This past weekend our nation celebrated the anniversary of her independence. The 4th of July is always a day with with fireworks, cooking out, and patriotism with the red, white, and blue. But this year on Independence Day I came across some writings that troubled me. I was doing some research for a future blog (which I decided to put off until next time) when I came across some things written by Tony Campolo.
If you are not familiar with Campolo, he claims to be a Christian, and yet he is in favor of keeping abortion legal, gay rights, and he does not believe in the Genesis creation account. In his book Red Letter Christians he blasts the “moral majority” for trying to influence Christians to vote based on their morality, and in turn, he urges Christians to vote based on his warped version of Christianity. In his book Partly Right he goes on a diatribe about how all people are divine from birth, but aside from teaching Christians to vote based on unchristian principles and teaching that we are all gods, Campolo has also made a name for himself with his teachings about God’s Kingdom.
He believes that we are presently living in Jesus’ Kingdom. Since that belief shapes part of his worldview, it is easy to see how that has led him down the road to putting an over-emphasis on his social agenda. Living presently in God’s Kingdom has become a major part of his speaking and writing.
Specifically, in his book The Kingdom of God is a Party, he states that we are all living in God’s Kingdom, and God’s main objectives are having a ball and taking care of creation. This is why the followers of Campolo’s theology put all of their time and resources into fighting poverty and saving the planet.
Before I go any further, I want to clarify that some green initiatives are okay, as long as we don’t go off the deep end and make it a religion, as too many have done. Also, helping the poor is both good and biblical. However, these two things were not found in the Great Commission; instead, we are told to evangelize and to pull as many as we can out of the fire. Jesus said we would always have the poor with us (Mark 14:7), so we need to realize that we won’t end poverty. We should help those whom we can, but our higher calling is to reach the lost (Matthew 28:19-20).
On pages 43-44 of The Kingdom of God is a Party, Compolo makes the case that some people can’t enjoy this kingdom and have a party if they are poor inner city children, Palestinians who were kicked out of “their” land, or Catholics who are oppressed by a Protestant majority.
First of all, that paragraph is in keeping with his elevation of Catholics (which has been a part of his ministry for a quarter century) and his ant-Semitism.
But secondly, it shows that he is missing the point. Jesus didn’t come die on a cross so that we can party on earth; we are strangers and pilgrims passing through this land, and as Christians, we have heaven to look forward to. Campolo says we need to do whatever we can do to give those who are oppressed something to party about. You want them to celebrate? Teach them about Jesus and show them how they can be saved!
This life is not a party; Jesus didn’t call us to happiness, but to holiness.
Campolo further shows his poor Bible study tactics by committing an entire chapter to showing that God wants us to give a tenth of our money to partying. He cites Deuteronomy 14:22-29, and then he applies that Old Covenant ceremony to us today. He continues this Bible study method by quoting Jesus out of context: “The kingdom of heaven is a wedding feast.” Jesus was actually beginning a parable about heaven, and Campolo failed to realize that Jesus was making a larger point than saying that heaven or earth is a big party.
When Jesus spoke about the kingdom, He was not telling people to denounce their citizenship and join His kingdom. Campolo fails to understand the difference between a physical and a spiritual kingdom. It is possible to be part of the spiritual kingdom of God and still maintain one’s own citizenship. Consider how Paul appealed to Caesar by invoking his own Roman citizenship (Acts 25:11).
The disciples of Jesus made the same mistake that Campolo made when it came to the kingdom. They, too, thought that Jesus was coming to establish a kingdom right then, and that is what led to all of their problems. The Old Testament contains prophecies about the coming of the Messiah and about the second coming of the Messiah, and the disciples merged those into one event. Therefore, when Jesus came claiming to be the Messiah, they thought He was coming to establish a physical kingdom and free them from the oppression of the Roman government.
Because Jesus didn’t start a kingdom, many Jews rejected Him.
The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus will start a kingdom on earth when He returns. But until that day comes, the kingdom of God is spiritual, something we understand in our minds and hearts. According to Bibleworks, an eminent Greek and Hebrew software, the word kingdom in the New Testament is “not to be confused with a literal kingdom (version 7.0).”
This is not the only time we do this in Christianity. We say that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, but we know that we are not referring to a biological kinship.
Therefore, it is entirely possible for a person to be both Christian and American; that is, their heart and life belong to Christ while they are citizens of a country. To cease to be of nationality because we join the kingdom of God would be like saying “I am no longer Caucasian” or “I am no longer African-American.” It is a part of who we are, not something we must give up or deny.
