Ich habe genug.
ich habe den Heiland, das Hoffen der
Frommen, auf meinen begiergen Arme genommen;
ich habe genug!
Ich hab ihn erblickt, mein
Glaube hat Jesum ans Herze
gedrückt, nun wünsch ich noch
heute mit Freuden von hinnen zu scheiden.
Ich habe genug!

Behold, the Messiah, the Savior, has come! Merry Christmas, from your friends at Veracity.

Other posts in this blog series, based on the “Gospel in Song” preaching this year during Advent in the local church where I worship, include the Magnificat, the Benedictus, and the Gloria.


Krampus: “Santa’s” Dark Side

A 'Greetings for the Kampus' Christmas postcard from the early 1900s (source: Wikipedia)

A ‘Greetings from the Kampus’ Christmas postcard from the early 1900s (source: Wikipedia)

Just in time for this Christmas season, there is a new movie in theaters with a twist on Santa, Krampus (view trailer here). Krampus is actually an ancient, Alpine pagan character from pre-Christian Austria, a horrific beast who comes once year to scare children into good behavior. As the Gospel spread in that part of Europe centuries ago, the legend of Krampus got intertwined with the celebration of the Christian feast day for Saint Nicholas, on December 6. Old habits are hard to break! National Geographic has an informative write-up on the revival of Krampus celebrations, which generally takes place the night before Saint Nicholas’ day.

As Western culture continues to loosen its moorings to Christendom, it should not surprise us that Krampus makes his way to America. Krampus is yet another attempt in postmodernity to distract us from considering the mystery of the Incarnation. But it would be wrong-headed for Christians to dismiss Christmas itself as simply being of some pagan invention because of Krampus. We really need to be a bit “tongue in cheek” about this. So, I thought it might be helpful to relink a couple of older Veracity posts that dive into the history:


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