The Evangelical Split: Tony Campolo says it’s coming

Tony Campolo says evangelicalism will split — Red Letter folks vs. the rest.

When the Red Letter Christian movement got underway, there was a sense that the Evangelical community, in general, had become overly focused on the theological issues raised in the Pauline Epistles.  Without any desire to diminish the significance of theology, we recognized that the time had come to create some balance to this overemphasis on theology by taking more seriously the things that were written in the Gospels—especially in those red letters which emphasize the words of Jesus.  There was a growing awareness that Evangelicals, with the exception of people like many in the Anabaptist tradition, had sought to escape those hard sayings of Christ in respect to lifestyles.

Examples of this are easy to find.  There has been a minimizing of the Beatitudes which call upon us to be merciful.  A survey of Evangelicals suggests that the majority of them believe in capital punishment, and if a capital crime is committed they advocate capital punishment.  This, to many of us, seemed to be a violation of Jesus’ saying, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

Most Evangelicals have been very supportive of recent war efforts of the United States, almost seeming to suggest that our armies marching into Afghanistan and Iraq had the right to be singing, “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war…”  More simply put, Evangelicals did not seem to be willing to ask what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”  Nor was there any sense that when Jesus told us to love our enemies, He probably meant we shouldn’t kill them.  The militarism which most Evangelicals support seems to run contrary to the beliefs of those Christians who take the red letters seriously and contend that one cannot read the Sermon on the Mount without coming away convinced that Christians should be committed to non-violent resistance.

Furthermore, Evangelicals have been reluctant to face up to the clear message of Jesus in Mark 10, that to be called to be Christ’s disciple is to be called to make a radical response to the poor by selling one’s possessions and giving the money to the poor.  It is in this vein of thinking that Shane Claiborne and I wrote a recently published book, Red Letter Revolution: What If Jesus Really Meant What He Said?

The difference of emphasis between those of us who want to take literally the red letters of the Bible and those who emphasize the teachings of the Apostle Paul (not that there is contradiction between the two) is only the beginning of the coming split within the Evangelical community.

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • J.L. Schafer

    I doubt that the evangelical movement is unified enough to have a dramatic split.

  • Bob S.

    Isn’t this statement a misunderstanding of the Beatitudes?

    “There has been a minimizing of the Beatitudes which call upon us to be merciful.”

  • Rory Tyer

    Scot – you’re a well-rounded and experienced NT scholar whom I respect very much. I resonate with Campolo’s criticisms of American Christians and am largely in agreement with efforts (from many quarters) to get people to take more seriously the actual content of Jesus’ life and ministry as paradigms for life in spheres wider than just “personal morality” or systematic theology (as important as both are). But- don’t you think it’s a little disingenuous for Campolo to frame he and Claiborne and others as those who want “to take literally the red letters of the Bible” as opposed to, say, D. A. Carson, whom I’m fairly sure he’d consider someone in the “other” camp who emphasizes Paul’s teaching?

    After all, Carson goes to my church. I know for a fact that he and others like him would be astonished to discover that people think they don’t take Jesus’ words seriously. What Campolo’s words seem to me are cheap rhetoric that overlooks very serious New Testament hermeneutical issues that might be framed a number of ways: the meaning of “kingdom of God” and the impact of that meaning on various spheres (political, social, economic, etc.); the relationship of Paul’s teaching on justification by grace through faith to Jesus’ proclamation of the presence of the kingdom in his person and ministry; the place of Jesus’ works of healing and reconciliation in the broader biblical story of atonement and redemption; the relationship of Christian theological truth to the laws of the federal government; etc. etc.

    I don’t mean to sound frustrated, but I am wary of Jesus’ words being raised as a standard in a way that seems, to me, to skirt the necessary delving into some of these issues in favor of rhetoric that makes it sound like really intelligent and biblically-sensitive theologians actually aren’t paying attention to what Jesus says. I’d enjoy hearing your interaction with my thoughts.

  • Thomas McKenzie

    JL Schafer beat me to it. There is nothing in Evangelicalism to split. The word has become increasingly meaningless as the movement itself looks more and more like the World in every respect. I think Tony is overestimating not only Evangelical cohesion, but his own influence. Where is this “Red Letter Christian Movement” with its own obvious identity?

