Tony Campolo has for many years been on my RADAR as one not to be trusted as a teacher for many reasons, especially since he is a pastor in the liberal American Baptist Convention, and is very liberal and Marxist in his political beliefs. And he often attacks fundamental, biblical Christians for our beliefs. Let me explain why I believe he is a dangerous teacher.
Item 1. On June 26, 2003 Tony spoke at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s general assembly, and during his talk he exhibited a number of problems. According to a report by David W. Cloud of the Fundamental Baptist Information Service, Tony “lambasted fundamentalists, conservative Southern Baptists, and dispensationalists. He said that anyone who resists women pastors is an ‘instrument of the devil’ and is committing sin. He said every Christian should support homosexuals as they ‘struggle for dignity.’ He said that the perpetual cycle of violence in the Middle East is not the result of the Palestinians. He spoke of the ‘terrorism of the Israeli army’ and criticized American military aid to Israel. He said Harry Potter, which is filled with witchcraft, is ‘good for kids to hear.’ He said preachers should warn about dispensational theology and the doctrine of an imminent rapture. He spoke against Christians who do not support the United Nations.”
I’m not going to address Campolo’s political statements, other than to say he is wrong, because that’s not the purpose of this blog, but I will say he needs to study his history!
There are many who will disagree, but I believe Scripture is clear that women should not be pastors. To say this belief is of the devil and committing sin is patently false teaching. As for supporting homosexuals in their “struggle for dignity,” would Campolo suggest we also support adulterers, fornicators and prostitutes in their struggles for “dignity”? Sexual sin should be exposed as such, not given support. Harry Potter is certainly a book that Christian children should not be reading, and if anyone wants reasons as to why, let me know. And, while I disagree with a lot of dispensationalist and rapture theories, those are not essential issues and are not reasons to warn against teachers who hold such positions.
Item 2. Tony’s wife, Peggy, is a national leader of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists, which urges American Baptist congregations to be supportive of homosexuals. The fact that both Tony and his wife are very supportive of homosexuals rather than helping them to leave their sin behind, while they often preach in homosexual-affirming churches, makes him unqualified to be a pastor.
Item 3. In his book, Letters to a Young Evangelical, Campolo says he came to Christ - was born again - through “centering prayer,” a mystical prayer system also known as “contemplative prayer,” which has more in common with Eastern mysticism than Christianity. He even says that his relationship with Christ has grown through daily “centering prayer” where he uses the name of Jesus as a mantra. Can anyone show me the biblical basis for this? Yet throughout this book Campolo continues to confess how important this is to his relationship, and how he goes into altered states of consciousness to encounter a “oneness with God.” If this is how Campolo was “born again,” I have to question whether he is indeed a Christian. (This practice is also promoted by the apostate Emergent Church.)
Item 4. Campolo is part of a group who title themselves as “Red Letter Christians,” following only what Jesus taught in the Bible where the words are red. Supposedly, any teachings about doctrine, etc, that are found outside the red letters of the Gospels, aren't important. Campolo says Jesus was more concerned with “poverty, violence and intolerance” than about sin issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Gee, and all this time I thought Jesus was concerned with sin! The “Red Letter Christians” are more about the social gospel and Marxism than they are about the Gospel of salvation through Christ. They abhor doctrine.
Item 5. Campolo and co-author Mary Albert Darling have written a book titled, The God of Intimacy and Action, wherein they claim they - and we - can teach the Gospel through psychic evangelism or telepathic witnessing. This book is all about mystical Christianity, a lot of which Campolo and Darling bring from their love of the Jesuit order’s mystical practices. They call medieval mystics “super saints.”
As Pastor G. Richard Fisher says, “The book is largely an infomercial for Roman Catholic hagiography. It is replete with all the mystical mechanics and mystic rituals, such as the Prayer of Examen, lectio divina, meditation, centering prayer, and Renovare.” In the book Campolo also tells of his and Darling’s involvement in spiritism and necromancy by their devotion to, and contact with, Francis of Assisi, as well as many other mystical experiences. In this book there is much misrepresentation of Moses and Paul as being mystics.
Tony Campolo is a modern mystic who wants to be like those of medieval Roman Catholicism. He denigrates sound doctrine and gives active support to people living in sin. His claim of being born again must be suspect because of the way it supposedly took place, and because one who is truly a Christian would not denigrate sound biblical doctrine. Campolo has more in common with New Age beliefs than with those of the Biblical Christian. His teachings are dangerous and should be avoided.