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Speaking My Mind: The Radical Evangelical Prophet Tackles the Tough Issues Christians Are Afraid to Face Hardcover – June 1, 2004
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About the Author
Tony Campolo (Ph.D., Temple University) is professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in suburban Philadelphia, a media commentator on religious, social, and political matters, and the author of a dozen books, including Revolution and Renewal, Let me Tell You a Story, and 20 Hot Potatoes Christians Are Afraid to touch. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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I find his approach to issues that are set out in the book as genuine, and heart felt. Some of his other literature and messages have a little more of an edge than this particular book. If anything else, pick it up to get you thinking and considering what you believe and why.
For Campolo fans, I am new in his world of literature...so, I have no real basis by which to compare. I find him incredibly smart and brilliant in the way he lays out his perspective. If you are a fan, I am guessing you will probably read this and think - I have heard this before.
Tony Campolo is a great preacher. In 45 minutes he can present God's message crystal clear stripped of all politics and other outside influences. If you're on an life issue, listening to him preach will clear it up. Is it ok for a Christian to drive a BMW? What should I do with my life? Is God a compassionate loving God of the New Testament or a righteous discilinary God of the Old Testament? Listen to Tony preach, and formerly unclear, muddy issues are clear.
He has 71 years of life experience most as a Christian. He has been a pastor, a professor, a manager, a father, and a missionary. Sitting at his feet and listening to what he says is well worth the time.
He makes some very telling observations. With respect to homosexuality, he notes that many who fight against homosexual marriages don't object to divorce and remarriage even though Jesus said that is adultery. With respect to Iraq, he pondered what would have been the result if we as a Christian nation followed the Biblical principle of loving (and feeding) thy enemy rather than over a decade of economic sanctions and no fly zones.
There are some very interesting original comments in this book. THIS IS NOT THE SAME OLD SAME OLD!
At the same time I must say that he is NOT a theologian. With respect to wives submitting to their husbands, he uses Ephesians 5:21-25. 5:22 says "Wives submit yourselves to your husbands" but 5:21 says "submit yourselves one to another". Tony claims that 5:21 Paul is speaking specifically to married couples and therefore he interprets the passage not as wives submit to your husbands but as submit yourselves one to another. He neglects to point out that Colossians 3:18 and 1 Peter 3, the same wives submit to your husbands command is given WITHOUT the "submit yourselves one to another" qualifier. He also neglects to point out 1 Cor. 11 that says that the head of the woman is man. Did Tony ignore this? Or was he ignorant of it? Either way is concerning. It is one thing to interpret the Bible in light of the culture at the time and conclude that maybe the literal application is not right for today's society. It is another thing to intentionally twist scripture so that it fits what you want to believe.
In the subject of whether there is a second chance for those who die without Christ, Tony is also kind of fast and loose with scripture.
But nevertheless, he has a lot to say, and a lot of what he says is very meaningful and well worth reading.
While I find the title a perfect reflection of the book's point of view, the subtitle is a Gordian knot of misstatements, and I am very happy that the author points out that it was provided by his publisher and not by his own pen. The most misleading suggestion in this subtitle is the notion that Mr. Campolo is a prophet. His area of expertise is as a sociologist, and he speaks with great authority from that speciality. He also demonstrates a sound knowledge of Bible study, which serves him well in criticizing some Fundamentalist social positions that use scripture to support their stand.
I have been avoiding the use of `Evangelical' up to now in speaking of the body of Christians to which Mr. Campolo claims allegiance. This is because my own Lutheran church, following the lead of Martin Luther, emphasize the teachings of the bible and eschewed layers of interpretation laid on it by the Roman Catholic church in the 1500 years leading up to the Reformation. In fact, `Evangelical' is part of the name of the Lutheran church in America and the Luther inspired church in Europe is simply the `Evangelical' church. In spite of our sharing this name with the `non-liturgical' churches such as the Baptists (Campolo's denomination), Lutherans and Campolo's `Evangelicals' tend to interpret scripture just a bit differently. I will go out on a limb here and say that Evangelical fundamentalists take scripture just a bit more literally and may give just a bit more weight to the Old Testament than Luther and Lutherans, whose center of gravity is usually Paul's Epistle to the Romans, which demonstrates how the Gospel of Christ replaces Old Testament covenants. But the theological difference between liturgical and non-liturgical denominations is not the subject of this book.
Campolo's subject in Part I is a sociological discussion of how Evangelical Fundamentalists have become so successful at the expense of the more conventional liturgical denominations, commonly grouped together in The American Council of Churches. The vanguard of this success is the Reverend Billy Graham, whose crusades pushed awareness of this reading of Christianity with success similar to the `Great Awakening' in colonial America. And, not only were fundamentalists successful in recruiting domestic members, they have had far greater success in spreading missionaries throughout the world.
In Part II Campolo speaks of issues in both social policy and in theology. On the first, Campolo is lucid, authoritative, and convincing. On the second, where he is the amateur Theologian and semi-professional Bible scholar, he is less convincing, however, his weaknesses here to my Lutheran eyes may be less with Campolo's own positions than in his loyalty to the literal authority of scripture, and his reliance on the writings of theologians representing his wing of Christianity.
This appraisal in no way diminishes the superb value of Campolo's book as a survey of issues arising from Evangelical Fundamentalism.
Campolo's treatment of Evangelical Fundamentalism's doctrines on the role of women and on homosexuality is lucid and heart-felt. This is especially true of his position with regard to homosexuality, where he even disagrees with his wife by being closer to the center of Fundamentalist doctrine, while still criticizing the patent unfairness of many Fundamentalist spokespeople on the issue. The interesting theological issue here may be the kind of legalistic analysis of scripture at which our Jewish friends are so good. While there are New Testament statements against homosexual practice, especially from St. Paul, Campolo makes excellent points that suggest Paul was not railing against what we know as safe, consensual sex with a person of the same sex, but specific practices which may have even been aberrant in Hellenistic society, which at the very least, tolerated homosexuality. Campolo still comes down against homosexual practice (but not homosexual inclinations). I may suggest that the scriptural command to love your neighbor and `do unto others as you would have them do unto you' trumps specific bans, even from the pen of such an important source as St. Paul. This `prime commandment' is the one from which all other rules flow.
One topic I find most interesting is Campolo's attempt to reconcile Christian doctrine with science. By citing several important authorities, he makes an attractive case; however, the effort is ultimately misdirected. Scientific and Theological doctrines are simply in two entirely different worlds of discourse, and hooking the believability of a Theological doctrine on a scientific theory (in Campolo's case, Einstein's theory of relativity) is cast adrift if science disproves the theory on the basis of improved observation, just as Michaelson and Morley disproved the existence of ether, clearing the way for Einstein's theory. The most compelling image here is Wittgenstein's metaphor of language as a toolbox, with tools for a wide variety of purposes, and (my extension here) science's ruler and calipers cannot do the same job of Theology's hammer and saw. The sooner Evangelical Fundamentalists move on beyond the red herring of creationism, the sooner they will have more energy to devote to more substantial issues.
I was especially interested in Campolo's dismissal of John Robinson's famous short book, `Honest to God', which rested on theology from Dietrich Bonhoffer and addressed the `Is God Dead' issue so popular in the 1960s. This book awoke my interest in Christian thinking, especially as it was consistent with the compelling views of existentialist theologian, Soren Kierkegaard.
As a laundry list of `tough issues', this book is superb, and I have not touched on all of them. I only wish Campolo had given us a bibliography of all his sources.