  • Rick

    It sounds like he is not advocating that more attention should be paid to the red letters, but rather to his interpretation of those red letters.

  • Bob S.

    Clarification on my terse question in #2: Aren’t the Beatitudes indicatives rather than imperatives? Campolo seems to think it’s the other way around. Not that we’re not meant to be merciful, but I think that may be a bad passage to use to support his case.

  • KBH

    I know lots of folks who really love theology and who love Romans who are on the front lines of disaster relief teams and are advocating to end slavery and are advocating for adoptions, etc, etc.

  • Phil Miller

    I think the split already exists to a large degree. I also agree with the first comment. Evangelicalism is such a fractured and atomized movement right now, that it’s hard to imagine that new divisions could make things much worse than they are. One thing that has always set Evangelicalism apart is the elevation of personal conviction and conscience above official statements and confessions.

  • Deb Rasmussen

    Split? A evangelical split will never happen in the way Tony Campolo envisions it. In my experience there will always be “true Christians” on both sides of many issues. Often the most seemingly progressive in their thinking are the most divisive. Could it be possible that he benefits from a divided church and will seek to promote it so that he can sell books about how bad the “other side” is? Maybe it is Christ who will build His church. Maybe the gates of hell will not prevail against it.

  • scotmcknight

    Rory, Yes, there is some heated rhetoric of exaggeration in what Tony’s standing for in the RLC movement. There is no reason to bring Don into this discussion because what Tony is saying has a general thrust of accuracy: there are many for whom all theology is first and foremost (if not exclusively) expressed through Pauline theology of a specific kind. Right back at Tony, of course, some can counter that many process everything through the Red Letters and ignore Paul (Shall I give names? May it never be!).

    Which can lead to a zillion hermeneutical discussions but the Church’s tradition, seen in all the great liturgical formations, is that the gospel is found in the Gospels and we need to raise them high. Not only the Gospels but first the Gospels and the gospel. Those who ignore the Gospels are failing the gospel; those who ignore Acts through Revelation are failing the apostolic witness to the gospel. We need both.

  • Robert Martin

    As a “Red Letter” Anabaptist Christian (Mennonite ethnically), I see this “split” actually. Those who stress the Pauline theological issues seem to try and create some sort of law code based upon Paul’s writings and then feel the need to defend it against the “loosey-goosey” theology of the Anabaptists and other similar minded folks.

    However, as an Anabaptist, I too love to read Paul, work through the issues Paul is writing about, but not because I think Paul was trying to define a systematic theology that needed to be fleshed out, but because I see Paul as trying to take those “Red Letters” and apply them in many diverse contexts (Ephesus, Colosse, Corinth, Athens, etc), addressing specific issues. It is not Paul vs. Jesus. It is Jesus, and then Paul applying Jesus to what he encounters in communities around the known world.

    I wonder if the split is a mutual thing, actually… It seems that folks like Claiborne, Campolo, and others are making room for lots of diversity while those that stress the Pauline are trying to define boundaries of who is “in” and who is “out”. If a split happens, it will be along those lines, but it will certainly not be unilateral.

  • scotmcknight

    I’d say evangelicalism is fracturing and dissipating in the form we saw evangelicalism from the 1950s through the Reagan years. Since the rise of the Moral Majority American evangelicalism has been fissuring like cracked finger tips in a cold winter.

  • Kyle Strobel

    There are two things said here that I find disconcerting, even while I land on a similar side as he does in regards to the issues he raised. There are two very subtle movements here that I see propogated widely that I think are damaging. Note the line: “Without any desire to diminish the significance of theology, we recognized that the time had come to create some balance to this overemphasis on theology by taking more seriously the things that were written in the Gospels—especially in those red letters which emphasize the words of Jesus.” First is the qualification that there is no desire to diminish theology, and then the claim that “theology” is “overemphasized”. Note that suddenly “theology” is identical with something like “an overemphasis on the Pauline epistles.” As if theologians neither can nor do have anything to say about the Gospels.

