Christianity,  News

Three Observations about Tony Campolo’s acceptance of committed gay relationships

Tony Campolo has released a statement today calling for “full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.” Campolo has long been a stalwart of the theological left, so this announcement is no surprise. Still, it is significant as another prominent leader moves away from the faith once for all delivered to the saints. He is not the first to have done this, and he will not be the last. American Christianiaty will be in a period of winnowing for the foreseeable future, and there will be more to come.

A few observations about Campolo’s announcement:

1. Like many others before him, Campolo’s conscience seems to have been moved not by scripture but by relationships he’s had with gay friends. He writes:

One reason I am changing my position on this issue is that, through Peggy, 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. 

The winnowing process that we are witnessing right now is going to reveal whose consciences are bound by the authority of scripture and whose aren’t. I am grieved when professing believers allow scripture to be eclipsed by other considerations, but I welcome the clarification (1 Cor. 11:19).

2. Campolo says that the church’s teaching on homosexuality is wrong just as it has been wrong on the women’s issue and on slavery. He writes:

I am old enough to remember when we in the Church made strong biblical cases for keeping women out of teaching roles in the Church, and when divorced and remarried people often were excluded from fellowship altogether on the basis of scripture. Not long before that, some Christians even made biblical cases supporting slavery. Many of those people were sincere believers, but most of us now agree that they were wrong. I am afraid we are making the same kind of mistake again, which is why I am speaking out.

This portion is particularly disappointing not merely because it is a poor argument, but also because it effectively makes traditional marriage supporters into the moral equivalent of misogynists and racists. This statement–though polite in tone–puts him on the side of some of Christianity’s fiercest critics. It gives credibility to the arguments that the enemies of the faith are using against us in their culture war–that we hold our position not from good faith but from animus and hatred.

3. If I am reading Campolo correctly, his new position is not a call for accepting gay couples who are “married,” but for accepting gay couples who are committed to one another–which would include couples who are in same-sex marriages and those who are not. If he is now supporting unmarried gay couples as full members, does he also believe that churches should accept unmarried heterosexual couples as well? In other words, does this statement imply not merely an acceptance of homosexual immorality but of heterosexual immorality as well? Perhaps he will clarify this point.

In the meantime, you can read his full statement here.


  • Charles Putnam, (@aboutcepimages)

    “Campolo’s conscience seems to have been moved not by scripture but by relationships he’s had with gay friends”

    That has to be the best quote and description of how and where we go wrong. Once we depart from scripture as the standard, anything goes.

  • dr. james willingham

    And to think what was once Eastern Baptist College and Eastern Seminary, founded by Bible believing Northern Baptists, has come to this: One of their leading scholars and preachers flies in the face of what is plainly taught in the Bible as contrary to God’s will. What Dr. Campolo seems to have forgotten is the price that will be paid down the road by unborn generations of children. All appeals to past errors like slavery and even the contemporary acceptance of second class Christian membership for women (which some of the Puritans certainly were able to overcome and our forbearers of Sandy Creek very likely brought it to us) to the contrary notwithstanding, this does not mean Campolo is right. Wonder if he ever had to counsel cases of incest and pedophilia, that is, those who suffer from such?

    Surely Campolo must know that right behind the homosexuals in most gay parades, the NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) use to carry their signs, seeking acceptance on the same grounds (that it, too, is a loving relationship)? When I think that one of the institutions became a half million richer due the desire of one preacher to not be a influenced by money, it is a matter of grief to consider such blindness. What is worse yet is what society will do to believers, when same sex marriage is legalized and the right to disagree in principle and practice will be stripped away. A recent article in the Washington Post has already called attention to those in the Sodomite community who are calling for harsh measures against Christians who will not go along to get along. The couple with the bakery and five kids out west are a case in point, but the article calls attention to statements calling for even harsher measures. Ah, yes, I forgot to mention the marriages between humans and animals (beastiality).

  • Mark Giamate

    The oddest thing I always think when I think of being persuaded by emotional arguments over gay marriage is that I picture myself getting together with a gay couple. We pray for each other, I believe homosexuality to be a sin, I pray for that to be broken in their lives, I have sin, they pray for the power of sin to be broken in my life too. When we go our separate ways they would continue sinning while I struggle to be free of mine. Not that, that should make sense I guess, but I struggle with this.

    • Ian Shaw


      What you said does make sense. It is extremely difficult to have fellowship with someone who has unrepentant sin in their life, regardless of what it may be.

