The online apologetics and discernment work Apprising Ministries has pointed out that, thanks to evangelicalism embracing the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church—with its “big tent” Progressive Christianity aka Emergence Christianity—and by using warped and toxic teachings of EC leaders like Emerging Church rock star pastor Rob Bell, it has poisoned its own young. Since squishy evanjellyfish has now followed the mortally wounded mainline denominations out of the closet, with its man-love of heart murmur spirituality at the expense the God-centered spirituality of sola Scriptura, I’ve been giving you peeks at its bleak future of division and compromise of God’s Word. 

With this in mind, I’ll remind you that not only is Tony Campolo a leading spokesman for this postmodern form of progressive Liberalism 2.o de-formation of the Christian faith, he is also still quite influential within younger sectors of evangelicalism as well. It’s important to remember, that as admirable as some of his social concerns are, Campolo is actually in bed spiritually with his fellow Red Letter Christian (RLC) friends Living Spiritual Teacher and EC guru Brian McLaren and universalist Roman Catholic mystic Richard Rohr. Other notable RLCs would be Campolo’s disciple Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis, progressive/liberal historian Diana Butler Bass, and Tony Jones, the progressive “theologian in residence” at the Emerging Church of universalist Doug Pagitt; a spiritual motley crew if there ever was one.

Against this background I’ll point out that back on March 10, 2008 on his PBS show Tavis Smiley asks Tony Campolo, “what is a ‘Red Letter Christian?’” Campolo replies:

Well, he or she is somebody whose beliefs are very traditional in a sense. It’s a person that believes in the Apostles’ Creed, who believes salvation comes from Jesus, who believes that the bible was inspired by God, but whose politics are not aligned with the religious right. (Online source)

Hmm, that doesn’t quite sound quite right. Let me see if I can fix that:

“Well, he or she is somebody whose beliefs are very ‘traditional’ in an ecumenical sense where most any belief that considers itself Christian is accepted as simply another ‘tradition.’ It’s a person that relishes the brevity and non-specitivity of the Apostles’ Creed, who believes that the Bible becomes inspired by God as a given passage ‘speaks’ to them, but whose politics are not aligned with anyone we broad-brush as being part of some nebulous religious right.”

Please understand I am not being critical of the Apostles’ Creed; I’m telling you that the language allows people to inject new meanings while using the same terminology. Lord willing, I’ll have more on that and show you how they do it; for now though I draw your attention to the Red Letter Christians blog and a post by Tony Campolo called Defending ‘Red Letter Christians’: Answers to the Most Common Critiques. Campolo begins by telling us this particular piece “is in response to a comment I received from my post ‘Why the Religious Right Will Dominate’,” which I covered previously in Tony Campolo Goes On A Tirade.  Campolo shares the comment he received:

“How sad that the depth of the ‘new and improved evangelical’ theology is limited to the ‘red letters; in scripture. Is the implication that these are the only (or most important) words of God worth our devotion? As an “old and outdated” evangelical I will keep the whole of scripture as the Word of God, thank you.” (Online source)

While Campolo will bring us into the postmodern Wonderland of Humpty Dumpty language and try to deny what was just said, this is just about right. This so-called Red Letter Christian business is a not so subtle twist of old liberalism which, because it denies the verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible, tries to play the words of Paul against those of Jesus. But as J. Gresham Machen wrote in his classic book Christianity & Liberalism:

[the teaching of] Paul was not primarily faith in God like Jesus’ faith; it was faith in Jesus; Paul committed to Jesus without reserve the eternal destinies of his soul. That is what we mean when we say that Paul stood in a truly religious relation to Jesus. But Paul was not the first to stand in this religious relation to Jesus.

Evidently, at this decisive point, he was only continuing an attitude toward Jesus which had already been assumed by those who had been Christians before him. Paul was not indeed led to assume that attitude by the persuasions of the earlier disciples; he was converted by the Lord Himself on the road to Damascus.[1]

And in addition Machen also points out:

The truth is, the witness of the New Testament, with regard to Jesus as the object of faith, is an absolutely unitary witness. The thing is rooted far too deep in the records of primitive Christianity ever to be removed by any critical process. The Jesus spoken of in the New Testament was no mere teacher of righteousness, no mere pioneer in a new type of religious life, but One who was regarded, and regarded Himself, as the Savior whom men could trust.

But by modern liberalism He is regarded in a totally different way. Christians stand in a religious relation to Jesus; liberals do not stand in a religious relation to Jesus– what difference could be more profound than that? The modern liberal preacher reverences Jesus; he has the name of Jesus forever on his lips; he speaks of Jesus as the supreme revelation of God; he enters, or tries to enter, into the religious life of Jesus. But he does not stand in a religious relation to Jesus. Jesus for him is an example for faith, not the object of faith.