    This point is further made apparent in the second aspect of this piece, where he claims, “The difference of emphasis between those of us who want to take literally the red letters of the Bible and those who emphasize the teachings of the Apostle Paul (not that there is contradiction between the two.’ Note again the qualification. It is as if he realizes he is swinging too far and so he offers qualifications, but those qualifications are negated by what he goes on to say. Even his position is layed out as, even if implicit, a reaction against the emphasis on Paul to make the same mistake but now with the Gospels.

    This seems to be, in my mind, now standard among a sector of evangelicalism, and I think he is right that it is leading to a split. If there is a chance at unity, I think we need to stop making these kinds of distinctions and just admit that we are all theologizing heavily in our claims. The claim that the “red letters” should be emphasized is a distinctively theological claim. Theological ethics drive this account. The idea that we should read the “red letters” “literally” is a theological claim. I find it incredibly disconcerting that there is a growing movement of evangelicals who seem to take their theologizing as inherently obvious, and therefore somehow outside the bounds of “theology.” It is not “theology” because it is obvious. This is done, of course, on both sides, so I’m not trying to choose sides here. I just think that if we can admit that we are making distinctively theological claims that do not get to choose Paul or Jesus, pitting them against each other, then we have a much greater chance to find unity.

    What this does do, I think, is rightly point out where the divide is coming from, and it has nothing to do with content but with method. Hermeneutics is the great divide in evangelicalism, and the various methods are creating various camps on issues because they are being read differently. I personally have yet to see real balance here, trying to learn from all sides, but much more often than not see a hermeneutical theory assumed (when that is the real foundational point of conflict) and then the content treated as the main point of difference (which leads to little more than bickering over interpretation).

  • Kenny Johnson

    I agree with Campolo’s conclusions, but for different reasons. I think the “progressive” or “liberal” or whatever you want to call them (I count myself among them) and the moderates are going to increasingly find it difficult to identify with the label, “Evangelical.” I’m much more reluctant to identify myself as an Evangelical to those outside of Evangelicalism. I’m politically liberal. I don’t accept the doctrine of inerrancy. I accept evolution as true. I’m an Egalitarian.

    But to to many (especially those outside of Evangelicalism), Evangelical means a politically conservative, American, Young Earth Creationist complimentarian that is just waiting to be raptured. Or, in short, a right-wing fundamentalist.

    Luckily I’ve found a church that holds to an conservative Orthodox, creedal theology without a lot of the fundamentalist baggage.

  • Keith Irwin

    What I see is Campolo using the RLC movement as a way to reconcile many hot topic issues with Christianity. The current issues are what’s splitting Evangelicals, and people who cannot reconcile their personal moral compasses with what’s in the Bible as a whole will be able to nitpick (a little) by joining the RLC movement.

    I agree with Scot’s statement, “Those who ignore the Gospels are failing the gospel; those who ignore Acts through Revelation are failing the apostolic witness to the gospel. We need both.”

  • Martin Downes

    As Warfield once said about a looming split in the Presbyterian Church, you can’t split rotten wood.

  • Patrick O.

    I struggle with this idea of a split, because I think Campolo overemphasizes the distinction. It’s not like Evangelicalism as a movement hasn’t been listening. Indeed, show me an Evangelical church and I’ll guarantee you’ll find ministries meant to address issues of poverty and other social problems. The trouble is precisely the trouble that Evangelicalism got into–that there is made an equivalence between priorities and solutions. The Red Letter folks thinks there are specific ways and priorities to address specific issues, which is the exact same as the Christian Right except they just pick different particular topics and different political parties. While ignoring other topics and other approaches. The goal, after all, is to help the poor and there’s a lot of questions which approaches actually do that (this coming from someone who grew up in poverty).

    Looking at the so-called Evangelical proto-types, I just don’t see Campolo et al offering something so drastically different. Billy Graham–does Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Purse mean something? Fuller Seminary: I went to and work there, and can say that there’s significant interest at every level in a holistic Christian ministry. Wheaton, same thing. Christianity Today? Is CT all about justifying a narrow interpretation of Pauline Theology?

