[*] Tony Campolo's "Speaking My Mind" (final part)

This will be the final installment on Dr. Campolo's book because I am not trying to make a career out of criticizing his work. The basics of my criticism are already in play: the work does not apply its critical insights to its author's point of view, and it frequently oversimplifies opposing viewpoints and thereby does not deal with them convincingly. All other criticisms of the book would be based in some way on these two principle objections.

For example, in Chapter 4, Campolo wants to criticize sexism in evangelical polity. Without regard to his exegesis of the relevant scripture to make his point (which I am sure the readers of this blog might expect to see some comment on), Dr. Campolo reproaches the Southern Baptist convention for its treatment of women in ministry -- and cites a particular instance in which Ann Graham Lotz was reportedly snubbed by some male listeners at a conference where she spoke. Again, taking his example at face value, there is a troubling matter of what his point is supposed to be. The event was sponsored by the SBC, and she was a key speaker -- so the formal position of the SBC is apparently, "we accept her as a speaker." But some in the crowd decided (as Campolo describes) to turn their chairs around so that they would not face her as she spoke. That some in the crowd did not accept the judgment of the organization sponsoring the event is not a matter of Southern Baptist sexism: it is a matter of rude fools who made a spectacle of themselves.

Let's think on that for a minute: Ms. Lotz was hardly a surprise speaker on the agenda, yet these men came anyway. If they were truly opposed to her speaking, why come? Or for that matter, why stay? The kind of protest they waged was the kind which really says, "look at me," not "I won’t be a party to something I think is ungodly." Yet Dr. Campolo uses it as an example of institutional sexism.

What is a little more, um, overlooked is that the #1 best-selling bible study author over the last 2 years in Beth Moore -- who is obvioulsy a woman, but more importantly is published and distributed exclusively by LifeWay. For those of you not up to speed, LifeWay is perceived to be the official publisher of the Southern Baptist Convention. (legally, they are in independent body not under the SBC leadership, but I wonder how many SBC churches who use LifeWay believe that?) I think his conclusion is labored at best.

Chapter 5 treats the gay issue, and I will leave his sociological solution to the apparent problem for the reader to discern. I have already treated his mishandling of Romans and the doctrine of election in a previous blog entry.

The rest of the book runs the gamut of issues -- from the matter of Islam to the matter of how we might offer help to the poor. He pleads that Islam makes a fair assessment of Western (read: Christian) culture as "decadent" in chapter 9, but criticizes Christians who say that America is in a moral decline in chapter 12, saying we're not that bad after all. In chapter 6, Campolo goes so far as to explain (I would say "advocate", but that would mean he actually provides a meaningful argument in favor of) both annihilation and universal salvation as legitimate expressions of Christian theology. I'm not sure that even requires a comment. When someone is willing to deny something as central to the Christian faith as the eternal distinction God will make between the justified and the unjustified, I wonder why he bothers to call himself a Christian.

So why did I bother to write this review at all? In the final count (thanks WORD), it has run over 20 pages. I have bothered because I think Campolo's book is an example of the kind of encounter the believer in the pew is going to face in the future. I reject his view of Christian thinking because it is exactly what he describes it to be: speaking my mind. What we ought to be doing is speaking from God's mind on all these topics, and in that we have God's own words on the matter.

I do not recommend that you buy this book at full retail, but if you come across it on a bargain table, or in your local library, use it to hone your ability to handle the word of God by finding the contradictions between this work and the Bible.

Other entries in this series: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |