Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Tony Campolo? (Part 3)

Continuing from the previous post where my friend Andrew in Australia wrote a letter to his church expressing his concerns about their invitation to Tony Campolo. This letter serves as a great example of how to graciously write to church leadership in expressing a concern. It also serves as an excellent profile of Tony Campolo's dangerous theology/teachings. Today we conclude with point 5 in Andrew's letter:

5. He promotes an ecumenism that includes the Muslim, Jewish and Catholic faiths. This flows from a Universalist perspective.

Campolo’s willingness to consider people of other faiths as “brothers and sisters” indicates that he believes that the other faiths are also correct. There are a myriad of quotes I could use to demonstrate his views but I will just highlight a couple from the interview with Shane Claiborne.

“We don't have to give up trying to convert each other. What we have to do is show respect to one another. And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don't convert, they are God's people, God loves them, and we do not make the judgment of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.”

“I think there are Muslim brothers and sisters who are willing to say, "You live up to the truth as you understand it. I will live up to the truth as I understand it, and we will leave it up to God on judgment day."”

“I don't think you have to compromise as a Christian the belief that Jesus is the only Savior but what I do think we have to say is that the grace of God extends way beyond the limitations of my religious group”

“It seems to me that when we listen to the Muslim mystics as they talk about Jesus and their love for Jesus, I must say, it's a lot closer to New Testament Christianity than a lot of the Christians that I hear. In other words if we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree, Can we pray together in such a way that we connect with a God that transcends our theological differences?”

(From: “On evangelicals and interfaith cooperation: an interview with Tony Campolo by Shane Claiborne” - http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2096/is_1_55/ai_n13798048/ - Emphasis mine)

In these excerpts I see a number of major issues.

o Our God and Allah are not the same. Even a basic reading of the Bible and the Koran demonstrates this.
o The use of “brothers and sisters” to refer to Muslim people. In the wider evangelical scope, this is a term exclusively reserved for Christians. It is also highly problematic to refer to them as “God’s people”.
o Since we do not have the same God, it does not make sense to pray together (see above point)
o He denies that a person can only be saved through the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12)


With all this in mind let me explain what I am hoping for from the leadership of this church.

1. That the leadership would set aside personal relationships or popular opinion and evaluate Tony Campolo based solely on his theology. I believe that yourselves as leadership should be willing to undertake personal research to evaluate the claims I have made in this letter.
2. That the church would resolve to not allow him to be a guest speaker if indeed his teachings are found to be heretical (that is, they contravene the primary teachings of the Bible in regards to the Scriptures, salvation and the nature of the Trinity).
3. That the church would withdraw the invitation to teach and challenge Tony Campolo to repent of his heretical views.

I am personally convinced that several of the teachings of Tony Campolo are nothing short of heresy and I submit this document in the hope that the congregation will be protected and made aware of the dangers of his teachings. I love the church, its members and its leadership. My wife and I have been more than willing to pour ourselves out in service because we feel that God has called us here in this season of our lives and we believe that part of that calling is to defend the flock from wolves.

We hope that you will be faithful in considering my research and that you will do what is necessary in this case to protect the flock over whom God has made you an under-shepherd.

Our prayers and support are with you at this time.

In Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour.


Andrew went on to say that the leadership team pondered his letter for a couple of weeks before responding with (my cliff notes paraphrase) "Tony Campolo is a really nice guy and says he loves Jesus and we don't really think any of the issues you raise are really that big a deal" (how was that summation Andrew?).

Andrew signed off in his letter to me by saying:

From both his letter of response and a meeting I held with him a couple of weeks later, I came to see that my pastor and I look at this issue very differently.

When I look at Tony Campolo’s teachings, I see the few examples of heresy as sufficient to disqualify him if they are substantiated.

When my pastor looks at his teachings, he sees the bulk of his supposedly solid work as sufficient to overlook “minor” issues.

He clearly does not see the issues the way I do and neither does he see them to be of the same significance that I do.

Eventually, Tony Campolo did speak at our church and my summary would be:

• It was a moralising attempt to bully people into acting sanctified without actually addressing the root issue.
• He used Scripture 4 times and got it wrong… 4 times.
• He quoted a Catholic mystic, an existentialist and not one conservative Christian teacher.
• He told a couple of stories that made me question his moral character or at very least his wisdom.
• He made a bunch of veiled attacks at traditional conversion.

I do have to hand it to him though. He is a very skilled communicator. All this was said with a steady flow of laughter and applause.

I hope to write a far more detailed review of the talk when I can stomach listening to it again.

Great effort Andrew, may your labor that has been shared on this blog be of benefit to the many readers who encounter these situations within their own local church contexts.

Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1


Anonymous said...

Thanks Andrew, I hope you post here again!

Anonymous said...

This post is old. No one will probably ever read this. Andrew's letter to his pastor completly ignores historical context and ignores the fact that Jesus was a Jew. Look at fist century Jewish traditions and Campolo's stuff doesn't seem so mystic or new age. The is a perfect example of how Western "Christianity" ignores the real Jesus and shows how the Western "Christians" are just as uncomfortable with Jesus' teaches and the Pharisees were.