      If we let our feelings/emotions dictate what we think about God, rather than what is revealed to us about His character in His word, we are risking more than just someone’s feelings.

    • Brian Sanders

      Mark: Are you saying you struggle to take a position against the sin of another when you have sin in your own life? The question is not are any of us sinless, none of us are, the question is are we fighting to defeat the sin in our life or are we trying to justify it and demand that society at-large condone that sin as well.

  • Don Johnson

    I think Denny is not being charitable in his selected extracts of what Campolo wrote. Campolo claims Scripture is important to him, but then points out ways it has been MISINTERPRETED in the past, as he sees it. He could have added the idea of the divine right of kings to the list before slavery. The claim of Scripture clarity was used by kings, slaveholders, and others for other ideas and now the same is true for homosexuality, but once you actually dig into it and study both sides, you can see things are not as clear as some claim.

    Yes, there are a few things that are clear in Scripture, love God and love others as yourself are the two greatest commandments. Jesus is Messiah and a few other things, but not nearly as many things as some claim.

    • Chris Taylor

      Don, why do you keep posting on Denny’s blog. You seem to disagree with everything Denny writes. If you don’t like what he has to say, go read something else.

      Denny, as a Presbyterian who enjoys much of what you post, and who can overlook the dumb stuff :), please feel free to moderate your comments.

      • Don Johnson

        Denny has moderated me some times in the past, but those posts no one gets to see but Denny. I agree with Denny on more things than not, but I do disagree with him on some things. If Denny wants to create an echo chamber then this is his blog and he can do so if he wishes.

        Scripture is an ancient text written in different languages with different cultures and customs that we have today, most things in it are not clear with just a surface reading, some things are. The original Reformers admitted that there were unclear things in the Bible, but insisted that salvation was clear. Even thought Hebrews says that baptisms are a milk doctrine (that is, basic and intended for the newly saved) some think only believers should be baptized in water and some say infants should be baptized, yet only one of these groups can be correct. If there is disagreement about a basic (milk) doctrine like this, how much more can there be disagreement among believers each trying to be faithful about things that are not basic (milk) doctrines?

        • Gus Nelson

          Don: Taking your argument to its logical conclusion, we don’t need most of the Bible since it only results in confusion. Which pages would you recommend we hold on to? Why is your view, then, any more pertinent than Denny’s or any other view? Better yet why even care that Jael drove a tent peg into Sisera’s head? (Judges Chapter 4). Who cares?

          • Don Johnson

            I hold on to all the text of Scripture as precious because it is God’s word written for us and try to read from it every day. Just because the ancient text may not be clear to us does not mean we should not be diligent in trying to figure it out as best we can. However, taking it out of context, including its cultural context in which it was written, is a way to disrespect the text we have.

      • buddyglass

        The alternative is to only read and comment on blogs where one agrees the opinions presented. That’s not always interesting or enjoyable.

      • Judy Hite Park

        So, Chris, Only those who agree with Denny can comment on his blog? Really?
        Maybe that is why some believe a little more broadly, because they want to learn and deepen their faith by listening AND learning.

        • Chris Taylor

          Judy Hite Park (wonder if we’re related somewhere on the Park side of the family),

          We all read widely to understand each others views. Don knows and understands Denny’s views. Denny knows and understands Don’s views. There is no middle ground. At this point, Don needs to acknowledge that his arguments have failed to carry any weight with Denny. Out of respect for the author, Don should move along. I would have blocked him a long time (like five years) ago.

          Warmly, CT

    • Derek Taylor

      The perspicuity of Scripture is quite clear on homosexuality. Man pleasing and friendship with the world is the only reason to engage in the kind of wreckless eisegesis necessary to endorse same sex relationships, not to mention any sexual relationship that occurs outside a husband and wife.

      • Don Johnson

        SOME TRANSLATIONS seem to make the condemnation of homosexual acts clear, but when one investigates the original languages and culture, things are not as clear.

        For example, some claim that the Greek word malakos means one who engages in passive homosexual acts, but with study I do not think it means this. I do think it involves doing some passive homosexual acts, but as a way of enticing others to shame oneself; and to shame any believer, including oneself, is a sin. That is, believers are not to be shaming others or themselves or enticing others to shame others.