    Go down most, if not all, the list of prototypes and there’s a big transition. Indeed, Evangelicalism in general was formed, in part, to go beyond the very narrow approaches of Fundamentalism by being involved in this world in intellectual and social ways.

    Saying there’s a split does help sell books. Bit of controversy gets people talking.

  • Derek Rishmawy

    Well, that’s a thoroughly unhelpful, divisive, cheap, lame, reductionistic, presupposition-laden dichotomy. Thanks Tony.

  • Kyle J

    I don’t think the divide is quite as simple as Compolo presents it. I think, broadly speaking, you’ve really got three groups (and I’m oversimplifying, of course):

    1) The committed theological and political conservatives.
    2) The emerging/red letter types that are frustrated with the conservatives and are in the process of splitting off (I’m in this camp).
    3) The committed Christians who aren’t bothered by the theological/political conservatism but also aren’t wed to it.

    The third group may actually be the biggest. And I think the struggle is going to be that as the split between (1) and (2) becomes clearer (particularly on the issue of whether and how to accept gay Christians), group (3) isn’t just going to be able to proceed as they have–living out their faith while ignoring the hot button stuff (which I’d say is a fairly admirable track in some ways).

    A simple split would probably be a lot less messy, really.

  • NateW

    I hope for the sake of the gospel that Tony is wrong and I very much hope that he doesn’t mean to encourage such a split.

    Truth will always be on the side of those who welcome those who are different into fellowship and error with those who would cast out and crucify.

  • EricW

    So, what are the “red letters” for Tony C.?
    – Ipsissima verba?
    – Ipisissima vox?
    – Q?

  • Nathan

    @Kyle J,

    I agree with your take on this.

    What is clear to me in recent years is that certain public voices from group 1 are proactively trying to marginalize group 2 and paint them as “other”, or at the very least hobble their influence in what’s left of the big tent.

    Roger Olson has watched this and consistently writes about it on his blog.

    Even Carl Henry said that the failure of “fundamentalism” is one of tone, spirit, attitude. He was signaling the very concerns that Roger, and to some degree, Scot raise in this day and age. Roger and Scot are no theological liberals, and what’s been clear to me while watching these discussions for the last 20plus years is that many in group 1 would be thrilled if even Scot and Roger just shut their mouths and kept quiet. (They can deign to let them stay, but if they had their druthers, Scot, Roger, and voices like theirs wouldn’t get to have influence.)

    Group 2 is splitting off, not because a lot of them actually want to leave, but because many of our churches, our secondary associations, etc. have been made unsafe. And the distinct message is that we are not really welcome. And now, in our current cultural reality, instead of staying, most of us realize we aren’t obligated out of some misguided understanding of “catholicity” (assuming we even have one as “evangelicals”) to stay and be second class, or sat in the corner.

  • Richard Olsen

    Thank you Scott for bringing up this subject. I have been wrestling with some of these issues for some time now. I’ve read all the responses and, quite frankly, am not sure I have anything to offer. I’m a layman with just enough Bible School theology to make me dangerous. I try to keep up with all the changes occurring in the church without a whole lot of success. I’m 68 and feel like a stranger in these discussions, yet very much a part of them. Unlike many of you who are well trained in theology and philosophy, my training has come through hit and miss reading. I grew up in the Christian & Missionary Alliance and attended Simpson College many years ago. It is now a fine university. So my background is in the Armenian tradition and quite conservative. However, later in life, I joined the a Presbyterian USA church. It happens to be the church John Ortberg now pastors. I have studied Reformation theology and have been greatly impressed with reformed thinking, especially by men like R.C. Sproul, Sinclair Ferguson and others. I really like what they teach. But, I find myself quartered and drawn in many ways. I find the “Red Letter” folks make a good case for the practical side of the Gospel as found in the Gospels, especially the beatitudes. I believe what they teach in regards to justice and mercy issues are very important and should be a part of a good Reformed approach. But, my reformed friends are very weak in the peace and justice issues while strong on systematic theology which I also find very compelling. I frankly can’t see why we can’t have both. But, there are so many nuances, I get lost. I guess the bottom line for me as a layman just simply trying to live my life honestly before God and men. I’ll do my best to sort through the many divisions in the church so that Christ can best be presented before men and honor my Lord. What bothers me is when we call each other names or try to impress others with our academic expertise. Folks, some of us are simply simple minded but we do think. I’m wondering if we have become so locked into answering questions that no one is asking, that we have become irrelevant to the rest of the world. Thank you for reading my rambling thoughts. If you have read this far, I’m grateful.

