Saturday, March 24, 2007

Tony Campolo on The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos on CBC

Wow, this must be a first, having an evangelical on national television on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Look at this short interview here. Let me know what you think!


Ryan said...

Campolo nails it. Faith is lived in the expression of action.

tomgee said...

Whoa! I have many, major problems with Campolo's responses in this interview.

Now, I haven't read anything he has written in many years, and I realize one 5 minute interview doesn't represent the whole man and his teaching, but I am unimpressed by what I heard here (sorry, Ryan).

First of all, this "red-letter Christian" idea which is also popular, I'm told, with the Emergent, is at best an unbalanced view, and at worst a heretical view. Does Campolo not believe in the inspiration of the Word? Does he deny that there is a single author? What makes the red letters more important than the black, if all of those were written by the Spirit?

(Minor nit: as you well know, Nick, the red letter concept is fallacious anyhow. Ancient near eastern writers were not concerned about verbatim quotes, and didn't use quote marks (or any punctuation, for that matter), so that it is not clear where even direct quotes begin and end.)

Campolo also says, and I do quote verbatim, "If you ignore what the Bible is really about -- helping poor and oppressed people -- you've missed the message of Jesus."

If you read "poor and oppressed" in a very broad manner (ie. sinners), then I would basically agree. In the context of that interview, in the ears of that audience, what they heard is that Jesus is all about helping the materially poor, judicially oppressed.

Now, Jesus most assuredly cared about the poor and oppressed, and so should Christians. The judgment that came upon ancient Israel was not only their abandoning of the Lord (although it was _primarily_ that), but also because of their mistreatment of the poor (Amos).

But Jesus himself, in those red letter words, demonstrates that Christians need to be first concerned with God and secondly with people. Remember the woman who anointed him with costly perfume? How did Jesus respond to the indignant disciples, who wanted to give the money to the poor instead?

But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.
(Mark 14:6-9)

We serve the poor because we serve God. We love the poor because God loves through us. We tell poor sinners the way to be saved because God died for us. We call people to repentance and holy living because the Spirit will enable us. We do _all things_ (yes, these are black letter words), _all things_ to the glory of God.

God is primary, we are secondary. His glory is our first goal, and we love the poor to glorify him.

I think Tony Campolo is heading down a dark path with this focus on purely a social gospel. And I pray that he repents and turns. And in the meantime, I hope that he doesn't take too many people with him.

tomgee said...

Nothing like following up on your own followup.

I was led to a short snippet of John Piper preaching, telling pastors what their people need from them.

And he, in classic Piper fashion, laid this mandate on preachers that I think Campolo needs to hear:

The world and all kinds of institutions have agendas for our people on how to make their lives better. One thing they need from you above all, and that is, to spread into their lives a passion for the centrality and supremacy of God. No one else is helping them with this.

Praise God for his faithful servant!

Nick Hill said...


I would have to agree with you. (Ryan, I would also agree with you that faith is lived in the expression of action; e.g. the book of James). I think the problem today is that people promote their hobbyhorse as the view of the Bible, rather than trying to take a full Biblically orbed approach. God cares for justice, for the poor, and for the preaching of the full gospel (which includes the substitutionary atonement, the wrath of God, the eternality of hell, the imputation of Christ's righteousness, repentance, justification by faith alone, etc.). Jesus' words are not more important than Paul's, because the same Spirit that inspired Jesus' words inspired Paul's words. We need all of the Scripture, because it is all equally inspired by God (literally "breathed out by God") (2 Tim 3:16-17). We need Amos, and Paul, and Jesus.

However, I know that Campolo is known for overstating facts in order to get people excited and to get people thinking so that they will actually do something. For example, when I was at Trinity Western University, he said that if you do not go into overseas missions, you are not a Christian, because these people are dying without Christ and are headed for an eternity in hell without him. This got people talking, and actually one student dropped out of school and went to the mission field.

Anybody else's thoughts?

kerux said...

Hey Nick,

I won't re-state things here, but I have had an interesting conversation taking place at my blog on this very matter. Most of the guys commenting do a better job than I could, so if you want to check out that post it is here

Keep up the good work, brother!

- Paul