Latin clergies pray in the Grotto at the end of the Christmas Midnight Mass at Saint Catherine's Church where Christians believe the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ, in the adjacent Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem Dec. 25, 2016. Reuters

One of the nation's most prominent preachers said the Virgin Mary may not have been a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus Christ. The Rev. Andy Stanley, lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia and the son of a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, has sparked a national debate over Jesus' origins after a speech earlier this month, according to recent media reports.

Stanley said during his Dec. 4 remarks that it doesn't matter whether Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. His North Point Community Church attracts 36,000 attendees across six locations in suburban Atlanta.

Some Evangelicals claimed Stanley was picking the wrong side on the so-called war on Christmas. Stanley is the son of famed TV evangelist Charles Stanley.

“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," he said. “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.”

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, said Stanley had challenged the Bible's "central truth claim of Christmas."

“Just in recent days, one Christian leader was quoted as saying that if Jesus predicted his death and then was raised from the dead, it doesn’t matter how he came into the world,” Mohler said in a Dec. 16 podcast. “But the Bible insists it really does matter and the answer given from Scripture very clear in the gospel of Matthew and in the gospel of Luke is that Jesus was born to a virgin.”

The Rev. Tim Kellerof New York told the New York Times Friday that the virgin birth is a key Christian teaching that explains how Jesus is both human and God. “If it were simply a legend that could be dismissed, it would damage the fabric of the Christian message,” he said.

But Stanley has said he has nothing to apologize for despite the controversy around his remarks.

“The real story is the handful of Southern Baptist professors and writers (not so much preachers) who seem to have nothing else to do but listen to bits and pieces of my messages,” Stanley said in a statement to The Washington Post. “Anyone who listens to all three [sermons in the series] will know that I stand firmly within the orthodox Christian tradition regarding the incarnation of Jesus — including the birth narratives as presented [in] Matthew and Luke.”

Stanley's church defends the Bible as the true message of God. "We believe the entire Bible is the inspired Word of God and that men were moved by the Spirit of God to write the very words of Scripture. Therefore, we believe the Bible is without error," the website reads.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe Jesus was born to a virgin in a manger, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey. Roughly 80 percent of Christians believe the Bible story.