In a recent posting, Tony Campolo effuses about the inclusive ministry of Jesus. Jesus, he writes, “was always reaching out to the marginalized.”
Therefore, he concludes, evangelicals need to affirm homosexuals and support the political effort to secure for gays and lesbians “all the same rights that the heterosexual community enjoys.”
“To reach out to the LGBT communities and join them in their cry for justice, and to champion their efforts for inclusion in our churches,” Campolo writes,” is to simply imitate Christ.”
Put simply, a true Christian must support the push for gay marriage.
Sigh. There are arguments for why traditional views of sexual morality should be rejected — utilitarian arguments, phenomenological arguments, arguments from cultural progress, and so forth. But decades ago I discovered that the theological arguments in favor of a complete reversal of Christian condemnations of homosexual acts involve eviscerating the Christian faith.
Consider this: Unbelievers have been marginalized by the Church. But wait, Jesus reaches out to the marginalized. Therefore, so should we, not to transform them, but to affirm them in their unbelief. To do so will require some changes, not the least of which is any requirement of belief for membership in the church.
You might think this is absurd, but beginning in the 1990s, the argument for inclusion precipitated a movement among Episcopal Church progressives to reject the requirement of baptism for participation in the Eucharist. After all, such a requirement “excludes,” while Jesus’ love “includes.”
Closely related are invidious contrasts between Jewish “legalism” and Jesus’ universal embrace, contrasts Campolo hints at in his posting. By this way of thinking, any principle, any rule, any judgment (or at least the ones a progressive does not like) are categorized as Pharisaical. End game: authoritative doctrine, even the canon of scripture, must be condemned as “legalistic.”
Again, it sounds absurd, but I’ve seen the reductio ad absurdum realized in mainline Protestantism.
The error that Campolo makes is characteristic of modern Protestant theology. It involves a move toward conceptual formalism. In 1950, Gerhard Ebling wrote an influential essay about the doctrine of justification, arguing that it’s essential meaning is “critique.” The doctrine of justification smashes every worldly reality upon which we might rely, forcing us to rely on God alone. End result: the historical reality of Christianity must be relativized (which “critique” does) so that the “truth” of Christianity can be finally realized.
Paul Tillich made a similar argument, labeling the imperative of unlimited critique the Protestant Principle. The Death of God theologians followed a similar path. All authoritative Christian norms and practices must be set aside so that the freedom of the Spirit can reign—antinomianism is the true fulfillment of the Gospel.
Campolo is following in this hyper-modern, antinomian Protestant tradition. My advice to Evangelicals: caveat emptor.