  • Tony Springer

    Is Tony C American Evangelicalism’s Adolph von Harnack in drawing attention to Jesus over Paul?

  • Bill

    Richard (#23),

    Thanks for your honesty. Don’t sell yourself short and don’t let anyone else try on your behalf. Who cares if you are a “layman”. I don’t think the Lord has ever called me that and I will venture to say He isn’t referring to you that way either. You are His child and that settles pretty much everything for you.

    You probably know more than you think. Too many of us with initials after our last names, who have written and published untold volumes and attended 9 zillion years of seminary and have gained a platform because of it, it’s highly questionable if we have a lick of real wisdom or real knowledge. We know “things”. We know how to systemitize and classify and slice and dice Scriptures until we don’t even know what we’re saying and for some of us we don’t even know what we believe any longer. And we think we are doing the world a favor and some of us think the church and the world owe us something. No they don’t.

    I bow to you and your wisdom and true life learning and simplicity. You have been and are in the school of Jesus. You are probably closer to kingdom thinking, doing and living than the legions of wannabes, pretenders and posers.

    Take up your true identity as God’s child. Drop the “layman” label because it means nothing and pigeonholes you. Even though the church willfully marginalizes those of us over 50 and tells us we are only good for small group leadership and soup kitchens, stand up and and show us what you got.

  • MattR

    I agree with others here, evangelicalism is already fractured.

    And also, I think Campolo misstates the issue a bit here… the split is not over an emphasis on “theology” vs. reading and doing the Gospels. In fact, what the RLCs argue for (and I agree with) IS itself a theology! It is a theology that starts with the stories and message of Jesus and the Kingdom of God in the Gospels… then reads the rest of the NT out of that framework.

  • EricW

    Why don’t Tony C. and Shane C. just become Roman Catholic and attach themselves to the “social and justice work” wing of the Church and/or a Franciscan Society? That way they have everything they want in an unsplittable communion, and history and tradition to boot! 😀

  • TJJ

    “Those of us who want to take literally the red letters of the Bible”

    This is just one, of several, very self serving statements in the above piece. This seems to me to not be all that noteworthy a book in that it apparently offers nothing really new but rather is a rehash of interpretive distinctions that have been around for many years. Escalating the rhetoric does not make the book or the well established issues suddenly climatic or dramatic.

    Antibaptists want to believe that they alone really take the words of Jesus seriously, literally, no, more than that, they take Jesus words really really really seriously, unlike those who do not agree with their theology and interpretation.

    That is not new. Heard it a lot at TEDS in the 80s. Does the book advance the discussion in a new significant way? Or does it just turn up the rhetoric?

    Some big evangelical split? I keep hearing this, seemingly mostly from those who apparently want and hope for such a split. But seriously, isn’t evangelicalism very fragmented already? Has it not been fragmenting for the past 40 years, starting with the whole inerrancy debate and the disintegration of denominations and the rise of super churches and mega ministries independent of denominations, and the de-emphasis of theology and expository preaching/teaching.

  • Matt Edwards

    Sadly, I think what Dr. Campolo is experiencing is the frustration of an unsuccessful bid at being a moderate. Campolo has one foot in evangelicalism and one foot in political liberalism, and he has been trying to get the two to get along. Recent events (especially the Louis Giglio disaster) are demonstrating that this is highly unlikely. The Obama administration is pushing evangelicalism away and guys like Campolo don’t know what to do.

    Maybe the next generation of political liberals will be different, but this administration has been clear that if you aren’t on board with the whole platform, you aren’t welcome. It doesn’t matter if you are fighting slavery like Giglio or building hospitals like the Roman Catholic Church, if you have convictions about homosexuality or contraception/abortion you are one of the “bad guys.”

    I think Campolo is saying that there are some people who would rather be “in” with the political liberals than with evangelicals. He’s right, but I question how large his tribe is.

