In Acts chapter 17 verse 11 the Apostle Paul commended the people of Berea because after he had spoken with them he relates how they went home and checked out what he had said against what the scriptures said “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so.” In recent years Tony Campolo has travelled extensively as a convention speaker and Bible teacher. Having read some things that he has written I have adopted the practice of the Bereans and set out below are the findings.
Article in “TEAR TIMES” – Summer 1992
Mr Campolo wrote an article called “Why care for creation?” which was featured in the above magazine issued by “Tear Fund”and I was amazed at the scriptural inaccuracies which it contained. Mr Campolo wrote “When he created the earth God gave men and women the responsibility for caring for the planet. He created the world good, turned it over to us and commanded us to take care of it until he returned again” God’s instructions are found in Genesis 1 verse 28. You will search in vain to find reference to the work being commanded until God returned again for these instructions were given before the fall and before sin and all its consequences entered into the world.
MR CAMPOLO HAS ADDED TO THE WORD OF GOD
Mr Campolo went on to write “God saved us in order that he might rescue all of creation. The earth is groaning and waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be redeemed and filled with the Spirit. Why? So that they can invade the planet and rescue it from the demonic destruction that has played havoc with the atmosphere, the ecology balance, all the things we see around us. Our call is to be God’s agents, to rescue not only the human race but the whole of creation.”
MR CAMPOLO IS SPREADING FALSE TEACHING BECAUSE
l. The atmosphere and the ecology are not in their bad condition because of “demonic destruction” but because of man’s sin which caused God firstly to pronounce a curse upon the earth (Genesis 3: 17-19) and secondly caused God to destroy His original creation by means of the flood which brought about great atmospheric and ecological changes. 2. God did not save us “in order that he might rescue all of creation” but “that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). 3. Do these “good works” include the commission or ability to “invade the planet and rescue it from demonic destruction etc”? Is our call “to rescue…the whole of creation”? NO! God has called us to be witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ and to proclaim the message of salvation (from the condemnation of God) through Him alone.
All creation does indeed groan (Romans 8:22) and will continue to do so until the last soul for whom Christ died is regenerated by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit. Then this present world will be judged by fire (2Peter 3:10). Man will not “invade the planet and rescue it” but God will “make all things new” (Rev.2l:5) and that includes “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev.21:1). The redemption of people and planet are not dependant upon human effort but are guaranteed by the efficacy of the precious shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Certainly as Christians we have a responsibility to be good stewards but to teach that the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) will come through our efforts flies in the face of God’s Word. Mr Campolo wrote a book called “20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid To Touch.” I don’t plan to comment on all “20 Hot Potatoes” but I want to examine Mr Campolo’s teaching on some of the subjects dealt with.
CHAPTER 1 “How do we answer the challenge of AIDS?” In the course of dealing with this topic Mr Campolo wrote “The way in which many evangelicals have reacted to AIDS has been dishonouring to the name of the church. Some prominent preachers have even declared that AIDS is a special judgment of God upon the homosexual community… The idea that AIDS is some kind of special condemnation from God upon homosexuals because of their sin not only is “absurd” it also dishonours God.” I want to examine these two charges “absurd” and “dishonours.” Is it “absurd” to think that God would deal with a particular group in a particular way? Absolutely not. The first chapter of Romans speaks of people who turned to all kinds of perverse sexual practices and what does the Apostle Paul tell us? In verse 24 we read “God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonour their own bodies between themselves”’; in verse 26 we read “God gave them up unto vile affections”and in verse 28 we read “God gave them over to a reprobate mind.” Here we see how God dealt with a particular group of sinners and what happened to them “receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet” (verse 27) – there was a price paid by these particular sinners for their particular sin. I wonder how Mr Campolo views God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. In Jude 7 we read “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha and the cities about them in like manner are set forth FOR AN EXAMPLE suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” What is the “example” Jude is referring to? He is referring to how a Holy and Just God for the sake of His honour deals with sin. The supreme demonstration of God honouring His own justice and holiness but graciously tempering it with mercy is seen in the events of Calvary. There God dealt with sin but the only thing absurd (from a human standpoint} was that He punished “the just for the unjust” (l Peter 3:18). There is nothing absurd or dishonouring to God to state and to show from scripture that He has in the past and may at any time punish particular sinners in a particular way. Mr Campolo would do well to acknowledge “the finger of God” (Exodus 5:19). Near the end of the chapter Mr Campolo writes “If we show love by accepting (?) and caring for those infected with the AIDS virus we will have taken a positive step towards earning the right to be heard by our homosexual brothers and sisters.” In what sense are we to “accept” the people Mr Campolo is writing about? Is he suggesting that we accept PRACTICING homosexuals and lesbians as true brothers and sisters in Christ and only when we do that do we “earn the right” to speak to them on spiritual matters? There is nothing “unloving” about pointing out to people what God says about activities they are engaged in – “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). It would be “unloving” to withhold the truth from people and God would hold us accountable (see Ezekiel 3:18-21).