        • dr. james willingham

          Duh! My Greek works define the term, malakos, as those who abuse themselves with mankind, that is, men with boys. who allow themselves to be misused homosexually (Arndt and Gingrich). addiction to sins of the flesh (VIne), homosexuals which the liberal commentary of the mid-20th century, Interpreter’s Bible, stated: “There is a special reference to unnatural vice, homosexuality, which though sometimes punished even in pagan communities was in general condoned, but against which Christianity set itself uncompromisingly from the first.” And God used such a witness to win people from that lifestyle as Paul noted, “Such were some of you.” The ancient world was acquainted with the practice, and the Greeks in particular approved of it among men and youths, that is between men and youths. Active or passive practices were rejected.

          • Don Johnson

            Malakos means something like soft or plush, when referring to a person it seems to mean someone who is indulgent; of course someone might be indulgent in a sexual way and so in that context it seems to me someone that is a male that is effeminate in a way to entice them to a homosexual act where the malakos has the passive role. However, the passive role for a male was seen as shameful in the first century, where the active role in a homosexual act was not seen as shameful. This is why I think a malakos (where a sexual context is implied) means a person who entices another male to shame oneself sexually, which should not be done. What I do not think it means is about all the kinds of people who might be a passive partner in a homosexual act. For example, some boys and some slaves were such, but had no choice in the matter.

            • senecagriggs

              I followed the Harold Camping fiasco quite closely. Thirteen times in the New Testament it says, “No one knows” [ the day of the Rapture.]. But Harold was a past master at twisting scripture so he said, “but you can know.” And he had all these wonderful explanations predicated upon ignoring clear teaching and focusing on his own “clever” interpretation.

              My history with Scripture? It’s pretty much written so an 8th grader can understand it.

              Scripture says, homosexual behavior is sin. You say, Not So, it doesn’t actually say that.

              ME: I’m pretty sure it says EXACTLY that.

              Don, I don’t think ignoring the clear and simple teaching of Scripture, like Harold Camping did, will work in your favor. Obviously it didn’t work in Harold’s favor.

              • Don Johnson

                The vast number of books published each year on how to understand Scripture show that MOST of Scripture is not well understood at the 8th grade level. The number of debates among believers about what doctrines are actually taught in Scripture is astounding. My suggestion is that you go and study some of these types of books that give overviews of the different understandings. There are the “Views” series with a title like “X Views on some doctrine” where X is a number, perhaps 2 up to perhaps 5 or more.

                • dr. james willingham

                  Me thinks your full of sloth, Don. You are refusing to consider those interpretations which are historically based upon word usage, and the reports of how the ancients used them. They were very much acquainted with realities involved in the subject. You are seeking to read the present desires for accommodation back into the record, an egregious anomaly practiced by those who want acceptance for things that can not otherwise be countenanced. Such practices are doomed to failure, having no intellectual depth of perception. There are depths which our present methods do not help us to grasp. For example, there is the problem with the present scientific method, namely, its being too analytical which, when it encounters a null hypothesis that also happens to be true (I can just hear the howls of outrage over that idea, but it is a fact that our present method is not synthetical), I have been mulling over the shortcomings of the so-called modern scientific method, since I first encountered in the writing of a thesis in intellectual history in 1970-71.

                  • Don Johnson

                    I have tried to read and study the sides in this debate. I think malakos cannot mean in general a passive homosexual in all cases altho when used in a sexual context I think it involves passive homosexual acts, but that is a different thing than thinking it describes someone who does them regardless of other context.

                    • dr. james willingham

                      Don, let us consider a term which clearly includes any kind of sexual conduct that is outside of marriage, namely, fornication, a catch all term. Homosexual relations are a form of fornication, of sexual impurity. However, your attempt to use malakoi as a way of justifying a sexual practice which was known in the ancient world will not stand up as the term is in a list of things that are condemned. From the very beginning believers condemned homosexual sins of every kind. Rape is a crime of violence and does fall within the matter of the list, except those who commit violence of such nature would be found guilty on both counts. It is a matter of curiosity to me as to why you seek to justify a practice that bears biblical condemenation and so it has been understood for at least two millenniums.

                    • Don Johnson

                      Fornication is one possible translation of pornia, another is sexual immorality.

                      Some homosexuals want to be in a committed relationship just like heterosexuals have the ability to do. They have not been given the gift of celibacy, but some say they must be celibate. This seems cruel to me. I am heterosexual and am married. If for some reason someone interpreted Scripture to claim I could not marry (for example, I have been divorced and some say remarriage is a sin), I think that would be cruel also. As a believer I am called to seek justice and defend the oppressed.

                      I can look at murder, theft and coveting and understand that sin in involved. I can see that exploitative sex of any kind is sin. I see it as a debatable question whether Paul is referring to exploitative homosexual acts in his sin lists or any homosexual acts.

