There may be those among my readers who are not familiar with the name Tony Campolo. He has been a sociology professor at an evangelical Christian university for many years. I believe he is now about 80 years old and has been in the limelight in evangelical circles for quite some time.
In his earlier years, he wrote books that always pushed the envelope with respect to evangelicals’ more conservative view of culture. Then he began to be even more pushy. In the 1990s, his controversial ways became more prominent when he took on the role of one of President Clinton’s spiritual advisors. When I went to the Clinton Library recently, letters between Clinton and Campolo were part of my research. They showed his definite liberal/progressive tilt, even to the point of offering advice on how to counter groups such as James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.
I engaged in public dialogue with Campolo back in 1999 when he spoke at Regent University when I was a professor there. I challenged him on a couple of his views: his preference for the UN’s Declaration over America’s Constitution and his support for homosexual rights. It was frustrating because I was not allowed any followup questions; the rules for that public dialogue were much too restrictive.
However, I came away from it convinced that Campolo was only dancing around the issue of homosexuality. He was promoting the idea that people are simply born that way and as long as they are celibate, no problem. I couldn’t see at the time how not challenging their lifestyle would ever lead someone to salvation. The root issue, of course, is whether homosexuality is a choice.
The Biblical message is clear: it is a choice. To believe otherwise, for whatever reason, is to deny Biblical truth.
First, he said, “I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus, emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls ‘the least of these.'”
That may sound good, but notice this: he is saying that Jesus’ words are a higher authority than what is written elsewhere in the Scripture, as if there is a discrepancy. I believe there is a solid message throughout, and both Jesus’ words and the rest of the Scripture are in harmony.
Also, how does the phrase “the least of these” include homosexuals? That’s hardly the context of the passage. He has to want to read that into Jesus’ words. At the very least, it’s awful exegesis of Scripture.
What are his other reasons?
He compares his relationship with his wife with homosexual relationships he has observed and concludes,
I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end. We in the Church should actively support such families.
Finally, to top it all, he adds,
As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church.
When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am,” I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.
Two major problems here: first, he has given his training as a social scientist greater authority than Scripture; this is a common malady among evangelical academics.
Second, he twists the meaning of the hymn “Just As I Am” to exclude changing one’s life after we come to Christ. Yes, you approach Him in all your sins, but with a repentant heart, ready to make Him Lord of all. Sin must now be banished, including homosexual sin.
But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Homosexuality is no longer considered a sin. And for someone like me to continue to say it is wrong, that it is deviant behavior contrary to the will of God, is to commit the supposed greater sin of “intolerance.”
I will not change my views on this because I not only trust God’s Word on the issue, but I also understand why He considers it sin—it destroys the essence of sexuality as He created it. It is man’s attempt to place sinful desire above God’s loving guidelines for how to use the gift He has given us.
I don’t hate Tony Campolo. I want him to see the light. But he has now positioned himself against the clear teaching of Scripture on this issue and will help lead others into their souls’ damnation. May God have mercy on him for doing so.