MR CAMPOLO HAS IMPUGNED GOD’S CHARACTER BY HIS WRITINGS.
CHAPTER 2 “Why are so many people down on themselves?” In this chapter Mr Campolo follows the popular notion of encouraging people to “think positively” about themselves – “Having a positive self-concept is of great importance” and he goes on to add this sweeping generalisation “I have found that people who like themselves are people who like everyone else they meet and that those who are down on themselves are down on everyone else.” Later he says “There are times when our religion makes us too introspective for our own good. Spending more time than we should trying to discover all the sins in our lives can guarantee that we will end up too depressed. If we concentrate too much on rooting out the evil that lies within us we will find much more than we can handle.”
MR CAMPOLO IS CONTRADICTING THE TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE
Are we to cultivate a “positive self-concept” and to be people who “like themselves”? The Lord Himself teaches the exact opposite – “if any man will come after me LET HIM DENY HIMSELF and take up his cross and follow me”(Matthew 16:24). Paul tells us in Philippians 2:3 “IN LOWLINESS OF MIND let each esteem other better than themselves” and later in the same chapter we are exhorted “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus WHO…MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION…and…HUMBLED HIMSELF” (v5-8). In answer to a question the Lord replied” And the second…Thou shalt love thy neighbour AS THYSELF” (Mark 12:31). The Lord knew that fallen man naturally loves himself more than anyone else and love of self or pride is the root cause of all the problems in the world today – “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created till INIQUITY was found in thee…THINE HEART WAS LIFTED UP” (Ezekiel 28:15-17).
MR CAMPOLO CHALLENGES SANCTIFICATION BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
As we read earlier Mr Campolo wrote “…our religion makes us too introspective for our own good…trying to discover all the sins in our lives can guarantee that we will end up too depressed.” What should our attitude be to the sin in our lives? Paul tells believers preparing to remember the Lord’s death “Let a man examine himself…for he that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to himself”’ (1st Corinthians 11:28-29). At conversion a believer is delivered from the penalty of sin – God’s condemnation (“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:l) but thereafter God sets about delivering us from the power of sin – our sanctification. We read “For this is the will of God even your sanctification” (lst Thessalonians 4:3) and how is this accomplished? – “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit.” It is the Holy Spirit Himself who causes believers to examine their life and to root out those things that are not pleasing to God. Mr Campolo says that doing this “can guarantee that we will end up too depressed.” The testimony of scripture is exactly the opposite. Listen to David relating how he felt before he confessed to adultery in Psalm 32 “When I kept silence my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me” (v3-4) but what happened when he faced up to the truth of his sin and confessed it “I ACKNOWLEDGED MY SIN UNTO THEE AND MINE INIQUITY HAVE I NOT HID. I SAID I WILL CONFESS, MY TRANSGRESSIONS UNTO THE LORD and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin…Be glad in the Lord and rejoice YE RIGHTEOUS”(v5&11).
MR CAMPOLO ENDORSES ROBERT SCHULLER’S TEACHING ON “SIN”
Mr Campolo wrote “A lot of people criticise the popular television preacher Robert Schuller, claiming that he does not adequately point out that we are sinners. The truth is that Schuller does point out sin for his listeners.” On 12th April 1992 in his “Hour of Power” broadcast Robert Schuller taught the following “We are all guilty of sin, sin is a condition before it is an action…what is the condition?…it is lack of faith…SIN IS LACK OF FAITH IN YOURSELF ….that man who is called Jesus Christ…has saved me from MY SIN WHICH IS MY TENDENCY TO PUT MYSELF DOWN and not believe that I can do it…NEGATIVE THINKING IS THE CORE OF SIN…negative thinking is a deadly disease …Jesus lived…he died to save us from our sins TO CHANGE US FROM NEGATIVE THINKING PEOPLE TO POSITIVE THINKING PEOPLE.”
The “sin-nature” with which we are all born is not defined as “lack of faith in yourself” it is linked to Adam’s transgression which was disobedience (Romans 5:19) and as such Paul describes us as “children of disobedience” and “by nature the children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:2-3) and the outworking of our sinful nature shows itself in sinful actions which the Bible defines as “sin is the transgression of the law” (l John 3:4). Mr Campolo writes “I do not want to go on and on about Schuller here. But I do believe he has latched on to powerful psychological and SPIRITUAL TRUTH.” How can anyone endorse the teachings of a man who wrote “The cross will sanctify your EGO TRIP… For the cross protected our Lord’s perfect self-esteem from turning into sinful pride” (Quote from “Self Esteem” by Robert Schuller). Such a statement shows that Mr Schuller has no conception of sin, its consequences and its divine remedy and yet Tony Campolo endorses Robert Schuller’s ministry in his book. Does God dwell with people who have a “positive self concept?” I’ll let Isaiah answer that question – “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place WITH HIM ALSO THAT IS OF A CONTRITE AND HUMBLE SPIRIT” (Isaiah 57:15).