                      I did not choose to be heterosexual and most homosexuals say they did not choose to be homosexual, some even say that they would change if they could because of all the pain but they cannot.

                      When one looks at humans, the idea of a gender binary breaks down, there are some people that have XY genes (normally male) but have female bodies except they have undeveloped testes inside them where ovaries might be. Some people are chimeras the result of a fusion of 2 individuals in the womb, so some cells have one set of genes and other cells have another set. If a man in exposed to female hormones, they often develop breasts and a female exposed to male hormones can develop hair as in males. In fact, both so-called male and female hormones are in everyone, it is the ratio and amounts that determines how they affect the person. For example, it is known that subsequent male children tend to more feminized than the previous male children due to increased exposure to female hormones in the womb.

                      In other words, there is a lot of messy complexity in some cases that means to me that love should guide our response over everything else.

                    • dr. james willingham

                      You should read what the people of Nambla have written. They did not choose to behave as they do, and neither do the children. It is a matter of nature. It is alright if done consensually and lovingly (???). The truth is such acts are a choice; they are the means of getting, as the expression goes, one’s jollies. The trouble is that such acts lead to more and worse problems; they uncover the hidden pathologies in such personalities. Marriage is the God ordained way of meeting sexual desires. Even the Puritans would not allow men to remain single long in their communities; they insisted that they marry. There are people who get converted and who come out of such lifestyles. It can be done; it has been done; it will be done as long as men are still in their sins. Let God save them by His Sovereign Grace, and there will be a change in behavior. As to having a second marriage, I have one, and it has lasted for nearly 46 years. Due to it, many churches and many believers have treated me with a bit of cruelty, if I may so say, but I am called by God to endure such things. My duty is to the will of God, first, not to my sexual desires or anger motives or any such evils. While I am not sinless or perfect by any means, there is no doubt in my mind that we are called to live lives of devotion and commitment. If I was indulging in sexual passion of any kind, with anyone other than my wife, my conscience could not bear it. What you advocate will defile the conscience and cast people into depression and despair whereas there is biblical justification for divorce and remarriage as well as forgiveness. But a continued indulgence is indicative of a flawed conversion or, in fact, of no conversion at all.

                    • Don Johnson

                      You are referring to acts where there is no consent which is always exploitative. Exploitative sex of any sort is a sin. I have been discussing non-exploitative sex.

                      What was the fundamental mistake of the slaveholders in interpreting Scripture? They did not love those they exploited with slavery. In other words, they did not read Scripture thru the lens of love. My take is that if someone interprets Scripture in a way that is not loving, they are doing it wrong.

                    • dr. james willingham

                      Non exploitative sex, any and all sex outside of marriage is a sin, and you know it. While some sex in marriage is a sin, the kind that is violent or incestuous, and you are going to over look the info. provided where the APA concerning pedophilia being reclassified as not a mental disorder, a rather clear proof of their having been politicized. You like to overlook the inconvenient facts. And the reclassifying of homosexuality is a political reality. Just consider how the Communists planned and set about to infiltrate churches, planning to corrupt them through morals (or I should say immorality). Just take a look at Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness and her testimonies to Congress concerning the plan which began, when she was a member of that party. The aim of some of those in the aberrant movements is apparently vindictive according to the Washington Post which printed an article on the subject a few weeks ago. Actually, we are in a life and death struggle as to whether Christianity will even be allowed by the sodomites, once they are in power, and they are virtually there now. We might pay with our lives for our stand, but, friend, you will pay along with them in more terrible manner.

                    • Don Johnson

                      I agree a couple should be in a covenant relationship to have sex. You think such a covenant relationship should only be if they are different sexes; I think this is unjust and unloving for homosexuals. Various countries and states are allowing a covenant relationship between people of the same sex. I would prefer it if the state would only acknowledge a civil union and let each religious group or secular group declare what its regulations for marriage are, but it seems to be too late for that, but I am still hoping. So if the SBC wants to declare that in their group a marriage is only between a man and a woman, they can do that; but if another group wants to say 2 men can be married, they can do that.

                      There are many marriage models in Scripture, including polygamy, free man married to a slave, 2 slaves marrying, man marrying a POW, levirate marriage where a man marries his brother’s widow when they are childless.

                      2Sa 1:26 (David speaking) I am in distress for you, my brother Jonathan. You have been most kind to me. Your love for me was extraordinary—beyond love from women.

            • Brian Sanders

              Don: You write, “What I do not think it means is about all the kinds of people who might be a passive partner in a homosexual act. For example, some boys and some slaves were such, but had no choice in the matter.”

              I am fairly confident that nobody is suggesting that one who is raped or otherwise forced into any kind of immoral sexual act is culpable for that act.

              • Don Johnson

                I agree. Another example, the 2 terms in 1 Cor 6:9 involving possible homosexual acts refer to males, not females, so translations that make it appear to apply to homosexuals in general are not correct.

    • Brett Cody

      Neither Tony Campolo in his short lifetime, nor you or I will be able to outlive the longevity of the church’s consistent interpretation on passages in the Bible which condemn homosexuality. Please stop pretending like your opinion or Campolo’s opinion on this matter suddenly carries more weight than the church fathers over the course of centuries; let alone Paul’s.

      • Don Johnson

        Can the claimed “consistent interpretation of the church” be wrong about something? Of course they can.

        Everyone thought the earth could not be moved, because Scripture explicitly said this, so Copernicus had to publish after he was dead.

        David Instone-Brewer in his book on divorce shows how NO ONE understood Matt 19:3 from the second century until 1856 when a scholar figured it out, which is a very long time to misunderstand just one verse; this was because of the gentilization of the church, where the text was written by Hebrew thinkers but interpreted by Greek thinkers.

    • Brian Levie

      1. Given your view of Scripture (a few things are clear, but not nearly as many as some claim), how do you know that those who claim that many things are clear- are wrong?
      2) Given your view of Scripture, how are you able to judge the correct interpretation from a misinterpretation from this massive collection of writings that are mostly unclear according to your view?

      • Don Johnson

        Look at Shakespeare, who wrote some centuries ago in English. He says many things that cannot even be understood without many annotations, so if you really want to know what is going on in a play, you need to read an Annotated Shakespeare and not just the raw text.

        How much more is this true for the ancient texts of Scripture! They wrote in a different language that English, in a very different culture, with different idioms and technical terms, etc. If you do not know these terms, you can make some serious mistakes, innocent perhaps, but still mistakes.

        What I do is admit there are challenges to understanding texts that are over 1900 years old. So I do my best to understand the ancient cultures in which the original readers/hearers lived so that I can try to understand Scripture as they did. It is very similar to the scientific method where one subtracts mistakes and then presents what remains as the best current understanding, but knowing that some additional information may be discovered that could change things some.

        • C. M. Granger

          Given the nature and source of Scripture, not to mention the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, one could hardly compare the sacred text to Shakespeare or any other human work. If Scripture cannot be reasonably understood without years of studying ancient cultures, customs, and languages, the use of such divine revelation by God was rather shortsighted when He intended to speak to all men and women throughout all time. Can an omniscient God rightly be so charged?

          • Don Johnson

            You present a common misconception of Scripture.

            Scripture was written in ancient languages, with ancient references, metaphors, and idioms. If you read it like it was written TO you, you WILL make mistakes by teleporting the ancient text into today when lots of things are different than back when.

            Scripture was not written TO us, it was written TO the original audience. Scripture was written FOR us, but we need to do our best to “read over the shoulders” of the original audience, to see how THEY would have understood it. Not doing so risks taking the text out of context, that is, totally misunderstanding it. This is very common, unfortunately.

            • dr. james willingham

              Don, you seem be laboring under the impression that God cannot speak to us directly by the very words of Holy Scripture. I have spent most of my life, since being converted from Atheism, in the study of Scripture. Two of my five degrees are in theology (M.Div.; D. Min.) taken from what was then (1972-76) the most liberal seminary in the Southern Baptist Convention. Contrary to popular opinion, many Christians are aware of the fact that the Bible was written for readers in the time of the writing, but they are also aware of the fact that the writers were also conscious that they were speaking to later generations. That does not mean everyone understands the book or even can easily understand it. John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrims is reported to have said, “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word.” My other degrees were taken in History, especially American Social and Intellectual History and Black History (or as it is now termed, African American History), and Counseling (especially Eclectic Psychotherapy). I can tell you that most believers, while they believe in the Omniscience of God, are evidently unaware of the subtlety and depth of the ideas presented in Holy Writ, a wisdom that transcends our feeble understandings at the utmost extent of human learning. In doing six years of research in Church History and two years of research on the Greek of I Corinthians 13 (12:31b-14:1a), I discovered how the ideas of the Christian revelation were designed to make Christians balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic.

