I first heard Tony Campolo speak back in college (Alderson-Broaddus in Philippi, WV) and was transfixed. Here was a man possessed of the gospel. I have quoted him frequently, use his illustrations (always a compliment from a preacher) and been challenged by him.
But Tony has a tendency to let his enthusiasms overshadow his theology. Almost twenty years ago, he agreed to change a passage in one of his books when he rhetoric about the poor produced an expression of defective theology. His wife is an advocate of the Welcoming and Affirming position regarding homosexuality--something Gordon McDonald alerted me to back in the late 80s when he and his wife attended the church I pastored in New Hampshire.
Then I read this...
From an article in the Pueblo (CO) Cheiftain, Tony Campolo is quoted:
"I think that Christianity has two emphases. One is a social emphasis to impart the values of the kingdom of God in society - to relieve the sufferings of the poor, to stand up for the oppressed, to be a voice for those who have no voice," Campolo said.
"The other emphasis is to bring people into a personal, transforming relationship with Christ, where they feel the joy and the love of God in their lives," he said. "Fundamentalism has emphasized the latter; mainline churches have emphasized the former. We cannot neglect one for the other."
Notes the Baptist minister, affiliated with the American Baptist Churches: "There are 2,000 verses of Scripture that tell us we must be committed to protecting the poor and the oppressed. . . . There is no concern of Scripture that is addressed so often and so powerfully as reaching out to the poor."
First, I have no argument that the Gospel has a special compassion and message to the poor. The church I pastor disburses between six and ten thousand dollars a year to immediate assistance, and that doesn't could many more thousands in indirect aid.
But for Campolo to maintain that the two grand emphases of the gospel are (1) the social justice needs of the voiceless and (2) a personal relationship to God is specious biblically--especially when stated in that order.
This inversion of values we see in Campolo is exactly what's wrong with the ABCUSA as well. The emphasis on "soul liberty" as a higher value than Biblical authority is what caused the ABC of the Pacific Southwest (now known as Transformation Ministries) to seek separation.
An inversion of values is no small thing. Correct values mixed improperly is a potent poison.
Tony, I love you man, but you are so wrong.