Bart Campolo’s heretical journey

Forbes magazine had a leadership article on their online site and discussed how Bart Campolo, son of “red letter Christian” Tony Campolo, had left the church. Via Bart Campolo’s heretical and liberating leadership journey:

Once in a while, an apple falls from its tree … and then won’t stop rolling away of its own accord. Bart Campolo comes to mind.

For years, he was a spiritual leader who carried the distinction of being the son of evangelical pastor and social-justice champion Tony Campolo.

That’s one of the many problems of nepotism.  The guy wasn’t even a Christian but he had a leadership role!

Today, Bart is the humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California, a job he has held for a little over a month. [Disclosure: USC is my alma mater and primary employer.]

In one sense, he is the same person he has always been, fighting for the welfare of the sick and the poor. But he is now agnostic, in stark contrast to his legendary father.

In his new role, he will offer encouragement to many like-minded people seeking meaning and purpose; and he will outrage or scare the pants off millions of people with whom he no longer shares a religious identity.

Scared?  Who would be scared?  He was just another wolf who took the sheep’s clothing off.  And the outrage isn’t for him, but for the churches who made him so comfortable as a non-believer and made him a leader.

The younger Campolo’s journey reveals the process by which leaders discover who they are and what they’ll fight for; and the process by which they come, often painfully, to discover their unique, authentic voice.

“We’ve got chaplains on our campus representing 90 specific religious and spiritual traditions, but Bart’s our first humanist chaplain,” says Varun Soni, USC’s dean of Religious Life. “I think he’s a crucial addition, because I think there’s a hunger for an engaged and active secular humanist community. I think the future is going to be less about traditional doctrines and practices and more about people wrestling together with things like significance, identity and how to contribute to society. It’s a broader definition of religion, faith and spirituality.”

Oh, its humanist, all right!  Making gods in their own images.

Campolo’s own path would seem to suggest there is truth to Soni’s hunch. “When people ask me when I started to ‘lose faith,’” Bart tells me, “I usually say, ‘Within about 15 minutes of becoming a Christian.’”

Of course, we know from 1 John 2:19 that if he has left to be a humanist “chaplain” that he never was a Christian.  He was done a disservice by those in the church.  1 John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

. . . And he would go on to create inner-city ministries around the nation designed to rescue suffering people from unemployment, addiction, sex slavery and other ills.

If those organizations helped people, that’s great.

Yet that faith, from its nascence, was tested on various fronts. Theodicy (the theological attempts to justify why God allows evil) would exhaust him when he would encounter actual victims of gang rape or other forms of cruelty. Gay roommates would challenge his notions of what it meant to love others unconditionally. A severe bike accident a few years ago brought him to a conviction that he wasn’t a soul in a body, but rather a finite, manipulable mass of cells and neurons that would one day be entirely gone.

Theodicy is an interesting topic, of course, but it always amusing that people like Campolo weren’t concerned about evil until they knew someone personally who suffered, as if the countless evil acts to date didn’t count.  And he’s yet another Leftist who sits in judgment of God’s creation of sexual morality.

And he isn’t a very clear thinker if he believes we aren’t souls as well as bodies.  If his worldview is true then he has no grounding for any moral claims.

All along, a sense of intellectual honesty would suggest to him that everyone of religious faith, himself included, played games with scriptures. “We’d underline the parts we like and ignore the parts we didn’t like,” Campolo says. “I underlined some verses about a loving, all-inclusive, God and ignored some other verses.”

I’m glad he admitted how Leftists ignore verses they don’t like!

. . .

Today, Bart Campolo is as animated by his social-justice values as ever. But he no longer sees a religious narrative as the source of those values. He relishes the explanations and speculations of empirical science about the origin and nature of things: “To me, science’s story is even more amazing than any religion’s creation story,” he tells me.

That begs the question.  The real God is sovereign over science as well.  It is all his story.

“And Neil deGrasse Tyson is as inspiring as any preacher I’ve heard.”

Tyson’s speaking (and penchant for making up quotes) is meaningless as to the truth of his worldview.

. . .

What meaning does he draw from that scientific narrative? “The universe is wonderful,” he says. “And life is to be cherished.”

Yes, because God wrote that on our hearts.  But his godless worldview can’t ground that.

He sees in that narrative real evidence that nature selects, in a Darwinian sense, for the values that he holds—indeed, that the mystical concept of “love” itself is rigged into the system, selecting for altruism, community, self-sacrifice, gratitude, compassion and forgiveness.

No, Darwinian evolution would support survival of the fittest, sex trafficking, slavery, etc.

. . .

Campolo notes that many longtime, active members of churches confide to him that they share his skepticism—maybe even his outright unbelief. But they often stay there, silently assenting to what they don’t believe, because they need the identity, the support and the belonging that comes from their existing community.

In the famous parable of the weeds in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus warns that the good wheat in a farmer’s field might have among it bad weeds that were sown by an “enemy.” It was a caution about the presence of “false” members within the church. It also reflects the dilemma of many so-called weeds, who may stay in the church while muffling their own convictions and dissensions.

In that sense, Bart Campolo may be helping lead the planting of a new, humanistic church where the weeds can finally grow free, without apology.

That’s an excellent point, albeit a bit ironic. You just need to take the quotes off of enemy and weeds, and keep reading to find out what happens to the weeds for eternity. For in Campolo’s made-up religion, we’re just masses of cells with no ultimate accountability to a creator. There will be no justice for any evil — ours or those that commit it against us. That view is not only false but pathetic. What kind of community gathers to celebrate that?


4 thoughts on “Bart Campolo’s heretical journey”

  1. Neil wrote: “And the outrage isn’t for him, but for the churches who made him so comfortable as a non-believer and made him a leader.”

    That is the church’s sick desire to touch, know and be known by the “famous” of the world instead of being content to know Christ and be known by Him. There is no one greater than Christ in all of history, yet the church keeps running after mini-messiahs thinking that they will actually help in their religion.

    And the part about letting the weeds out of the church is priceless. Please, by all means, get them out!!! 🙂


  2. I saw Tony Campolo in person more than once when I was in college. I admired his work and while I think at times he strayed a bit from a biblical hermeneutic for some of his teaching, his teachings were for the most part sound. I have not read of him much lately so my experience might be out of date. I have not followed his son Bart. It reminds me that our life in Christ is not inherited. We receive it by faith on our own through the work of the Spirit. Without this work we are left without an anchor and to our own devices. We are left to wander into all sorts of heresies including Naturalism where there is no God.


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