              However, one of the things plainly written in the Bible is that there are parts of it (and by implication all of it with the proviso that we must be changed to understand it, must come to a different perspective in order to grasp it, must study it with the diligence of a hard rock miner, and must look for the Divine help of the Holy Spirit) that state that God is speaking to people of later generations directly by the very words spoken to some one else as much as 1800 years. Consider Mt. 22:31. where our Lord said to the Sadducees, “have you not red that which was spoken to you by God, saying,” and he went on to quote what God said to Abraham from the burning bush. The fact that the written word is addressed to contemporary readers is a reality that has been experienced by people in every generation and in many cultures, transcending the limits of ordinary human communication. With that I have other responsibilities that call for my attention. God grant you the wherewithal to hear what the others writing in answer to you are saying, for there is more to be said about the matter of the contemporaneity of inspired word than most people imagine.

              • Don Johnson

                God can speak directly to an individual in any way God chooses, including thru Scripture. But this is different than trying to figure out what some text of Scripture meant to the original audience. However, it is mistake to think that Scripture was written TO us, it was not, it was written FOR us. When one reads 1 Tim as if it was written to oneself, it is actually arrogance; it is a position of humility to admit that one is not Timothy, who was a spiritual son of Paul and that means that Paul can refer to things in 1 Tim that we simply do not know what he meant for sure, but Timothy knew. This is not to say we throw up our hands and think anything is possible, but it means to approach the text of Scripture with humility.

                • dr. james willingham

                  Don, You seem to be lacking in the area of knowledge of biblical scholarship, and you conveniently ignore what you can’t answer. I cited the instance of Jesus citing the Exodus account of God speaking to Moses from the burning bush as being addressed to the very people to whom our Lord quoted it. And by inference it could be said to speak to us. Paul in I Cors.1:2 addresses not only the church at Corinth, but also he writes to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours. In the light of our Lord’s commission to His disciples in Mt.28:19,20, it is evident that God intends that his message should be understood by those who hear. In fact, there have been people who were converted before the missionaries ever arrived on the scene, and the same people said, “That is who we worship. Only we did not know his name.”

                  Your arrogance seems to reflect more of Postmodernism than anything else, along with the idea of the Upper Story being incommunicado, via Kant. Or, perhaps, the insistence that you make about the text not being available to modern readers is simply a specious cover for you to introduce your own understanding of Scripture. With that kind of approach, one can justify virtually anything one desires.

                  I would not be too quick to condemn any people of any generation for their understanding of the Bible until I know what that understanding is and why they have it. The effort being made to justify sodomy from a biblical perspective will only work with those who are fearful of the mounting pressure to conform to the developing mores of a society being guided in a transition managed by shadowy manipulators with a hidden agenda. When will you answer the Lord’s idea that the words spoken to Moses were also spoken to the Sadducees 1800 years later and, by inference, spoken just as surely to us? As to the letter of I Timothy. while there a parts of it that are difficult to grasp, our Lord’s reference to searching the Scripture reminds us that study that is like hard rock mining offers some help (also required is the presence and help of the Holy Spirit who inspired the writing. Peter admits that there are some things in epistles of Paul that are hard to be understood.(II Pet.3:15,16).

                  • Don Johnson

                    I am sure I have lacks in trying to understand Scripture, but I try to be teachable.

                    I accept that 1 Cor was written FOR us, but it was not written TO us. What we have is a letter by Paul, which is like half of a telephone transcript. We do not have the letter from Corinth to Paul, if we did it might help a lot in better understanding the letter. And there is no way to recover the oral communication from those at Corinth to Paul, just what Paul used to refer to it so that those at Corinth who recognize what he was now discussing. But there is no getting around that some sections of 1 Cor are debatable as to what they mean.

                    On Matt 22:31-32, Jesus is debating with Sadducees on the resurrection, Jews were taught when Scripture was recited that it was as if God was speaking to them and in a way God was and is today when the same thing happens. I think the point of Jesus is that the Sadducees should accept that there is a resurrection because God uses the active verb “am” instead of “was” in referring to dead people. I have seen an OT scholar claim that it is just a mystery why Jesus used this argument, as it makes no sense (to him). I disagree with him. However, and this is important, this is just the best understanding I have come across, there might be a better one that I do not know about and I might change my understanding in the future. I make no claims to be an infallible interpreter, unlike the pope.

