‘Progressive Christianity’ led to unbelief for son of controversial author, pastor
AFA Journal staff writer
Above, Bart Campolo*
May 2018 – “Nobody can go to hell; everybody will be saved.” That’s the religion Bart Campolo began preaching and teaching in 2006. He is the son of noted Tony Campolo, co-founder of the informal progressive Red Letter Christian movement (redletterchristians.org).
The Center for Progressive Christianity, a complementary entity to Campolo’s movement, has created an eight-point statement of faith that spells out a clear departure from scriptural truths (progressivechristianity.org). Among the eight descriptors are:
▶ Believes that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to awareness and experience of the Sacredness and the Oneness and Unity of all life.
▶ Affirms that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.
▶ Finds grace in the search for understanding and believes there is more value in questioning than in absolutes.
Jesus seems to be viewed as a benevolent teacher, rather than the Savior of the world and Lord of all creation. Of more preeminence is the “Sacredness, Oneness, and Unity of life.” Everything else appears to be viewed as a tool to arrive at such an experience.
The remaining five points encompass an array of qualities that exhibit kindness, compassion, peacefulness, environmental concern, and all-inclusiveness. But in the eight points, there’s no mention of sin, humanity’s sinful nature, or a need for anyone’s salvation. And no references are made to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has said, “Christians should see the Center for Progressive Christianity not as posing a threat to Christianity itself, but as exposing the basic hatred of biblical truth that drives those on the theological left” (albertmohler.com).
The father falters
For more than a generation, the elder Campolo has led many evangelicals to believe the words Jesus spoke (while in human bodily form) carry more weight than the rest of Scripture. In an interview with The Christian Post, he explained that Red Letter Christians believe that because “Jesus raises the moral standard,” His words are “the most important part of the Scripture.”
He continued: “There’s no question that the morality prescribed by Jesus is superior to anything that was hitherto suggested by the law and the prophets.”
But the younger Campolo says progressives turn into atheists. His claim comes from personal experience. He recited a sinner’s prayer when he was 15. And then he followed in his father’s ministry footsteps. He led inner-city missions in Philadelphia and Ohio, and traveled extensively as a guest preacher.
In over 30 years of ministry, he experienced a great deal of confusion and theological regression. In an interview with Holy Heretics, a podcast, he said, “I passed through every stage of heresy. It starts out when sovereignty goes, then biblical authority goes; then I’m a Universalist; now I’m marrying gay people. Pretty soon I don’t actually believe Jesus actually rose from the dead in a bodily way.”
Finally, in 2011, his wife Marty who had presumably travelled a similar path, confronted him: “You know, I think you ought to stop being a professional Christian, since you don’t believe in God, and you don’t believe in heaven, and you don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead three days after dying — and neither do I.”
The son succumbs
She was right. He admitted, “The supernaturalism in my faith was dialed so far down you could barely notice it.” In 2004, he had performed a wedding for two close lesbian friends. That compromise had begun back in college when he had two gay roommates.
Although he had been taught that homosexual behavior was sinful, he either couldn’t admit his friends were doing anything wrong or he couldn’t bring himself to address them with the gospel. Instead of courageously and lovingly speaking truth into their lives, he altered his belief system.
His deviant path may even go back to his exposure to urban poverty as a teen. Having believed that God was all-powerful, he couldn’t understand why He couldn’t or wouldn’t intervene. So instead of humbling himself before God, he adjusted his theology. Gone was the sovereignty of God. And as he put it, that was “the beginning of the end.”
If he didn’t like the way God defined things, or how He did or didn’t do things, he changed his beliefs to harmonize with his understanding, or to match what he thought should be. And he admits, “It’s an infinite progression.”
Today’s progressive Christian movement typically ignores a biblical position on abortion, homosexuality, and other forms of sexual immorality. The silence eases cultural tensions.
In contrast, when believers line up their teachings with the Word of God concerning the sins most severely attacking the culture at large, they initiate a raging battle over truth. Such Christians will likely suffer wounds as a result.
The fallacy flourishes
Many are unwilling to take the risk. It’s easier to go with the flow. Why draw a line of distinction?
Jesus Himself clarified in Luke 12:50-53 that He came not to bring peace to the earth, but to divide people against each other. While Christ followers are called to be peacemakers, that endeavor should never come at the cost of compromising on the Word of God.
Jesus told His disciples in advance that they would be hated by the world, as it first hated Him (John 15:18-19). These are teachings that appear in red ink, yet they seem to be overlooked by progressive Christians. When one reduces God’s Holy Word to the red letters, he will soon find himself picking and choosing which of the red letters are worthy of retaining.
“When you get to this ragged edge of Christianity,” Bart Campolo explained, “when people say ‘God’ they sort of mean ‘the universe’ and when they say ‘Jesus’ they sort of mean ‘redemption.’”
He has predicted that over the next decade as many as 40% of progressive Christians will stop pretending they believe God exists. He described the process of abandoning Christian beliefs as almost addictive – once you start, you don’t know how or where to stop.
* Bart Campolo is the son of Tony Campolo, an influential leader of the Evangelical Left. At his website, the younger Campolo describes himself as “a secular community builder, counselor, and writer who currently serves as the Humanist Chaplain at University of Cincinnati.”
Doubt the Word, deny the truth
“If you can get people to doubt the Bible,” says Dr. Norman Geisler, ”then you’ll get them, sooner or later, to deny. ....if you deny, then you’re going to get them to disobey. And that’s worked so well since the Garden of Eden, [Satan] hasn’t had to change his tactic. He still uses it.” Geisler is a professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary and is featured in AFA’s new documentary The God Who Speaks.
Although the film is aimed primarily at an evangelical audience, it deals with major objections that skeptics might have regarding the Bible’s authority. See here for a related article.
The God Who Speaks is available at afastore.net or 877-927-4917.