  • Glenn

    It seems to me many in the “Red Letter” camp define themselves in terms of the wrongs of “Pauline evangelicalism”. Lets stop dividing ourselves into what we oppose and get to work on what we really value. I love Monastic communities and “Red Letter” Christians for what they actually do – working to stop violence in our communities, sex trafficking, poverty, etc. I don’t really care for pointing the finger at the other Christian and saying your not as faithful to Jesus as we are. I prefer pointing at the good that is being accomplished.

  • Kenny Johnson

    I don’t feel pushed away by the Obama administration. Maybe another reason, I find the label “Evangelical” doesn’t define me well.

  • JM Smith

    After reading Tony’s post I was finally able to articulate what it is that disturbs me about the approach many Red Letter Christians take. Here is my loving criticism and warning for them over in the Dojo:

    Not that you have the time, but if you found yourself with an extra 5-10mins sometime, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on my critique, Scot.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Another Evangelical split? How about Wrightians vs. non-Wrightians? :-) Of course, how much more Evangelical theological hair-splitting can Evangelicalism take?

  • Brian S

    This whole Red Letter, pacifism thing seems like a new fundamentalism, an overliteralization, of a few NT verses. (Yes, they are Jesus’ words. I recall that Jesus spoke on Hell more than anyone else too.) They seem to skip things that Jesus aid about healing the sick (I have heard Campolo mock the ministry of healing), casting out demons and raising the dead. What greater peace is there than to be free of demons and disease?

  • CGC

    Hi Matt or anyone else,
    Does someone have the details to show that the Obama administration pushed Lou Giglio away? I’m sure some Democrats and special interest groups were doing this but I’m not sure it was Obama or his administration who was doing it or were they?

    Anyone? Thanks!

  • CGC

    Hi Brian,
    I have heard Tony mock Pentecostal abuses but he has always affirmed a ministry of reconcilation, healing, and even setting people who are demonized free so I’m not sure you actualy heard him right or you heard second hand?

  • Jeff Y

    I also don’t see this kind of two-fold split. No doubt there are fissures and fractures everywhere. And Christianity will not look in the future as it has in the past 50-100 years. People were more loyal to their denominations and traditions in the past.

    Not to take anything away from Scot and Campolo or Claiborne (all of whom make very good contributions) but what’s going on isn’t as much about “red letter” Christianity as it is about postmodern thinking versus modernist traditionalism. The postmodernist questions her traditions more critically and is willing to leave them aside. The modernist-traditionalist is not. The modernist is authority driven (and in that sense is very unlike Christ, imo). The postmodernist is driven by a myriad of factors – that’s the nature of postmodernism. But, they do tend to be less authoritarian of sorts and more independent & individualistic. The movement toward community churches in the past 20 years has been very interesting and the advent of blogging and books via amazon is a powerful source in all of this. I don’t think there is any predicting this but I do think that while there is some mainline acceptance among modern progressive evangelicals – I suspect there will also be some community church growth continuing. One factor is they seem to be centered on the main Pastor (Platt; Chan; Keller; Warren; Bell; Hybals; etc.). It will be interesting to see what happens to these churches when those individuals leave or die (that may depend on how strong the next guy is who enters into the arena). There will be ebbs and flows and pendulum swings. There are also some churches in which there is a lag; who aren’t cutting edge and are just now experiencing for the first time (the past 5 years or so) a generation who are influenced more by the likes of Campolo and are reading Enns (questioning old views of the Scriptures) as well as Wright, Keller, etc. and are becoming more educated than their leaders as a result. This makes for interesting aspects, especially in groups where leadership tends to be more top-down rather than bottom-up.

  • Phil Miller

    Post-modernism is so 2003… Post-post-modernism is where it’s at. Time to get with the program!

  • Phil Miller

    Btw, Jeff Y, I didn’t mean my last comment to be derogatory to what you wrote. I agree with a lot of what you said. I’m just not sure modern and post-modern are the right categories for all of it.

  • David Hardin

    I think Tony overstates the influence of the RLC movement. I believe any coming split will more likely fall along Neo-Reformed lines.