                    • dr. james willingham

                      Don, I don’t how our Lord could have said any more plainly that what was spoken to Moses 1800 years earlier was spoken to the people of His days (not to limit it to the Sadducees) and so by inference without any violation of logic it is also addressed to us, to you as well as me. This is not to say our Lord’s written word does not use metaphors, similes, and other figures of speech; it is to say that He also speaks plainly in His inspired writings, to people in every generation with depths reserved for every generation, depths that it takes generations to realize. Like John Robinson said, “Who knows what new light is getting ready to break forth from God’s word.” When he wrote that the Baptists were setting forth their understanding of the Bible with reference to religious liberty, and some 20 years after Robinson’s death they put that principle in to legal precept and practice. There are depths to this word, and they speak to us. Our problem is that we allow the views o this age or some other to filter out what we find unacceptable.

                    • Don Johnson


                      What you think is plain is not. Jesus and the Sadducees were Jews in the Sinai covenant. Jews were taught that they were to act as if they were there when the covenant was instituted. Also, the Pentateuch was read every seven years to the people and when any book of Scripture was read, it was considered to be the words of God. So when Jesus confronts the Sadducees by claiming God says something to THEM, it does not necessarily automatically mean this transfers to us. In other words, you are trying to make a point about something that is a Jewish idiomatic phrase and make it general automatically. I think it should be understood how it would have been understood in the 1st century. And even if this small segment is said to be clear (and I have showed it is not, as some do not see how it makes any sense) it does not necessarily transfer over to the rest of Scripture. And we can find lots of cases where it does not transfer as being clear, because believers each trying to be faithful come to different conclusions on what Scripture teaches on a lot of things, including water baptism and communion. It is better to just admit that the idea of clarity of ancient text is just a false assumption and that we should always be prepared to dig.

                    • dr. james willingham

                      Dear Sir: I hardly know where you are coming from as the evidence is as plain as the nose on your face. Our Lord said the saying was addressed to the people of His day and it follows the same is addressed to us. In addition one of the major doctrines of the Christian Faith is based upon His understanding of that text to Moses, namely, the resurrection. Do you also reject the Resurrection like you reject the teachings of the Bible on immorality? You seem bent on forcing your interpretation as the final word on every one else, whereas most scholars woul take strong issue with you and with those you are representing as accepted of God. I must say that to fly in the face of what our Lord taught in the Old and New Testaments would certainly give me a sense of fear of things eternal. But then I am sure you can explain that away likewise. You will excuse me, if I feel somewhat sickened by your state of blindness. I pray God will open your eyes as He did mine, when I was an Atheist. And as far as your teachings are concerned, they are the results of a rather fantastic approach to Scripture, a fantasy of imagination, of supposedly objective emotionalism and utterly irrational to say the least. You are bent on a course of impressing your own understanding or that which someone has indoctrinated you with upon the Bible with predictable results of disaster in what lies ahead.

                      As to understanding texts and their interpretations, I do have the training commensurate with such concerns, including five degrees, four of which are graduate or professional degrees plus 18 hours on a Ph.D., 12 at an Ivy League University. Thus far, I do not see a single indication of any real training on your part, but I do sense the hand of someone behind your ramblings that has nothing to do with a serious study of the Bible as the word of God. So what in the world are you doing on a blog devoted to believing God’s written word, except to stir up strife?

                    • Don Johnson

                      Yes, I accept the resurrection, of which Jesus was first fruits. What Jesus said to Sadducees was a debate among Jews, that is the context of the discussion. Something that might be true for a Jew might not be true for a gentile, one cannot just automatically assume that it is.

                      On what constitutes sexual immorality, I try to follow what Scripture says and not human tradition. Prohibition of male homosexual acts is one of the Jewish identity marker commandments, like keeping Sabbath and eating kosher, one can figure this out because (for a Jew) not eating kosher or doing a male homosexual act are both called the same thing, an abomination (for a Jew). Neither are called an abomination to God, which would also apply to gentiles. This provides the OT context to try to understand the relevant NT verses. But we know that both Jesus and Paul were practicing Jews all their lives, so nothing they would say would contradict what the OT/Tanakh taught.

                    • dr. james willingham

                      Don, one additional thought: If the commandment against homosexuality was one of the marker commandments for Jews like the Sabbath day, why then does Paul single out this very conduct in Roms.1, using terms that leave no doubt as to what he meant?

                    • Don Johnson

                      Paul wrote many of his teachings in a debate style, where he would first present what his debate opponents might claim and it seems that in some cases did claim. The original readers would recognize this as they knew what was being claimed on the subject, but today it can appear as if Paul is contradicting himself, if one does not recognize this method of quoting opponents. I have recently seen a scholar claim that is what is happening in Rom 1, but I have not investigated it yet, but I find the claim at least plausible based on what Paul wrote elsewhere. This seems more possible when one sees that in Rom 2 Paul repudiates the thinking behind the Rom 1 sin list.