The modern liberal tries to have faith in God like the faith which he supposes Jesus had in God; but he does not have faith in Jesus.[2]

However, in the big tent circus Christianity of the Emerging Church 2.0 we’re dealing with a postmodern form of liberalism, which includes people who do believe in the miraculous, as well as those who do not. Campolo then explains:

Red Letter Christianity is not an approach to Scripture that seats the ‘red letters’ of the Bible above any other letters from the Bible. There is no hierarchy of ‘red letters’ down to ‘black letters.’ Instead, Red Letter Christianity places an emphasis on Christ’s words as found throughout the New Testament. Much in the same way that certain churches identify with Micah 6:8 or John 3:16 our movement identifies with the specific words of Christ with regards to action and deed. (Online source)

Sounds good at first, but Christian churches don’t get to “identify” with certain parts of Scripture; we are called out of the world to assemble to worship God in Christ. We are to preach to preach the only Gospel there is (cf. Galatians 1:6-9), repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name because salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work on the Cross of Christ alone. As a secondary effect “actions and deed” may produce positive effects in the world; but the primary mission is what Jesus tells us here — “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). Yet this is the heart of the problem with these RLCs because, in seeking harmony with the world, that Gospel is not what they preach; this becomes clear as Campolo tells us:

I am excited about the movement of Red Letter Christianity and the impact it will have throughout our world. For those of you still questioning allow me to quote Jesus, “for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:40). I can assure you that I am not against you but am for, together with you, the betterment of our world through the spread and proclamation of Christianity in both word and deed. (Online source)

This is why RLCs can partner with dead mainline churches long ago killed by the cult of liberal theology; “the betterment of our world” is not the Gospel, it’ a form of man-centered dominionism. If only they cared about the souls of the people they try to please with a message that can be preached by any religion; or social agency for that matter. In closing this, for now, I will say that I’m glad to see that Campolo said:

a study of Christ’s teachings found within the Red Letters undoubtedly point’s readers over and over again to the entirety of Scripture. Throughout his teachings, Christ directly and indirectly refers to the teachings of the law and the prophets. Whether Christ is referring back to Leviticus or Isaiah, the Red Letters vividly show the connection between Christ’s words and the whole of Scripture. As Jesus himself says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Online source)

In this case Campolo is exactly right; for example, Paul’s writings contain pastoral applications of Christ’s teachings, and since Jesus Christ—the Lordis God, where the Lord God speaks in the Old Testament, Jesus also speaks. You know, if Tony Campolo and the Red Letter Christians were actually in tune with what he just said above, it sure would clear up a lot of the issues they can’t seem to figure out. Let’s take their conundrum concerning the deviant and sinful lifestyle of having sexual relations with another of the same sex, i.e homosexuality. The Bible teaches Jesus is God, and that He is the Creator of everything (cf. John 1:1-3). In Leviticus 18:22 the Lord God says — You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. So now you know what view Jesus has concerning homosexuality.

And it gets even clearer right within the red words of the New Testament as well when Jesus, our Creator Himself, is quoted by Matthew in his eyewitness deposition as saying — “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’” (Matthew 19:4-5)? Did you catch that Tony; it’s patently obvious Jesus has just defined marriage as between a male, that would be a man, and a female, which of course is a woman. And we know the identity of he who created them from the beginning, don’t we Tony and your Red Letter Christian buds. This means that same-sex sexual relations, being outside the marriage covenant of our Creator, will always be a sin of sexual immorality.

Uh-oh, not all the RLCers—I would venture most—don’t believe all those red letters; for example Emerging Church Theologian Tony Jones Says Jesus Was Wrong. You may recall that regarding those who are unrepentant in their practice of the sin of homosexuality Jones stated:

And yet, all the time I could feel myself drifting toward acceptance that gay persons are fully human persons and should be afforded all of the cultural and ecclesial benefits that I am.  (”Aha!” my critics will laugh derisively, “I knew he and his ilk were on a continuous leftward slide!”)

In any case, I now believe that GLBTQ can live lives in accord with biblical Christianity (at least as much as any of us can!) and that their monogamy can and should be sanctioned and blessed by church and state.
(Online source, bold his)

Obviously, as I just showed you, this is absolutely counter to the clear teaching of those red letters that  Bible; but when the Scriptures run against its pro-gay agenda leaders in the Emerging Church conveniently ignore it in favor of their preconceived beliefs. This goes for Tony Campolo as well as he says in his book Red Letter Christians:

Marriage should be viewed as an institution ordained by God and should be out of the control of the state. Of course, homosexual couples could go to churches that welcome and affirm gay marriage and get their unions blessed there, but isn’t that the way it should be in a nation that guarantees people the right to promotion religion according to their personal convictions?

If such a proposal became normative, those like myself who hold to traditional beliefs about marriage would go to traditional churches where conservative beliefs about marriage are upheld, and we would have our marriages blessed there.[3]

So while Campolo says he has a “traditional” belief concerning marriage, he erases it when he partners with heretics like Tony Jones and Brian McLaren who don’t. No, don’t be fooled by all their religious blather; when all is said and done these Red Letter Christians are simply using this pious sounding title for themselves as a way to speak words the world will find acceptable, and that’s why the world listens to them (1 John 4:5).


[1] J. Gresham Machen, Christianity & Liberalism [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2002], 82, 83.

[2] Ibid., 85.

[3] Tony Campolo, Red Letter Christians: A Citizen’s Guide to Faith and Politics [Ventura: Regal, 2008], 94.

See also: