'Evangelical Christianity Has Been Hijacked': An Interview with Tony Campolo

Speaking out on gays, women and more, a progressive evangelical says 'We ought to get out of the judging business.'

BY: Interview by Laura Sheahen


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But in the book you also mention the decline of mainline churches. Some people would say that this lack of taking a firm stand is wishy-washy, and that if evangelicalism is infected by relativism, that could be its downfall as well.

I didn't say anything that was relativistic. I am just saying that when we don't know what we're talking about, we shouldn't make absolute statements. And we don't know how God will judge in the end. We do not know the mind of God.

As for mainline churches declining, my own particular analysis is that they're declining because they have been so concerned about social justice issues that they forgot to put a major emphasis on bringing people into a close, personal, transforming relationship with God. The Pentecostal churches, the evangelical churches, attract people who are hungry to know God, not just as a theology, not just as a moral teacher, not just as a social justice advocate, but as someone who can invade them, possess them, transform them from within, strengthen them for their everyday struggles, enable them to overcome the guilt they feel for things in the past.

Mainline churches have not sufficiently nurtured that kind of Christianity. They believe in it, they articulate it, it's not where they put enough emphasis. They are not putting enough emphasis on getting people into a personal, I use the word mystical, transforming relationship with Christ.

I think that Christianity has two emphases. One is a social emphasis to impart the values of the kingdom of God in society-to relieve the sufferings of the poor, to stand up for the oppressed, to be a voice for those who have no voice. The other emphasis is to bring people into a personal, transforming relationship with Christ, where they feel the joy and the love of God in their lives. That they manifest what the fifth chapter of Galatians calls "the fruit of the Spirit." Fundamentalism has emphasized the latter, mainline churches have emphasized the former. We cannot neglect the one for the other.

In your book, you put forward a sort of ideal creed for 21st-century evangelicals. What's most crucial to understand about the additions you made to this creed?

The Apostle's Creed I think is the ultimate measure for Christians. Some say it goes back as far as 1800 years. It has been the standard statement of faith that the Church has maintained, and I wanted to say, "An evangelical is someone who believes in the doctrines of the Apostle's Creed." However, the thing that evangelicals would add to the Apostle's Creed is their view of holy scripture. They contend, and I contend, that the Bible is an infallible message from God, inspired. The writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit and [the Bible] is a message that provides an infallible guide for faith and practice.

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