Sunday, December 04, 2005

Tony Campolo The Heretic?



Tony Campolo has a reputation. His association with former President Bill Clinton and recent comments have left many evangelicals doubting the sincerity of his faith. The same could be said about James Dobson and his association with the Republican Party, but for some reason it has left him relatively unscathed. I have attempted over the past few years to try to see where do politics and faith separate. When I saw Tony was speaking at a local Baptist church I was extremely skeptical about what he was going to say. There is a legitimate concern about his theology and whether he still holds onto the traditional orthodox faith. Yet, whenever he makes a comment that is contrary to what we think is heresy without giving anything to back up their reasoning.

He started off by asking a question that I've heard in countless sermons with as many different answers: What is the Gospel all about? His asnwer was to see ourselves and the world transfomed by centering our lives on Jesus. He argued that when we trully surrender ourselves to Jesus on a daily basis as well as the indwelling of the Holy spirit it gives us a desire to love others and act as Jesus did. He emphasized quite strongly that this can only be done through having Christ in our lives. Maybe it's just me, but that sounds quite orthodox to me.

So what is the problem? The issue for us all is the fact he has associated himself so strongly with a political party that we tend to think is contrary to what many Christians have considered contrary to their beliefs which is in reality a politicized for of religion. Here in lies the problem, the association with a political can pervert the beliefs of a Christian to the point where the Gospel is lost. Being a part of a political party isn't such a bad thing, much like being a part of faith based orginizations or denominations as long as we do not lose sight of the true Gospel and can become an idol. It is a shame too, because if we took the best aspects of what Dobson and Campolo have to teach, cut out the politics and other useless crap and we'd have something worth hearing. I will one of these days have to attempt that and see what I come up with.

posted by Out Of Jersey | 4:42 PM

8 Comments:

Blogger josé said...

Yeah - I go to a baptist church down here in Miami and I remember that when I visited from college near election time I got so much slack for being anti-Bush. Christian and republican have really become synonymous in some circles and christians that don't follow those political ideals get their faith questioned.

I don't think I could ever really be a republican, if only for their stance (or lack there off) on environmental issues. Not to mention countless others I disagree with, but I don't think that my political affiliation should determine how I get treated within Christian circles - whether they be conservative or not.

9:08 AM  
Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

Here's my big problem. It isn't the fact Christians are Republican or Demicrat, but the few who have become the voices for us. It is too the point where the politics have influenced the faith, instead of the faith influencing the politics. I believe both Campolo and Dobson have valid things to say, the problem is they have become so deeply associated with a political party that they have become warped in their thinking and how they desire to see the will of God manifested here on earth. Now I am more curious to do a comparrison of the two more than ever.

9:26 AM  
Blogger josé said...

Yeah I see what you are saying and I think that it is not just those that represent us that have done that. They are the face, yes, but I think many Christians are warped in their thinking based on their political affiliation.

Fortunately in most cases, the average Christian only has that in the forefront of their minds during key points in the political calendar whereas people like Campolo and Dobson are so involved that it effects their day-to-day. Therein lies the problem.

So, like you said, faith should become the forefront again - let's pray they learn to use faith to influence politics and not vice versa.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Tom Becker said...

Cube Rev - You said, "He started off by asking a question that I've heard in countless sermons with as many different answers: What is the Gospel all about? His asnwer was to see ourselves and the world transfomed by centering our lives on Jesus. He argued that when we trully surrender ourselves to Jesus on a daily basis as well as the indwelling of the Holy spirit it gives us a desire to love others and act as Jesus did. He emphasized quite strongly that this can only be done through having Christ in our lives. Maybe it's just me, but that sounds quite orthodox to me."

That does't sound too Orthodox to me - maybe a bit Pelagian. Our ability to 'center our lives' drivs us closer to 'decision based' theology which is dangerous. The gospel is about the forgivness of sins & subsequently about sinners - that Christ's death was enough to pay the cost for our sins. That's our only hope & the object of our faith b/c we will all have those times in our live when it feels like we don't have "Christ in our lives". This moralistic/pietisic idea to emulate Jesus, while ethically a nice idea, is NOT the gospel and to me is more problematic then policial leanings. I would say misdirected theology is at the heart of the problem. The issue is in what are we giving hope - the utter sufficency of Christ's death or our 'experienceing' Jesus in our hearts????

12:23 PM  
Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

And a valid point you made. In fact, I had to look up Pelagian to see what it meant.

I took it more to mean as a transformation of our hearts. This isn't a good example of Christ, but a transformation through the indwelling of the holy spirit. Though to be honest, since he never touched on sin, I can see where the pelagianism can rear its head. And that is the big difference. By being transformed it becomes a natural aspect of our lives, and not just an act of will.

And the point I was hoping to try to make is that it is on account of his strong association with a political party, much like Dobson, has created a problem with a servant having two masters. This makes our good theology wrestle with the bad. If I had the time I would like to actually go through their works and see where the theological thinking can be cut away from the more political thinking.

12:58 PM  
Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

And his question about what the gospel is all about. I think his thinking is flawed in this respect. But, he does point out something important which is, what revolves around our lives?

1:23 PM  
Blogger Tom Becker said...

Cube Rev - One of the things that really rang home to me early on in my Christian walk was something a former pastor said - that Jesus is unilaterally offensive to conservatives & liberals - that conservatives don't like the fact that there is social injustice/brokeness and that Jesus calls us to work to alieveate these problems & to help people that 'don't deserve it' - and liberals don't like the fact that the world is not realtive, that truth is abosolute & that God has established moral imperatives. Shoot - the gospel offends us all by reminding us of our own innate powerless and sinfulness.

It really changed my thinking. There are problems on both sides of the aisle, I'll agree with that and I think aligning ourselves as Chrsitians with political parties is dangerous. The cross shatters both agendas.

I guess my beef with Campolo and with Dobson as well is that I feel mainstream evangelicalism has lost sight of the true gospel, and this politcal pandering represents that to a large degree. The true gospel offends. Our hearts intrinsically turn towards moralism and prescription based solutions (ie give me the tools to fix my life), and the gospel runs so counter to that. I read Gerhard Forde's On Being a Theologian of the Cross and it blew me away. Anway, just some random thougts by another cubical drone. . .

1:42 PM  
Blogger The Cubicle Reverend said...

Which is the point I was trying to make. Morality and inclusivity without the Holy Spirit and redemption of Christ are just easy cop outs. And I too have the same beef with both of them, hence me writing this post. But after hearing him speak I was struck by the fact that there is still that little kernal of truth in what he was saying. And that is a shame that truth has to be dug out like a potato.

Dave

1:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home