On evangelicals and interfaith cooperation: an interview with Tony Campolo

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The following excerpts from an interview between interfaith gurus Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne reveal the spirituality that is foundational in the emerging church movement. The two men’s use of Christian terminology (and even Christian ideas) will convince some readers that nothing is amiss, but please consider the following thoughts:

While Campolo says he believes that Jesus is the only Savior, he does not believe it is necessary to be a Christian nor should we should try to convert people of other faiths:

I think there are Muslim brothers and sisters who are willing to say, “You live up to the truth as you understand it. I will live up to the truth as I understand it, and we will leave it up to God on judgment day

Campolo believes that conversion to Christianity or receiving Jesus Christ as your only Lord, Savior, and God are not prerequisites for salvation. He makes it clear that there are many paths to God and basically Jesus would bless them all. If Campolo believed there was a hell, set aside for those who reject Jesus Christ as God, he would not say:

We [human beings] don’t come to God in the same manner. And each of us makes exclusivist claims, and we have to recognize that. We cannot allow our theologies to separate us.

Campolo acknowledges that people have theological differences but he also believes there is one common ground where we can be unified — that common ground is mysticism. Campolo states:

All of a sudden in the hour of suffering there is a commonality. And that’s where we meet. It’s in mystical spirituality and in communal mutuality that’s where we come together….

Perhaps one of the best things we can do is stop talking with our mouths and cross the chasm between us with our lives. Maybe we will even find a mystical union of the Spirit ….

In a mystical relationship with God, there is a coming together of people where theology is left behind and in this spirituality they found a commonality….

In other words if we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree, Can we pray together in such a way that we connect with a God that transcends our theological differences?

Campolo, like Rick Warren, believes that certain Christians are going to cause a problem for the interspiritual process. He states: “There is going to be one segment of evangelicalism, just like there is one segment in Islam that is not going to be interested in dialogue.” And like Rick Warren also stated, Campolo likens these troublesome Christians to Islamic terrorists. But one has to really question where Campolo is getting his information when he says the following:

We don’t have to give up trying to convert each other. What we have to do is show respect to one another. And to speak to each other with a sense that even if people don’t convert, they are God’s people, God loves them, and we do not make the judgment of who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.

I think that what we all have to do is leave judgment up to God. The Muslim community is very evangelistic, however what Muslims will not do is condemn Jews and Christians to Hell if in fact they do not accept Islam.

These are not true statements. From the sounds of this interview, Campolo doesn’t know the Bible or the Koran very well at all. But he reveals a lot when he says:

And that makes for a safer world, when we remove the layers that separate us from seeing the sacredness in every person, the image of God in them.

In other words, the world becomes safe and tolerable when we come to understand that God is in everyone, and if God is in everyone then there is no need to convert or to preach the Gospel. But if Campolo is right, then the Bible is wrong and Jesus was wrong when He said:

And it came to pass, as he [Jesus] was alone praying, his disciples were with him: and he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am? They answering said, John the Baptist; but some say, Elias; and others say, that one of the old prophets is risen again. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God. And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing; Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:18-26)

For further research, see: Shane Claiborne and The New Monastics