  • Brian S

    CGC – I heard Campolo in person over thirty years ago. He mocked the laying on of hands for physical healing, a ministry well-established in the life of Jesus and the early church.

  • Arthur Sido

    The entire “Red Letter Christian” narrative is pretty arrogant, as if these so-called RLC are the only people who take the teaching of Christ seriously. While I have some sympathy for some of what they write it also seems that they are awfully selective about which of the “Red Letter” teaching they believe and likewise pretty politically motivated in how they apply those teachings. It is a shame really because the church could definitely use a serious reevaluation of how we apply the teaching of Christ when it comes to mercy, justice and peacemaking but when it is buried among politically correct nonsense like what is peddled by RLC’s the conversation never happens.

  • David Westfall

    I LONG for the day when this false dichotomy between Jesus and Paul is a thing of the past. Seriously, I can’t imagine (for myself) trying to live like Jesus said, following him on the way of the cross, exhibiting his shocking enemy-love and refusal of all forms of violence, were it not for my recognition via Paul that the cross is where he carried our sinful flesh to the point of death, a death in which I share by faith such that nothing the world does to me can hinder the power of the Messiah’s love in my life for others. That knowledge of dying and rising with Christ, of being given his Spirit to live in his cross-shaped way that overcomes evil with good, bearing the crucified image of the one who emptied himself unto death and showed us all who God really is—Paul is SO much more about Jesus and his radical way of discipleship than we have traditionally given him credit for! This strange figure we are giving the name of Paul is so much more a product of the western theological tradition than of the Damascus road.

  • Paul Walker

    Here’s my take: What Tony is calling an evangelical split I am going to call the ‘rise of the radical reformers’: the anabaptists. What is old has now become new again….

  • Mark Stevens

    Isn’t “All scripture given by inspiration” by all I assume we take that to mean OT, NT, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? I agree with Arthur Siddo. compolo sounds arrogant.

  • Tiago Cavaco

    The difference of emphasis between those of us who want to take literally the red letters of the Bible and those who emphasize the teachings of the Apostle Paul (not that there is contradiction between the two) – LOL.

  • Dru Dodson

    Unless the Apostle Paul was a liar, he learned his theology from the risen Christ Himself (Galatians 1). And to set Jesus at odds with His apostles is to imply that He was really bad at His job – discipling disciples. Much more serious is – no matter which side it comes from – is the elevation of Red Letters above their contexts, as if they dropped from the sky on gold tablets. We only have them because they reside in carefully shaped selective con-texts.

  • Marshall

    Kyle: “There are two very subtle movements here that I see propogated widely”

    Interesting diction. Are “movements” propagated as if from some secret headquarters or industrial source? Better I think to see them as the milling around of many confused people who aren’t satisfied with the situation as it emerges around them. So right now the “movement” or “motion” is “spreading out it all directions”. Looking for the next watering hole.

    It’s certainly true that as I was crossing over from Unitarianism a few years ago I heard a lot of sermons from Epistles and very few from Gospels. That’s much less true now. I don’t see that there was ever a “split”; there was a “tendency”, which got called to people’s attention, and the actual matter has largely smoothed out … such is the view from here.

    As Nathan pointed out: “What is clear to me in recent years is that certain public voices from group 1 are proactively trying to marginalize group 2 and paint them as “other”…”
    See, everybody wants to be a prototype. Everybody wants to get their prototype set up and decorated with flowers even before the plaster has set. Reminds me of some “conceptual” artist friends who think that substance is good, but novelty is essential.

  • Joel Shaffer

    “Those of us who want to take literally the red letters of the Bible”

    When I see Red Letter Christians walking around with eyes gouged out and missing their hands, I will believe that.

  • Mark E. Smith

    What I take issue with is–and this may be a reading into Campolo’s post–is that only RLC are the only ones who take seriously the teachings of Jesus. I take seriously Jesus’ teaching, since he is the Master. But I wouldn’t call myself a RLC, since, politically speaking, they seem to be on the left of center.

    Jesus was addressing his disciples, not establishing law for States to follow. To go from “Love your enemies” to “Abolish capital punishment” is quite a stretch.