                      But assume it is from Paul for purposes of discussion. What is being condemned in Rom 1 is not how homosexuality normally works. According to most homosexuals, they never had a desire for the opposite sex, so they could never be said to be exchanging one desire for another. That is, what Paul appears to be discussing is an orgy situation where sexual excess is done.

              • Don Johnson

                The challenge is the “nut behind the wheel” that is doing the interpretation, they can be wrong and one reason is because of ignorance, so they will not even recognize that they may be wrong. In effect, they add 2 and 2 and get 5 and keep going, not recognizing their mistake, since they have been assured that the translated ancient text is clear. so what is seems to mean to them must be what it means, right? Wrong.

                This is exactly what there are some many doctrines that differ among Christians, they cannot agree what the text means and each thinks they are correct. Some baptize babies and some think only believers can be baptized. Some have closed communion and some have open communion. These are the 2 ordinances that mark membership in a church and the test is so unclear that faithful people differ on what it teaches.

                • C. M. Granger

                  I think the case is overstated, there is a fair amount of agreement on essentials, and we can always debate exegesis and theology. However, the overall testimony of the church is fairly uniform on this particular matter. Most recent controversy is based upon cultural and secular innovation being injected into the discussion.

                  • Don Johnson

                    Paul commended the Bereans for investigating whether what he taught was true. The church for a long time thought that the divine right of kings was taught in Scripture, and some parts thought that slavery was taught in Scripture as being a good thing, this is what the SBC formed over. What I think a Berean should do is investigate both sides in a debate, this is what I did and things are not as clear as some try to make it seem.

  • Matthew Tuck

    My first exposure to Tony Campolo was through a Christian camp. Each year at the end of the week of high school summer camp, they would show a video for a Christian relief organization (I can’t remember which one), followed by the opportunity to sponsor a child from a third-world country. Between disturbing images of emaciated children in deplorable conditions, the video also featured Campolo preaching to a small group from Matthew 25:31-46. His point was that if Christians neglect to aid “the least of these,” then they have no business calling themselves “Christians.”
    But (and this goes back to one of Denny’s recent posts) he misidentified the group to whom Jesus refers when he uses the phrase “the least of these.” Campolo followed the interpretation that “the least of these” are the poor in general (rather than persecuted saints). Consequently, he applied Jesus’ words as commanding poverty relief–more than that, mandating it as the evidence (or prerequisite?) of eternal salvation. He envisioned Jesus on the last day turning away self-identifying Christians because they failed to help the poor during their lifetime.
    At the time, I had no cognitive reason to question his interpretation, only a gut-level revulsion to such a depiction of Jesus and a salvation of works. Now, were I to have the opportunity to confront Tony Campolo, whether over the video from my youth or his most recent announcement, I would simply say, “Look again at Scripture.”

  • Bill Haynes

    I once asked Ron Nash, “who, in your opinion, is the most dangerous liberal in the church today?” Without hesitation, he said Tony Campolo. His reasoning was that he was so winsome and clever in his dealing with college students that he could make a really bad interpretation of the Bible sound acceptable. I can only imagine how Nash would have responded to this statement.

  • C. M. Granger

    I’ve posted this quote elsewhere, but it bears repeating:

    “Today there is a trend in theology to say that Scripture blesses homosexual relationships, following the secular movement toward homosexual rights. To a distressing extent, new theological movements follow fashionable secular trends. When a position becomes popular in secular politics and culture, it seems quite certain that some theologians will discover that position in the Bible and church tradition… But I cannot help but feel that some are resolving these issues, not on the basis of honest exegesis, but rather because a pro-homosexual position is required in some circles for academic, political, and cultural respectability….But God does call us, on occasion, to hold unpopular beliefs….it is a question of whether we value cultural trends more highly than God”

    John Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life pp. 423-424

  • James Stanton

    “It gives credibility to the arguments that the enemies of the faith are using against us in their culture war–that we hold our position not from good faith but from animus and hatred.”

    There’s a little bit of game-playing here, Denny. I’m sure you’re well aware of which of the posts on your blog tend to receive the most comments and loyal reader participation. It can’t be just “their culture war” if there’s an active (defense?) on the part of social conservatives raising awareness of outrageous examples of sexual revolution. Not disagreeing with the larger point though.

  • Steve Rhodes

    Thanks, Denny, for a great response to Campolo’s statement! For me, this is nothing new from Campolo and is merely a continuation along a journey he has been going for many decades.

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