We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tony Campolo: A Dangerous - and False - Teacher

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.


Anonymous said...

I recently went to the Bible and Book Store near my home to find materials on cults. On that subject, I only found one paperback book. However, I recall a poster advertising Tony Campolo. It is, indeed, a frightening thought that the very thing I was seeking to read to increase my awareness was being sold as a solid Christian work.

Pamela Van Buren

marie said...

Well, apparently I wasn't too off the mark. Glad I've never wasted the time or money on this guy's books, much less a Saturday evening when he spoke here last month. FWIW, I COMPLETELY agree with your assessment of the issues and where he's wrong - from women being pastors (we shouldn't be - doesn't mean we're inferior; it means male leadership in the Church is the way God ordained it) to centering prayer (which is TM with a thin Christian veneer.

False teachers like this are easy enough to dismiss, but it is so concerning that they have wormed their way so deeply into American Evangelicalism. Until recently, I thought Baptist churches by definition were sound. Obviously not.

I sincerely hope Campolo is wrong about the Rapture, because if the church slides much deeper into apostasy I might just lose my mind. The nuttiness I see invading biblical Christianity makes me say, "Come Lord Jesus".


Anonymous said...

I doubt you'll allow this to be posted, but I'm sad that you feel this way about Rev. Campolo. He is probably the most conservative pastor I've heard in that he consistently preaches the example of Jesus. So yes, he is focused on the poor, the orphans, the widows, just as Jesus was, and just as the scripture Jesus preached, i.e. Hebrew scripture, was focused on the importance of loving God and the neighbor, even "strangers" who had different cultural values.

Anyone who reads Jesus' words should be able to see clearly that Jesus regarded women as important to the transmission of the good news of God. That later writings which precluded women were canonized was not the work of God, but the work of human councils led by men. Isn't it interesting that Jesus never set the kind of limits that were set by the early incarnation of the institutional church? Indeed, Jesus did not suggest that creating institutions mattered, but rather, people talking to people in direct ways; see Luke 10.

If people cannot understand Jesus' inclusion of women, trying to understand love of LGBT people is impossible, so I won't even attempt to address that, though there have been many wonderful books written which do address the subject.

I hold you all in my prayers.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi S.E. Parker,

Firstly, I allow all comments to post because I think it is good to see other viewpoints and even corrections if I am in error. I will only remove comments that are inappropriate.

Secondly, I think you have a wrong idea as to what the Gospel is. The Gospel is that Christ came to pay the penalty of sin by dying in our place, and then raising from the dead. It is not about helping the poor, the orphans and widows.

The mission of the Church is also not to help the poor, the widowed, the orphans, etc. The mission of the Church is to make disciples and to edify members of the body once they have become diciples, and protect the flock from false shepherds. If the Church is not doing these things, then it is not the Church.

Galatians 6:10 tells us, "as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." (NIV). As members of the body of Christ, we are indeed to be concerned about social issues such as helping the poor, the orphans, the widows, etc. But that is secondary to the primary mission of preaching the Gospel and building up the body. And notice it also says our first concern should be for the welfare of those in the body.

I don't know what your definition of "conservative" is, but Campolo fails that description in his theology, let alone his politics.

I find it interesting that you say that Scripture by Paul limiting women's role in the Church was not of God. This tells me you do not accept things that disagree with your theology as being from God. How much more of the N.T. do you discard? True Christians accept all of it. By the way, it wasn't the institutionalized church that canonized the books of the N.T., rather they just confirmed what was already accepted for over 200 years. Nevertheless, not permitting women to be pastors and elders does not restrict them from other ministries, nor does it degrade them.

Books are written by many people justifying their own theological beliefs, yet that doesn't mean what they say is true. Only the Scripture is true. When anyone suggests that "GLBT" people should be condoned in their sin, they teach against God's Word. Christ would love the person practicing homosexual/bisexual behavior, but He would also call on that person to "go and sin no more" as he did with the woman caught in adultery.

I noticed you never commented on the evidence I gave as to Campolo's false doctrinal teachings or his apostasy into Eastern mystical practices. These are the things that make Campolo unqualified to be a pastor, and his testimony as to how he became a Christian leaves grave doubts as to his spiritual condition.

If I am wrong about Campolo's Biblical teachings, then please show me from Scripture.

J said...

"The Gospel is that Christ came to pay the penalty of sin by dying in our place, and then raising from the dead. It is not about helping the poor, the orphans and widows."