I Peter 2:17 tells Christians to “honor the king,” while Jesus said in Matthew 22:21 to obey Caesar. There is a biblical precedent to maintain one’s own nationality with respect, even while our hearts belong to God’s Kingdom. One day, in the Millennial Kingdom, we will live in God’s Kingdom.
I also find it ironic that Campolo leads people into his “kingdom now” theology while telling people to vote for his social agenda. If he is part of another kingdom, then he has no business voting in this kingdom. Honestly, I wish he would stop voting in this country anyway; that would be one less vote for abortion/homosexual rights.
I chose to write this blog because it was the 4th of July and I was bothered by the fact that he has led people to stop calling themselves Americans. But his false views about the kingdom are the least of Campolo’s problems. For anyone who buys into the Red Letter Christians concept or the kingdom now concept pushed by Campolo, consider all of these other beliefs that he holds. I believe a person’s ideas should be rejected if they show a pattern of flawed thinking (i.e. Sigmund Freud).
Campolo described his salvation experience in his book Letters to a Young Evangelical. He said that he never had a “conversion experience” like his mother, but instead, he became close to God by reciting Catholic prayers and repeating the name of Jesus as a mantra. Jesus warned against those vain repeated prayers (Matthew 6:7), and Jesus said we must be “born again (John 3:3)." Being born again is a conversion, not a long path of chanting prayers. Is Campolo even saved? Not by his own salvation testimony; so should we really embrace his theology?
Campolo also rejects the idea that the Bible is inerrant. This means that he believes there may be errors in the Bible. In an interview with Shane Claiborne, Campolo described an evangelical this way: “An evangelical is someone who believes the doctrines of the Apostle’s Creed. That outlines exactly what we believe in detail. Secondly, an evangelical has a very high view of scripture, though not necessarily inerrancy (“On Evangelicals and Interfaith Cooperation,” Crosscurrents, Spring 2005, http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2096/is_1_55/ai_n13798048).”
In Partly Right, page 99, Campolo indicates that personal experience supersedes what the Bible teaches.
He also believes that a person does not have to be a Christian to go to heaven. In an August 9th, 1999 article in the National Liberty Journal, Campolo said “there may be people who enter the kingdom who did not call themselves Christians.” He made that claim after saying that the “work of Christ on the cross may be broader than some of us think.” On the Charlie Rose Show on October 1st, 1999, Campolo reaffirmed his position by saying “I am not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians.”
In a January 27th 2007 article in the Edmonton Journal, Campolo was asked if non-Christians can go to heaven, and after dancing around for a minute, concluded by saying that “we have no way of knowing to whom the grace of God is extended.”
On MSNBC, Campolo told Bill Moyers “I learn about Jesus from other religions. They speak to me as well.” That was his defense on his position of not trying to convert Jews to Christianity (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4117713232348817752).
Then, in a very disturbing interview with Shane Claiborne in 2005, Campolo said these words: “I’ve got to believe that Jesus is the only Savior but being a Christian is not the only way to be saved... Now Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross, but…I do think we have to say is that the grace of God extends way beyond the limitations of my religious group. Our Muslim brothers and sisters can say Islam is the only true faith but we are not convinced that only Muslims enjoy salvation. I contend that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ, but I am not convinced that the grace of God does not go further than the Christian community.”
Claiborne later said that instead of trying to convert Muslims, we should “stop talking with our mouths and cross the chasm between us with our lives. Maybe we will even find a mystical union of the Spirit as Francis [of Assisi] did.” This confirms my theory that Claiborne is just as nutty in his theology as Campolo is.
Campolo then responded by saying “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?” He made similar claims on pages 149-150 of his book Speaking My Mind.
In his book The God of Intimacy and Action, Campolo says that we should emulate the supersaints of Roman Catholicism (page 9-10). And an article in the Baptist Press from June 27th, 2003, quoted Campolo as branding those of us who agree with the Bible about only men being pastors as being “instruments of the devil.”
Obviously I could go on and on with outrageous beliefs and statements, like when he said that the Harry Potter series was good for children to read, but that pastors needed to preach out against the Left Behind series, but I think that the point has been made. Tony Campolo is a dangerous false prophet.
What are the odds of him being wrong about so many things of theology, and then being right about his kingdom now belief? If he is so wrong about so much, then his minority view about the kingdom should also be rejected. Whenever a pastor claims to have some new insight that people have missed for 2,000 years, beware. Especially if that person has a track record like Campolo’s.
If you still want to believe in Campolo’s theology, that is your right as an American…I mean, as a Kingdom citizen.