CHAPTER 3 “What about women preachers?” Before we even get to this chapter in the book Mr Campolo has already made his views clear when he writes in the introduction to the book “A pastor has to keep his people with him or her.” Turning now to the actual chapter under consideration Mr Campolo makes reference to the Seventh Day Adventist church and writes “ The emphasis they place on salvation through Christ was in harmony with my own beliefs.” Does Tony Campolo believe that believers’ sins are temporarily covered but not removed “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12) for that is the teaching of Seventh Day Adventism? Does he believe that the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement pictures work yet to be carried out by SATAN for that is the teaching of Seventh Day Adventism?
MR CAMPOLO IS ENDORSING AN ERRONEOUS VIEW OF THE ATONEMENT
Moving on to justify his support for “women preachers” Mr Campolo writes “Upon the death of Christ…the wall that separated the Jewish men from the women and Gentiles was ripped down (Luke 23:44-46).” WHAT ERROR! It wasn’t “the wall” that was “ripped down” but “the veil…was rent” – the veil separating sinful mankind (men/women) from God. Then Mr Campolo compounds the error by asserting that Ephesians 2:14-16 also confirms the abolition of the role distinction between men and women and he quotes “he is our peace…and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us…for to make in himself of twain one new man.” This is not dealing with the roles of men and women but with the uniting of the “twain” (ie. Jew and Gentile) in Christ.
MR CAMPOLO HAS MISREPRESENTED THE TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE
Tony Campolo Mother Teresa and The “Broad” Road In his book Mr Campolo makes a number of references to “Mother” Teresa and he conveys clearly his belief that she was a true Christian – “Those of us who are lesser Christians need not feel that our spirituality must measure up to Mother Teresa’s…”(p65). “Mother” Teresa is a truly compassionate human being but of course the Bible teaches clearly that our good works cannot save us (Ephesians 2:8-9:Titus3:5). Did she have a biblical concept of Christ and His salvation? In June 1986 at a Rosary for Peace gathering she said “The greatest gift God can give a family is to have a son to be a priest at the altar at whose absolution a sinner full of sin becomes a sinner without sin” At the Worldwide Retreat for Priests held in the Vatican in 1984 she said “At the word of a priest that little piece of bread becomes the body of Christ, the Bread of Life. Then you give this living Bread to us so that we too might live and become holy…I was so struck with the thought that ONLY when the priest is there can we have our altar and our tabernacle and our Jesus. Only when the priest can put Jesus there for us…we cannot bring him (Jesus) unless you first give him to us. This is why I love priests so much.” “MOTHER” TERESA ACCEPTED FULLY TRANSUBSTANTIATION AND PRIESTLY ABSOLUTION
Why did I refer to The “Broad” Road? “Mother” Teresa believed that other religions lead to God. Dave Hunt in his book “The Seduction of Christianity” quotes her on page 71 “If in coming face to face with God we accept Him in our lives then we are converting. We become a better Hindu, a better Muslim, a better Catholic, a better whatever we are…What approach would I use? For me naturally it would be a Catholic one, for you it may be Hindu, for someone else Buddhist, according to one’s conscience. WHAT GOD IS IN YOUR MIND YOU MUST ACCEPT.” “Sister” Ann, a nun who worked in Nepal with “Mother” Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity was asked about the people they cared for “Do you believe if they die believing in Shiva or in Ram (Hindu gods) they will go to heaven?” She answered “Yes, that is their faith…if they have believed in their god very strongly, if they have faith, surely they will be saved.”
Tony Campolo and Sexual Frustration In his book Mr Campolo makes reference to masturbation and writes on page 64 “There is no doubt that masturbation usually involves fantasies but I am not convinced that all fantasizing is sin…the case against masturbation that is built on the claim that the fantasies it generates are sinful has questionable validity.” The Lord says “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her..in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Tony Campolo and The “New Age” One of the assertions of many “New Agers” is that God dwells inside each person. The Bible teaches that God only comes to indwell a person when they are converted Jesus said “If a man love me he will keep my words and my Father will love him and we will corne unto him and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). If God has to come and indwell someone it means He is not there in the first place. Tony Campolo wrote “We want to convince the whole human race that there is a God who established the infinite value of every person WHO MYSTICALLY DWELLS IN EACH PERSON …I do not mean that others represent Jesus for us. I MEAN THAT JESUS ACTUALLY IS PRESENT IN EACH OTHER PERSON.”
May this booklet alert us to be good Bereans and to test Mr Campolo’s strange teachings against the Word of God which the Lord declared to be “truth” (John 17v17)