Clearly, the life and words of Christ himself demonstrates that his Gospel includes a call to care for the "least of these" right alongside the message of salvation. I don't know how people can deny what Christ so plainly spoke about. Read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 again and consider what Jesus plainly says.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hello John,

The fact that as Christians we should be helping the poor, etc does not change the other fact that the Gospel message does NOT include this. These are works we perform BECAUSE we are Christians and not as part of the Gospel. The Gospel message is only as I stated, nothing more and nothing less. Campolo and those like him who spend all their time working on the social gospel leave people well-fed, well-clothed, etc, but still going to hell.

The mission of the CHURCH is not to do anything but spead the Gospel and edify/disciple those who are members of the Church. The individual members of the church - being saints saved by the grace of God through Christ - are here to do good works in addition to evangelizing.

Tony Campolo is a false teacherand I think that has been demonstrated.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would anyone reference David Cloud, a King James Onlyist and semi-new ager? He's the ultimate quack, next to, perhaps, Jack Chick!!

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hello Anonymous 9/29/09:

Well, I know Cloud is KJVO, but would you care to give evidence of him being a "semi new-ager"? And perhaps you'd like to explain your comments about him being a "quack" - can you define your term?

I think he's a bit legalistic in some of his ideas, but his reporting service as to what is going on is usually pretty accurate.

So, if you have evidence of Cloud following new age teachings, I'd appreciate seeing it.

Unknown said...

I believe that concerns about what is truth she be addressed with scripture and not mans words...feelings or insights...
Keep God in the Picture and centered...there is no question when this is done. It is clear.
His Truth stands not man...Lies are exposed and evident when grounded in His Truth and knowledge. Part of the problem is there are so many that don't study Gods word anymore to know the Truth.It's individual. Ask and though shalt receive. Seek and though shalt find. Knock and the door will be opened. God is very clear in His word about all these things.

Unknown said...

I recently attended a Tony Campola conference. Although I'd heard of him I'd never read any of his books or heard him teach. I must say I was appauled at what he was teaching. I almost walked out but wanted to know what his opinions were so I remained. There are always Christian teachers I may disagree with, but this man is dangerous. He is so liberal and his anger toward anything that appears conservative is very apparent. He said "homosexuals do not choose to be gay." He used a cuss word and proceded to use it to make a point. There was a youth group in our audience. I will never again attend any of his meetings and I pray he repents and recieves the truth.

Anonymous said...

poor holly,
he cussed. You are more concerned about the fact that he cussed than you are about what he was talking about- that is what is wrong with your Christainity...don't drink smoke or chew, or go with girls who do...then you can go to Heaven. It's not that simple minded thank goodness.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous 2/19,

The foul language used by such false teachers as Campolo only reinforces that they are unworthy to be teachers - and that is what Holly is pointing out.

The Bible says we are to NOT use crude language or coarse jesting, and to not let unwholesome talk come out of our mouths.

There is NO excuse for Christians to use foul language. Even less is there an excuse for teachers to do so.

And this whole post is showing concern for what Campolo teaches - he is a false teacher, period.

Anonymous said...

It is difficult to listen to Tony now, and compare him with his messages 10 years ago. There was a time when He believed ALL of scripture to be the unchangeable, infallible Word of God. He gave reasons why he believed Christian gays should be celibate. He compared his wife's view with his own. He still took the stance of celibacy for the gay community of Christians. He is still using the same rhetoric (same jokes) but has obviously changed his stance on same sex marriage. So if God is an unchanging God and if scripture is still the same Word he referenced 10 years ago, what changed? I DO believe we are to minister to the poor and needy. I KNOW by so doing we are living out our Christianity. Not to gain salvation, but because our love for the Savior compels us to do so. And in so doing, many may see the love of the Father through us. I hope Tony realizes that by changing his ideology he is giving his stamp of approval on matters he will be accountable for in Heaven. The Christian gay community is constantly seeking someone to give them "sound" doctrinal reasons for their lifestyle. No matter our sexual orientation, we are still admonished to beware of false teachers who have the ability to mislead even God's elect. Matt. 24:24.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


You have proven yourself to be an egalitarian with your comment. Funny how your ilk have newly discovered a meaning in the Greek which scholars for centuries didn't see.

You will not get your false teaching posted. Women are not to be pastors/elders, period.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...


Continual assertion does not make truth.